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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 21/06/2008

Iíve never talked before a band before so the whole thing was a bit strange for me. The occasion was the latest Go Dundee event and the band an upcoming group of local folk called, the Hazey Janes. They went down extremely well with the 120+ people who were there but Iím sure for the HJs we were much more sedate (and older) than their usual audience.

One of the great things about the whole Go Dundee venture is the way that it keeps bringing together disparate groups of people into conversation with one another. The original Go Dundee group formed as a result of the first event held under the Centreís banner Ė Scotlandís Tipping Point. As well as listening to the most inspirational speech by Malcolm Gladwell, participants had an opportunity to meet with people from their geographical area. The twelve or so Dundonians who attended really gelled and decided that, in the spirit of ideas about the tipping point, they would organise an event in Dundee a few months later. They did Ė over 300 people turned up to discuss their positive feelings about Dundee and how they could start to turn round attitudes to the city. The informal group have also organised a few other events Ė some for young people.

Whatís happened in Dundee has had a big effect on our thinking. For a start it has brought home forcefully how we need to find ways outside conventional organisations for new thinking and actions to take place. The Go Dundee steering group comprises people, some of them in senior positions, from economic development, business, the arts, health, Dundee Council and higher education. After the first meeting I asked one of these senior managers why she hadnít just organised the event under her organisationís banner. But she then told me how difficult it would have been to do that: it was the informality of the group which allowed them to try out new things.

The second learning point for me is the importance of conversations and networking. This has been heavily stressed by various consultants over the years but Iíve never been particularly taken by it. I think there is often too much chat and not enough action. But Go Dundee has really shown me how important it is to start to break down the barriers that often prevent people in different sectors to meet up with one another. This type of cross sectoral work is now institutionalised in Community Planning Partnerships but the formality of these structures often gets in the way of real change being discussed, let alone acted upon. This is not a criticism of the people involved Ė just an observation on the real politic of how organisations often have to work. At Mondayís session Joe Lafferty, one of Go Dundeeís leading lights, presented us with a quote showing how it was the informal conversations of Polish workers which gathered momentum, led to the rise of the Solidarity movement and ultimately to the fall of Communism and the emergence of Poland as a democratic country. Of course, conversations on their own were not enough but the subsequent actions would not have happened if these early conversations had not taken place.

The third learning point for me is how happenstance can have such a big bearing on outcomes. One of the Dundonians who attended the Tipping Point in Glasgow was Marcus Kenyon, manager of the Apex Hotel in Dundee. IT was Marcusís generous offer to host the inaugural event free of charge which allowed Go Dundee to get off the ground. Because there was no venue costs, the Go Dundee team spread the message of the event through informal networks. They were aware that if they all asked ten people they knew well to come along, and each of these ten people asked several people then they would get a great event. And they did. No money changed hands. What might facilitate a number of similar events round Scotland is finding friendly hoteliers keen to make a difference. Thereís little doubt that using the Apex Hotel in Dundee, an extremely attractive, stylish venue on the waterfront, has added substantially to the lure of Go Dundee.

If you are eager to know more about Go Dundee visit their new website or come along to the next planning meeting which is being held on 23rd July.


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