Building OpenCare: Notes and reflections after my keynote at Politics For Tomorrow

Doing public presentations is an inevitable part of building new projects and reaching out to potential clients and partners. It’s also a costly investment of time and we owe it to one another to help improve the returns. This post is the first in a series where I share my own notes and reflections from talks, worshops etc. Hopefully others will do the same so we can learn together…

Yesterday I presented the OpenCare project to an audience for the first time at Politics For Tomorrow, an event organised by @Caroline_Paulick-Thiel. I do a lot of presentations but found this one (slides with speaker noteshere particularly difficult for three reasons:

  • it's the first time attempting to weave together and present a new story 
  • the audience is in a new context for me: Germany + design thinking + politics
  • I was also asked to do a workshop  with @Susa so it was more difficult to follow up on leads etc.

My talk was an attempt at big-picture thinking and pitching a new project to potential clients, funders and strategic partners. Other presentations were more focused on introducing the organisations, presenting their innovation theory/theory of change and their methodology in compact visualisations.

What where the reactions?

This is what the illustrator doing a graphic recording of the talk got out of it:

These are a few comments and tweets:

“I thought it was really interesting but it was a bit abstract for me” -  German, female, works on reforming/ restructuring academic institutions

“Of all the presentations these two days I found yours was the most interesting, but don’t you come up against a lot of resistance from medical professionals?”- British, male, works at the Young Foundation 

Very spontanious appearance at #govlabP4T, now listening to @edgeryders - thanks @DanielGoliasch for the tip! #poc21 @openStateBER

“How can tech enable collective intelligence & collaboration? @edgeryders #govlabP4T opensource #socialchange ” - @katrin_thinking

“In Greece there are 68 clinics serving 10% of population without access to health care, ‘illegally’ on donations” @Designamyte

“Would you be interested in doing consultig for a large environmentalist NGO?” - Austrian?, Male, consultant

“Can I have your card, I think I have an idea for you…not this year but next one” - German, 40s, demale, on way out of event

❝You only understand dark matter once you engage w/ the system—and learn about administrative hacks.❞  @Martin_Jordan

Improvements/changes to make ahead of the next presentation:

a) introduction to Edgeryders the vision and history

b) a case study

c) in depth presentation of our unique methodologies and tools and how we practically go about applying them

d) major practical insights

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Personally, the politics label would scare me most. But then I’m from Germany, so in your shoes I’d have been a bit apprehensive to say the least. I’m sure you did a good job though (which is something you won’t be able to read off this crowd easily).

There is a nice joke on this, but it is of course not PC and doesn’t work as well written down… Next time we meet perhaps. :slight_smile:

Curious to how open to experiment you found the audience

I found doing presentations / workshops on creating change in policy areas like education and administrative transparency in Germany often resulted in “yes, good ideas, but for that we would need to change the constitution, so it’s not going to happen”, even when talking about small scale probes/experiments (like what a teacher can do in her own classroom). I interpreted that as a fig-leaf for inaction. Curious to hear if you encountered any of that. Or, hopefully, it was a crowd more vested in doing what is already possible now while eyeing the more fundamental changes to come.

Difficult to gauge

The workshops for the different presenters ran in parallel so I couldn’t go to any of the other ones and get a sense of interest/participation. My impression is that it was very much a “give me some tools I can go to the office and use tomorrow” kind of crowd.

I can say that no one from any of the organisations with whom I can see space for collaboration participated in my workshop. Not sure how to interpret that. Some options:

a) the contents where too new, abstract or badly communicated.

b) my presentation did not give the impression I am credible enough to engage with

c) the contents of my talk were not practical enough so they didn’t think they could get anything actionable from it

d) something else

My guess is something c)-ish

Although “practical” is perhaps not the right word. Maybe they were too practical…

The mode of operation for many organizations is far from entrepreneurial, and generally their structure and interaction/decision modes reflect that. So there’s a good chance that some were interested, but thought that interfacing would be a major pain. In some cases possibly true. In many though probably not. ER is probably more flexible in this respect than they believe possible for a respectable organization. :slight_smile: Perhaps one should put in a slide addressing this at some point, or just highlight that we’ve worked successfully with the UN or some such.

Generally though, even if your presentation is received well - it usually won’t look much like that (see my other comment). Absence of bitching is some of the highest praise you can expect (directly) in many such instances. They may very well have tagged you on their radar and will now follow you for progressive/future evaluation (what I did was very similar). If you’re still around in 5 years you must be doing something right. Unfortunately this is not necessarily a helpful (or innovative) mindset with respect to something like the refugee situation. In the health system I would actually expect this risk aversion to be particularly pronounced.

What probably won’t hurt is call up 1-2 places that made a goodish impression to you to see if one can find more common ground. If you like I can help with that.

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@ton, I had no idea this was an issue. It’s counterintuitive: Germany clearly works somewhat, if that was their standard reaction would it not be completely paralysed?

This certainly resonates with me

Particularly in the school context, where this can be found increasingly as you go to the lower levels. Perhaps part of this is because traditionally a career in education avoided many of the uncertainties you would have to face if you “went out into the world”. So it often attracted these kinds of people (notably among others).

Of course this does not apply across the board. Big groups are rarely as monolithic as they look. But in general I would go in with Ton’s assessment. Of course @Alberto has a point too, particularly for sub-currents that may make up most of the edge. They may vehemently want to distance themselves from the mainstream. Generally though I believe operative the term is “(semi) consensus democracy”. Basically, you only move when everyone agrees. Or when there’s only a few shrill voices left, ignoring which won’t cost you much authority (in case they were right after all). That way you avoid making punishable mistakes. There are certain circumstances (and levels of authority) where the system can switch into another dynamic though. E.g. reunification, Fukushima*, and now the refugee situation. Usually this is when there is consensus that there is no consensus - and waiting for it to arrive would very probably be very bad.

I believe at such a time the normal channels become much less relevant and the effective deciding bodies smaller, and less restricted by convention. When Merkel did a 1 h talkshow this was the signal (in case you had missed it) that we are in “Neuland” (uncharted territory) once again.

*This is not strictly true, but that is a long story.

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