Give Everyone A Voice: Indaba

Not long ago, in Botswana, I had the privilege of participating in Indaba, a Zulu and Xhosa method of decision-making that brings all interested parties into the conversation. Instead of a small group of leaders making unilateral decisions for the group, without any input from those affected, those affected get to participate.

The issue in this case was where to spend our limited funds on a project that was underway in order to achieve maximum impact. The elders (in our case the senior officials) sat at the front of the room while the rest of us were arrayed in a semi-circle facing them. We each got two timed minutes to speak, no more. In the spirit of fun, those who spoke for less than two minutes were loudly applauded. In this manner, the negotiations moved along quickly and most of the opposing ideas were resolved in a structured, simple way.

I was reminded of this when I read that the Indaba method was used at the recent climate conference in Paris. The Chair of the conference, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, used Indaba as a way to shorten the discussion on contentious issues and find common ground among the representatives from 195 nations in attendance.

According to Brian Mantlana of the South African delegation, “it is not a festive event, but a participative one where everyone has a say and the community is consulted to get their views on decisions. It is a transparent and credible process.”

Indaba is a great way to resolve contentious issues. It gives voice to all opinions so you wind up with a solution that everyone can agree to and support because they participated in developing it. It’s a process with a structure that allows everyone to speak and be heard while ensuring no one gets to dominate.

Everyone is encouraged to state the thresholds they don’t want to cross. This sets the parameters so the discussion can move on to bridge the gap between differing goals and bring everyone to a fair consensus on what to do.

Indaba isn’t a cure-all that always leads to agreement on everything but it goes a long way in helping find common ground and resolving disagreements. In the climate change conference a few of the most intractable issues were left unresolved to be discussed in a future Indaba, but agreement was reached on hundreds of other points of contention.

In my experience with Indaba, what began with widely differing and intensely held opinions and ideas ended after an energetic but collegial meeting with concrete solutions and a plan to move forward together.




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Good Luck In The Meantime

Saab has been my car of choice for a long time. They’re fun to drive, great in the snow, and last a long time with proper care. A few years ago, I was sorry to see the company drive off to the big parking lot in the sky.

Since Saab is now parked permanently, I’ve been working hard to keep my current 2004 model alive for as long as possible. Luckily I have a fantastic Saab mechanic, Cliff Story of Story’s Garage. Cliff and his team are experts at keeping your car running without diving deeply into your wallet. His shop is a 3 bay place that sits down a long gravel driveway, surrounded by trees and dead Saabs…old cars that finally decided to retire.

I thought all was well with my 9-3 until an envelope arrived a few days ago with Safety Recall Notice in big red letters next to my address. I opened the envelope to find a warning from Jeffrey M. Boyer, Vice President, Global Vehicle Safety, General Motors (GM has taken over dealer issues for Saab owners) about the possibility of my old Saab sending ME to the big parking lot in the sky.

“In some vehicles, the driver airbag inflator may experience an alteration over time, which could lead to overaggressive combustion in the event of an air bag deployment. This condition could create excessive internal pressure when the air bag is deployed, which could result in the body of the inflator rupturing upon deployment. In the event of an inflator rupture, metal fragments could pass through the air bag cushion material which may result in injury or death to vehicle occupants.”

In other words…my old Saab’s airbag has become a fragmentation grenade aimed directly at my chest.

The next paragraph begins in bold: “Parts to repair your vehicle are not currently available, but when parts are available, your Saab Official Service Center will replace the driver airbag inflator.”

In other words…good luck in the meantime.

Did anyone at General Motors read this and consider the reaction of those of us receiving it?

Clearly lots of attorneys did their best to absolve General Motors of any responsibility should you wind up the victim of your airbag while waiting for them to make parts to fix the problem. Yet, notice how they didn’t think it necessary to include any information at all about what to do to ensure you survive until they manage to deliver and install the new parts.

All too often I see business messages like this. Over lawyered and not including the information you require. The messages are more about protecting themselves than helping you, their customer.

Should I stop driving the car? Should I get Cliff to disable the airbag?

Or should I just hope that nothing happens that will set it off?

How long do I have to wait, exactly, while living in fear that someone will run into me and set off the explosion? A week? A month? A year?

Mr Boyer gave me lots of information I don’t need or care about describing why it might kill me (really, the very fact that it might was enough…), and none about what to do while waiting for the repair.

And he didn’t even have the courtesy to end his letter with a “good luck”.












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