Last year, Sofia and I got invited to facilitate and help set up a Multi-Stakeholder Forum for the Banana industry.
[Well, technically, she got invited and I tagged along as the co-facilitator — aka “Slave”]
Our task was to get everyone to talk to each other and commit to being active in a new body that was representative of all in the industry.
And all this in 3 days.
So we shipped over a whole bunch of stationery to Amsterdam and got there in time to check out the venue before heading to dinner with all the other participants.
If we had expected this to be easy in any way, the dinner proved without a doubt that it was going to be an uphill battle. Everyone was pleasant, but there were quite clearly 2 separate camps:
- The small producers from places like the Philippines, Windward Islands, Costa Rica, &c. along with their NGO friendlies like the Fairtrade Foundation.
- The large producers like Chiquita, Dole, &c. who own more than 80% of the Banana export industry and their retailer friendlies.
Many of the representatives even went so far as to keep themselves physically separated across the tables in the restaurant!
So we set to it and over two days a transformation began to take place. The team of interpreters bridged the language gaps whilst Sofia and I took everyone through a bastardised process of World Café, Open Space and Dotmocracy.
And slowly but surely everyone realised that they did in fact share a lot of the same problems and ideals!
Very quickly after that consensus was reached on the Multi-Stakeholder Forum. And everyone, including the big players, made their commitments to it!!
We celebrated the success by dancing the night away in Amsterdam and even managed to hang out with Steve Alexander and his buddies during their Improv Theater performance.
The whole experience was great fun and made us want to bring together similar bodies across all industries! There isn't enough dialogue taking place with real action behind it.
It was also the first time Sofia and I had worked together just by ourselves in an external project and we were great together. It turns out that working together with your girlfriend can be loads of fun!
Finally, I found the experience extremely enlightening. It forced me to go on a crash-course (prior to the event) and learn about the various issues relating to the Banana industry.
And the issues that the various participants brought up helped re-emphasise to me that the solutions provided by the Plex Economy are very much needed. Not just bloggers, musicians and coders — but entire industries — are ready for it!