Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How NOT To Organise a Workshop

So early January I get a call on my cell. “Can you attend a workshop?”

I was confused. How could I answer that question? I’d never heard that there was a workshop in my future requiring my attendance. It was early, I wasn’t quite awake, maybe I forgot about it.

“I can’t say,” I tell the person who said they were from the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture (MYSC). “I need more information.”

“We’ll send you a letter.” I gave her my email address and I wait. No letter arrives.

A couple of weeks pass, and again an early morning call.  I’ve come to realise the only people who call me before 7:45 am are people from MYSC. I suspect they shut all of the phones off after reasonable hours like 10 am so they have no option but to phone people pre-caffeine and often pre-vertical.

“Do you need accommodation?” the person asks.

“For what?” I ask, only partly cognitive.

“For the workshop,” she says.

“I don’t know anything about a workshop. When is it?”

“From the 27-29th of January,” she says. It was the 16th   of January that day of the call.

“But that’s soon! Can you email me the information? I’ll need to organise things.”

“No, we’ll post you the letter. We need a record.”  What? Did we go back to 1992 while I slept?  Email is apparently untraceable in the MYSC world.  

“But I need to know what this is about. I don’t know anything, I don’t know if I need accommodation.  You could email the letter in the meanwhile.”

“I’ll ask my boss,” she says and hangs up. I never receive an email.

 Instead on the 21st of January a letter arrives in the post, it was postmarked on the 15th of January, but still people have lives- snail mail is what it advertises, very snail-y.

Things must now be organised to travel to Gaborone and stay there for three days. Between the 21st (the day the letter arrived) and the 27th (the day the workshop started) were only three working days. How does someone get invited to a three day workshop with only a three day notice?

The letter says that “The importance of this capacity building exercise cannot be overemphasised and it is in your best interest to ensure attendance of (sic) this very important workshop”.  There is no venue or time for the workshop on the letter!  Must I wander around Gaborone calling out, hoping someone will find me? The venue will be communicated, the letter assures me.  I was not feeling very assured.

I am the first person to complain about the fact that our writers need more training. I am more than happy to attend a writing workshop to improve my skills. But at the same time what can one expect from a workshop organised in such a slapdash manner? A workshop organised by people with so little respect for the time of the writers they are inviting?

The primary purpose of the workshop was to train scriptwriters. “The workshop will give the writer the ideas and techniques necessary to properly write and rewrite their script.” But no mention is made of who the resource people will be to teach us how to do that. This is important. At the very least let the potential participants know what they’re getting themselves into when giving three days of their life away.

I know what this is; I’ve seen it so many times before. Government employees nowadays, thanks to the productivity movement which brought very little productivity, have a list of objectives they agree to accomplish during the year. I suspect somewhere there is a paper and on it is this objective: Hold one scriptwriting workshop. That’s good; I’m happy. Let’s do it. But the problem is, now the time has finished and the person responsible just needs to get it done, however that done might manifest.

Yes, the workshop will be held. Yes, likely people will attend, the ones who intuitively knew the venue. Yes, the civil servant will be able to tick off the objective. And yes, lots of money will be spent.  But the question is: what was really accomplished in the long term? Can such a poorly organised event make a difference? I think it’s doubtful.

But then- I’ll never know. I’m writing this on the 28th of January and I’m not at the workshop. Why? Because the venue is still topic secret and I’m apparently not on the list of people meant to know it. 

(This first appeared in my column in The Voice, It's All Right. )

1 comment:

Mwila Agatha Zaza said...

Thank you for pointing out that resources are wasted when workshops are poorly thought out and mismanaged. The subject matter itself can be of crucial importance, but because it's just another activity to be checked off we get the wrong attendees, short notice, high allowances and unsuitable agendas. As a result, those who could have benefited are cheated out of real opportunities. http://womanforhimself.blogspot.fi/