Agenda setting – the problem articulated, objectives set, words used and the invitees – can change history. The framing of civilian causalities as “collateral damage”and JFK’s famous speech “Ich bin ein Berliner” which positioned democracy alongside freedom; both set the agenda for a specific ideology.
When setting up a meeting, waging war or simply organising a date, the way we set it up to a large part influences the outcome. The sponsors, venue, attendees, non-attendees and the articulation of the problem set a pattern for the event.
For innovation to solve sustainability issues, collaboration and stakeholder participation are critical. But do we limit or constrain this participation through the expectations we introduce into the discussion? Can we achieve more if we consciously examine the pattern we are setting through the way we convene these crucial meetings?
And then perhaps our role as sustainability and innovation practitioners is to allow the emergence of the new through emptying the space entirely of premeditated influence. In the words of Rumi, our role is to create a field for participation beyond agenda
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.