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Visual Explorer™: August 2008

August 13, 2008

Using VE in youth leadership programmes at Excelerator: The New Zealand Leadership Institute

We have been having an excellent ongoing conversation with Lisa Markwick at Excelerator: the New Zealand Leadership Institute about effective applications of Visual Explorer in her work. Here is a fascinating story about using VE to conduct pre-program interviews, and work with participants in youth programs. Thanks Lisa ...
From: Markwick, Lisa, The University of Auckland Business School
To: Palus, Chuck; Horth, David;
Subject: RE: Visual Explorer
We run (and research) a variety of different leadership development programmes, with our most established being our 18 month development programmes. These are targeted towards a number of different contexts including young people (21-28y), the "Future Leaders Programme", Community Programmes (defining community as a geographic region), corporate programmes, and Senior Executive (cross sectorial) programmes. We have plenty of opportunity to engage participants and others in creative and strategic practices and processes where we have found VE to be a very powerful "starter cue".

Let me tell you an example. I was in Dargavillle meeting a group of prospective participants for a youth leadership programme. Dargaville is a rather depressed town about 3 hours north of Auckland, and the main centre of the Kaipara district where we had just been running an 18 month Community Leadership Programme. I asked this group of about 6 young people to each choose 2 pictures, one to represent the possibly for the future of Kaipara, and the other to demonstrate their commitment to participation in making it so. One of the young women chose a picture of a whole lot of empty blue seats in a stadium. For her it was about her commitment to participation: filling the seats and having people want to come to "what ever great things were on offer" in the area. When one of the others in the group saw it she built on this further (with enthusiastic backing from the others). Saying "yes...the colour of Dargaville needs to be blue...not red..." which we came to discover is the colour of the gang patches the local gang is currently wearing in town which are frightening and holding young people (and the district) back. This led to more fascinating conversation about commitment and belonging.

This is from a group of young people who hardly know each other and are not accustomed to speaking out at all, let alone in a group of strangers, for an "interview."
And a later story ...
Our latest use of the images has been with a group of 21-28 year-olds on our future leaders programme. We first engaged them with a fish bowl / open space type conversation about moments of “vitality” and encouraged dialogue to draw out how this may relate to their personal aspirations and hence to the sphere or core of their leadership challenges. After each person had been in the hot seat they went and literally sat by the fire where there a coffee table with the post card sized VE2 images spread out. From an intuitive space they each picked a card that represented their aspiration and hopefully where their leadership challenge lay within that. They really enjoyed having something tangible to “show” where they were at. Also because they knew we could then upload the digital image on our programme learning website (moodle based) they were able to have continuity with that image while giving us back the originals (mostly!!). Many of them then incorporated the image into a wider strategic picture of their challenge.

What we were attempting to get to was to find a way to represent leadership in complexity along side personal passion. I think they (and we) did that well and the images were an integral aspect of this. Some things just can not be said with the words we have at our disposal. Pictures hold those necessary nuances.


Lisa Markwick, Programme Director
Excelerator: New Zealand Leadership Institute
The University of Auckland Business School

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