Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The problem with communication

This morning I attended the second meeting of the Countdown 2009 executive and listened to the reports given by seven of the nine focus groups, and reported back on the last Faith Focus group meeting, using the minutes, as I had not been able to attend. Yet again there was no report from the Communications Focus Group, which has yet to meet, having now changed both its convener and its facilitator.

Most groups reporting back had something to say about the need for better communication. In way, all a communications group can do is propose suitable means and protocols to ensure everyone's information needs are met, and everyone systematically called upon to account for their activities and tasks in hand within the overall plan to ensure the city's redevelopment project comes harmoniously to its completion on time. Easier said than done, however.

What is most needed is a level of mutual good-will, trust and transparency between all those who are supposed to be working together for the common goal. This is most difficult to achieve, since local government service areas have a way of organising themselves to ensure stability and continuity, without always understnading that stability and continuity cannot really be achieved apart from healthy partnership with others.

Saint Paul's idea about the community of the church as the body of Christ, reflected in the phrase 'all members of one another', captures something of the mutuality and interdependency of any good co-operative enterprise. This requires a real sense of personal commitment which goes above and beyond one's role or task. It means everyone needs a sense of the vision of the whole. And this is what tends to get lost in practice, even though the rhetoric is known by heart.

It would be impertinent of me to be over-critical. I know how hard churches find working together, despite the beliefs and ideals which bond different congregations, even denominations under a common Christian identity. The question for any and every large organisation whether religious or civil society is how to infuse its disparate parts with that kind of vitality and enthusiasm which empowers them and enables them to be cohesive in action. It certainly requires hard work, and inspirational leadership to set the tone in effective communication, and an ability to let something from beyond ourselves work through us.

I hope that when our Spiritual Capital research project report is published and its findings debated with local authority members and officers, there will be some opportunity for mutual learning and insight to develop around these issues.

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