Future Search The Method

Follow-Up Activities in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
By Eamonn Cox, Fermanagh Business Initiative

County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, July, 1999: It is just a little over five months since we were at the County Fermanagh future search on the wind and snow-swept island of Lusty Beg in the middle of Lough Erne. What a weekend that was! It still gets talked about. Well, today we reached a major milestone in our future search process.

We have been working away in our various groups, all of them committed and determined to carry the process through. Many of the original people are still involved and what is even more encouraging, a number of new people have come on board. Others have dropped off, mostly due to other work priorities.

We returned to Lusty Beg on April 23 for a one-day midway review, at which all the groups reported on their first-stage drafts. All those present had an opportunity to discuss the proposals and to comment on them. Many of the groups were at varying stages with their work, and they left that evening knowing what was still to be done and ready to prepare for the next stage. The next stage was pulling it all into report format in preparation for the publication of the draft strategy to be presented at a public meeting on June 24.

The format for the June 24th conference was a bit along the lines of an "Action Planning Fair," There was an enormous amount of work to get through, and we were doing in a day what really would have required two days. We had 120 people attending the meeting. One of the really encouraging things was the number of new people we had in the room and we already know that many of them are going to be joining our community leadership volunteers.

We had 12 tables, one for each of the Actions being worked on by the various groups. People were seated so that there was a cross-section of interests at every table. We started the day with a plenary session at which a spokesperson for Action Group outlined the vision for the group, identified the key priorities and explained the strategic objectives for these priorities. Then one person at each group, equipped with flip chart and enlarged prints of the Action, "set up stall" at the various tables. The mixed groups of people at each table moved from table to table so that everyone had an opportunity to contribute to all of the Action points. The only constraining factor was time. There was lots of useful feedback on the Actions that had been identified and there were probably as many more Actions added. We have a formidable task ahead in identifying overlaps, merging similarities and prioritizing actions.

The next stage will be to take the draft out into the rural communities for public consultation over the summer months and to prepare for launch on October 1. All of this process is still referred to as future search. Overall, it has remained a very open process.


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