National Natter Initiative: sustainable conversations

I attended this ground breaking event recently; here’s an account by organiser Manon Topp:
#supperclubwafflesession and ‘That Thing That’s Hiding Over By There’
Posted on May 30, 2014
By: Manon Topp, Founder, Director and Life President of Leading Leadership Leads Cymru

On Friday night we held our latest #supperclubwafflesession as part of the National Natter initiative with the Commissioner for Sustainable Living Scenarios on behalf of @WhatWeWantIsWales. Great people, great food, great wine, a few gassy beers and great conversation. That’s what #supperclubwafflesession is all about and that’s exactly what we had on Friday night. Fabulous!

The Commissioner for Sustainable Living Scenarios gave a really helpful introduction and set the scene ahead of us tucking into our starter of hand potted smoked mackerel and fennel shavings on brown bread (from a locally sourced artisan baker) toasted over a renewable Welsh woodburning grill, or Perl Wen glazed parsnip and sun blushed tomato tart accompanied by a lovely Château Guirauton Sauvignon Blanc, clean and bright, with a pale lemon colour, gently aromatic, notes of lemon zest, elderflower and peaches. Superb!

Our tables discussed each of the three main conversation questions relating to the Welsh Government’s draft goals underpinning the foundations for building the structure of ‘Wales What We Want’ and the Future Living Scenarios Bill. It wasn’t easy, particularly in view of the glorious food in front of us! Ardderchog!

Over the starter we discussed: Goals? What Goals? No, it wasn’t about Cardiff Bluebirds, as someone humorously suggested! Funny! Then we discussed: Do we need a Goal keeper? over a main course of organically bred Rump of Welsh Lamb with minted Pembroke new potatoes and Bro Morgannwg runner beans washed down with a delightful Château Angludet Cabernet Sauvignon with its aromas of sweet bright fruit jumping out of the glass and silky velvety red berry notes; or a fish course of responsibly sourced Teifi Sewin pan fried in Penclawdd cockle butter with sauté potatoes, hand foraged renewable wild samphire and another bottle of Château Guirauton. Marvellous!

The last question: How many Goals? was pondered over a gorgeous organic Welsh Dairy Chocolate tart with Welsh Vanilla ice cream or Panacotta with poached Fairtrade peaches, all eased down by the honeyed sweetness of a Château Doisy-Védrines Sauvignon Blanc & Sémillon. Divine!

After dessert, co-facilitator Julian Callender effortlessly eased us into pulling our conversations together with the help of an extraordinary Château Suduiraut Sémillon Blanc which was utter liquid decadence! Honestly, it felt naughty quaffing this magnificent wine. Heady aromas of white peach, passion fruit, pineapple and mango all interwoven with clotted cream. Somebody bring me a spoon! Bendigedig!

Then, over an ethically produced Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Arabica coffee and locally hand crafted after dinner mints, Julian (thank goodness he was there!) collated our key thoughts for feedback into the larger ‘National Natter’ debate. I will upload these in a separate blog post, but one important thing which emerged from our supper conversation I would like to raise here: ‘That Thing That’s Hiding Over By There’. Challenging!

In our discussions we were overwhelmingly committed to seeking out stories of Welsh successes to engage pride, develop belief and aspirations in a Wales that is not just the land of our fathers, grandfathers or mothers but the land of our grandchildren, a nation responding to our rugby heritage and engendering a narrative of pride, belief, real unity and warm feelings of inclusiveness. We all really wanted to see a Wales where everyone is united and happy and has comfy sofas and likes a cwtch and is engaged with hearts and minds in shared pride, belief and aspirations that really can build success and a sustainable living scenarios for now and evermore. Exciting!

But I thought, what is ‘That Thing That’s Hiding Over By There’? This would be a great place to start thinking about helping us to really create the real Wales What We Want. We are a land full of things hiding over by there: things we don’t like, that we can’t discuss or resolve, conflicts and jealousies that we allow to flourish under the surface but never name or acknowledge, incomprehensible public sector jargon or management speak and lots of other stuff. Extraordinary!

For me our most important ‘Thing That’s Hiding Over By There’ is the cultural-societal mindset that says in order to change the way we manage change we must look for things to fix and find someone to blame for what’s wrong instead of celebrating what is successful and then doing more of it. It dawned on me after finishing the last bottle of Château Doisy-Védrines that the way forward is to adopt a Reductive Inquiry method, a really simply change management tool, working out what works successfully, working out how it works and then working on doing more of what works. It is a working thought process that is about engaging everyone to work in a structured working conversation with clear purpose then continues to work as a shared way of working. Nice!

But the very real issue we face in approaching ‘That Thing That’s Hiding Over By There’ is that we must challenge and change our deep-rooted assumptions from the ones that are currently and strongly in place and which drive our behaviours to look for problems and to try and fix them then examine, make visible through conversation and debate our current assumptions and collectively, individually, culturally and societally agree and change our beliefs. Without this conversation the best kind of change cannot happen and we will fall back into problem solving mode and blaming other people for making mistakes and being nasty to each other in our usual way. Let’s get rid of ‘That Thing That’s Hiding Over By There’ and build the ‘Wales What We Want’ for our grandchildren, pets, wildlife, flowers and other people. Godidog!

A huge thank you to everyone who took part and also to @CharliesFastFoodCardiff. Fabulous!

To be continued in another blog! Brilliant!

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