The inappropriate dress and exposed breasts of the woman from Ericsson were the best (or the worst, depending on your perspective) features of the NBN Information Session in Nimbin Town Hall today.
Social Planner’s Distress Call.
It’s been a hard week and it’s only Monday.
I’ve already had a massive rainbow chuckle as the Queensland Government wheeled out an American consultant who’s supposedly an expert in “community visioning” to say how great their State Government community engagement has been.
Visiting Overseas Experts
These Visiting Overseas Experts (VOEs) are swarming all over the offices of right-wing governments in Australia at the moment. It’s a min-plague! We have Canadian planners from Vancouver crawling all over NSW and Melbourne.
And now the boy from Portland is in Brisbane. Offering his ‘testimonials’ for Campbell Newman. (I wish they’d keep their testimonials to themselves. They have NO IDEA of ow much damage they are doing to our fragile democratic fabric here.)
I am thoroughly sick of it.
But as a local and a businessperson who needs good Internet connection, I thought I’d better wander down to the Nimbin Town Hall and see how things were going with the ABN.
My visit to the Town hall reminded me of a recent visit to Telstra in Lismore. When I complained, I was told that they weren’t actually Telstra at all – they were just a shop that sold Telstra things.
Something’s gone wrong in sales and service in recent times (if ever it was good). In Myers in Adelaide last year, when I spoke to the woman behind the greeting cards counter (in my distinctive Canadian accent-that-has-been-here-45-years), her first reply was “Well, you’re definitely not one of us, are you?”
Today, in the Town Hall, when I asked the woman with the exposed breasts if she thought that the large blocks of dense text on the displayed AO panels were easy to read, do you know what she said to me?
She said, first, that she did not actually work for NBN, but rather for Ericsson, so she was not responsible. (That always comes first.)
And second (this always
comes second), she claimed that I was the first person to complain.
I am always “the first person to complain”.
Good thing I live in an anarchist community where complaining is always on the agenda.
The woman in the silly dress said that what was displayed on the easels was also in the handouts (nearly clipped together and sitting in tidy piles on the table).
I explained (oh, sigh, how many times have I explained this”¦?) that what you read in the comfort of your own tepee on an A4 sheet is different from what you read standing up in a group of people.
Dense text and complex graphics just do not do the job.
I asked if anyone had designed the panels and she told me that they were standard ABN templates.
I wandered out and had an ice cream across the road.
Too much for one day.
So why am I banging on about this, you might ask?
It’s because the panels – with their charts and tables and statistics and government disclaimers about EMR and so forth (just like Alice’s Restaurant) – are inscrutable.
And I expect that’s exactly how they want them to be.
No bugger can understand them (well, maybe that’s not true – there are some smart cookies in Nimbin who probably can”¦).
But they are far, far from user-friendly.
Far from it.
What we need in community engagement is an engaged citizenry. To get there, we need to come to public judgement. Not just atomised public opinion – with charts and tables and statistics you could shoot a cannon through. We need genuine opportunities to build and strengthen our literacy, knowledgeability and capacities, learn what we need to learn and have grown-up and authentic conversations about what’s proposed.
I want good Internet, don’t get me wrong.
And I’m frightened at where the technology seems to be going âˆ’ very near my house.
But what I really want is a CONVERSATION.
Not to stand – bewildered and increasingly dismayed– in front of sheet after sheet full of dense text and charts and tables.
I want to talk about things – not with a woman from Ericsson who’s not really responsible, in any case (and who is not even holding a piece of paper to record my comments).
I want to talk with my neighbours. And to people whose views I respect — about technology.
How about a few panels on the easels from the Nimbin Environment Centre?
I’d trust THEM.
But when you come right down to it, this is a political matter. Not a technical one.
I want a meeting.
A political meeting.
In the Town Hall.
And if we can’t have another of those, how about a properly designed and facilitated “Information Session”?
I know just how to do it.
It’s called a SpeakOut.
We have books, checklists, models and training available about this effective and innovative community engagement model.
And it never obfuscates.
I’m from Nimbin and I’m here to help you.
And Marnee has some nice, modest dresses in her Nimbin shop.
Finer professional process point:
In community engagement practice, we always make the point that dress is important.
It’s important to blend in with the local community. Don’t wear a suit in Woop Wooop, etc…
THIS IS MERELY A VERBATIM REPORT (not my words):
A member of the non-distaff side, reading the above, commented wryly, Well, if you’re going to let yer tits hang out, it might as well be in Nimbin.
Maybe this is company policy? A subtle attempt at fitting in with the locals?