Today in our ethics unit we had our first example of a facilitated discussion, which is something me and my group will be doing in a few weeks time too. The whole idea is to get a topic and, without imposing any views, discussion has to be encouraged by presenting arguments from both sides of the coin. I found this highly interesting especially since I am a huge fan of impromptu brainstorming sessions.
What we talked about today was food labelling and the two ideas we were presented with at the beginning were: would it be enough if people would be getting the information to make a choice or should the food manufacturers have control over the choices and be forced to make their food more healthy or remove it from the market?
The class was got divided into two sections; there were the observers as well as the “fish bowl”, where the idea was actually debated. A chair was left open in case one of the observers decides to express a different opinion or pop in with an idea. Our lecturer then got the ball rolling by asking people to vote for their preferred option which she followed by showing the “fish” some milk labels and started the dialogue from there. Although quite shy at the beginning, the exchange of ideas and opinions later got heated up when from milk and cereals the debaters got into the problem of fizzy drinks. By the end the discussion almost took a turn into the field of freedoms and censorship and what’s most important in the conclusion is that the vote had changed. Which showed that when presented with strong enough evidence people will change their beliefs.
I found this to be a good way of exploring the opinions and ethical values of others as well as facing mine and I believe that in such a random and spontaneous discussion you can actually see other options and beliefs you probably haven’t even though of. Seeing as our ethical values are imprinted within each of us in such a subliminal ways, this is a fair enough method to realize what one stands for and evaluate what lead to those ideas.
A facilitated discussion makes one reflect on things but in a quite quick and easy way. Don’t know if other people did psychological or any other sort of testing when they were younger but I distinctly remember the tutors usually telling us to put down the first answer that comes to mind. I feel this has real value here because when you think about an issue the first response or idea that comes to mind then must be based on previous experience, ethical beliefs and just our way of looking at things. Our internal “organizational culture”.
I believe this lead to us seeing things in a different light, from different perspectives, like a PR professional should when communicating with different stakeholder groups.