10 tips for running a successful Pause & Reflect debrief

David Gurteen rang me just before Christmas.  He’d read my recent blog post about the  Pause & Reflect (P&R) debrief session I was running for the Brighton Food Waste Colllective and wanted to understand how it differed from an After Action Review (AAR).

Here’s what I told him and via this link his observations on the technique:

In a P&R debrief the team (with the help of the Facilitator) is attempting to go beyond the questions posed by an AAR: what was supposed to happen; what did actually happen; what went well; and what might we do differently next time?

While these are valid areas of investigation they tend not to address the how or why an event succeeded or failed and overlook aspects of behaviour, space and culture.

P&R sessions look at all of these through the use of timelines and objects by recreating what happened formally and informally, before the event, during the event and after the event.

The technique I like to use is an A3 version of the Narrative Grid about which I’ve written before.

By way of an example (and with the kind permission of Vera, Mei-Weh and Saskia) I’d like to draw on the recent P&R session in Brighton.

Food Waste Collective Pause & Reflect:

We met informally at a quirky venue (Blue Man Bar) in Brighton. Despite background noise the team were able to raise and openly discuss the event. Here’s what I asked them to think about in advance:

The aim is to identify learning’s from the recent Food Collective Event that you might apply to current and future events. This session is best done with a timeline /narrative grid and I will ask these questions for each stage (Before/During/After):

*     What was expected to happen?

*     What actually occurred?

*     What went well and why?

*     What can be improved and how? And finally,

*     What behaviours in others did you most admire / find most useful?

I will take notes so you just need to bring along your keen minds, memories, observations and most importantly a photo or object from the event.

some key outcomes:

The session designed primarily as a capacity building/knowledge transfer session lasted but an hour.  In that time a couple of key outcomes emerged and each of the team was able to highlight behaviours in others that made a real difference.  It underpinned my belief that by being appreciative in the approach to debriefs and focusing on events a lot more emerges.

Here’s an extract from the notes I took:

P&R Outcomes Dec13

when, where and how to use a Pause & Reflect?

Here are 10 suggestions on how to make it work:

  1. use it to conduct a debrief on an event or decision that has taken place in the last month
  2. use pictures and objects from the event or decision to amplify key moments and trigger memories – brief them about the need to bring something along
  3. get people to fill in the narrative grid / timeline as they go and if you have different cultures involved ask different groups to fill in their own timelines – in the process of comparing you will discover much
  4. probe by asking for examples – in the above case the need to get volunteers on a Thursday to help unload FareShare vans emerged only by going through the event step by step
  5. when someone makes a comment such as ‘it was so organised when I arrived’ get them to elaborate and contrast – it will generate a story that becomes an important narrative of the event
  6. make the session informal (and reflective of the organisational culture) but do have an agenda and stick to it – be clear about the roles each one is playing at the P&R
  7. get participants to talk about the environment and location where the event or decision you are holding a P&R about took place
  8. don’t be afraid to let the silence hang in sticky moments – behaviours (most admired which might have made an event successful) often emerge slowly
  9. ensure (with permissions) that you take photos of the P&R and include them in the write up
  10. finally, don’t be too ambitious: 3 hours is the maximum I’ve found works and look at 1 event or decision not a whole project.



‘Pause & Reflect’ session vs. an ‘After Action Review’

Pause & Reflect AgendaTonight (Thursday) I will be in Brighton on behalf of Plan Zheroes running a Pause & Reflect session with the Food Waste Collective. We are going to be taking a look at the recent event they held at Brighton University and which I wrote about a few weeks back – when a good deed is lentil shaped: why a group of Brighton based women deserve our support.

Since a previous posting about a Plan Zheroes Pause & Reflect session on a CSR Day we ran attracted some interest I decided to share with a wider audience how I go about setting them up

The agenda is time specific and requires the attendees to have thought in advance about an object or image that sums up the event for them. The other departure from the more traditional After Action Review process is that I try to get people to focus on the behaviours in others that really helped make the event work.  This appreciative inquiry technique is one I’ve found to be highly effective reflecting as it does on behaviours in a group environment.

the power of 3

I’ve always been a great believer in the principle that less is more especially when looking back at an event or decision. And I tried to get everyone I’ve mentored or coached to focus on ‘the power of 3’. Most people can remember 3 things and act on them.

Professor Victor Newman often tells a story about one of his early experiences going into an organisation and finding a lessons learned exercise came up with more than 200 ‘lessons’ which were noted down and taken away never to be acted upon.

3 ‘things’ is also a theme I apply in reverse brainstorming when getting people to consider how they can tackle ‘stuff’ that is broken.

capacity building and knowledge transfer

Tonight’s event is part of Plan Zheroes ongoing commitment to support volunteers outside of its core market. If we can equip others with basic skills and tools to improve the way they run events and interact with food donors and recipients fewer people will be facing food poverty and we will all be making better use of surplus food.

I am looking forward to the session.

when a good deed is lentil shaped: stopping food waste in Brighton

Vara Zakaharov of Food Waste Collective having a discussion about potential donors with a commumity chef

Vera Zakaharov of Food Waste Collective having a discussion about potential donors with a commumity chef from Emmaus Brighton.

Friday was one of those days that restored my faith in human nature.  I was in Brighton on behalf of Plan Zheroes supporting The Food Waste Collective’s 2nd food share event, held at University of Brighton’s Moulscoomb campus.

The impetus for this event came from a group of women who call Brighton their home: Vera Zakharov, Mei-Wah Tang, Caitriona Donahoe, Saskia Wesnigk-Wood and Josie Jeffery.

The timing could not have been more apposite: WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) established as an independent not-for-profit company that aims to minimise resource use and divert priority materials from landfill recently published an intriguing report, the  WRAP Review of Waste in the Hospitality and Food Service Sector that looks at how inter alia the UK can make better use of surplus food.

It notes: Redistribution of surplus food so that it is still eaten before it becomes waste, is preventing food waste, e.g. sending surplus food to a charity.

Mei-Wah Tang welcoming two members of a local charity and getting them to sign the PlanZheroes Charity Agreement

Mei-Wah Tang welcoming two members of a local charity and getting them to sign the PlanZheroes Charity Agreement

It was encouraging to see how many young people from many nationalities all getting together to make sure that fewer families are forced to make eat or heat decisions.

As a former Lewesian I was not alone, Pearl and Helen from the Lewes Food Bank were there showing the ‘young bucks’ how to bag up quantities of food into manageable portions.  This is a skill and one that can make a huge difference on the day in terms of reducing waste and saving time for volunteers.

Helen and Pearl from the Lewes Food Bank. Watch out for their bagging up video!

Helen and Pearl from the Lewes Food Bank. Watch out for their bagging up video!

So the ‘dynamic duo’ have both agreed to produce a video that shows others the tricks of the trade. I will provide the link in due course.

Pearl will be in addition establishing a link with Le Magasin in Lewes (the first donor to sign up there last year when I launched the Plan Zheroes intiative in Lewes) who have agreed to supply the Lewes Food Bank one of 3 in the town supported by Mayor, Ruth O’Keefe.

Some of Pearl and Helen's handiwork.

Some of Pearl and Helen’s handiwork.

I heard some wonderful stories of community engagement/ plaudits for Nathan of FareShare Brighton and of the superb work of Emmaus Brighton who grow and cook their own food in Portslade and note:

Research shows that for every £1 invested in a community, there is an £11 social, environmental and economic return, with savings to the benefits bill, health services and a reduction in crime reoffending.

Let me share one initiative just getting off the ground which I think deserves our support.

Sue Saunders of St Andrews School Hove is one of a growing number of parents who are concerned about the increasing levels of obesity among our young children.

Sue Sanders, one of the St Andrews School, Hove's cookery tuition team is looking for a cooker.

Sue Sanders, one of the St Andrews School, Hove’s cookery tuition team is looking for a cooker.

She (and I) bemoan the growth of fast food, TV dinners and the lack of culinary skills among the population. Austerity and consumerism are forcing both parents to work which is impacting family time and conversations over food which is where much social interaction occurs.

So Sue and her team are attempting to teach school children basic cookery skills so they can develop a taste for and interest in good food. Sue was there to pick up ingredients and needs a small cooker so if anyone can help here’s her email address (reproduced with her permission): sussaunders25@hotmail.com.

Apart from the copious amounts of food that was shared, Vera, Mei-Wah and Josie managed to sign up 3 charities to the PlanZheroes food map and registered Food Waste Collective as donors.

Plan Zheroes Food Map on Mei-Wah's iPad

Plan Zheroes Food Map on Mei-Wah’s iPad

Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the visit was to see the enthusiasm among everyone who was giving up their time and skills to try and make a difference to the lives of people who are less fortunate.

At a time when immigration is in the spotlight it was noticeable that the volunteers came from a wide cross section of nationalities and ethnic background where food and community support are more of an ingrained part of the social fabric.

Plan Zheroes is delighted to have been able to support the Food Waste Collective.

scores on the doors

From Vera:

our end of event stats:

27 volunteers + 3 pallets of surplus food x 8 hours = 19 food projects and charities happily receiving much-needed food donations.

So far, since the first event in August, we have distributed over 3 tonnes of perfectly good, healthy delicious dry goods to local projects.

Brighton’s Food Waste Collective to run ‘making use of surplus food’ event

I met a woman last week in a cafe in Eastbourne.  Her name was Tam, a young Buddhist with a passion for helping others less fortunate. She is a member of the Brighton Food Waste Collective and she’d come from Brighton to interview me about the ‘making use of surplus food’ initiative I set up in Lewes in 2012.

Tam and her team are going to be running an event in a couple of week’s time which I’d heartliy endorse and not just because Maria Ana Neves of Plan Zheroes (she was a great hit in Lewes) is speaking.

food waste collective event posterTo be held at Brighthelm Cafe in North Road Brighton its going to be a real opportunity for donors and charities to come together and see how they might make use of a host of willing volunteers keen to make a difference.

In the hope it might help others who are thinking about a similar activity I want to share something from the excellent interview notes Tam took and published.

‘He said that there are the two ends, who wants and who has to give but it is the middle that creates the logistical nightmares – the getting the food from a to b. I talked about there having to have leaders and ideas people and the technology of the map but also we need the “foot soldiers” – the bodies, cars and bicycles to move daily food from a to b. This is what our event can find. People! Willing people! Hurray 🙂

Paul then asked if I would like some advice, I said yes please! He said “my experience tells me that…” in a nutshell he suggested starting small and high lighting six charities representing “demand”, and six restaurants or shops representing “supply” then set a finite time scale of six months to put only those twelve into action. Make pilot projects! Then he suggests we re-assess and see what has worked? What has failed? Why? He suggested treating it like a research project. He suggested using Google Groups (?) He said “Don’t spread yourself too thin!” Also, which I adored, “Don’t attempt to boil the ocean!”

Paul suggested making objectives: Can we identify the demand? Can we identify the supply? Develop a picture. Two ends – who wants? Who has to give? Make a brief: identify potential charities to supply to….

Paul talked about reverse brain storming – I love this – it’s a technique where you ask the people at the event “what are the best ways to prevent the food getting from a to b?” “How can we make sure the food is wasted/rots/has to go in the landfill?” “How would you ensure that the surplus food re-distribution chain would not work?” He described how he uses this technique in his professional life to get folks’ brains to work in a different way.’

Plan Zheroes is moving ahead apace with plans to be come a registered charity and I am honoured to have been invited to become one of the founding Trustees to provide a focus on knowledge sharing. This is what sets Plan Zheroes apart.  As its evolving technology platforms get completed it will be able to provide an instant view of where surplus food is located and so match the charities who need it with those who have it to give.  It’s skill is then in coming up with innovative solutions on how to get it from A-B.

And by making the knowledge of how to set up an initiative (and a guide for volunteer management) Plan Zheroes is attempting to help replicate the model (here and overseas) that is working so well in London.

Good luck Tam and the Brighton Food Waste Collective!