WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

A lesson in social analysis for corporates

Bells rang in Duncan Holland’s head when he was introduced to the techniques of social analysis—he had been using similar principles while investigating businesses.
Duncan, who’s in Newtown parish, says he went to a social analysis workshop in Newtown last month out of interest.

Jul08Duncan_Holland_John_Ma.jpg ‘When the workshop started talking about social issues and resolving social issues by going and talking to the people involved, I know that works because I’ve been doing it since 1992.’

Duncan has been working in the electricity industry with a colleague investigating companies using the principles they had used during police investigations based on talking to the people to find out what’s happening.

‘So change is rarely effective because if you don’t start at the bottom and take the people with you, you end up with a change model where half the people are in grief and half in celebration. And we make the assumption that the people in grief are not with us and so we kick them out as fast as we can. That’s a huge mistake because we get rid of our corporate knowledge and we often get rid of our best people just because they were grieving over the change.’

Shared experience is wisdom
Duncan says the beauty of the social analysis process is that it puts a premium on people getting together and sharing their experience and the wisdom that comes from that. Too often problems are approached from an intellectual or technical viewpoint when all that’s required is for people to get together and listen to each other.
‘I got quite excited about that process.’

In the workshop at the end of May, Duncan became involved with a group that wanted to look at rising food prices.
But they needed to research whether anyone else was doing this and they had to ask people if this is what they really want.
‘If it isn’t, find out what it is they want and that’s what we have to do. Now we might find out that what they want has absolutely nothing to do with all the good ideas that we’ve thrown round.’

Duncan says two people have already discovered from visiting in the Newtown Park flats that more than anything to do with food prices, many simply want someone to talk to about their troubles, someone they can trust.
So they have set up a meeting to discuss the issue of food prices and to see if people want to do something about the rising cost of food.

‘If we started making decisions about what was going to happen we would have breached the process already because we’ve already started imposing our view of things on the people with the problem. We’ve become a problem because we’ve probably put something there that the people don’t want and won’t participate in.

‘Above all we must stay true to the principle of going to the people affected and finding out their view of the issue, if it is an issue, and then finding out what they want to do about it, rather than imposing some plan that we think will work. There’s a beauty about that isn’t there.’
For more about the process of social analysis, see also ‘Social analysis brings power to the people’ www.welcom.org.nz/?sid=922.
Picture: Duncan Holland (left) and John Maynard at the Social Analysis Workshop in Newtown, May 24-25 2008.