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Facilitators Without Borders (FWB) at Forum 2009 - An interview with Tim Hurson

Erik Landriault from the Global Forum for Health Research, recently discussed FWB’s engagement for Forum 2009 with Tim Hurson, President of thinkx intellectual capital and FWB director.

Facilitators Without Borders (FWB) is a not-for-profit organization that collaborates closely with non-partisan organizations to work on projects with:

  • Strong partnerships with groups of concerned and dedicated stakeholders who demonstrate a high level of integrity
  • Strong focus on humanitarian issues and/or social problems
  • Strong commitment to deliver benefits to a broad segment of the identified population, not a special interest, religious or political group.

Facilitators Without Borders is comprised of an international network of facilitators whose guiding belief and mission is that creative solutions can be found for even the most complex problems and that the best solutions are those that emanate from the team of people who are ultimately charged with solving them. FWB believes in partnering with communities to help them develop their own indigenous solutions by guiding the creative problem solving process.

For further information, see

ERIK LANDRIAULT Could you tell us a bit more about Facilitators Without Borders?

TIM HURSON John Sedgwick, myself and others recognized the useful contributions we were making to commercial organizations by helping them think better, creatively and effectively. John realized that we could provide the same service to non-commercial organizations. Our motivation was that so many aid organizations deliver solutions; however, these solutions are fundamentally flawed because they don’t match needs. We essentially view ourselves as “guides by the side”. What if we worked with recipient groups and empowered them to find better, more viable and robust solutions?

EL Directly related to the theme of Forum 2009, Innovating for the Health of All, it seems that Facilitators Without Borders constitutes a social innovation. What does that mean to you and why is it particularly important?

>TH My personal mantra is “avoid the great answer, wrong question syndrome”. I often work with companies where dozens or even hundreds of people are working on the wrong problem. If you have the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your work is: you’ll never get what you want. Although we want people to come up with the right answer, it’s not always possible. But as in science and research, if we can help people develop the right questions, we can go a long way towards stimulating productive results.

EL The Global Forum will be working closely with Facilitators Without Borders to organize sessions. Why did FWB want to get involved?

>TH I am familiar with public health and health-care related issues having worked in a social marketing agency where we applied principles of marketing to social issues to persuade populations to act. Going beyond the issues, however, I experience a lot of conferences, which can be criminally boring. It’s a shame that so many great minds can congregate, but end up spouting positions. What a huge resource a conference could be if the people were energized, enlivened and passionate!

EL What can we expect from Facilitators Without Borders?

>TH We’re aiming for higher level of engagement from both forum presenters and participants. We want to help create an environment in which people can invest themselves intellectually and emotionally in health research and innovation. We want to create fertile ground for the generation of new ideas.

EL What piece of advice would you give to participants as they get ready for Forum 2009 in Havana?

>TH When preparing their presentations, I would urge people to abandon the notion of “spray and pray”, whereby you try to get as much information out there as possible and hope that some of it will resonate with the audience. Really target your messages and keep the audience in mind. Also, I know that people are coming to this Forum with a wealth of experience and knowledge from previous Forums; however, I would ask people to approach the Forum as though it's new, saying “I don’t know what I will encounter, but I will refrain from judging and be open to it”.

EL Is there anything else you’d like to say?

>TH Yes... just that every once in a while you can inject a shock in the system, where things change. This happens in boardrooms, families, conferences and forums. We hope that we can contribute to people getting that type of insight.

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