Anyone working anywhere in healthcare in South Sudan is likely to have extensive experience of workshops. These often duplicate content with other workshops, and more than more senior person has observed that we need to have less workshops and more action. My observations from those many workshops is as follows:
1. There will be at least 3 dignitaries who will open the workshop. They will start by saying ‘all protocols observed’. They will talk about how this workshop is crucial to the continuance of the human race. There is often an opening prayer.
2. The workshop will start late; very late in fact. The dignitaries will make it run later.
3. After an hour one of the cleaners will walk in with a crate of cold water bottles. She’ll walk round the room distributing them. Then she’ll do the same with cans of soda. No matter who is talking it will be entirely appropriate to rifle through the crate to find the soda of your choice. I’ve also seen speakers send her out in search of diet Pepsi. I’ve wished I was brave enough to do this.
4. There may then be sweets passed round. If you’re lucky enough to have a tea break there may be sausages. I advise stashing a few in your bag for dinner.
5. After each speaker there will be contributions from the floor. These may be
A) helpful questions or requests for clarification
B) gentle ribbing or critique of the subject matter
C) strong disagreement and dissension regarding the subject matter
D) tangential monologues vaguely related to the subject matter.
In my observation D) is a very popular option. The dignitaries are likely to be significant contributors to the discussion.
6. Per diems (payments) are often paid to participants. I’m not permitted to receive per diems (per dia?!) and thus don’t get involved in this but it’s an intriguing phenomenon and I wonder how long it will be sustained.
7. Lunch will be carbohydrate heavy which makes focusing during the afternoon session particularly challenging.
8. To counter the potential for the entire room to slip into a communal nap there are always energiser activities after lunch which usually involve the whole room being told to stand up and touch various parts of their body, or to spell a word with their body or to do some form of the song with actions such as ‘heads and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.’ This never ceases to make everyone laugh and it is mandatory to participate enthusiastically.
9. All participants are given a notebook. I now have seven identical notebooks at home and when I next run a workshop I’ll give them out. I like to think I’m enterprising.
10. The workshop will be closed by the same dignitaries who opened it, again usually with long speeches and responses. I find this is a good time to check on progress against my Christmas shopping list or decide on what route to walk home to work off calories consumed in points 3, 4 and 7…