Community drawing- so that the participants of your event do participate
We wished to write an article about our increasingly popular community drawing services and so pouncing on Grafacity General Manager Szilárd Strenner having his morning coffee seemed to be a good idea.
Juli: What is this community drawing about, Szilárd?
Szilárd: This is a real engagement-type supplementary service we provide at mass events or at any occasion where it’s important that participants too can make themselves heard. Contrary to the frontal speech recording, here participants are addressed directly, we call them out from the queue waiting for coffee, we address those prying around the community drawing during the pause (someone from the crowd). We query them and their stories make it to the paper. We magnify, we use humour, this being the opportunity to say things that cannot be said from the podium.
J: Where and when does it take place?
Sz: During pauses, during the gathering before or after the event, while there are sandwiches yet. It takes place where people are, where the crowd flows.
J: So illustrators do not sit and wait to be approached, but rather they address people, initiate discussion and then at a certain moment they start drawing, right?
Sz: That’s right. Illustrators ask the questions all organisers/clients are eager to know: why have you come, from where have you heard of the event, how many times have you been here before, or, in case we’re in the midst of the event, what was your most important impression, what do you take away from the event, what has inspired you, what did you like, what was the most valuable part of the program. What do you plan to do differently from now on, what has changed in your mindset? At a conference organised for general practitioners for example, we had a conversation with the participants specifically about the changes. Namely, what will they change in their everyday practice from the following day on. The client is obviously pleased to see the immediate effect of the event.
J: Can it serve as a tool of qualitative research as well?
Sz: Definitely, since individual stories can emerge, the paper of the community drawing gives floor to individual aspirations, notions. As we have seen for example on the bank of Danube called Római-part at our recent assignment where by-passers were queried how they would like the section of the riverside which is about to be rebuilt by Főkert Nonprofit Zrt to look like.
J: How did you get into it all?
Sz: It all started when I was in Berlin in 2004 at the world conference of visual illustrators. I’d been drawing on “walls” for years by then and there is a wall known all around the world in Berlin. I thought I cannot miss it, I must draw on that wall, so I rolled out the large sheet and asked the people by the western wall, “What do you think about liberty?” I was astounded by the volley of words I received from all those various people, residents and tourists from diverse corners of the world. And kids just could hardly knock off drawing.
J: I understand this is a way for the participant to have his/her say, express herself, share his opinion. This can be deliberating at events where one mostly has the opportunity only to listen and try to understand others, am I right?
Sz: Yes, participants like that. While so far at “traditional” conferences speakers spoke and delivered the message, their stories being illustrated at most, in our case the “humble” participant can unfold his/her opinion, wish or delight. The illustrator, by moulding the story, by drawing it, elevates it to a higher level at the same time.
J: By the way, does it really happen that participants wrest out the pen of the hands of the illustrators?
Sz: There are events indeed, like TEDx, where the spirit is in the air, people are inspired, enthusiastic, energies are released, people want to act, to express their own thoughts. It does happen in such cases that pens are “wrested out” from our hands, folks start drawing and we almost have to force them at the end of the event to leave so we can make up and pack our board. But for standard conferences this is not quite typical, it is a bit more for events organized for students.
J: The illustrator, drawing during a few minutes’ discussion, highlights a moment, a representative message. How do such details make it to the whole? What can one do with the completed large sheet?
Sz: I can give you several examples from our practice. Posterior use depends mostly on the intent and whether there is time and energy or not. There are lots of possibilities. If considerable follow up is given, then one can make good use of the drawings in posterior communication, they can be sent to participants, utilized by the final evaluation, or when planning, promoting the subsequent event. It may happen that a drawing is especially emblematic, or valuable for the client, as it perfectly covers the client’s values, vision, or because it conveys the story that the client is most proud of. At the event of Class Hungária Kft we have applied the method of participants making photos of the drawings or making selfies with them, and then posting those on social media platforms using an agreed hash tag. This way we could make free publicity to Class Hungária Kft and the program. In addition, naming a prize, we have augmented the motivation to share these posts.
Recently we have also seen clients using the community drawings to illustrate the document made of the event, or to illustrate the book published for the project. However, the list is not complete, drawings can be used in various ways, and as all assignments are different, each client is different, so we experiment and try to find new ways wherever it is possible.
J: What shall be the closing message of this coffee-interview?
Sz: I would rather turn it around and ask the assiduous readers who have kept on staying with us this long. Community drawing has a subject, an invoking question, so what would be yours? What would you ask at your conference? What would your client ask? How would you use the drawings?
Participants of the interview: Juli Strenner-Szekeres and Szilárd Strenner
I’m Szilárd Strenner, the general manager of Grafacity Visual Services, a visual facilitator and organisational development consultant by profession. I’ve been doing trainings and leading groups since 1994. I got familiar with visual recording in 2010, and I wrote my final thesis on this topic for my OD consultant education. We set up Grafacity Visual Services and became active members of IFVP, International Forum of Visual Practitioners. I take part in nearly a thousand of hours of visual client-work independently or together with my colleagues annually. I would like to better understand how we can support the change processes with our visual means the most efficiently.