Month: April 2014


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Knowledge about the Collaborative Scotland initiative is spreading!

One of our guests at the Grassmarket event in December, recognised the potential synergies between the objectives of Collaborative Scotland and a web facility recently developed by Miituu ( and introduced us to the company’s CEO, David High.

The Miituu facility enables users to generate questionnaires and gather responses in the form of short video clips made by responders. It encourages the sharing of opinions amongst people and fosters the inclusive and collaborative spirit we advocate.  One of the suite of questionnaires developed by Miituu is linked to the Referendum question.  In this connection, David has signed up to our Commitment to Respectful Dialogue and adopted the Protocol  for the Scottish referendum questionnaire.

David’s positive response is greatly welcomed. We hope that many more will join him in committing to respectful dialogue as they go about expressing their opinions and debating this crucial matter.

‘A letter to the editor’ John Sturrock

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Excerpts of the following were published in the letters page in Scotland on Sunday on 20 April 2014


Your cover story on Sunday April 6 brought the welcome news that thought is being given to healing divisions caused by the “increasingly bitter” independence debate and to ensuring that “the split being played out in ugly political spats and on-line abuse does not result in a permanently fractured society”.


In the same edition, Andrew Wilson reflected on Margo MacDonald’s life and her ability to be both radical and unifying, teaching that progress only happens when you respect opponents and bring them with you.


Nelson Mandela spoke of the need, even if we remain wedded to our own point of view, to put ourselves in the shoes of those with whom we disagree. That takes an effort of will, empathy and imagination. But the reward, as we saw in Mandela’s life, can been described as wisdom.


In the past week, Pope Francis called on Italian mayors to act as mediators, whose role was to be “among the people, to create unity, to make peace, to resolve problems and resolve the needs of the people.” What a plea to any political or civic leader.


Four weeks ago this newspaper published a full page Commitment to Respectful Dialogue, signed by 100 Scots. That number, though small, increases every day on the website  The response from ordinary folk is telling. They want a more mature, less antagonistic debate. They are weary of “ugly spats” and bitterness.


With five months to go, the time has surely come to make the full  transition from a child-like approach to a more adult discussion. Personal attacks, inflammatory language and failure to deal substantively with key issues are characteristic of immature debate but are not befitting a proud people with a history of enlightened thought and constructive contributions to intellectual progress. This is the time to demonstrate to those watching from around the world  – and to ourselves – that we can address our future with dignity. Not just after September 18 but from this moment on.


John Sturrock

Collaborative Scotland

‘Collaboration by Design’ A blog by Charlie Woods

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When we think of good design our thoughts are likely to turn to beautiful, functional objects. Yet in conversation with a group of designers the other day it became apparent that design could also play a key part in shaping the provision of services and other human endeavours that rely on good relationships. One by one, bit by bit, we can each lay the foundations of a more collaborative culture that will also be a much more enjoyable place to live in.


Our wellbeing would appear to be strongly influenced by our interactions with others, indeed our evolution as a species has been shaped by our ability to co-operate. The nature of modern societies and economies means that many of our interactions often appear very transactional or of little consequence. Yet these apparently trivial encounters make up a lot of our days. If we each gave a bit more thought to designing them to be more positive, we will probably get more out of them and others are more likely to enjoy the experience of meeting us. This, in turn, might influence others to behave differently, if so it could help generate a virtuous upward spiral of cultural change in which we all benefit.


A bit more preparation, rapport building and acknowledgement of where others might be coming from might take a little extra effort at first, but in time it’s likely to become second nature. In more prosaic terms this little extra effort could be seen as an investment which could generate significant returns. These sorts of changes in behaviour may only change things at the margins but they can make all the difference – ask the British cycling team who have a Head of Marginal Gains!

‘Whose Shoes’ A blog by Charlie Woods

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As one of the initial signatories of the protocol for a respectful dialogue I recently found myself rather shamefacedly apologising for my contribution to a less than exemplary discussion with friends over dinner. As the meal progressed I increasingly felt I was generating more heat (and noise) than light as I got more and more frustrated at apparently not being able to make myself understood and as I found myself boxed into a position entirely of my own making.


This led me to reflect more widely on why what causes dialogue to slip into a debate in which respect can become a victim. After all few of us would want to sign up to a protocol for disrespectful dialogue. Fear, passion and frustration at not being able to explain seem to be some of the things at the heart of what can cause things to slip out of control.


The desire to explain (what often seems blindingly obvious to us) can cause us to omit some preparatory steps which will increase the odds of your explanation being heard. Acknowledging and accepting where someone is coming from (even if you don’t agree with them), recognising why they might find themselves there and reassuring them of your motivations, provides a platform for engagement against which your explanations might better be heard. How often in our desire to be understood do we simply dive into an explanation without any attempt to set the scene?


This can probably also be linked to one of the many psychological biases that cloud our judgements[1]. These biases have deep evolutionary roots and have aided our survival in an dangerous environment where decisions have to be made quickly. We have a tendency to judge other people by what they say and do with little reference to the context that they find themselves in – while at the same time we see our own words and actions as being conditioned by circumstances and as such should not be taken as an indication of who we really are.


This is particularly the case if what someone says appears to confirm a conclusion we have already reached, often on very limited evidence. And if we’re doing this to others, it’s very likely the same thing is happening in reverse. It’s for this reason that taking a bit of time to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes can help you better understand where they’re coming from. It’s sometime hard to do in the heat of the moment but it might engender a bit more respect in any dialogue that follows and a more productive outcome.


[1] See ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahnaman for a fascinating insight into the many traps and biases that influence our understanding and the way we make decisions.

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I was walking through St Andrews Square the other day. A man approached me who I did not recognise. He introduced himself as one of the Grassmarket Community who had attended one of our Conversations about a New Scotland recently. He just wanted to say that he had seen the adverts in the newspapers with the Commitment to Respectful Dialogue and wanted to say thank you…..I thanked him. This makes the whole Collaborative Scotland venture worthwhile.

John Sturrock