Inspiration from the APG’s Worlds Collide event

I recently went along to The Account Planning Group ‘Worlds Collide’ event in London, where four speakers with four very different careers provided an answer to the question: “How do you win against all the odds?”

I especially enjoyed the presentation by Karyn McCluskey, Director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit.

She showed us some pretty harrowing videos of street violence in Scotland, and talked about her fight to put a stop to it.

The measures that Karyn and her teams put in place have led to a 50% reduction in violent offences amongst the large number of gang members in Scotland and what she did might seem crazy to some… But it worked. She made people think differently about violence, treating violence as a disease. Not just agreeing that “it’s down to their parents”, “it’s too big a problem” and “there’s nothing we can do”… She wanted to know why? How could they prevent this violence in the first place? Basically, she had a different take on the criminal justice system.

Her success came from the fact that she created an opportunity for gang members to change their behaviour.

Karyn first spoke to various authorities on the front line, including dentists (asking ‘If people’s teeth were being knocked out, by who, how and why?’), and vets (violence towards dogs, such as snapping their legs in half, emerged as a common theme), to try and get a better understanding of exactly why this violence was occurring so that she could prevent it.

250 gang members turned up to a day-long event that Karyn then planned and hosted at a Scottish court room (with police helicopters and horses on hand to avoid any trouble). A number of people spoke to the gang members that day, but the one thing that really made them take notice was hearing a mum talk about her son’s death — the fact that she still goes into his untouched room every day; that him joining a gang had torn their relationship apart. They then gave the gang members an opportunity to speak out, and they were overwhelmed by the number that came forward wanting to change.

So what’s any of this got to do with planning?

As a Planner, you need to understand people’s behaviour and you sometimes need to change people’s behaviour. The same principles of Karyn’s strategy can be applied…

1. Interrupt transmission – disrupt normal behaviour, make people see something differently
2. Change behaviour – create an opportunity to change behaviour
3. Change norms – change the rules, do things differently

One of things I also took from her talk was the importance of having belief in what you say. Karyn brought hope to her colleagues, the gang members and the community, and helped them to believe that things could change — and they did.

Inspiring stuff.