National Meet News

A guest participant's comments on the Mumbai Meet, 2004

As a guest participant at the NWMI meeting in Bandra, I was interested in meeting members of the Network, learning more about last year's activities and seeing the dynamics of the group. I noted three particular features of the meeting with interest.

The first concerned the structure of the meeting, which I thought was very conducive both to open sharing and (in some cases) to decision making. By setting aside 2-3 hour blocks of time in sessions with identified themes, members were able to talk at length about issues and to explore possible approaches to dealing with them without being hurried. Thus, in each such session, there seemed to be a start-up period in which one person after another would bring up whatever she had to say on the subject, almost at random. This resulted in a series of non-sequiturs, with messages often seeming to have no connection to each other. But I then realised this was my misperception — people had actually listened quite closely to each other, because eventually they began to respond to each other, reflecting back on something an earlier speaker had mentioned. There was eventually cohesion around several major issues, such as how NWMI should handle individual cases of sexual harassment it received, whether the website should be continued, and what new issues the group should take up next year.

The second feature of the meeting I noted was that members were forthright with each other, often noisily disagreeing in their views, but at the same time never personal in their disagreements. In two days, I never once saw a NWMI member make a snide remark to another or resort to personal criticisms about what someone said. There was a genuine sense of care and respect throughout the meeting that seemed both effortless and natural. This ethic of care so strongly at work will surely help to sustain the organisation over time.

The third feature that intrigued me was that there appeared to be an intentional system of shared leadership. The meeting had been planned by a small group in the Mumbai area, with no one particular person in charge of the whole two-day event. Instead, various members had coordinated specific events —the getting of the facility, the arrangements for the press club party, etc. Even session facilitation rotated during the meeting. In the matter of the NWMI website, which seems to have fallen to four or five members to keep up, members agreed to do a better job of sharing the writing and posting of notices. Since the website gives the group a way to communicate among its members between meetings, and also present a public face for its work (thereby setting forth the issues that Indian media professionals are concerned about), I found myself especially hopeful this sharing of work would happen.

Carolyn M Byerly, University of Maryland, USA cbyerly@dsdial.net