Meet the facilitator: Helen Glass (Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society)
“We made new and lasting friendships and working relationships that will endure”
Helen Glass is a business development manager at the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS).
For the Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS) she facilitates a new Smart Farming group and recently finished writing the project plan for the PCN Chitin group.
Here, she tells us about her experience of facilitating the PCN Chitin group, who are developing a new compost, amongst other activities.
What was different about RISS from other facilitation you’ve been involved with?
Well, this was a group driven by industry players, fantastic experts and business people, so the challenge was to bring out the best of their different skillsets, at this table of many voices.
It was farmer and supply chain -led – it starts with the farmer, but the farmer relies on the agronomist and so on.
One challenge was creating an open group but with different pillars, as they weren’t all interested in the same aspects of the PCN problem.
What was your role in the PCN chitin group?
I managed the group really – my role was to arrange meetings, pull out the actions, take notes, do the background admin to enable them to focus on the action points. I was the person saying, ‘Have you done that?’!
I was also able to bring knowledge of funding calls and lead on engagement with innovation centres, such as the Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) centre. I could broker those relationships. I helped them navigate through calls and write research proposals.
They were passionate about the subject, and could write 30 pages, so I’d remind them that we only needed six! I’d say, ‘Let’s put that in an appendix!’ We had a One Drive we all contributed to.
We had to move our meetings online due to Covid-19, and I take my hat off to the group – we did that together.
What are you most proud of about the project?
I’m proud of the fact that they embraced the facilitator as part of the team, and I’m proud of their drive, focus and ability to broaden out their thinking.
I’m proud of the way in which Martin and Angus Horticulture grabbed the baton to set up meetings with innovation centres and academics and the way they were able to convey what they needed. They’d say to me, ‘That was fantastic, I wouldn’t have been able to speak to these people without RISS. A farmer talking to a professor!’
I was proud of their co-operation – there were commercial sensitivities, but their ability to share their thoughts was vital and commendable.
What were your tactics for successful facilitation?
I’d say my tactics were: transparent communication, keeping momentum going, bringing the networks together, exploring what looked like dead-ends (as they could be a pot of gold), being flexible (they’re busy people), setting targets and being aware of the farming timetable – basically, sunrise to sunset!
It was fun too, we made new and lasting friendships and working relationships that will endure. If I see new technology or interesting press I’ll send it on and, likewise, if Martin sees something interesting from a university he will be quick on the phone to ask about its validity. We built a network that will last.
More about Helen
Helen joined SAOS in 2018, with expertise in areas including:
- Technology-based innovations
- Collaborative R&D projects
- New market opportunities
Helen likes to work on projects that bring a diversity of enthusiastic people together, and with farm businesses who want to change an aspect of their operations.