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BeSpoke Skills

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Coaching tips and insight for business leaders, political players and creative entrepreneurs from BeSpoke Skills – a top coaching and consultancy based in central London –  led by Kate Faragher.

Kate Faragher
  • Political Influence the 7 scientific principles of persuasion
    by (Kate Faragher) on May 30, 2019 at 08:06

    What does science suggest is the best campaign strategy for the eleven MPs who have thrown their hat into the ring? What structures do they need to build to hold up their campaign? It might be a good idea to revisit the six principles of persuasion based on Robert Cialdini’s best selling book.  How can we translate these principles into what is happening in Westminster?Persuasion and influence are not short term strategies. Only those who have been playing the longer game will be able to achieve those aims.  However timing plays a key role too.  Those in the race need to be clear on what they can influence and what they can’t.  They need to have a clear strategy that is focused and flexible. Let’s examine how you achieve your political objectives through the 7 principles of persuasion. 1. Knowing your long game & the principle of repricocity. What is your political objective?  What qualities do you have and is it realistic to think you can achieve that objective?  Do you have the right skills?  Are you good at speaking in debates, in front of cameras?  What quality do you have that the party and the electorate will get behind?  This is about your values and how you go about doing things.  All these are important questions but they are questions that needed to be asked years ago and skills that needed to be demonstrate for years.  They will be part of the “making your mind up” strategy of every voting Conservative MP.  They are qualities that will be attributed to you, imagery that will be associated with you.  So they are important but it will be too late to influence them now.  They will need to build on them now.  The big question today is who supports you and will continue to support you in the coming weeks or months?Once you know who will vote, you need to be clear WHY they’ll vote for you and then leverage that motivation in others. How many of the leadership candidates have had their eyes on the prize?  We all know that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have for some time but what about the others? Here is the list of eleven currently vying for the role The first critical step in the contest is to whittle the eleven down to two in a series of rounds.  So the candidates will need to have their backers ready and waiting in the wings. They will need to have been building advocates and supporters over the last few years to be ready.  There isn’t much time to campaign.  You need to have started ready.  2. Be authentic. It’s not all smoke and mirrors.  The principle of consistency. The longer you are in politics the more your voting record will speak volumes.  Has your authenticity matched your actions?So you need to be consistent in your messaging. However there is another side to the principle of consistency – if people said they liked you in the past – they are more likely to vote for you in the future.  People like to be consistent. So it might not look so good for Michael Gove who lost out to May and Leadsom in 2016.  However he has been working hard to get more endorsements – so can’t be ruled out. The thing about the principles of persuasion they don’t always work in isolation. Although the general public are not involved in the voting –  it’s MPs that vote in the first round, then party members to vote in the second round.  It is still important to make sure people know who you are beyond the corridors of parliament.  People will make their mind up according to how well you have positioned your profile.  They wont just be thinking of now but of the up and coming election.  Who could win and get the backing of the voters? Who could give them a stronger majority?3. Have a clear message – principle of authority.  No matter how clear your long term aim is or how authentic you are, if the message isn’t loud and clear no-one will know you’re there.  Already journalists are deciding which names to mention in their introductions and which they wont.  Will yours make it in?What is your campaign message and what differentiates it from the others?  Dominic Raab’s @ReadyforRaab” semi official twitter feed has a strong ring to it.  It has nice alliteration too! However Rory Stewart has the same twitter fan handle @ReadyforRory and Rory4Leader.  Jeremy Hunts’ critics are dominating his campaign message as “Theresa in trousers” which might not help his bid.  Steve Bakers @StandwithSteve, Boris’s @backboris both use alliteration but James Cleverly is going for @TeamCleverly. Priti for PM is great because it aligns it to the next general election by not using the word leader, however I can’t see that she has definitely put her hat into the ring, although there is rumour that she was seen filming a promo video recently.  Others are talking policies.  Gove has said he would offer free citizenship to EU citizens – a promise he says delivers on on the Vote Leave promise.  Esther McVey’s Blue Collar Conservatism is an in-party group looking to support voters in deprived areas..  So the candidates need to get clear on their three to four word slogan.  These short slogans need to be fun but not too cringy.  People need to feel comfortable saying them to each other and to be associated with that slogan. With such a short time to make an impact you need a phrase that floats to the top of people’s minds. It needs to stick. The use of alliteration is a great start but it will be those who embed a message within the slogan that  could tip the balance.  This phrase, if strong, will be quoted in the press and by the critics thus giving you an air of authority.  4. Build up your media influence – the principle of “liking” Jeremy Hunt needs to be aware of how negative slogans can spread.  He needs to nip that slogan in the bud and refocus people’s attention.  He needs to take control of the messaging if he can.  Using your media advocates is key here.  If a newspaper backs your bid, you may be in a stronger position. Again this isn’t a short term strategy – this is something you need to have been building for years.  The backing might be subtle – they might just write nicer things about you than they do about the others.   Which journalists know you and like you?  Use your contacts.  If good things are written in prominent places, voting MPs will read it and be convinced by it.  How many of them have good relationships with key critics?Don’t underestimate the power of being liked. 5. Get backing from people your Conservative peers will like  – principle of consensus If people aren’t sure who to back they will look to others to then decide what they think.  This scientifically proven method was used in hotels. Hotels that said “75% of people who stay in this hotel reuse their towels” then reuse goes up by 26%. So those opinion polls are a double whammy effect. If people think most of the others will vote that way – they may get behind the consensus.  This can back fire if all the other principles are not aligned.  We’ve seen it before in politics.  If people believe someone will win – it can focus people’s mind against them and build that counter-consensus.  6. show what makes you unique – principle of scarcity. The normal use of the principle of scarcity is to show people they only have a limited time to vote, buy or get involved.  However in this situation, the leadership campaigners need to point out what makes them unique.  People need to feel that THEY will lose out if they don’t consider your leadership bid.  If they think you might be able to have another go later – they might reconsider voting for you now.  Candidates need to show that their time is NOW and build on that momentum. As well as these six principles I believe there is one other that is key to this leadership campaign: timing.  In Cialdini’s most recent research for his book “PRE-SUASION” he talks about the importance of timing and what happens in the lead up to a decision.   7. The importance of TIMING Timing, like all great persuasion techniques require planning.  However there is one quirk in timing that may help one candidate over the other in this short term space.  The best sales people know that cultivating the relationship enables the most productive outcomes.  Often the difference between one product and the other is minimal – it is the relationship that matters. Trust is key.  So is it possible to influence the relationship?  Cialdini talks about the importance of what happens BEFORE you meet; BEFORE they hear your message.  What has happened just BEFORE they vote is key to the outcome.  For example people are more likely to buy German wine if they’ve just heard a German song on the shops sound system or French vintage if they’ve heard a French song. it’s not just Cialdini who talks about timing.  In Bill Goss’s Ted Talk on “The single biggest reason why start ups succeed” he talks about the importance of timing.  Air bnb succeeded because it started in the recession.  Uber came out when drivers were looking for extra work.  You tube was perfectly timed when the technical problems of video streaming were sorted.  So for success in start ups you need to be honest with yourself – are the consumers are ready for you. who are the Conservative Party ready for? Who is the timing right for?  Who fits the cultivated environment?What relationships have been cultivated, what trust has been built, what messages are sticking and who else believes in you? Only when all these principles merge will the outcome become clearer.Will Boris’s call to court be a positive or negative timing issue?  Will Esther McVey’s Blue Collar Conservative build momentum?  In this first round it’s difficult to know because who truly knows the minds of the Conservative MPs at the moment.  Every political commentator will say they do or go on to say they do.I believe what people are saying in public and what they think is a bit different at the moment.  Nobody really knows what is going on and what will happen.  Yet the norm is to look strong and clear without ambiguity.Attention & Association The last two principles that may apply in the scientific principles of persuasion is the importance of how the Conservative MPs “see” the candidate. What qualities to they associate with that candidate.  When you’re voting, how do you remember that person: what do you associate them with? Will it be the candidate’s position on Brexit or some other quality?  What part of their campaign will draw their attention and convince them to vote for them?These few qualities, thoughts and visuals that come to mind in the moment of decision making, will be the determiner.  So it will be the small moments that will build the voting picture and the long term associations that will embed in the minds of the MPs.  There is still time to cultivate these nudges.  They need to get a strong message, react to the daily events, associate themselves with “leadership qualities”.  Although there are key front runners there is still more strategy to be played out and noone is ticking all the persuasive boxes…yet.  And then of course we are all human so it will also be how they deal with any pitfalls along the way.  

  • Why sometimes does theatre get is to right? Should we ask Richard Feynman?
    by (Kate Faragher) on May 9, 2019 at 21:30

    Today I was delivering a course in Cardiff on Questioning.  10 years ago when I was developing the course I came across this amazing video by Richard Feynman.  In it a BBC journalist asked him why magnets repelled.  His answer is so brilliant I don’t want to spoil it for you.  I urge you to watch it. At the heart of it is the challenge of the question WHY?As I was walking back to my hotel I nipped into the Wales Millennium Centre.  In their Weston Studio Theatre the Paraorchestra, composer, Will Gregory, choreographer and co-director Caroline Bowditch and conductor and co-director Charles Hazelwood had collaborated on a piece based on the exact Richard Feynman interview.  I set myself up for disappointment.  My favourite scientist, collaborating with contemporary dancers in the round where musicians interplay with the audience was my idea of heaven.  At drama school in the 90s I was fascinated by the theatre director Grotowski’s use of space.  He had a tendency to put the audience where the performers normally are.  They had done the same.  We were in the centre while they were on the fringes.  Well I was blown away.  The mixture of dynamic composition, thoughtful movement and interplay with the audience was enhanced by the diversity of the orchestra.  Every performer looked out for each other.  The space oozed with empathy and care.  The space was held by every performer and we felt safe as an audience. This was the theatrical equivalent of facilitation. The space was made safe, the audience were asked to join in and stretch themselves as much as they were willing.  The performers listened to each other and the audience.  The movement was thoughtful, considered and playful as well as technically challenging.  The dancers had huge proprioceptive awareness – they knew exactly where each part of their body was positioned in space in relation to the audience.  Every position they took was considered with empathy for those around them. The young male dancer held his hand out to the older lady and beckoned her to join.  She mirrored his movements, moved seamlessly through the space and started to smile the most joyous smile.  I later found out she has never danced professionally or as an amateur – she just thought she’d go for it. The performers happily dealt with us all – wheelchair users, visually impaired, vertically curious.  We became part of it.  It was done gently.  A foot to foot.  A cello lifted slowly above and over your head.  A touch to the back as a group connected physically then parted just as swiftly. The interplay was sometimes structured, other times improvised.  The musicians also became part of the movement.  Charles Hazelwood moved as a conductor and then as a dancer.  The cello player’s cello was held up by another of the dancers as he played.  The vibraphone player was lifted like a ballerina while still playing perfectly every note.  The other percussionist danced as he moved round and towards the end gave out some instruments to the audience who played them to rhythmic perfection.  And then we stopped.  All together.  Even the audience members with the percussion instruments.  Not a bell or a shaker over the beat. The group had become one.  We had become the collaboration. Why does theatre get it so right sometimes?  Is the answer in magnets?  Sadly we can’t ask Richard Feynman but I’d love to think he might have a theory…. The Nature of Why is on at the Wales Millennium Centre for two more nights – grab a ticket while you can.

  • The importance of childhood movement for leaders.
    by (Kate Faragher) on April 23, 2019 at 10:02

    Obama and Biden having a walking meetingFor those of you who know me well, you will know that I have a passion for learning.  Not just peripheral learning but deep, complex learning.  Part of that passion is owning a number of learning environments including two nurseries and an after-school-club.  After all children are the quickest and best learners we know.  If we understand their learning process we can clarify our life-long learning approach.The other big part of my learning journey is my training consultancy for parliamentarians and academics around the world and the innovative financial sector.  These three sectors have one thing in common – they stretch for the best.  They are constantly looking at quick, effective and proven techniques that can improve outcomes.I often find there are large areas of cross over between how children learn and how leaders can improve their learning.  A child’s persistence to succeed by constant failure,  their curiosity that has no limits, their questioning skills that never tire and their natural desire to move are key skills every leader needs.Flexi Spot standing and sitting desk.  I have a deep rooted belief that movement and experiential learning are a key part of learning for a large majority of people.  You can easily learn something quickly but embedding it into a habit takes persistence, curiosity and desire.  Some may be able to sit for hours, think, read and learn but the rest of us need movement to aid learning.  We need to embody what we learn not just know it. There is a huge gulf between knowing something and implementing it.So how do we move at work?For some years there has been an increase in walking or standing meetings.  In this Forbes article  Kara Goldin talks of how Steve Jobs loved a walking meeting and designed his offices to be more dynamic.There is also a review here on the flexispot desk by @reviewgeeksite which is a flexi desks that enables us to stand and sit while we work highlighting increasing research on the importance to move while we work and think.  Drafters and architects have been doing it for years with slanted standing desks.  There are also pictures of Winston Churchill at a standing desk in the early 1900s.With this and more seeping into the leadership arena, the academics and movement practitioners are starting to find out more about the importance of movement and learning.  They are also finding out  how it is linked to personal wellbeing – physical and mental health.  I also believe it is linked to innovative thinking and an ability to cope with stress and change. It’s also great for networking and influencing.Quite often movement and learning are assigned to the area of special needs, under 5s or adult literacy and more recently dementia,  rather than innovation, leadership and staff training.  I believe we all need to understand the importance of movement at all levels and how we can use neuroscience, behavioural science and increased research in education to improve all training and learning.  It needs to be done with the learners in mind to make it relevant. which is where the facilitator and trainer’s experience in course development is key.How do parliamentarians and Senior managers move?Parliament in UgandaMost corporate and political places I visit are skeptical of the importance of movement.  Yet look at the parliamentary buildings around the world.  They require you to move – even if it’s to get from your office to the debating chamber.In Westminster, politicians have to get to the Chamber to vote in a short space of time, through all the underground routes of Parliament,  They have to meet various people throughout parliament and their constituency.  If you asked them do they incorporate walking meetings they might not immediately say yes.These walking corridors are talking corridors – they are not only routes to vote they are places to have purposeful collisions and influential chats.  This is where one-to-one “moments” happen, heads bowed, ears attentive and opportunities for backbenchers to rub shoulders with Secretaries of State.Presentation and MovementSo how does Developmental Movement in the under 5s link to leaders in the seat of power?  Three key areas where leaders need to learn to move is delivering presentations, managing staff and leading a team. How does it link to movement?When we present – we stand in a particular way.  How we stand is linked to how we are heard.  This is the most discussed as it links to body language. If we stand with an open upper body we have more status and are listened to more attentively (crawling develops our sense of balance and shapes our back, hips and shoulders)If we use open hands we are considered more trustworthy.  Open hands also increase engagement with the audience. They are also the last parts of our bodies (alongside our feet) to “connect up”.  All parts of our developmental movement need to be fully connected to use open hands.  So if hands are open we read that who we watch is fully connected.  When we move and talk – this is our ability to move while speaking.  It’s being able to:move while speaking and stopping exactly at the end phrase of a sentence. emphasise words while moving.  pause at the right beat for effect.  use relevant hand gestures effortlessly while moving.And you need to do it all looking relaxed and natural.  This might sound easy but try it – it can be more difficult than you think to move and speak! This is linked to proprioception, which is the ability to sense where our body is in space.  Most of the key developmental movement milestones affect this.  During my 20 years of communication training I’ve asked many people to move to a mark and talk.  Many people forget how to walk naturally and start walking one-sidedly (when your leg and arm on the same side swing rather than opposites).When we speak our ability to not just sound authentic but to BE authentic requires a deep sense of self  that comes from developmental movement of playing on our backs and tummies.  When we manage difficult conversations or lead a team through difficult times we need to be able to empathise not superficially but from a connected, embodied place. If a child goes through all the stages of developmental movement they are more likely to feel a deep sense of self.  With future training and self awareness they will develop  an ability to connect and empathise with others.  This is also called Kinaesthetic Empathy.  So much of our communication is done through our bodies.  I believe the earlier we help children feel authentic and connected to themselves, the better they will be at trusting their deeper instinct when a leader.

  • Collaboration, teams and trust
    by (Kate Faragher) on April 8, 2019 at 18:23

    In 2015 I did a TED talk about collaboration, since then I have delivered a number of facilitated talks, created learning programmes and coached groups to collaborate more effectively.  Here I want to pull together some other TED talks that highlight the challenges teams face when attempting to collaborate.In this TED Talk by Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, she starts her talk explaining how some teams are thrown together in crisis.  I experienced this at a lower level when a story broke on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, where I worked.In other more extreme circumstances Prof Amy Edmondson talks about how in 2010 there were 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground with no clear way out.  How does a group of people learn to team-up and collaborate? They had to call in hundreds of experts to solve the problem.Paul Pulman, was CEO of Unilever from 2009 and  was recently recognized as one of the inaugural “Heroes of Conscious Capitalism” at the annual CEO Summit along with 27 other business leaders. Amy quotes him as saying “The issues we face are so big and so challenging that we cannot do it alone, so there is a certain humility and a recognition that we need to invite other people in. When you look at any issue such as food or water scarcity, it is very clear that no individual institution, government or company can provide the solution”. A lot of the time I deal with different groups that don’t see eye to eye – whether it be a political group or different departments with different priorities and mindsets.  Amy talks of “Professional Culture-Clash” which I have seen throughout my work in big corporates where the sales team clashes with the engineers; the front office class with operations or the IT professionals clash with the Managers.So how did a group of strangers become, according to Amy Edmondson, a team? They did it byDaily failure and willingness to learn fast. Humility to listen to others Curiosity to solve the problem It started with the leaders saying “Honestly we don’t know how to fix it”.  With that statement comes a   “psychological safety” because no-one has the answer so no-one  and no idea can be stupid.  Any idea may be the best one and trigger the best answer. In a corporate setting there is a history of competition where the underlying message can be there’s only room for the few.  These messages of scarcity can encourage competition between colleagues.  Competition and collaboration rarely mix well. With competition often comes ego led learning.  A feeling of “I know best”.  This is not the best mindset for collaboration and trust. Professor Frances Frei, another Harvard Business School Professor talks here about the components of Trust.  She says they are well known and form three parts of a triangle:Authenticity – which builds trust in the person Logical rigour – which builds trust in the argumentEmpathy – which bring trust you will be supported and the trust is directed to you If you have all three you have trust.  If even one wobbles so does trust.Empathy requires time to show you care.  If we are too busy, people can’t show how much they care. Logic comes in two ways – the quality of the logic or the ability to communicate the logic.  How are you communicating your strategy to your team?In the third TEDx by Baroness Onora O’Neill, a leading philosopher talks about the importance of competence, honesty and reliability to build trust.  Quite similar to the previous talk  – honesty could be the same as authenticity, competence as logical rigour and reliability as directed empathy.  She said over trusting is not the key but the ability to weed out the trustworthy from the untrustworthy.  So my thoughts from watching these are that trust is at the heart of collaboration.  If we go into a problem being authentic and empathic then we can collectively find that intellectual logical rigour on a level playing field as demonstrated by the experts solving the crisis of the trapped Chilean miners.  If someone is leading with a clear goal and purpose and has explained it with logical rigour – the way you bring your team on board is by showing empathy and authenticity.  I would also suggest that you allow the team members to be authentic in the way they work and share ideas – easy to say but can be challenging if the communication skillset is not high.  When time is a challenge the thing that can often go is empathy and yet it is essential to build a collaborative, unified team.  

  • CPA UK’s Modern Slavery Project – Thoughts on how to start a campaign.
    by (Kate Faragher) on April 6, 2019 at 14:09

    Last week I had the privilege of being part of CPA UK’s #ModernSlavery #ForcedLabour #HumanTrafficking Conference and I’m reflecting on what I took away from it and put into it. One key message from the first day was “Put Survivors at the Heart of Legislation”  from the second day was “Understand the Complexity” and from the third “Find advocates for impact”.   We often cannot even imagine how complex situations lead to coercion. There are often multiple situations that lead to a particular outcome.  We heard how important it is to go to the people who are being affected then listen and act.  We cannot assume what is happening or what people are going through.  We need to ask.  Sometimes we will be surprised by what we hear. Another key message is we need to take responsibility in our countries and come together across our countries to make a difference.  The perpetrators are relying on speed and complexity to avoid detection.  So how do are some thoughts on how to build a campaign that can have impact in different countries; 1.     Know your aim – try to make your aim clear and specific.  If you are early in your thinking you may need to go out and speak to people to make sure you are keeping the “survivor at the centre of the legislation”.  If you are further down your thinking make sure your aim is also achievable, realistic and measurable (SMART) eg get the message to 5 key villages to STOP #ForcedLabour  START #FutureWorker.    It is better to take one key issue and focus on that and achieve it than taking lots of aims and missing the mark. Make sure part of the aim is how you will measure it eg going to the villages and check if they remember the message and know what the message means from a day to day action. 2.     Be aware of the impact you want.  Don’t stop at what change you want, think how the change will impact all people involved.  What are the impact on beliefs and culture?How can you overcome some of those challenges – understand the complexity and embed that as part of your campaign mission.        Sometimes as leaders we state our goal as “ending slavery and forced labour”.  That is a huge goal that may take decades to change.  Start with something specific eg to give all survivors access to trauma therapy within a clear time period.  Notice that goal has a timeline and clear action that can be measured.  You then need to check that your approach will  “Do No Harm” to those involved.  You may need to do a pilot and check with survivors on the trauma therapy if it has achieved the impact you want.  Don’t just think of the policy implementation think of the survivor.3.     List your advocates – think who are the key influencers that can make an impact to your campaign aim.  We believe there are about 6 people in between who you know and a key influencer.  As parliamentarians this link may be a lot shorter.  If you think who you know you often realise you know the people that can help you achieve the aim.  Think how you can speak to the key people that can impact your outcomes.  Sometimes the key people are part of a community.  Seek out the change makers.  4.     Know the best activities to increase engagement.  Different countries require different approaches eg some countries need to connect with religious leaders, others with NGOs.  Some of the activities are speaking at townhalls, press conferences, going out to key areas, speak at big events, attract TV documentaries or creating adverts.  Think of the best activity to engage the people you want to talk to.  The right context can help frame a better response. Co-learning and idea generation with the MPs from Ghana. 5.     Match the best Activity to the Influencers.  Think how you can best attract the key people to your topic.  Find ways to chat and discuss the important areas and share your understanding of the issues.  Use their language.  Speak in a way that they understand.  If we use words that resonate with people they are more likely to listen.  Use their first language – translate the messages into their language.  The Activity may be to talk to families and help them see that by reducing work at home and increasing time at school the long term outcome for the family will be greater.  This is challenging for all of us.  There is a human trait called “loss aversion” which means we are more likely to worry about what we will lose today than what we will gain in the longer term.  So if you lost £5 today you would be more emotional than if you found £10.  Our behaviour is often to prevent loss rather than enable gain.  So changing people’s mindset requires powerful teachers.  6.     Create a powerful message.  People tend to remember short phrases or sound bytes.  We need to take complex ideas and be able to say them succinctly. How can you summarise your message into a few words? This may take time.  Start with a long phrase then constantly try to reduce it and make it shorter. 7.     Think of the barriers that could get in your way and how you could overcome them or navigate them. Try to think of this before you come up against them so you have a  plan.  It can be challenging leading a change campaign.  Find people who can support you and be your advocates and supporters.  Be ready for the barriers and find ways to help people see beyond them.  8.     Think of your key motivators.  Who are you trying to help? Why? How will you measure your own personal success along the way.  Sometimes the going gets tough.  What strength do you have that will ensure you keep going?9.     Plan the timeline.  Planning is key to outcomes.  If you put a date next to your action you will be more motivated to achieve it.  Think of your short, medium and longterm goal.  What re the easy wins and what do you need to plan for?  The more you plan the more likely you will be disciplined to achieve it. 10. It may sound strange but reflecting is also key.  Once you have returned to your home after a conference the world can look different and your thoughts change.  What can you hold on to from the conference that will make a big impact?  If we have an early success it often drives us for a longer term success.  What is realistic, what do you need to tweak to make sure you get an outcome that will have impact?  After you have come up with a strategy,  leave it for a while, sleep on it.  Then come back to it with fresh eyes and see how you can improve it. It will take a while to understand the complexity of #ModernSlavery #ForcedLabour #HumanTrafficking to enforce the legislation or amend it to make it more effective but every outcome starts with a first step and a few committed people.  I had the pleasure to meet a whole room full of committed parliamentarians and I’m very excited to see what happens as a result of CPA UK’s project.  Judging by the people I met and the ideas that were suggested we will be in a stronger position to weaken the hold of the perpetrators.