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#186 Flip Charts

November 30, 2012

Submitted by @loudmind who also blogs at The Lightning Words.

Obligatory end-of-workshop group photo with flip charts (obviously)

Walk into any meeting of humanitarian aid workers in the world – whether a gathering of four or 400 – and you’ll find a flip chart in the room. It’ll probably be up front, in a position of prominence near the head of the table or the speaker’s podium. And it’ll likely have a slightly-askew piece of blank paper draped over the front, concealing the collected wisdom until the meeting gets started.

If capacity building had a sound, it would be flip chart paper turning. If working groups had a smell, it would be flip chart markers. If facipulation had an official sponsor, it would be whatever company makes the most flip charts.

Of course, there’s no better way to collaborate than to divide into small groups, giving each team a piece of flip chart to record and present their ideas. And there’s certainly no more efficient way to put something in the proverbial parking lot than to write it on flip chart paper, rip it from the pad and banish it to the back wall of the conference room to live out the rest of the meeting in ignominy.

Humanitarian aid workers keep flip chart companies in business. While every other industry has gone digital – over-relying on bad PowerPoint presentations – you can find several giant flip chart pads in the field offices of any relief and development agency you visit. You can find flip chart paper from last week’s workshop still hanging in the conference room. And if you look in your office drawers, most of you will find folded-up flip chart paper from yesteryear.

As humanitarian aid workers, we are as addicted to flip charts and flip chart accessories as we to booze. Or acronyms.

There are not enough agroforestry projects or community nurseries to replenish the forests that fall each year to slake our craving for flip charts. Flip charts are the hidden line item on every project budget we submit. We should be coming up with programs to end our dependence. Someone needs to issue an RFP.

And we don’t stop with our own agencies: we proliferate flip charts to our partner organizations. We hang flip charts on the walls of schools and community hospitals. We even get village animators jonesing for flip charts. There are acronym- and illustration-laden flip chart paper used as wallpaper in more houses than your average EAW cares to discuss.

We love the smell of flip chart markers in the morning. We have flip chart paper in our closets at home. Let’s form a new working group, coin a catchy acronym, get some booze and talk about it some more. Someone, bring the paper!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2012 11:59 am

    We actually made flip charts in an unnamed Libyan city last year… because we’d bought out the entire city’s supply. True story. The shame.

  2. November 30, 2012 12:58 pm

    “live out the rest of the #meeting# ETERNITY in ignominy.”


    It’s funny because it’s true


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