SS14. On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

simpl speling March 2001 part 5 members' supplement.

Helping the SSS in seeking 'critical mass'.

JACK BOVILL outlines his aims for the presentation he made to the committee in January. A report on the presentation appears below.
My aim was to present, interactively with those present, two features:

A: Whatever is the SSS's final view of simplifying spelling will receive my support thruout the process of implementation.

B: Implementation is on a gradual (ie, every year) basis of the three (or thereabouts) most important simplifications which have a fonetic basis.

I suggested there were barriers to this and invited suggestions, adding mine as we went.

I suggested that for every barrier, there is an opposite, a driver for change. We listed these and then prioritized them in order of influence.

We had then mapped out the areas of influence that affect the outcome of a simplifying spelling campaign. It may seem a gigantic task. However, in my experience, there is a thing called 'critical mass at which point the switch takes place from, 'no this cannot be done' to 'this is the thing to do'. Decimalization is an example.

To achieve critical mass requires knowing where to apply one's energy. Without mapping the barriers to change and the drivers to change, we are at risk of not proceeding at all.

My suggestion to the committee was we invite all members to target the various areas listed both as barriers and complementary drivers, allocating to themselves one area on which they could seek guidance from me on how to go about their future work, with me always reporting to the committee on what advice I am giving as they go along.

I do not expect many members to join an active group. Small societies such as ours usually depend on the committee to do the work, while taking an interest in progress.

There will need to be easy commununication, hence only those on email should put themselves forward. The groups need to be small - no more than four or five. They each need to know what success looks like and what the milestones on the way look like. They need only report back on two things: stasis (inactivity) and milestones achieved. In the position of stasis, they need help to move on; milestones mean they are getting somewhere.

At some point, critical mass will emerge. At this stage. the committee should have agreed on most of its recommendations, as these will be copyrightable and therefore of monetary value.

Forming a strategy for introducing simplified spelling.

[An edited report of Jack Bovill's presentation to committee members at their January meeting]
Jack began his presentation with an example of change in the commercial aircraft industry, where all the critical aspects had to come together before success was achieved. Was the same true of spelling change, and what were the critical aspects likely to be?

He said he felt the Society needed a strategy, and quoted John Reilly's final words in an article in JSSS 28: 'all that is lacking is a strategy'.

Using a board, and yellow and pink Post-it notes and marker pens, he invited committee members to brainstorm the Barriers to introducing simplified spelling. That brainstorm completed. he asked the participants to call out in a similar manner the Drivers for change. those aspects that would help introduce spelling reform. When that was finished he suggested that the opposite of the Barriers were the same or similar Drivers for change.

Using all the Post-it notes, members were invited to group the notes as best they could by connected themes or words. duplicating where required. After this, the committee gave each group a Heading, which was written on a master sheet and circled. Jack asked which group influenced which other group. and a line and arrowhead was drawn showing the connection. Each Heading then exhibited a number of lines of influence, either going out or coming in. These were prioritized according to the Heading which gave the highest influence down to the one most influenced. The result came as some surprise to all present as the priority became clear.

Committee members found that the area of highest influence was Cost - saving of, and the least influential, was Authorities. The complete list was: Cost 5/0, Communicating 4/1, Benefits 2/3, Awareness/Education 2/3, International 2/3, and Authorities 0/5, where the first figure is the number of influences affecting other areas, and the second figure shows the times this area is influenced by other areas.

At this stage Chris Upward pointed out that greater definition was required. It was noted that Cost was in the sense of saving and Communicating was in the sense of media of various kinds.

Jack proposed that the committee register their support for two, possibly three, subgroups of members who select themselves, but who must be on email to facilitate communication between themselves and the committee. These groups would work on the top two or three Headings and be assisted by Jack to work on each of their sub-categories. They would use the committee brainstorm notes as a starting point. looking for ways to affect areas within their sferes of influence and reporting back on what works and what appears not to work. There would be a number of rules to assist them.

They would develop greater definition. moving the number of high-level abstractions of the committee work and their own work down to 'what does this mean in practise?'.

Jack closed by referring to the five critical developments that had resulted in the successful start of economically and aerodynamically safe commercial aircraft. What might be the necessary critical developments needed to bring about simplified spelling'? The internet? The higher awareness of the costs of not implementing it? Having a strategy'? By involving the membership. might we be adding a critical development?

The committee endorsed Jack's proposals, and he is now working with Jean Hutchins and Allan Campbell both to report back to the membership and also to assist in setting up the subgroups, each of no more than five people with a close interest in the Heading, with a reserve sixth member. The time frame for the groups is not more than one year. There would be a review six months after they became active.

The review was to see if progress had been made, both at subgroup level and at Society level. For this to happen, at each level markers would need to be put down which were considered to represent progress: Membership levels and membership inquiries would be two relevant measurements at Society level. Being asked to speak at a local level by interested parties could be a measurement for the subgroups. It was too early to say what measurements would be decided on. The leader of each subgroup would liaise with Jack for help, with Jack reporting to the committee on all aspects of his work with the subgroups.

The full list of Drivers follows, with an asterisk indicating the following ones which were originally Barriers to the introduction of simplified spelling.

Cost - saving.
Economy of effort, Learner time. User time. Economics. Economy of space and money. * User advantages (disbenefits), Long-term reduction in cost (short-term cost).

Newspapers, Computers. Text messaging, Global communications. Emails, *Sales - advantages for publishers - profits for publishers (implications for publishing), Official bodies (Hansard). Computers require more accurate spelling - search engines (computer spelling will make it irrelevant).

Literacy problems, Collapse of present system. Higher potential rates of literacy. Faster literacy acquisition, *Reform will also be part of English uniqueness (spelling is part of English uniqueness), Learning present spelling confuses the mind (learning present spelling is good training for the mind), Caring about children now makes it easier for the next generation (selfishness - `we had to learn to spell'), Parents are keen for children to be literate earlier (parents are not able to help children with spelling).

Awareness, information, education.
Laziness, Mobilized SSS membership, Public awareness, *Appreciate change (fear of change), Readiness to modernize - the future (break with the past), Present options and a sensible scheme (lack of a sensible scheme), Inclusive change (not invented here), Public support and understanding (public prejudice), Public awareness (public ignorance), Being aware of the difficulties of spelling (ignorance of the difficulties of spelling), Emotional commitment (evidence and data), Public enthusiasm (public apathy).

International body for science and vocabulary, etc, Reforms in other languages, Anglo-American differences. Greater worldwide use of English. *Unification and preservation of international language (fragmentation of international language), Compromise (fear of different orthografy for dialects), Presenting English as a world language - empire (international implications).

Dictionaries, Fashion, Somebody famous recommending it, If NZ did it and it worked, Appointment of a body (eg, Academie Frangaise), International body for science, vocabulary, etc. *University support (exam bodies), Electronic dictionaries (dictionaries). Government need to raise literacy standards (governmental fear of upsetting the status quo), Political will (lack of political will), Seducing the relevant authority (persuading the relevant authority).

Comment (by Jack): While the above brainstorm made a lot of sense to the participants, the results may not be immediately comprehensible to anyone else. These categories can be expanded with other examples and unpicked by those working on the relevant subcommittee.

Postscript: I would like it noted that the work I suggest should be done in the context of 'Standard English' as this eliminates controversy over dialects. Standard English is a kind of convenient fiction and is therefore useful.

Members who are interested in participating in developing one of the top three Headings - 1 Cost, the savings. 2 Communicating, media of various kinds, 3 Benefits - and leaving read the brainstormed results, should email Jean Hutchins. Because we wish to run this pilot with five members per team only and with a back-up sixth member, can u let Jean know your first, second, and final preference'? This will enable us to sort out teams. U should include your fone number, so that the individual details can be discussed with me. I will report back to Jean.

The following series of questions should help to indicate your suitability to join a team.

1. Do u enjoy the idea of expanding the ground work on introducing spelling reform, affecting:
a) The Costs, the saving of the same, or
b) Communicating, media of various kinds, or
c) The Benefits of introducing spelling reforms?

2. In which order would u rate your interest?

3. Do u have email?

4. Would u feel comfortable being part of a team, whom u may never see, but with whom u are in regular contact on a subject of common interest?

5. Can u undertake to report back on limited assignments that test the validity or otherwise of ideas generated by your team'?

6. Would u feel ready to be a leader of a small group who have selected themselves, supporting them as necessary and leading them as required'?

7. Have u worked collaboratively in small teams which have a limited life span?

A positive answer to 1 and 2. and any one of 4 to 7 would be grounds for membership of a team. Question 2 is to help us allocate u to a team.

When u have thought about these questions. can u contact Jean and let her know that u wish to participate'? I will then telefone u in order to establish who the leader of your group will be.

Your initial work will be to expand on and bring definition to the initial work done by the committee. U will then be asked to test in your separate sferes of influence how people u know react to ideas implicit in the Heading with which your team is concerned.

There will be conversations u have which will win people over and some that do not. Any problems should be raised with your fellow members and the leader of your team. They will be able to raise these with me, and I in turn with the committee.

It will be helpful for your team to confer and come up with changes u would look for over time as signs that your efforts are leading to desirable changes. The committee will keep u posted on changes that they observe over time, which might be attributed to your team's work. (I cannot at this point, say what those things are that u expect to see. I will of course help u where I can.

Back to the top.
On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.