Chris Alexander, Director of Advocacy & Communications, Energy Consumers Australia:
“As a consumer voice in a sector that is being buffeted by change, we have been concerned that the thinking about what we should be doing to manage the process has been too narrow, fixating on the engineering and the ‘technical’ issues rather than engaging with uncertainty in a deep way, and the broader human and social dimensions of this kind of disruption.
This is why we turned to Matt, engaging him to do to do two things: firstly, to build our internal knowledge and skills about scenario planning; and secondly, to try the process out in real life by facilitating a process with a select group of our stakeholders to develop a new set of scenarios.
In a practical sense, Matt stepped us through the distinct stages of the process to develop a new set of scenarios about plausible alternative worlds in 2050 that could be used to inform and test Australian energy policy.
He introduced us to the methodology. He helped us refine the scope and how we would frame the way we presented the task to the stakeholders we invited to participate.
He facilitated the two-day workshop in an extraordinarily deft and sensitive way, pushing people hard to test their assumptions and positions, without ever losing the room and leaving them feeling disrespected.
He synthesised the outcomes from the workshop, translating them into four compelling narratives about the future.
In a deeper sense though, Matt validated our sense, that perhaps we hadn’t been able to properly articulate, that we needed to approach the issues in a different way, and that rather than handwaving about uncertainty and complexity, it was possible to embrace the issues in confidently and systematically.
The extent to which Matt genuinely cares about changing things for the better, and intellectually and genuinely engaged with our topic, rubbed off on everyone. We are all ‘bush’ scenario planners now.
The scenarios were one of the focal points at our annual Foresighting Forum which was a hugely successful event. Using the scenarios as a prompt and challenge helped form a consensus in the room around the need to take a broader view about the future.
We are now in discussions with energy market leaders about applying the methodology and embedding the scenarios in their processes. I suspect that we will be able to look back in 1.5 and 10 years and be able to link decisions and outcomes to the scenarios we developed with Matt.
Our staff have embraced the methodology, and now feel confident enough to apply the principles on other projects.”
Barbara Lemon, Executive Officer, National and State Libraries Australia (NSLA):
“NSLA represents the national, state and territory libraries of Australia – we’ve been running as a collaboration since the 1970s, but it’s always a challenge to strategise for nine different institutions.
We approached Matt to help us shape up a new strategic plan just as the outbreak of COVID-19 was reaching its crescendo around the world. Matt already has a strong reputation and following among our libraries, with deep knowledge of the Australian landscape. With face to face workshops no longer an option, we decided that he was the right person to help us clarify our thinking at a distance, in a context that was changing as quickly as we could verbalise it.
Matt worked one-on-one via Zoom with the NSLA Executive Officer in Melbourne, and facilitated online workshops with the NSLA Chair and Deputy Chair in Canberra and Brisbane. Despite the unfriendly time zone for London, he cheerfully and skilfully shepherded us to find consensus on a series of priorities that could resonate with nine libraries around Australia – all the while asking us why, how, and what if. Matt’s approach was refreshingly accessible and jargon-free. We were reminded through this process that a strategy is much more than a collection of unconnected aspirations, and that the whole is only as strong as its parts.
Matt has been delightful to work with. In a relatively short time, he left us well placed with a strong draft plan to present to our full committee of nine library CEOs, as well as a series of resources and ideas for measuring impact in libraries – all managed from the opposite side of the globe.”
Maria Isabel Garcia, Executive Director, ASPAC:
“In August 2020, we asked Matt to conduct two workshops as part of a masterclass for 40 emerging leaders in our Asia-Pacific network of science centres. The two workshops were ‘reimagining the future of science engagement’ and ‘redesigning science centres’, respectively.
Matt laid out very clearly and very generously how the participants were going to reimagine and redesign. The workshop was supremely engaging and Matt’s approach strongly motivated the participants to follow the process. The breakouts which were prompted by Matt’s questions allowed for heightened collaboration!
The “tributes” from Masterclass participants showed that they overwhelmingly felt Matt’s workshop made them push boundaries that they had not even previously acknowledged, or were afraid to cross. This was especially relevant during this pandemic and will be for a long, long time, if not forever. We have more courage now among our emerging leaders.”
Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, Director-General, National Library of Australia:
“We approached Matt to deliver a presentation to our Senior Management team in May 2020, noting they were juggling multiple challenges as they continued high quality delivery of key priorities and online services, and motivated and managed their staff remotely in the COVID-19 operating environment.
Matt offered my team a unique perspective on how to leverage the challenges they were facing as an opportunity – he suggested that as soon as it was safe, we should slow down and take time out to reflect on what we have learnt from the sudden shift to different ways of working, to carefully consider what we want to continue to do differently, and to reflect on what we would do differently if we were in the same position in the future.
Matt wove stories from history, foresighting theory, real life and interesting case studies into an engaging and insightful session that was just what my team needed in a time of great uncertainty. They were lifted out of their day-to-day and also provided with tools to help them identify and leverage what they have learnt.”
Steffen Krueger, Senior Lecturer, Department of Media & Communication, University of Oslo:
“In November 2019, Matt facilitated a scenario planning workshop on the future of education for us at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo. The workshop was intended to identify key emerging tendencies in the field which research will need to attend to.
Not only did Matt help with the organisation of the event and with putting together an exciting group of stakeholders from a wide range of institutions and businesses, he was also the main driving force in compiling, analysing, and writing up the resulting scenarios. For the compiling of the results, Matt brought in international colleagues from related fields to read and comment on the scenarios so as to lend additional depth to the analysis.
His collegiality and professionalism, his engagement in the project, capacity for work and desire to learn has been key to the workshop’s success and a constant source of inspiration. The resulting document will be a steady guide in our future research endeavours in the field of digital education.”
Liz Jack, Executive Director, Libraries Tasmania, Australia:
“If you’re seeking a dynamic, charismatic yet thoughtful facilitator who will respectfully challenge the status quo and draw the very best out of a group, you can’t go past Matt Finch.
In September 2019, Libraries Tasmania’s leadership group had the good fortune of engaging Matt for a one-day visioning session—exploring what the future might look like for our organisation, and how we would best respond to that future.
The group of over 20 senior managers was very keen to agree on an overarching mission statement that reflects the breadth of what Libraries Tasmania offers, including our public library service, the Tasmanian Archives, the State Library and the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts.
Throughout the day, Matt kept things moving while still being emotionally intelligent enough to notice when people were feeling uncomfortable, respectfully encouraging them to articulate what they were feeling and thinking.
Comments from participants included the following:
- Matt captured the context of Libraries Tasmania very well and his in depth knowledge and experience of other libraries internationally added value to the sessions
- Matt kept us on track and had a great ability to read the room
- A great find!
- Best facilitator seen in a long time; a good understanding of both strategic planning and the library field
- Matt is one of the best. Clever listening and guidance and good subtle questioning of assumptions . . . a paradigm changer and questioner
- The fact that there was an outcome was a significant improvement to any other vision/mission related workshop I have engaged in . . . It could not get much better.
- Matt’s work has set us up with a mission statement that everyone has embraced and now owns, and the discussion and ideas he generated have laid a solid foundation for future planning and visioning work with the entire organisation.
- I cannot recommend Matt highly enough, and look forward to working with him again on his return to Australia.”
Susan Banks, Bureau of Library Development, State of Pennsylvania:
“I wish we could clone Matt Finch and have one of our very own. I have seldom experienced something as wonderfully ‘sticky’ as the concepts covered in Matt’s training in Strategy and Foresight. The outcome was undoubtedly amplified by the challenging times in which we’ve found ourselves as a library field in Pennsylvania, but even with that in mind, I have been thrilled by the number of times Matt’s training has been cited, praised and applied.
Each tool he shared comes up frequently as a route to resolving thorny problems or understanding complicated situations with which we’re faced. Practitioners in the field and our own staff at the state level speak wistfully of the time spent learning with him online. The experience was clearly transformational and the rare level of positivity it generated is a source of great satisfaction for all concerned.
Thank you, Matt Finch, for bringing our statewide library leaders together for such a valuable and lasting learning experience!”
Vicki McDonald, CEO, State Library of Queensland & President of the Australian Library and Information Association:
“I would not hesitate to recommend Matt for work in community engagement, innovation, staff development, and strategic planning.
For the State Library, Matt has surfaced ideas, served as a catalyst for change, and delivered successful implementations.
As a personality, Matt is enthusiastic, hard-working, and focused on results. He has an engaging, approachable style which has enabled him to connect with all levels of the organisation and all divisions, encouraging collaboration and innovation.
Being both perceptive and creative, Matt has consistently developed realistic and workable solutions which have been embraced by our teams. These have delivered benefits to the Library in the 15 months he has been with us and are the underpinnings of lasting change.
Matt has represented the State Library at national and interstate conferences, and created communications materials for our executive staff. He is a thoughtful and responsive communicator with excellent listening skills.”
Trina Walker, Founder and Lead Consultant, TRW Strategy:
“The Bureau of Library Development of Pennsylvania’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries originally planned to bring Matt Finch to Pennsylvania in June of 2020 to provide one general session on strategic planning tools and one in-depth “train the trainer” type session to further teach the planning and foresight tools.
With the onset of COVID-19, we had an accelerated need to deliver strategy and foresight training. Matt suggested a combination of online sessions: one general overview open to all library staff and board members; and a three-part series of sessions for Library District Consultants, Advisors and System Administrators to provide them with the ability to further lead libraries in using and applying the tools.
Matt was able to schedule the sessions within just a few weeks of our conversation, and adapt the content to be very specific to current needs. Nearly 200 library staff and board members participated in the general session, with many more viewing the recording. The three-part advanced strategy course was attended by 60.
Matt’s material is an excellent fit for PA libraries as they seek to prepare strategies and make decisions about the future. Matt has a very personable and collaborative presentation style — and even online, he engaged each group in questions and discussion. Participants overwhelmingly enjoyed the sessions and felt Matt taught the tools and principles in a way that was easy to understand and made them immediately practical. The tools he presented are ones that libraries were able to use immediately and will continue to be helpful for future planning and decision-making. His encouragement to play, experiment, use and adapt the tools truly opened the doors to more people being able to learn through the participants he instructed. In fact, during subsequent online discussions, we used the Arrows of Time as a hands on exercise for board members. I’m confident that Matt’s instruction has laid some great strategic groundwork for Pennsylvania libraries. It was certainly an uplifting and encouraging approach during this time of crisis.”
Janet Coles, Library Development Services, California State Library:
“The California State Library hired Matt Finch [in Spring 2019] to help design and implement a strategic planning workshop at the California Public Library Directors Forum. His skilful facilitation led to some of the highest ratings we’ve ever received for this yearly event; nearly 90 percent of our participants agreed that the Forum was a high quality learning experience, largely due to Matt’s involvement.
We feel that his work has helped spur a new wave of commitment toward establishing strategic priorities for California public libraries, cooperative systems, and the State Library over the next three to five years, and yielded valuable information for us to prioritize our grant and continuing education programs.
Here are some of the comments from our participants:
- Matt was one of the best facilitators/speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working
with. He was very well prepared and invested.
- Matt provided an extremely engaging experience. He displayed a very good understanding of the ethics behind library service and I appreciated his perceptions of the state from an outsider’s perspective, but one that honored California history, in all of its tragedy and complexity.
- Matt Finch was a breath of fresh air. He was amazing. He certainly did his research on what was needed at the Forum.
- Matt Finch’s portion was excellent and refreshing for a strategic planning workshop.
- Matt was an amazing speaker.
- I found Matthew Finch to be very engaging.
- I will be using some of Matt’s exercises with my library team.”
David Bratchford, Supreme Court Librarian, Supreme Court Library Queensland:
“In late 2017 Supreme Court Library Queensland (SCLQ) decided to undertake a comprehensive strategic visioning and planning exercise with the objective of developing a strategic plan with a five year outlook which would guide development of library services across that period and beyond. In May 2018 Dr Finch was engaged by the library to assist it with this project. It was agreed that Dr Finch would undertake research for an environmental scan, assist with workshops, surveys and interviews, and write the plan in collaboration with the CEO.
During phase 1 of the project Dr Finch conducted an environmental scan and researched trends in the law and law librarianship with an emphasis on jurisdictions similar to Australia, conducted interviews with international experts, and connected our library leadership team with relevant peers overseas.
In phase 2 he worked with the leadership team on designing an internal library workshop process to elicit the views of staff and identifying a suitable workshop facilitator, as well as assisting with the design of a customer survey to elicit the views of a range of library customers. He also conducted one on one interviews with key senior library staff and stakeholders identified by the CEO, including the chair and members of the governing Library Committee.
Phase 3 saw Dr Finch collaborating with the CEO to co-write the strategic plan for submission to the Library Committee for approval. This co-writing process was iterative, encompassing several versions, and was facilitated by collaboration on documents in Microsoft Teams, phone and email conversations and face to face Skype sessions as required. It was agreed, on Dr Finch’s recommendation, that the focus of the final version of the plan would be on a series of new initiatives grouped under key strategic priorities, rather than on ‘business as usual’.
The entire collaboration with Dr Finch was successfully undertaken remotely, which made it affordable for SCLQ by avoiding the expense of international travel. In March 2019 the library’s Strategic Plan 2019-2024 was approved by Library Committee. The plan reflects the views of library customers, staff and stakeholders and has been embraced by the library’s leadership team and staff. It is now informing the library’s service development and delivery as each initiative is planned and operationalised.
For the library’s CEO and leadership team members, who collaborated with Dr Finch, the experience of undertaking the project with him was extremely positive. We found him to be knowledgeable, experienced, organised, and highly professional, while remaining approachable and good tempered throughout the term of his engagement. He was a fast learner and a good teacher, always generous with advice and happy to share his experience. His enthusiasm was infectious, and helped inspire us to first create a compelling vision and then embody it in the plan.
Apart from leaving us with a plan to guide our strategic direction over the next five years, he also left us with the tools and the knowledge to undertake similar visioning and planning processes for ourselves in future – so his engagement proved to be a wise investment. We highly recommend Dr Finch to anyone considering engaging him.”
Amy Boulding, Head of Lifelong Learning, Queensland Museum Network and Project Manager, Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centres (ASPAC) Conference 2019:
“Matt Finch was exactly the keynote we needed, and brought so much more than I could have hoped for.
The ASPAC 2019 conference had an overarching theme of “Science: Make the future you want”. As such, I was seeking a keynote speaker who would inspire ideas and reflections, provoke new thinking, and set the stage for three days of collaborative problem solving. I also wanted someone who could pose uncomfortable questions and generate meaningful discussion in a way that would feel safe, encouraging and be culturally sensitive for the range of international delegates in attendance. Matt delivered on all of these elements and more, providing stimulus and discussion threads that lasted throughout the conference and beyond.
Comments from delegates included:
- Best conference keynote I have ever been to!
- The keynote from Matt Finch gives me hope that science centres can be progressive. We need to continue to explore new approaches and models and have more platforms to discuss new ways of doing things.
- Dr Matt Finch set the tone for the conference, and showed that ASPAC has increased in maturity as a network. We are having deeper, more meaningful conversations, which we need to do in these turbulent times.
Matt has a huge depth and breadth of ideas and understandings, a humble approach, and an incredibly engaging delivery. I look forward to working with him again in the future, as do many of the attendees of ASPAC 2019.”
Lisa Rake, Transformation Manager – Culture, Communities, and Business Services at Hampshire County Council (UK):
“In October 2019, we asked Matt to run a short workshop session for our Transformation Team, focusing on tools and techniques that we could apply to strategy development and transformation for the diverse range of services we support within our Culture, Communities and Business Services department.
Matt provided us with a ‘lightning introduction’ for transformational change. In a short space of time, he introduced us to a number of innovative, engaging and practical approaches which we could easily adapt and recreate as we help services shape their strategies, review business processes and develop new operating models. Although it was a whistle-stop tour, he provided the information, supported by evidence and personal anecdotes, to challenge our thinking and instil confidence in team members taking a new approach to what we do.
Matt was an excellent facilitator, quickly understanding our team and what we do, and asking insightful and challenging questions of us. The session has provided a new set of tools that we will take forward to enhance our work in supporting and advising our services on their transformation journeys.”
Tabitha Witherick, Service Delivery Manager, Libraries Unlimited (UK):
“I had the pleasure of working with Matt on a 2018 regional project to bring together library people from across South West England, to provide a workshop packed with creative, practical tips and techniques for strengthening the library’s relationship with the community, empowering staff, and delivering spectacular, innovative, cost-effective programmes and services.
Matt is incredibly easy to work with; he supported me with information to complete funding applications, promotional materials to engage participants and helpful communication pre and post workshop. On the day the participants experienced a highly interactive session. Matt puts everyone at ease and fosters a collaborative atmosphere.
By the afternoon the group were creating new library experiences together, being encouraged to understand inclusivity and diverse perspectives and needs, experimenting and evaluating, all within the safe space that Matt had created for them.
As a result the follow up pledges the group put forward were really inspiring!
But don’t take my word for it, see what the participants said:
‘Matt is amazing! Really engaging, fun and informative. I look forward to using some of the techniques back at the ranch. Great, out of the box thinking, very refreshing. Can we borrow him please?’
‘Matt was really good at engaging everyone and making us all feel a bit special. I will definitely use the practical ideas like the penguin and kinder egg.’
‘A really innovative, refreshing workshop with an inspiring presenter. Lots of things to take away and think about and so many games and ideas to try back at the library. Lots of fun!’
‘It reminded me to look for solutions rather than simply identify problems. I feel renewed – there is a future in libraries!'”
Professor Helen Partridge, Pro Vice Chancellor for Scholarly Information & Learning Services, University of Southern Queensland:
“We engaged Matt for 6 months in 2017 to support our newly re-modelled Scholarly Information and Learning Services team as they tackled developing and implementing new and innovative client engagement strategies.
Matt devised and delivered workshops, piloted new engagement approaches both on and offline, and found fresh ways for our teams to tell the story of what they do and how it benefits our clients. He supported staff to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones both internally and externally, and was a lead researcher on our first major external contract, a statewide consultation on the future of Queensland’s public libraries.
Matt’s contribution as a member of the team was invaluable. His energy, insights and amazing facilitation skills have taken us on an important organizational learning journey which has a made a lasting difference to the way we do business. Through his help we were able to challenge and expand our thinking and ways of doing, and most importantly achieve great things for our clients. I would be pleased to recommend him for work in the areas of innovation and change, service development, and client engagement.”
Eli Neiburger, Deputy Director, Ann Arbor District Library, Michigan:
“We’ve never had a guest as versatile, broadly informative, and universally inspiring as Matt Finch. He was able to drop right into established teams remotely and get them thinking in new ways, without being anything like a consultant who’s here to tell you what to do.
“He spoke to so many varied audiences during his visit, starting with library staff, but including our nonprofit partners, peers from other libraries, neighbouring academics, prospective hires, and most importantly our entire public, young and old, of all levels of interest, engaging each group immediately and gently expanding their perspectives about whatever it was they thought they were there to do. Matt’s visit was an inclusive, much-loved inflection point in our organization’s growth, and we’ll be talking about what we learned this week for years to come.
“Matt’s “Battle for Library Island” roleplaying event opened many minds to the challenges and tensions of library service, allowing both brand-new personnel from the finance department, and old public service hands who thought they fully understood their work, to rapidly see things they do every day from a totally different perspective. Library Island is a brilliantly fun and simple simulation of an entire community that is as engaging as it is insightful and thought-provoking.”
Erik Boekesteijn, Senior Advisor and Global Library Motivator, KB National Library of the Netherlands:
“In early 2019 we had a workshop, led and designed by Matt Finch, in the KB National Library of the Netherlands on the development of KB Atelier: a workplace to experiment with new formats for the KB’s public function, so that the KB understands better what is needed in the new building. In collaboration with existing and new partners, and with the public, the KB wants to ‘celebrate’ the power of the written word here – together with discovering what the written word means for society and how to show its value and importance.
Working with Matt in designing the workshop, we found he was very much involved and curious to our needs. We had a strong feeling of commitment and were very happy with the customized framework that fitted perfectly in our given local situation.
Due to Matt’s charismatic and energetic guidance during the day, the workshop was well received and delivered great output. As soon as the next day, Matt came back to us with a report with his own observations and suggested next steps for turning the workshop into design.
I am convinced that the unavoidable future success of our KB Atelier is for an important part due to Matt’s involvement and I cannot wait to work with him again.”
Rebecca Jones, Managing Partner, Dysart & Jones Associates:
“After attending a short workshop Matt led at the American Library Association in 2015, I’ve been looking for an opportunity for Canadian librarians and information professionals to learn with him. In June 2019, Matt led Day 1 of a two-day “Learning to Plan” event for Dysart & Jones at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information.
Matt not only introduced attendees to different planning tools, he led them through the Library Island activity and instructed them in ways to use the tools with their own organizations.
For those that have not experienced Library Island, you must do so. Matt expertly facilitated the scenario in which attendees became librarians, government officials, academic faculty, students, and community members – including an Indigenous community – who together face the challenges created by conflicting wants, needs, and limited resources. We all face these challenges every day. And there we were, experimenting with tools in a safe environment.
We learned from Matt’s encouraging feedback and guidance. He gave one of the best, most informative introductions acknowledging the First Nations land on which we were assembled that I’ve ever heard. I wish I had recorded it for others to hear and learn from.
I really can’t recommend Matt highly enough as a speaker, a consultant, a colleague. He adapts to participant’s learning styles and wants. I can only hope to find another chance to work with him – and for our sector to benefit from his perspective and processes.”
Javed Khan, Engagement Coordinator (Planning, Engagement, and Reform) – Metro South Health Board, Queensland, Australia:
“Matt is a great facilitator, with his warmth and enthusiasm he draws participants to challenge their thinking, to espouse a different perspective and to really stretch their imagination in a safe environment.
Matt’s ability to adapt his activities to make them relevant and to cater for the needs of his audience is commendable. His twist on the “Battle for Library Island” challenged people’s mind to see the ‘other side’ to understand the challenges of higher level management, the tension of limited resources and budget constraints. It made people see the day to day things we do in a different light.
The workshop was attended by clinical and non-clinical staff from executive level management to admin support staff and was deemed extremely successful by all staff members who attended the workshop.”
Rauha Maarno, Director, Finnish Library Association:
“Matt facilitated a workshop about strategic development and future foresight for librarians in Finland in October 2019.
Matt’s workshop was one of the best we have had. Participants enjoyed his participatory and forward-thinking work method. The feedback we got was very positive. Matt challenged us to think and change our perceptions of library services, partners for libraries, and the future.
Participants found the workshop highly useful for their everyday work in libraries. They will surely use the concepts learned, especially in their strategic development work.”
Alice Knapp, Director, Ferguson Library, Stamford, Connecticut:
“The Ferguson Library hired Matt Finch as a consultant to help conduct a community needs assessment in the Newfield, Turn-of-River, and Westover neighbourhoods of Stamford to determine how the Harry Bennett Branch can better serve this growing and changing population of this area.
Matt conducted ideation sessions using design-thinking exercises to elicit the community’s vision for the future of the branch.
Through a series of playful exercises, Matt led the group in identifying services that are vital, important, and fun to have for the Harry Bennett Branch community. In the second session, he built on this feedback and asked participants to design their own branch.
Matt elevated the discussion so that it wasn’t “just a session for complaining”. But he also made the participants prioritize and even make suggestions on eliminating services. The insight we received from this session will not only give feedback to the architect but will be fodder to the Harry Bennett Branch staff as they plan future services.
I enthusiastically recommend Matt for facilitation and design thinking workshops in this field. I look forward to working with him in the future.”
Christy Davis, Manager of Certification, Planetree (person-centred care organization):
“Matt facilitated a dynamic and engaging workshop incorporating Library Island into a healthcare setting with a specific focus on person-centred care, called Planetree Island.
We asked him to incorporate the Planetree philosophy of person-centred care and access to information for patient engagement into an interactive workshop for clinical and non-clinical employees of a community hospital. His ability to connect-the-dots for the participants was skilfully done, and it was rewarding to see so much engagement from the health care participants and to see the “light bulbs” going off as they were experiencing the workshop and realising how they can continue to meet the needs of their patients and community.
The workshop was a blend of presentation, with Matt’s witty and engaging style drawing the audience in, and interactive small-group work. The participants had fun, were engaged with the concepts, and left the session chatting about the take-aways. It was a high-energy, thought-provoking experience for all!”
David Robertson, Lecturer, Monash Sustainable Development Institute:
“At the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, we work on complex problems that are hard to explain, using methods few people know about. We wanted to test new ways to engage people with the messy and difficult situations faced in real life, and to think about better ways to navigate them. Library Island looked like a brand new way for us to try this. We got in touch with Matt, who helped us understand how Library Island works, talked us through the materials, gave facilitation tips, and helped us shape and tailor the theme to one that would be even more relevant to our participants.
Library Island, and our new variant – Transit Island – was a roaring success. In the words of our learners, it was ‘fun, exciting and exhausting’, with many key themes about complex systems emerging as if by magic (… when actually, they were subtly built in by design). Matt’s tips and tricks on facilitation worked well on the day, and we’re looking forward to running this again, and collaborating with Matt to polish up Transit Island for new groups!”
Diane Betkoski, Director of Planetree Services, Griffin Hospital, Connecticut:
“Matt is a creative and energetic presenter. His skill of engaging participants through the use of playful activities breaks down barriers and allows participants to work together in problem solving and handling organizational challenges and tasks.”
Diego Gracia, Cooperación Internacional, SG de Coordinación Bibliotecaria, Spanish Ministry of Culture & Sport:
“In June 2019, we invited Matt Finch to be the guest speaker at a one-day conference dedicated to citizen participation in libraries. His enthusiasm inspired not only the attendants at the session but also the organizers of the event as they develop our ongoing project, “Laboratorios Bilbiotecarios” .
Matt’s dedication and involvement exceeded our expectations, and his professionalism was demonstrated during the conference preparations, through fluent communication and flexible adaptation to our needs and requirements.
I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Matt for an inspiring session and valuable input on your project, and I’m looking forward to work with him in the future.”
Marcia Wilking, District Consultant, Erie County Public Library:
“We selected Matt to run a workshop for library staff in summer 2019 because he was recommended and requested by several local librarians. We liked what we saw on his website and social media and we felt his message was exactly what our people needed to hear in these dynamic times.
He helped us envision and plan for the future we wanted to create without allowing us to descend into despair or make plans impossible to achieve. The strategies were easy to implement; some attendees used the ‘ice cream cone’ tool at their next board meeting!
Several have said it was the best workshop they’ve ever attended. He mixed brainstorming with great practical tips and tools. Not only did we envision and plan for the future but we added new tools to our tool belt that we can use in a variety of situations. Strategic planning doesn’t have to be scary but can be fun and active.
Matt clearly cared about making sure we understood how to implement the strategies, giving us a video recap the next day! It really helped us feel confident in implementing what we’ve learned and set his workshop apart. Bring him in, even your most jaded attendees will find a new and more hopeful perspective.”
Hillary Ostlund, Library Manager, Hillsboro Public Library, Oregon:
“Inspire your employees and team? Check!
Get everyone collaborating, communicating, and connecting? Check!
Creatively problem solve and get outside of traditional silos and molds? Check!
If these statements sound appealing to you, then please bring Matt Finch and his “Library Island” to your organization as soon as possible.
Matt conducted Library Island and his design-thinking workshop at Hillsboro Public Library where we invited library staffers, but also employees from other libraries and City departments, to demonstrate that we are more powerful together and highlight true collaboration skills. He is a genius conductor and puts on one heck of a show! His methods weave ideas and people together with encouragement and positivity.
Matt is diligent, kind, full of empathy; brings humor, an appreciation and admiration for public service and libraries; and mixes it all together to deliver a delightful, engaging, and uplifting workshop that will energize your team and employees.”
Katrina Knox, Executive Officer, Public Libraries Victoria (Australia):
“Matt’s presentation “Where do you go when you’re already pretty awesome? – Excellence, challenge, and foresight for public library services” was the opening keynote at the Public Libraries Victoria Conference 2019. His presentation started the conference off on just the right note, acknowledging great work, but challenging delegates to take on the future and remain relevant in a period of great change and disruption.
Matt’s presentation was the most highly rated of the keynotes, rated by 96% of delegates as either very useful (72%) or somewhat useful (24%) by 150+ of the conference delegates.
Comments for delegates included:
“Matt’s presentation was excellent in getting us all to think differently about what we’re doing moving the library industry forward into the future”
“I’ve always appreciated Matt Finch’s perspective and he did not disappoint. I actually don’t think he was *really* congratulating our work so much as saying “DO BETTER! THE WORLD NEEDS LIBRARIES TO DO BETTER!” And if that’s not what he meant, that’s my takeaway and it’s a good one”
“Dynamic speakers such as Matt Finch were a highlight. It is important for us to be challenged in our thinking so we can provide a better service to our patrons”
Thank you to Matt for starting off conversations that will no doubt continue now that our public library staff are back in their ‘day jobs’.”
Fay Davis, Project Manager “Let’s Make”, Warwickshire County Council:
“Having just successfully launched two “Let’s Make” Makerspaces in Warwickshire Libraries, we asked Matt to facilitate a session with staff to explore how to extend the offer, focusing on economic development, digital upskilling, and entrepreneurship.
Staff were challenged to identify potential client groups, hard to reach groups and individuals, and external partners to start to develop innovative engagement activities to encourage networking links to be established.
Matt had clearly researched potential opportunities within the local communities which set an informed and realistic context to the day. His engaging, creative, and inclusive style helped the team to move their thinking and the project forward, helping to achieve a collective vision for the future and developing realistic and achievable engagement activities.
Matt’s supportive style provided a safe environment to explore ideas about an area of the service new to us all. Ideas were challenged and explored resulting in a wealth of practical ideas that we didn’t know we had!”
Ilona Kish, Director, Public Libraries 2020:
“Matt joined us for the launch of Code Week 2018, delivering a one-day strategy workshop to librarians and supporting our advocacy event at the European Parliament.
Working with Matt was a real pleasure – he was able to effectively navigate a group of librarians from across Europe. He was efficient, generous and helpful at every stage – feedback from our team was excellent. He’s a strategic and inspirational thinker.”
Jacob Starks, Director, Philadelphia – Neshoba County Public Library, Mississippi:
“On April 17th, 2018, my library staff and I were treated to a full day of Dr. Finch’s consultation. We brought Dr. Finch in to help maximize and further augment our forward progress in the field of library service.
Dr. Finch’s skills as a listener and provider of quality feedback are probably his most remarkable traits. Each staff member felt that an easy rapport was quickly established and that he was able to summarize their own ideas in a way that will help them narrow their focus and work more efficiently and confidently toward their goals.
Myself, I enjoyed his curiosity and unique ideas for future initiatives. His honest and thorough post assessment was even more outstanding as he clearly demonstrated a level of care and professionalism one doesn’t always find in the field. My advice to anyone considering utilizing Mr. Finch’s services is to not hesitate. Also, don’t wait until consultation needs to be done as a corrective measure. Mr. Finch proved incredibly capable of helping us determine a collective vision for achievements in our library and community partnerships.”
Josie Parker, Director, Ann Arbor Library, USA:
“”From the moment Matt Finch spoke to the staff of the public library in Ann Arbor, he held our full attention for the better part of a full week. He led us through a process of program evaluation that began with a reflection on our perceptions of our elders and a measure of our respect for those who have gone before.
His exercises illuminated how power influences our decisions, when we determine to remain reticent or to speak out, and all of this was done within a spirit of creativity and fun. He helped us see ourselves through a lens we rarely use, and left us empowered to act on what we saw.”
Ayub Khan, MBE, Head of Face to Face Services at Warwickshire County Council and President of the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals:
“Matt is an excellent facilitator, enthusiastic and committed.
We invited Matt to deliver a workshop for Senior Staff at Warwickshire Libraries to develop our thinking and ideas for our newly created Maker Spaces.
Matt devised and delivered an engaging workshop. Through his help we were able to challenge and expand our thinking and ways of doing things differently.
His experience of international work greatly contributed to our discussions and thinking.”
Gary Shaffer, Ph.D., Director, Glendale Library, Arts & Culture:
“We at the Glendale (California) Library, Arts & Culture Department brought Matt in to help staff establish and develop common strategic priorities for our library over the next three to five years. We had a keen interest in incorporating a broader awareness of local needs, possibilities, and innovation into our library service. This he did effectively by engaging staff in creative play, via Library Island, which put us in the proper mindset in order to identify the most pressing needs. Dr. Finch is an excellent facilitator. Staff, as well as library leadership, very much enjoyed working with him. We now have four pillars of focus from which to plan our future.”
Stephanie Chase, Director, Hillsboro Public Library:
“Matt’s skill in facilitation is incredible. At the Hillsboro Public Library, we have engaged his services twice: once, for his popular “Library Island” participatory workshop, and a second time as a facilitator to lead a group of staff through operationalizing our new strategic plan. Over the course of six hours, Matt was able to engage the group in high level, strategic thinking while also producing collaborative and actionable priorities for implementation. It is truly impressive what Matt is able to accomplish in a short period of time, and his commitment to engagement, input, strategy, and brainstorming pushes his group participants to extraordinary results.”
Stella Duffy, Co-Director, Fun Palaces:
“In projects where Matt has led on his own initiative, and also in supporting the wider Fun Palaces community, across the UK and internationally, he has shown a solid understanding of our values and a clear articulation of where this aligns with his own practice – as well as where we can work together for greater benefit. Specifically, his work with Lambeth Libraries for Fun Palaces 2015 made a massive difference both in the engagement with the project, and in the eventual delivery.
Further, he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. Literally. Fun Palaces are not just about engagement theory and strategy, they are – very deliberately – about true engagement and full participation, across the board, from the grassroots up. Sometimes this means putting up and taking down marquees, in the rain. Matt does this too.
Matt is very good on the theory of practice and the practice of theory, he is also brilliant at linking potential collaborators, whether he will personally benefit from those links or not.
In short, he’s very good at what he does, and he does a lot of great stuff.”
Katie Rothley, Adult Services Librarian, Southfield Public Library:
“The [Library Island] experience at the Library Camp in Ann Arbor was a real joy… It really got me out of my comfort zone and I learned a lot about connecting people to resources and listening in general to their needs… I believe we all learned quite a bit about human behaviour, motivation, communication and social perception.
Thank you so much for creating this learning activity. I’m grateful you did and that the Ann Arbor District Library introduced us to it.”
Professor Warren Boutcher, Queen Mary University of London:
“Matt is one of the most outstanding individuals I have encountered in my quarter century in university education. His rare set of gifts combines intellect and professionalism with all-round humanity and commitment.”
Brendan Fitzgerald, Manager Digital Inclusion, Infoxchange:
“We had Matt MC our Australian National Year of Digital Inclusion 2016 Forum in Sydney as part of www.godigi.org.au . The theme was Innovation and Equity and posed the question, How can we create a society where everyone can innovate? Matt led the day brilliantly and engaged with participants who came from government, community and corporate sectors in a way that was inclusive. Highly recommend his work.”
Amy Boulding, Head of Lifelong Learning, Queensland Museum Network:
“Matt Finch is an OUTSTANDING facilitator, storyteller and human. He creates warm, rich and collaborative environments – crackling with creativity – where everyone is safe to stretch their thinking and challenge their comfort.
Matt delves deeply into the theory and process while giving tangible, immediately applicable leads and activities, weaving it all through a web of pop culture references for all ages and fantastical worlds of wonder.
Matt is an inspirational and influential communicator, a generous collaborator, and a true professional who I am grateful for having become part of my extended ‘team’. I look forward to continuing to work with Matt in the future!”
Dr. Donna Hancox, Director of Research Quality, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology:
“I have had the pleasure of working with Matt Finch on a number of projects during his time as Creative in Residence at the State Library of Queensland. Matt is one of the most dynamic public presenters I have encountered; he is compelling and able to articulate innovative and complex ideas in a way that is accessible for a wide audience. Working with Matt on “Writing the Digital Futures” workshops in Bundaberg allowed me to see up close how professional and collaborative he is. Matt generously shared his ideas and approaches with the team to create the most successful workshops we have delivered. His perspective on digital creativity and its potential for under represented communities is cutting edge while also being inclusive and engaging for its intended audience. I cannot recommend Matt highly enough as a collaborator, facilitator and thinker.”
Professor Matthew Molineux, Head of Occupational Therapy, Griffith University:
“I have been lucky enough to work with Matt on a few different initiatives over the last few years, and have really valued his expertise and enthusiasm. I work as an occupational therapy academic and so have engaged Matt to work with our student occupational therapists, academic staff, and our community partners.
He has run a number of specialist sessions to enable students to reflect on and consolidate a major placement experience. In 2017 he played a major role in our orientation for first year students, he has spent time with academics and stimulated creative and innovative approaches to learning and teaching, and he has brokered a number of relationships between Griffith Occupational Therapy & museums, libraries and other universities.
I’ve really valued Matt’s creativity and ability to very skillfully ‘read’ the room or the project, and create a learning experience that is both enjoyable and powerful, perhaps even transformational! If you can, work with Matt – you and the people you work with and for will get so much out of it.”
Tracy Carr, Library Services Director, Mississippi Library Commission:
“After attending Matt Finch’s “Library Island” interactive workshop at the 2018 Collective conference, I knew he would be the spark needed to ignite new ideas, solutions, and conversations among Mississippi’s public library directors.
We had Matt develop a day of activities designed to inspire a group of over 40 library directors, and the result was even better than anticipated: Matt’s session was our first ever Continuing Education workshop to be rated ‘excellent’ by 100% of participants.
Matt is so engaging and dynamic that everyone left refreshed, full of confidence, and with a toolkit of ways to solve problems faced by their libraries.”
Tine Segel, Chair, Danish Librarians’ Association:
“The Danish Librarians’ Association (BF) hired Matt Finch for two workshops – one for employees and one for library managers. The purpose was to get the participants to reflect about their roles in a changing everyday and political environment, where there is a lot of pressure on what the purpose of the library is.
Matt did a great job and got the participants to reflect – a particular feature and success was how engaging and activating the Library Island method is. It’s not just another post-it show and involves a lot of playful activities. Very inspiring!
Also, as chairwoman of BF I got some great examples for when I am addressing the public on the importance of the role libraries, librarians and information specialists play in today’s society. Thank you!”
Jette Fugl, Vice-Chair, Danish Librarians’ Association:
“All participants at your workshop were infected by your enthusiasm. You were able to engage all these different people, working in different subject areas and workplaces, private and public. The workshop was both fun and serious, and that’s a really good combination.
We now have tools we can use to talk about our profession and how we can be more political and professional, in regards to our parent institutions and politicians, but also in regards to our users. Personally I will use them at my workplace, together with my two colleagues that also participated at the workshop.”
Erich O’Connor, Student Assistant Program Coordinator, Brookens University:
“Thank you for facilitating Library Island for me at the 2018 Library Collective conference in Knoxville. It really opened my eyes. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give this experience to my students. Thank you for all of the documentation and the support. Thanks for your patience. Thank you for helping me to become a better facilitator and a better manager. The experience of play and the experience of facilitation has woken many abilities that I did not know that I had.”
Anna Åkerberg, Library Development Consultant, Skåne Libraries, Sweden:
“Matt visited Sweden in October 2018 to deliver a one-day workshop for librarians across the region of Skåne, focussing on the mission of today’s library.
Matt managed with joy, responsiveness, and enthusiasm to capture the needs of those who participated in the workshop. He incorporated their priorities and adapted workshop activities to address the issues which they shared on the day.
Everyone went home with new perspectives and suggestions for solutions that could be translated into action. We all had a lovely day and would be pleased to work with Matt again in the future!”
Dr Donna Lanclos, anthropologist and consultant:
“I got to witness the magic that Matt creates during the Lianza conference in New Zealand, in 2017. Never before (and not since) have I seen such a generous performance by a keynote speaker. He taped his mouth shut at the beginning, and proceeded to bring in and boost other voices within the platform his keynote invitation had provided. He got the audience up, and moving, creating and collaborating, no mean feat for an international conference crowd. The buzz he created was electric, and continued to reverberate through the rest of the conference–it even made the national news.
His passion and commitment to the work of others is core to his own work, and is clearly the guiding principle not just in the talks he gives but in the workshops he delivers–he has at times changed the program on the spot, as a result of engaging with the actual needs of the people in the workshop, not a dogged clinging to assumptions about what “should” happen. Matt is open in his practice, giving of his time and expertise, and a delight as a colleague. Bring him into your organization and see what happens.”
Jennifer L. Dean, Dean of University Libraries and Instructional Technology, University of Detroit Mercy:
The session is still inspiring me. Matt led us through experiences that engaged & challenged us, his confidence, enthusiasm, & quiet optimism leading the way
I especially appreciated that he advocated for including politics – the how-to & time it takes to actually get something done – in learning opportunities & encouraged us to be confident, keep trying, & keep thinking.
“It was chaos. It was beautiful. Sometimes words are not the best way to get a point across. Throwing us into a completely unexpected world can really get the juices flowing – within 15 minutes I was able to plan a whole programme because I had no time to overthink things – I just needed to get it done! The visual of Matt taping his mouth will be one that sticks with me for a very long time.”
Susanna Barnes, Head of Libraries and Archives, London Borough of Lambeth:
“Matt Finch worked with Lambeth Libraries during 2015 to make every library in Lambeth a Fun Palace. This was the first time all the libraries in one local authority in England had become Fun Palaces and Matt was fundamental to our success.
He was able to create contacts for us with a wide range of partners including authors, staff and students at universities, plus makers and artists. In all approximately 175 people joined to make it happen: a mixture of staff and volunteers.
The events required external funding and Matt helped with a successful bid to Arts Council England. He was an excellent co-producer: listening to what we wanted to achieve and providing support to achieve our outcomes. Crucial to the organisation was getting staff and local people on board and Matt helped deliver training for staff and community. As part of his support he also produced a toolkit that could then be used by others to deliver Fun Palace events.
Matt is very creative and provided us with some really interesting ideas that engaged participants of all ages but were which were also simple to use. He listened to our ideas and helped us develop them into practical activities.
We are so lucky to have been able to have him work with us on this. His help and inspiration made it an incredible success. Over the weekend more than 2000 people took part in the activities.
Matt was able to really help us raise our profile and we got lots of publicity for the service and recognition of what libraries can do both locally and nationally. Matt really commits himself to a project, not only did he promote the events and our libraries in the run up and during the Fun Palace weekend, he continues many months later to help publicise our work and tweet about us.
Should we ever get the opportunity we would love to work with Matt again and cannot recommend him enough for the way he engages and brings together communities to explore new ideas and activities.”
Louie Stowell, Editorial Director, Ladybird:
“Matt worked as an expert for Usborne Publishing, advising on the Write and Draw Your Own Comics book that I wrote. His insights and enthusiasm proved invaluable. Having someone on the team who’s worked extensively with young people, helping them to unlock their creative potential, made it much easier to work out if what we had on the page would get the job done when it made its way into the hands of actual children.”
Tabitha Witherick, Service Manager (Development), Somerset Libraries, UK:
“Matt ran a workshop for the Somerset Libraries team to build confidence in turning ideas for events, activities and partnerships into reality. Matt’s enthusiasm for libraries immediately shines through, which enabled the group to instantly warm to his messages. The perspective he offered challenged us and stretched our view of what is possible – this is exactly what was needed.
Matt filled the room with fun, creativity and exploration. The session offered international examples about how libraries can engage with local communities, storytelling, building partnerships and enthusing people.
The activities throughout the day got us sharing ideas, allowed us to find our creative flair and encouraged us to think about how we can do things differently.
The legacy – when we are trying to make tricky decisions you can now hear us asking ourselves – WWMFD (What would Matt Finch do?). The workshop has started us on a journey towards an entrepreneurial culture.”
Audrey Huggett, Production Librarian, Ann Arbor District Library:
“Listening to and working with you helped push me to articulate and develop my own ideas.
You also showed me that we do have space in this library to do some sort of audacious program that is totally pie in the sky, but that is also something that could potentially come out of my own brain.
It’s one of those things that I knew we could do, but I don’t know if I ever would’ve had the courage to really put my idea forward (whatever it ends up being), at least not for a while. Thanks for helping us think outside the box, and for being such an amazing and fun person to work with.”
Jacqui Broadbridge, Lecturer (Practice Education), Occupational Therapy, Griffith University:
“[Matt’s] innovative and creative facilitation style uniquely assists students to link their placement experiences to their future practice. This is particularly valuable in the light that students have themselves created a new innovation within their placements and [Matt’s] group activities assist students to share, reflect and therefore enhance their learning.”
Katherine Moody, Team Leader (Discovery), Christchurch Libraries, New Zealand:
“I had the great pleasure of attending Matt’s Library Island workshop and keynote for LIANZA #open17 in September 2017. From these I have learnt not to limit my thinking about library collections and programmes, to always have fun and to not presume we have to do what is expected of us. He also reinforced my belief in storytelling and making connections.
Since then, and as we work towards Tūranga (New Central Library) in Christchurch, I am endeavouring to include as much fun and creativity into our planning – particularly in terms of programming for non-fiction collections – as possible, but more than that Matt has shifted my mindset and coloured my thinking in almost every way possible.”
Tracie Mauro, Branch Librarian, Parkes Shire Library:
“When Parkes Library works with Matt Finch, we always know we are going to receive a dose of the extraordinary. Matt has led us through a number of projects involving local community organisations. It’s been so valuable having a partner-in-crime that is prepared to push boundaries of traditional library services – an important reason for Parkes Library becoming the 2014 Bess Thomas Award winner. We’ve achieved industry recognition and provided customers with innovative programs and events and resources. Matt sees the big picture and has the skills to join all the dots. His input has helped us become leaders, not followers, which delights our managers and supporters no end!”
Greg Morgan, Manager Service Development, Auckland Libraries:
“Auckland Libraries employed Dr Matt Finch on a fixed term contract from February until August 2013. We appointed Matt to push the boundaries in how our large public library network creates innovative programmes for children and young people. His brief was to inspire others to experiment and learn from the experience of working in fresh, even unexpected ways. We wanted to increase the library’s involvement in interactive play for people of all ages.
In response, Matt created novel opportunities for teams to learn about meaningful play through actually doing play and gaming. Urging colleagues to see possibilities beyond the library walls, Matt brokered relationships with community and business partners that resulted in a rich array of offsite events and opportunities for library activities in art spaces and retail environments around the city. He built valuable relationships between Auckland Libraries and youth-focused organisations here and overseas.
To drive innovative thinking, Matt sometimes chose to take the lead role and move us into a completely new space. He conceived and created our first Dark Night Festival, a season of adult-focused cabaret and burlesque events to celebrate, challenge, and question sex and sexuality on page, stage, and screen. Dark Night was so successful that it attracted the attention of a city art festival, for which Matt hosted a follow-up event exploring the history of censorship in New Zealand.
Internally, Matt transformed our annual in-house training event for children’s and youth librarians into an international programme, arranging guest speakers from Christchurch, Wellington, Melbourne and New South Wales. This dynamic two-day event created a sense of urgency around the new rules of engagement that a library needs to stay relevant: will we see rules as constraints or a springboard?
Matt delivered on the promise to shake us out of business as usual and engender innovative thinking, collaboration and risk taking. His time at Auckland Libraries created tangible and lasting results in both programmes and mindsets.”
Dr. Ashley Tucker, Digital Channels Programme Manager at Herefordshire Council and NHS Herefordshire:
“Matt was an invaluable addition to our web content team, able to work unsupervised and deliver superb work on time, every time. I would love to have Matt as a full time content editor and hope to work with him again in the future.”
Douglas Graham, IKC Coordinator, Woorabinda Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Australia:
“Anthony Jarrett and myself, on behalf of the Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council and IKC, wish you well on the next part of your journey. You have opened our eyes and minds to another world within the wonderful world of libraries. Have fun, stay safe and as we say, “see ya later’!”
Jo Umans, Executive Director and Founder, Behind the Book, New York City:
“Dr. Finch’s contribution to Behind the Book has been vital to our mission in moving the organization forward. His educational background has allowed him to create materials appropriate to all ages from kindergarten to high school. He has also provided useful advice and insight from his extensive experience. I have no hesitation in recommending Dr. Finch for work in educational consulting, curriculum design and community outreach.”