First do no harm?

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Mitchell Beer posts an interesting dilemma about an unconference session he participated in at MPI's MeetDifferent conference. A planner was looking for some help in getting that infamous seat at the table, and all was fine until he noticed that she worked for a tobacco company. He decided not to join in with his advice because he couldn't in good conscience help someone do a better job helping a tobacco company do a better job of spreading the "severe illness, wrenching misery, and premature death [that comes with the product] when used as directed." He says:

    My moment of clarity brought home a point that we often miss when we extol the value and the power of meetings. Apart from the occasional ethical screen—our firm declared 25 years ago that we would never work for a tobacco company—meeting professionals take it for granted that we do good works by doing good work. That Monday morning conversation reminded me that it ain’t necessarily so.

I'm torn on this one, feeling that planners should help each other out (as should any professionals at a meeting when sharing with peers). But I also understand where he's coming from. A lot of planners wouldn't take a job or do business with an organization with values they can't abide, and the idea of helping someone be more productive in a job promoting those values/products, well, who couldn't relate? It's just not something I've ever heard anyone talk about before. I try to imagine what I would do in his shoes, and frankly, I'm just not sure.

But it's an important thing to think about. As Mitchell says, "We may each come to different conclusions at different times, but there is tremendous power and importance in the deciding." With that I can wholeheartedly agree.

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