Back in 2006 I was a participant in a remarkable gathering called the Evolutionary Salon. It was an intense soup of ideas, feelings and energy. In these contexts a lot of that can overwhelm me. Luckily, I was not alone. Chris Corrigan and Kenoli Oleari and I were doing a little music jamming and a response to all that energy was born. We called it Euphoric Bullshit, a gentle jab at our own sense of self importance. Originally it was just for us, but our four fearless hosts decided it might help shift the energy on the third and final day.
Ashley Cooper (who, by the way has restarted her coaching practice if you are thinking about getting a coach), reminded me of all this with a link back to the debrief the PoP facilitators did. All of a sudden I vividly remember the moment (and almost the tune!)
I have always found that gentle humor, music, visual arts and dance can open up different channels of connection, communication and meaning making. So literally we can sing our way into better work together. (Speaking of singing, if you haven’t seen this, take a peek.) I need to make sure I keep weaving them in.
Digging around in an old thread in the Open Space email list, I found the lyrics. Um, impolite language warning… but know this was joyously and lovingly sung.
Euphoric Bullshit by Nancy White, Kenoli Oleari and Chris Corrigan and 90 amused muses
We come into the circle with our passions and resolve
We each have a lot of issues that we really want to solve
But we all start a talkin’, and things get out of hand
So take a little breath (breath) and settle down and we’ll ease into the plan
Euphoric bullshit is the name of the game
We take the sacred and we make it profane
You can’t come in, unless you bear your pain
Euphoric bullshit is the name of the game
We’re calling a lot of sessions, with various intents
Some get a little bit impatient as we sit upon the fence
But emergence growing edges will carry us all along
We are but one great voice in the universal song
Now the time has come for us to go out into the world
And throw our great intentions into the cosmic swirl
Hey you don’t need to worry that these things will come to pass
Because evolution’s arrow will kick you in the ass
Two of my colleagues/friends have written very useful posts reflecting on practices that can enhance any year end reflections and new years planning you may be cooking up. Many of you who know me how much I value what emerges from practice and my learning path is to understand these things from a complexity perspective in various systems. Recently a client pointed me to a FSG blog post which had a link to a quote that has enlivened this path.
For me, the blog posts noted below give us some ideas about shifting those conditions that are holding our problems in place!
First, Mike Parker of Liminal Coaching shares a great set of ideas framing the complexity of todays work world (work in the broadest sense!) What is wonderful is that if you keep reading, you will get to Mike’s gift: the value of daydreaming in helping us navigate our complex worlds. Yes, daydreaming. He riffs on the time management Pomodoro practice and creates Liminal Pomodoro – a practice to relax and let your mind do its work in that daydreaming state of mind. This might be helping conditions in our own minds that are holding our problems in place. Read the post – seriously. Then go take a Liminal Pomodor break and come back and read the rest of this post. Who knows, you may see it in a whole new light!
The second post comes from Michelle Medley-Daniel from the Fire Adapted Network Community. I had the chance to work with Michelle and hear team last year and we played with many complexity informed practices such as Liberating Structure. Michelle informed me that what she learned during that retreat had continued to add value over the year – which of course made my day.
Michelle’s reflections came around the US Thanksgiving holiday and reflected one of my favorite themes, abundance and ditching the scarcity mindset. To me, these are not Pollyanna-ish practices, but survival skills. When you take a different perspective, you have the chances of shifting the conditions that are – yes – holding the problems in place. I’ve snipped the high level essence of 2 pieces of advice below, but let the beautiful pie picture lure you into her full posting.
Background: This is the third of three posts about some recent visual experiences at the 7th Annual GFRAS Meeting in Limbe, Cameroon, where I was invited as their graphic recorder! As I noted in Part 1, it is a huge investment of resources – theirs and mine – to have me there for the meeting, so I asked if I could also run a short “introduction to graphic recording” the before the event kicked off, and then we could have the participants fan out across the breakouts and field trips to capture sketch notes. The second post in the series shares a few stories and artifacts from the workshop participants about their sketchnoting at the meeting and after they returned home. How are they using their new skills? This third part shares the graphic recordings I did with a little reflection on my own process and the element of role modeling graphic recording skills – particularly the listening and synthesizing skills.
The #GFRAS2016 Annual meeting started on a Monday afternoon, had a full day on Tuesday, field trips on Wednesday and a final day on Thursday. My graphic recording charge was a chart for Monday, Tuesday and what was needed for Thursday was “emergent.” The field trips were “harvested” by our newly-trained sketchnote artists from Monday’s workshop. (You can see the agenda here.)
Day 1 – Opening
As one might expect in Cameroon, there is still a strong sense of formality and meetings being opened by dignitaries. In my experience, they often arrive late. This time they were EARLY and we scrambled to get in the room and set up. There was a very small window for set up, but it was so cool that the Fine Hotel made a recording board for me. You can see how lovely and BIG it was in the photo by Keerthiraj Siddapura at right. (Thanks, Keerthiraj – also one of our newly minted graphic recorders. You can see his full set of photos here.)
The formal opening was in French and the sound was VERY difficult, so the contents of the formal opening were … um… brief. The fact that Limbe is known as a “town of friendship” was the key piece for me. Graphic recording through translation is a tricky proposition at best. The second part of the opening was a conversation between the outcoming and incoming secretaries of GFRAS… the handing of the baton. So overall, it was a pretty light piece for day one. You can visually see I still battle my “right hand downward tilt” as I record.
What was super fun was that for many in the room, this was their first time seeing graphic recording in action… including most of Monday’s workshop participants. So there at the back of the room I got a lot of attention between sessions and during breaks with people asking me “how do you DO this!” When the new GR’s passed by, we did a bit more analysis – what was working for me, for them and more importantly, what was challenging. It was a good place of learning.
Day 2 – Keynote and Conversation on Agripreneurship
I was very luck to share a cottage with Day 2’s keynote, Dr. Merida Roets of South Africa. As we chit chatted over shared chocolate, I learned more about her, her work, and this strange new concept to me, Agripreneurship. (Know that this is a hard word for me to spell. I had to keep practicing.) After her talk, a panel came up to comment and their input is on the left. There is still a bit of jargon in here, like RAS (rural advisory services).
Merida had never had her talks recorded, so this was a fun new experience for her as well. Remember, she also took Monday’s workshop, so I could see the wheels turning in her head when she came by afterwards at my request to see if I missed or got anything wrong. In the end, she took this piece home with her, with a clear idea of where she was going to hang it in her offices. It turns out that while Merida and her team have been promoting and building agripreneurship capacity with rural farmers in South Africa, they had never heard of the term before either! 😉 Language is a funny thing.
By the way, the colors in these images are not very good. The lighting was difficult in the space. They look a little dull here. But as I was doing some coloring with Pan Pastels, it was also a time where our new GRs used the materials and tried shading and coloring on their sketch notes. So in the end, my space ended up as a little graphic recording lab at the back of the room for the full meeting.
In the afternoon I facilitated one of the four break out sessions and as part of my duties, created visuals for the report out on Thursday. I used Paperby53 to create a base image, then built on top of it to break out each of the elements for our presenter to share.
Day 4 – Harvest and Network Assessments
Day three people fanned out across the region to visit agripreneurs, farming cooperatives and other locations to see the work in action. Then on Thursday, the morning was the harvest of the Tuesday breakouts and Wednesday field trip reports. The field trip reports are at the bottom and the four breakout reports at the top. I used the metaphor of weaving basket threads together…sort of.
My intention on this chart was to allow individual parts of the image to be pulled out in close up photos so that they could be woven into the meeting documentation. You can click on the thumbnails below to see some examples. All the images were provided digitally to the GFRAS team.
Next there was a network assessment activity led by Kevan and Alexa Lamm. Most of this session was work in groups, so I briefly captured their introduction on my iPad and then animated the sequence. This was done simply by saving the image as different files along the way. (Let’s see if the animated GIF plays correctly in the blog post. If not, you can find it here. )
I had made a few other iPad images as a way to demonstrate some electronic graphic recording.
There were some other paper sketches I made… nothing really worth sharing… but to empathize with our team that sometimes it can be hard to really pull something of substance out of short and informal presentations.
It was a great experience working with the GFRAS secretariat and all of the participants. I took MANY pictures with people in front of the images… lots of smiles. It has been a while since I did straight up graphic recording and not only was it fun (and sweaty – did I mention the aircon mostly did not work?) but it was a great way to link the workshop on Monday to real practice, to be able to reflect together on our work, and of course, to always remember how much more there is to learn!
Background: This is the second of three posts about some recent visual experiences at the 7th Annual GFRAS Meeting in Limbe, Cameroon, where I was invited as their graphic recorder! As I noted in Part 1, it is a huge investment of resources – theirs and mine – to have me there for the meeting, so I asked if I could also run a short “introduction to graphic recording” the before the event kicked off, and then we could have the participants fan out across the breakouts and field trips to capture sketch notes. This second post in the series shares a few stories and artifacts from the workshop participants about their sketchnoting at the meeting and after they returned home. How are they using their new skills? Part 3 will share the graphic recordings I did with a little reflection on my own process. When I publish #3, I’ll come back and link it here as well!
Unleashed across breakout sessions, field trips and plenaries, many of the participants of our short graphic recording workshop took their pens and notebooks to try and capture the essense of sessions as sketch notes. Remember: these people walked into the workshop with little or no sketchnoting experience. Just a fire in their bellies and a willingness to try.
The first experiments were just with pen, mostly on the small conference spiral note books. You can see the experimentation with how to organize the ideas on the paper and a great deal of courage focusing on the images, not just relying on text.
At one point after a plenary, a few folks stopped by my graphic recording station and we did some mini debriefs and talked about introducing color. The magic was instantaneous… (not that I don’t like black and white, mind you!). Click the images for a larger and fuller view!
By the end of the week, our intrepid team had introduced metaphors and ways to organize space on the page along with some clever extras.
But wait, this is not the end of the story! What happened after everyone has gone home? I have two stories to share already (and hopefully I will glean a few more.
Merida Roets, who was also our day 2 keynote and my wonderful roommate at the hotel, was already planning to offer her staff a brief graphic recording session upon her return to South Africa. (I’ll share the capture of her keynote in post #3). They may have wondered what Merida was up to, but she immediately applied her learning to her work with her project developing some learning materials for the South African Sugar Association. She shared an image with me as an example. (I can recommend Merida for both her intelligence and love of chocolate!)
Finally, one of the workshop participants who was already deeply into visual practices for agricultural development, Luke Smith, who is the AgriEdutainment Officer & ICT Director of WhyFarm that originated the world’s Food Security superhero “AGRIman” as a way to engage younger folks in agriculture , wrote ” I have used the graphic facilitation method with some children in a workshop. I didn’t have all the materials required to execute they way I wanted too. I showed the children the basics as you showed us in the training. I then gave them the problem of how can we increase food production by 2050 and told them to use the icons, arrows, symbols to come up with a solution.
The children drew there ideas on a copybook page, I didn’t get time to take a photo as the session ran out of time . But I was amazing that some kids drew the ideas of doing farming underwater. I want to try this method again but with flip charts and markers etc. I will certainly capture the use of graphic facilitation the next time. ”
Rarely do I get to go to an event with graphic recording as my primary duty. It is often an “extra” that I include in my facilitation practice. This year I was invited to the 7th Annual GFRAS Meeting in Limbe, Cameroon as their graphic recorder! Because it is a huge investment of resources – theirs and mine – I asked if I could also run a short “introduction to graphic recording” the before the event kicked off, and then we could have the participants fan out across the breakouts and field trips to capture sketch notes. I can’t be everywhere at once so this gave us some immediate practical coverage, but more importantly, I wanted people to see that this is an accessible, practical and usable practice. This first post is about the workshop itself. Part 2 will share a few stories from the workshop participants about their sketchnoting at the meeting and after they returned home. How are they using their new skills? Part 3 will share the graphic recordings I did with a little reflection on my own process. At the bottom of this post are links to other visual artifacts from the week in Cameroon.
What can you do in just under four hours to help people master the basics of graphic recording? It turns out, you can do quite a lot. I love starting with the fabulous paired drawing activity I learned from Johnnie Moore. In the debrief it always raises so many useful aspects about how we pay attention to and communicate with each other. It creates some fun and some comfort with taking risks. And drawing for and in front of people can be a huge risk for many of us.
Then we got into the practice immediately. My graphic recording and graphic facilitation workshops (short or long) always start with liberating our inner artist using an exercise I learned from the fabulous people at the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (I took their GR 101 course years ago!).
The “I Can Draw” exercise introduces people to simple, body-based ways to draw circles, lines, use color, write clearly and, for extra fun, how using different materials can change and bring a sketch to life (yay chalk and pastels!) It never ceases to amaze me how such beautiful creations emerge, and how empowering this is. The exercise also loosens people’s bodies up to use bolder strokes, bigger lettering and to explore how color can change a visual experience with very little effort.
Next we dug into specific skills of drawing people, icons, metaphors and ways to arrange images on one’s paper or note-pad. Because all the work I do with communities, agriculture, development and such, EVERYTHING I work with involves people. And it STILL intimidates me to draw people. We face this head on with simple ways to draw people. Stick figures. Bean people. Star people. Spring people. I loved how Merida immediately riffed on her people to integrate them into the sustainability work she is doing. WINDMILL people!
By now people were getting excited, so this is when we started playing with icons, particularly icons that relate to their work, world or context. I have a card deck of silly icons I made years ago. I asked everyone to grab one that they attracted them, and then sketch that icon a number of times to build some comfort. People observed each others’ drawings, swaped cards and iterated. I encouraged people to take pictures of icons – theirs or others’ – that resonated for them. This is so often a practice of “see, imitate, iterate and THEN evolve one’s own style”. Some people have a style right away, like Raj. You can see it in the first sketch note he produced the afternoon after the workshop.
Finally, we put everything together and I challenged everyone to graphically record a short talk I improvise on the spot about preparing to graphically record. Granted, I talked slower, repeated things and even offer a few hints, but really trying to graphically record real time for the first time is VERY HARD. It challenges us to a) listen deeply and carefully, b) identify what points are important and should be captured, and finally, c) actually draw them on the paper. The group did amazingly well for such a short introduction. Afterwards we toured each of the examples, identified strenghts and looked for something new for them to try the “next time!”
Here are some examples of their work. Click to see larger images.