Following Up After a Liberating Structures Facilitated Event

In late January I helped plan and facilitate the INGENEAS Global Symposium, a gathering of academics, researchers, practitioners, business people and policy makers interested in the role of gender and nutrition in rural agricultural extension services in the developing world. We used Liberating Structures extensively throughout the 3 day event.

Have you ever had the experience in a global meeting where jet lag is an ongoing presence, prompting naps and drooping heads? We saw no napping! People were engaged, occasionally baffled, and exceptionally open to new ways of being together, even those who are most comfortable in traditional academic meetings. The only persistent wish was for more time to “go deeper” in exploring and learning about each other’s work. We hope people will stay connected and build that depth. (More on that in a later blog post about the network mapping project we also did!)

It was fabulous to have a client, Andrea Bohn, who fully embraced both my crazy approaches and Liberating Structures. Her support was  so thorough that we used LS to plan the meetings as well. After the meeting she connected participants who expressed interest in Liberating Structures to their local (or nearly local) practice group for further learning, practice/peer support, and sent out this follow up email:

Dear Symposium participants,

Hard to believe that it has already been more than a week since we parted in Lusaka. It was great to have you there!

One of the follow-up actions I committed to is to tell you a bit more about the facilitation techniques used by Nancy.

It was one of our unspoken intentions with the symposium was to expose you to some very effective means of engaging and including all people (in an organization, at a meeting, training, etc.) and for helping bring to light the knowledge and experiences that exists among those gathered. We trust that you will find these techniques useful in your work as extensionists, trainers, team leads, etc. Most of the techniques used (some in modified form) come from the “Liberating Structures” toolbox (see www.liberatingstructures.com). Over the course of the symposium you experienced (and participated in!) these:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

In planning the symposium, we were guided by

There are many more structures/techniques in that toolbox (33 in total, www.liberatingstructures.com/ls-menu). The website describes each in some detail and we encourage you to explore them. However, we also know that it all makes a lot more sense after you have experienced one in action, as you did during the Symposium. I’d love to hear from you how using one or several of these structures in your profession is working out for you.

Sincerely,

Andrea

 Andrea Bohn, M.Sc., MBA

Member of the AgReach Team

www.agreach.illinois.edu

Why Follow Up?

I’ve been either sending a follow up email, or creating an information visual about LS in meetings I am facilitating with LS because it is a simple capacity building step that is both efficient and effective. People are interested in the moment, and the follow up email is a perfect trigger point to invite them to dig in a little deeper. Here is the summary visual I created for a group last December after one of the participants made the request for the “list” of structures. Why not make it visual?

Debriefing With the Team

Beyond participant interest in Liberating Structures, I’ve found it very useful to debrief with the core event planning and facilitation team to get a sense of their experiences and to encourage further application.

In a more traditional academic conference context, this is always interesting. We tend to gravitate towards that which is familiar and comfortable. Those who have literally grown up and experienced their entire careers through formal academic gatherings may feel a bit like “fish out of water” with LS. Through the debrief at this event and others, three main issues come out.

  1. Control is distributed, not held at the front of the room. For example, in traditional academic conferences people present their papers from the front of the room and then the audience asks questions. With Shift and Share, a greater part of the time was focused on the conversation, rather than presentation.  Repeating cycles start to drill down to the most salient issues and points, but that is not always obvious from the start! For those who are used to holding control via presentation and who they choose to call on, this is a power shift as well.
  2. Time feels “too short.” Many of the LS cycle participants rapidly through the work and/or content at hand, and look at it from different perspectives via different structures. There is an instinct to “slow down” but sometimes the rapid cycling can help step past ruts and assumptions allowing greater depth. Over-packing a conference, however, with too much content, can stymie that result. And somehow we always over-pack!
  3. It steps outside of “sanctioned forms.” “I can go to the meeting if I am presenting a paper.” The way legitimacy is viewed in research communities is based on publishing. On presenting. With LS, we focus on meaning making on what is offered, versus exposition. So we need a way to create an invitation that has institutional legitimacy for those coming, but which does not box us into traditional forms if they don’t serve the purpose of the meeting. Across the LS community of practitioners there is deep experience with significant meeting results — without panels and presentations. But it is a leap of faith to go down that road!

 

Can we actually practice graphic recording after just a 4 hour workshop? Yes! Part 2

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!)
sugar-cane-farmer-in-field
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. ”

agriman
Agriman

And for a bit of fun

The website or the people who make them?

holdingcenterI was attracted by the title of a 2015 opinion piece in the Observer by Thomas Oppong @Alltopstartups,  33 Websites That Will Make You a Genius. If only! Apparently so were many other people because if you search on the title and first sentence, you will see the article republished all over the place. I had tucked the url into a draft blog post that I’m finally getting to today! (Note: there are actually 34 on the list. Brainpickings did not get a number. Brainpickings, by the way, is one that I’d prioritize reading!)

Why are people interested in these lists? Are they really going to go out and working on getting smarter? Does anyone have time to read them on a regular basis? For me it is an interesting reminder that there is so much interesting stuff out there we must both use it and not let it overwhelm us. Or let lists limit us because the diversity is much richer than can ever be boiled down to 33 or 34.

The question I sit with is WHY are these 33 websites considered so valuable? Is it the website, the artifact, or the people who make them, individually, collectively and everything in between! What if instead of listing these sites, we had a chance to sit down and have a meal with the people behind them. Now THAT would be WONDERFUL! Here is the list with Thomas’ annotations – and thank you Thomas! At the end I leave you with a question similar to the one Thomas left at the end of his article.

1. BBC — Future — Making you smarter, every day.

2. 99U (YouTube) — Actionable insights on productivity, organization and leadership to help creative people push ideas forward.

3. Youtube EDU — The education videos that don’t have cute cats in boxes — but they do unlock knowledge.

4. WikiWand — A slick new interface for Wikipedia.

5. The long read (The Guardian) — In-depth reporting, essays and profiles.

6. TED — Great videos to open your mind on almost every topic.

7. iTunes U — Learning on the go, from some of the world’s top universities.

8. InsightfulQuestions (subreddit) — Intellectual discussions that are not necessarily genre-specific.

9. Cerego — Cerego helps you build personalized study plans based on your strengths and weaknesses to retain knowledge.

10. University of the People — Tuition-free online university that offers higher education in multiple course streams.

11. OpenSesame — Marketplace for online training, now with 22,000+ courses.

12. CreativeLive — Take free creative classes from the world’s top experts.

13. Coursera — Partnering with some of the top U.S. universities, Coursera offers massive open online courses for free.

14. University of reddit — the product of free intellectualism and is a haven for the sharing of knowledge.

15. Quora — You ask, the net discusses — with top experts and fascinating back and forth on everything.

16. Digital Photography School —Read through this goldmine of articles to improve your photography skills.

17. Umano—Explore the largest collection of audio articles powered by real people. Dropbox has acquired Umano. Brain Pickings is a great replacement for 17.

Brain Pickings — Insightful long form posts on life, art, science, design, history, philosophy and more.

18. Peer 2 Peer University or P2PU, is an open educational project that helps you learn at your own pace.

19. MIT Open CourseWare is a catalog of free online courses and learning resources offered by MIT.

20. Gibbon—This is the ultimate playlist for learning.

21. Investopedia — Learn everything you need to know about the world of investing, markets and personal finance.

22. Udacity offers interactive online classes and courses in higher education.

23. Mozilla Developer Network offers detailed documentation and learning resources for web developers.

24. Future learn — enjoy free online courses from top universities and specialist organizations.

25. Google Scholar — provides a search of scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources, including theses, books, abstracts and articles.

26. Brain Pump — A place to learn something new everyday.

27. Mental Floss — Test your knowledge with amazing and interesting facts, trivia, quizzes and brain teaser games.

28. Learnist — Learn from expertly curated web, print and video content.

29. DataCamp — Online R tutorials and data science courses.

30. edX — Take online courses from the world’s best universities.

31. Highbrow — Get bite-sized daily courses to your inbox.

32. Coursmos — Take a micro-course anytime you want, on any device.

33. Platzi— Live streaming classes on design, marketing and code.

If you had to suggest one website that presented a more diverse perspective or represented views that don’t often make into lists like the ones above, what site would you recommend I look at?

The Post that Keeps on Keeping On: Zoom and Re-Zoom for Facilitators 

Back in 2013 I came upon a lovely facilitation tool/activity called Zoom/ReZoom using Istvan Banayi’s great books, ZOOM and RE-ZOOM. Every once in a while I check my site stats and dang, if this post isn’t hit daily, and sometimes 30+ times, which far exceeds my average hits these days. The traffic seems almost entirely from search engines. My interpretation? Either Zoom is a very cool word, or people are actively looking for ways to engage with each other. 🙂 If that’s you, link back into this old post where there are resources and a story of using the activity.

Last month I finally got a chance to use a facilitation activity called Zoom which I found on the Wilderdom’s Game resource page— a great resource!  I deeply appreciate that they put the “copyleft” designation on all their resources. THANKS! As I learned and read facilitation ideas from other sites, I realized I should share some of my experiences as well. Here is the description from Wilderdom’s resource page (which also includes all instructions – I’ve attached a pdf copy at the bottom for taking to an event, but please DO visit their page!)

Source: Zoom and Re-Zoom for Facilitators | Full Circle Associates

Resource Guide to Learning Delivery Methods

resource guide to learning

What learning delivery methods are there and how do you consider them? In 2014 Scott Leslie and I supported an analysis for decision making on training strategies for the International Labour Organization’s Microinsurance Innovation Facility, now the Impact Insurance Facility (http://www.impactinsurance.org/ ).

As I moved on to other related works, I kept drawing on these initial documents. Finally, I’ve gotten around to a) getting permission from the ILO to share (THANK YOU!) and trying to pull out some of the domain specific stuff so it might be more widely useful.

The Resource Guide to Learning Delivery Methods  (pdf for now) is a version of one of the outputs of our work, shared with permission from the Facility with the hope that it adds value to your work. (The other elements include a Glossary and a Strategic Options documents.) We hope to also put these online for crowd-sourced critique and revisions. (TBA!) In the meantime, I just want to get this OUT THERE!

From the Introduction:

This document is a version of one of the outputs of our work, shared with permission from the Facility with the hope that it adds value to your work. (The other elements include a Glossary and a Strategic Options documents.) We hope to also put these online for crowd-sourced critique and revisions. (TBA!)

The Facility team was evaluating their e-learning options to expand capacity building for microinsurance for the poor. An early identified need was to understand elearning in the wider context of delivery mechanisms.

The basic content can be useful when starting to consider capacity development, training or specifically an e-learning strategy. It is not exhaustive, and some things have become dated since it was written. Understanding that, it can help you understand the range of learning options, and where they might be most effective.

We surveyed 20 different learning delivery methods across five major categories:

  • Face-to-face delivery methods
  • Online delivery methods:
    • Traditional online courses
    • MOOCs, communities & self-directed learning
    • Synchronous methods
    • Mobile delivery methods
  • Offline delivery methods
  • Blended and hybrid methods

This guide is the detailed analysis of these methods in the context of the Facility’s domain. It includes a general description, domain-related examples, and provides insight and comparisons on these methods based the qualities the organization identified as key to assessing any proposed solution. These qualities include:

  • the implications of this method on scalability and adaptability of content
  • implications on quality control
  • any effects the method may have on motivating learners’ completion of training and achievement of learning objectives
  • the ease and costs of implementing any of these methods

Your qualities may be different, so you may wish to consider your needs and how the methods may or may not meet your needs. This document is offered as a Free Cultural License as defined by the Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ .