Jun 09 2016

Embracing Uncertainty, Diversity and Othering for Learning

Published by under community,learning

include and engageFor a little over 2 years I’ve been supporting an internal learning program for my colleague Pete Cranston of Euforic Services. As we wrap up this project on “Learning about learning” in an international development context, Pete and I have debriefed and he is writing a series of comprehensive blog posts on our reflections. I want to pick up on one particular aspect of our conversation that struck me through the work, and which has also come up in a number of other contexts: the role of others in our learning. How does otherness help us learn? (Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, thanks for your great resource site on otherness!)

What we observed

Instead of starting with defining otherness, I want to share my experience. One important way to learn is with and from others. This is particularly relevant in workplace learning. In international development, regardless of the domain (agriculture, health, water/sanitation/hygiene, etc.) each investment of money, time and practice holds the potential for useful learning – useful to those implementing the work themselves, and to others interested in the same work. Often these lessons get stuck locally, or even remain invisible or unconscious because they don’t get a chance to be examined by ourselves or others. It is no surprise that many find a stark lack of reflection time, alone or with others. We learn through reflection, conversation, and the modeling and mentorship of others.

Our hypothesis in the learning to learn project (LAL for the acronym lovers out there) was that simply by creating more space and opportunity for conversational interaction between project staff, new insights would emerge and existing insights would gain wider visibility and application. We had a particular emphasis on conversational practice, both face to face and online. Learning with and from each other. While there was no explicit intention for mentorship, that possibility was always open.

Through the process, we noted the following three things that made a difference in conversational learning:

  1. Come out as a learner. Declare our intention and orientation towards learning by how we prioritize time and how we practice as learners. This includes being open about not knowing, willing to take learning risks (what, you don’t KNOW the answer!!!) and practice the art of asking questions and LISTENING to answers.
  2. Recognize what we are doing is reflective practice. We call it M&E (monitoring and evaluation), reviews, and all those business process words. It is more fundamental: Stop. Think. What did we actually learn? What do we know more about now? What new questions does that uncover? Unless we are intentional about our reflective practice, the learning drips by. Another way to view this is the idea of  catching ourselves learning. Simply noticing triggers the potential and recognition of learning.
  3. Create space and leadership for learning.  We can think about making it happens as about space. Or spaces. The fastest, but perhaps least rich is surveys. The shrink the time commitment and we know time is the biggest impediment. But what about actually making spaces for reflection? Can we commit 10 minutes in a weekly meeting? Something once a month? An annual learning review? We need to PUT that stuff in, notice when and how it becomes intentional. We must lead with it from from top by role modeling and recognizing reflection as a valid, yes, IMPORTANT use of our time. Yes, stuff t happens without leaders, but leaders make it happen better by lending legitimacy. We must lead from every direction and in every corner. Reflection and learning can be recognized by donors. Without being too literal, what about 10% for M&E, 10% for communications, and 10% for learning. That leaves 70% for the DOING and probably will increase the effectiveness and value of that doing.Don’t get me wrong. Learning is also random, chaotic, free flowing, emergent, and what we learn may often be different than what we set out to learn. The LAL project included very basic funded Learning Exchange Visits where grantees visited each others projects and went into the field. They had real time with each other and stuff just happened. The immersion triggers experiences and memories that take you conceptually to a new point. They can suggest new practices, behaviors and even ways of monitoring and evaluation. In the pursuit of learning with an open agenda, we embrace uncertainty and find new learning entry points.

Adam Frank writes about the Liberating Embrace of Uncertainty, which resonates with these three things Pete and I observed:

For science, embracing uncertainty means more than claiming “we don’t know now, but we will know in the future”. It means embracing the fuzzy boundaries of the very process of asking questions. It means embracing the frontiers of what explanations, for all their power, can do. It means understanding that a life of deepest inquiry requires all kinds of vehicles: from poetry to particle accelerators; from quiet reveries to abstract analysis.

So what about otherness?

When we discussed #3, I asked Pete, what did we notice about the culture of the organizations and individuals involved? We talked about the huge value of the leader’s openness, despite a position of positional and resource power (the funder!) We talked about the diversity of project staff – geographically, organizationally, amount of experience (age), etc. Then I was reminded about a question Bron Stuckey had recently asked on Facebook :

I am wondering how you would respond to the proposition “The best person to influence the practice of a novice is someone who was most recently a novice themselves” It’s some research bubbling up for which I have a real passion. I do have to admit it is more driven by intuition and first hand experience than a body of literature or prior research 🙂 Just wondering what my respected colleagues think of this proposition. Does it fit with your research, experience and vision?

The discussion that followed Bron’s question was diverse and fascinating. I’m sharing the thread,  Bron Stuckey Learning With Others with her permission. Through it came the thread that learning happens in a (diverse) ecosystem of people, contexts and content and that who we learn with influences our learning.

The other we know and who knows us: Sometimes we learn best from people who’s experience is close to or just advanced of ours. It is a place of relative comfort.

The other we respect (and/or fear): Sometimes we learn from people with influence and power because that causes us to pay attention. Sometimes we learn from the deep experience of a expert or long-time practitioner.

The other we aren’t so sure about: Sometimes we learn from people who are different from us, hold different opinions and experiences because that asks us to examine our own understandings, biases and assumptions. This is a powerful but often more challenging set of others when we can step across mistrust and even animosity and step curiously into learning from someone who really is the “other” from us.

How otherness feeds into #1, #2, and #1

Coming out as a learner means we have to trust ourselves, regardless of the “others” we engage with. So part of our identity has to be “learner.” Reflective practice asks us to question our own assumptions, not just those of the “others.” And creating space for learning asks us to invite in the “others.” So for me, the bottom line is a strong look inward into identity, reflection and invitation. This requires us to stop our often unwitting exclusion of others, of not inviting, not listening and not engaging. Thus the opening picture. I bet you wondered why I picked it, right?

Stuff that Inspired this Post:

Symmathesy = Learning together.(Pronounced: sym- math-a-see) A working definition of symmathesy might look like this:Symmathesy (Noun): An entity composed by contextual mutual learning through interaction. This process of interaction and mutual learning takes place in living entities at larger or smaller scales of symmathesy.Symmathesy (Verb): to interact within multiple variables to produce a mutual learning context….

The way in which we have culturally been trained to explain and study our world is laced with habits of thinking in terms of parts and wholes and the way they “work” together. The connotations of this systemic functional arrangement are mechanistic; which does not lend itself to an understanding of the messy contextual and mutual learning/evolution of the living world.

Reductionism lurks around every corner; mocking the complexity of the living world we are part of. It is not easy to maintain a discourse in which the topic of study is both in detail, and in context. The tendency is to draw categories, and to assign correlations between them. But an assigned correlation between a handful of “disciplinary” perspectives, as we often see—does not adequately represent the diversity of the learning fields within the context (s). The language of systems is built around describing chains of interaction. But when we consider a forest, a marriage, and a family, we can see that living entities such as these require another conceptual addition in their description: learning.

 

P.S. Added on Friday – Catherine mentioned an image in her comment below. Here is the image!

tempoeespacios

One response so far

Jun 02 2016

My Pen, Our Pens: Engagement through Participatory Visualization Workshop

For the last 6 years we (Michelle and Nancy) have been leading introductory workshops on graphic facilitation, the use of visuals in group process. We’ve grounded the workshops in basic drawing “liberation” (I CAN DRAW), dipped into graphic recording and finished with examples of visual practices in group process. Last year Michelle took that on solo and will lead RosViz 16 again. If you are looking for a great entry point into graphic facilitation, JUMP AT THIS OFFERING for September 19-20, 2016 in Rossland BC. Add a few days and enjoy the stupendous beauty of the area!

I am grateful Michelle took RosViz on, because in true restless Nancy form, I was ready to do something new, to push my own boundaries a bit further. Often that means WITH YOU!  So I wanted to share our individual and collective offerings, this year in September in Rossland on September 16 and 17. Michelle has all the details on her blog about both offerings.  And I want to add to my American friends, with the Canadian rate exchange, this is a good deal!

Now, the new offering, which maybe is a workshop, but I also think it is a do-shop, a think-shop and a play-shop!

My Pens, Our Pens: Engagement Through Participatory Visualization

September 16-17, 2016, Rossland, BC, Canada

This year we are ready to push ourselves into some new territory from our practices and from the inspirations of other practitioners we follow and admire. We invite you to join us in this exploration.

For 2 days we will explore, share and practice participatory visualization practices which support group process. From templates pioneered by leaders in the graphic practitioner fields to ones we create on the spot, from visual exercises designed to promote relationship, thinking and sensemaking, to collaborative and collective visual harvest practices designed both for sensemaking and knowledge sharing.

We’ll start out in familiar territory getting comfortable drawing – but this year we’ll go beyond drawing on walls, and experiment with shared visualization on smaller scale paper and even, if you want, on tablets and ipads. Then we’ll progress through a series of exercises and experiments alternating with reflection and harvest. At the end of the 2 days you will have experienced, experimented, facilitated, reflected and made sense of how visuals can be part of participatory and engaging processes in your work.

This is not your traditional workshop. We are looking to push our boundaries (and yours) in terms of the role of visuals in design and facilitation. We will ask hard questions about who captures content and what is its use?  Can visual methods help in developmental evaluation and results communication be more meaningful? What is the role of metaphor? It’s constraints? Where are there visual opportunities in process design? When does it make sense to use visuals and where does it detract from the process? What is the process of participatory capture and harvest of content? What are the power dynamics? How do we use visuals with approaches such as Liberating Structures?

Here are some of the themes we are exploring:

  • The Influences of Different Modalities and Constraints on group interaction: opening possibilities
  • Metaphor: friend and foe
  • Visual Practices for Strategy/ Assessment / Evaluation: engaged and effective
  • Visual Reflective Practice: personal and group
  • Visually Communicating With Our Teams: shared language and attention
  • Building a Visually Grounded Facilitation Practice (tools, resources, etc.): stuff you can use right away

To ground us, we’ll send you some readings and maybe an exercise or two in advance to jump start our time together. I have been curating some very cool stuff! Because this is an exploration, we want to look inward AND outwards, so  we’ll actively share out to the world what we learn.

Who is this for? We invite everyone, from beginners, to RosViz alumni, to seasoned practitioners to join us.  You are welcome to bring favorite drawing materials and electronic devices. We will provide with a drawing journal, a set of marker pens, a sketchnote pen and 2 different colors of pan pastels with a sponge. You will have access to loads more materials to play with and use throughout the workshop. If you know us, you know there will also be healthy snacks and chocolate. We also host a very active online community of practitioners to support your practice and learning after the workshop.

Visual novices or those wanting to brush up on their drawing skills will be invited to an optional pre-session of our more traditional “drawing on walls” the day before.  There is an additional fee and it includes an additional set of chalk pastels. However, this is not required and will only be offered if we have 4 or more interested people.

Dates: Sept 16, 8-5 & Sept 17 – 8-3

(Please arrive the night before if flying in. We end at 3pm on Sept 17 so people can catch flights home)

*Getting started drawing on walls optional ‘pre-day’ is Sept 15, 2- 6pm

Price: $950 CAD + GST  (Intro to Drawing on Walls + $300 CAD)

*Early bird discount $800 CAD + GST (register and paid by July 15th)

*Bonus: Three or more from one organization, 4th comes free!

Location: Prestige Hotel Ballroom, beautiful Rossland, BC

Meals: All meals on your own. Rossland has several beautiful cafes and restaurants to enjoy. Healthy snacks, chocolate and drinks are provided throughout.

About your hosts:

Nancy_facilitatinggroup_circle

Nancy White

“I am a learner, mom, gramma and chocoholic. I founded Full Circle Associates to help organizations connect through online and offline strategies.  My practices are diverse, including online interaction designer, facilitator and coach for distributed communities of practice, online learning, distributed teams and online communities, doodler and visual practitioner. I have a special interest in the NGO/NPO sector and the emerging practice of using communities and networks for work and learning. I blog at http://www.fullcirc.com/, teach, present and write on online facilitation and interaction, social architecture, social media and visual practices. I am co-author with Etienne Wenger and John Smith of Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities. Lately not only do I like to draw on walls (graphic facilitation), but I spend a lot of time playing with my granddaughters!!! For more about my visual practice see http://www.fullcirc.com/about/visual-and-graphic-work/.”

IMG_0370

Michelle Laurie

 

“Despite being an analytical person, I have found that visuals have brought new meaning to my practice as a facilitator and communicator. Typically I explore the interface of environment and development via strategic planning, assessments, facilitation and engagement. Lately my work has focused on supporting organizations to transform their ideas for positive change into realities on the ground. I incorporate visuals wherever I can particularly with the use of participatory graphics, templates, animation and reporting. I also use visuals in my personal life for planning weddings, family activities and travels! I am an associate with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a member of the International Association of Facilitators, the Canadian Evaluation Society and IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication. I will be your main contact for workshop logistics.”

To register you must email  michelle.k.laurie(@)gmail.com to confirm your participation, provide your contact details and submit payment.

Payment Options:

– Email transfer – michelle.k.laurie(@)gmail.com

– Paypal transfer – paypal.me/MichelleLaurie (If you prefer to pay in USD, contact NANCY)

– Cheque by snail mail to: Michelle Laurie, PO Box 1063, Rossland, BC, V0G 1Y0, Canada

My Ideas - 38

One response so far

Feb 23 2016

Bro Orange and Community Indicators

Published by under community indicators

I Followed My Stolen iPhone Across The World, Became A Celebrity In China, And Found A Friend For Life

For some years now I have been noting occurrences where connections are made between people. I’ve had this loose tag, Community Indicators, that I’ve slapped on my blog posts, on delicious, etc.

Here is one to add – for the ages!I Followed My Stolen iPhone Across The World, Became A Celebrity In China, And Found A Friend For Life. Hat tip Steve Crandall.

Comments Off on Bro Orange and Community Indicators

Feb 18 2016

Liberating Structures: I’m a String Being

RhapsodyMany of you know I’ve been using Liberating Structures a lot in my facilitation work. One of the “leaps forward” for me in the last year has been my ability to string various structures into a coherent agenda. The leap has come from learning about other practitioners’ strings, and batting ideas back and forth with them about my strings both visually and in text. (The visuals really help me!) This “thinking together”  helps me consider my plan and improvisational options so I stay fully present AND flexible when I facilitate. The strings also help me be transparent both with my clients and participants, and I can easily encourage them to learn, use and take ownership of their own meetings. (I am insisting more and more on every gathering being, among other things, a way to up our collective practice/intelligence on working/playing/thinking together.)

I’ve been thinking about those of us working on strings together as “string beings!”

I was thrilled when Keith McCandless made the most recent  LS News & Updates about Rhapsody for Strings 🎻🎼 The newsletter shares a set of strings along with very short narratives of each string. The strings of Tim Jasko-Fisher and Fisher Qua, layering structures over each other were particularly enlightening. (Images below) I asked Keith if it was ok to republish here to spread the news even more widely and have included it below, along with some of the fabulous strings that our group shared.

Here is a string I shared:

c6401977-e1a8-4386-8d49-70c3aa69e5c6

 

I’m also interested in how to easily share and work on strings together (see this reflection on some tool testing we did.) I am getting more and more questions directed to me individually, and I think it would be more useful and efficient to do this as a community. For one thing, each person would have access to a wider repertoire of experience and strings. And two, there is great learning in the process, so why not share it. So maybe you want to become a String Being too. Read to the bottom of the newsletter for how to join us…

Here is the newsletter text:

One Liberating Structure can transform a meeting.  A powerful string can draw out much-better-than-expected results in a way that forever shifts the pattern of working together. Below, accomplished maestros share and rhapsodize about their favorites.

As familiarity with the LS repertoire increases, there are an infinite number of combinations and riffs.  AND, there are certain strings that simply knock your socks off. With the suggestion that a picture tells a thousand words, the editor [Keith] has limited the narrative from each maestro to a puny three sentences. Future LS News will feature interviews that dig deeper into details (e.g., invitations, twists, turns, and LS punctuation).

  1. Building Financial Literacy with High School Students
  2. Liberating Learning Together:  Using LS in Our Work
  3. Leadership Retreat: High Dive Into Collective Strategy-Making
  4. Tap the Founder’s Story To Uplift Next Level Innovation
  5. Management Meeting: In Charge But Not In Control
  6. Get Over Yourself, NOW! Prepare To Go Deeper with Your Customers
  7. Cross-Sector Community Groups Catalyzing Learning + Action
  8. Catalyzing Nursing Knowledge for BIG Data Science
  9. Strategic Planning to Tactical Plans in Three Fractal Movements

We know there are many more maestros who have strings to share. There is an experiment underway on Slack for people to give and get help from other practitioners. Joining is clunky at the moment (if there are any Slack maestros out there, help us?!): Email Fisher to request access. (You can also email me and I can add you- NW)

Source: [LS News & Updates] Rhapsody for Strings 🎻🎼

Comments Off on Liberating Structures: I’m a String Being

Feb 15 2016

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

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

« Prev - Next »

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.
%d bloggers like this: