Liberating Structures for Systemic Change

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So, ” how DO you change the culture around here?” July’s DwD brought Liz Rykert of Meta Strategies together with the DwD community for an exploration of Liberating Structures, a powerful set of 33 self-organizing group engagement and process change methods. The goal of the session was for all participants to learn and acquire initial experience in LS methods, for productively and playfully changing their conventional patterns of engagement. With a focus on Organizational Culture Change, Liz’s session employed a series of introductory methods for group learning of several of these ready to hand, lightweight tools:

  • Impromptu Networking (Moving introductions)
  • Flocking (experiential understanding of network behavior)
  • What? So? Now What? (Framing questions using the 1-2-4 small group practice)
  • Brief Stories
  • Heard Seen Respected
  • 15% Solutions

Liberating Structures are well-known in organizational development and change work for helping to equalize input, access hidden creativity and insights and breakdown the barriers to full participation for everyone. A live sketch (thanks to Patricia at playthink) reveals the course of the evening’s program, from the compelling interest in organizational change, to the processes and principles of Liberating Structures, to the attitudes of engaged facilitation in the practice. Liz’ slides from the workshop are also available online.

liberating structures

One often hears how “we need to change the culture around here.” But changing the culture can feel particularly ephemeral and hard to pin down. The session explored how the patterns of relating contribute to the culture we co-create together in the groups and communities where we work and live. Liz turned the discussion toward the “ghosts” in culture, the patterns and attractors and understand how shifting up our behaviours and actions contribute to the outcomes. A mix of physical and movement exercises, brief dialogues, and guided explorations modeled the approach toward mixing methods within a well-planned workshop. A handout summarizing the assembled collection of best-known LS methods (Matchmaker) is also available online.

 

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Liz worked dozens of stories and examples into an engaging learning experience. References to organizational studies (Edgar Schein’s Org Culture and Humble Inquiry), complexity theory (Kaufmann and Snowden, Chaos,-Complexity-Bifurcation), and organizational development (Harrison Owen’s Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry) were integrated and sprinkled throughout the session, allowing for connecting the lightweight LS methods to larger theoretical constructs from which most of these were originally developed.

 

ABOUT THE HOST

LizLS Seattle

Liz Rykert is the President of Meta Strategies which she founded in 1997. It is a strategy group working in complex organizational change and technology. Meta Strategies delivers on: Change work including innovation, culture change, large system transformation, coaching and facilitation; Web work including strategy, online community, website design and programming; and Network strategy, development, visualization.  She is an active practitioner and coach of methods such as Liberating Structures. She practices Developmental Evaluation on the often uncertain and emergent qualities of projects she works on. Liz has a knack for uncovering new ideas and bringing them to life for the benefit of everyone.

Coincident with the recent DwD, a Plexus Institute newsletter just recounted an extraordinary story of Liz’ role in organizing support for Syrian refugees in Canada. The following post is referenced from this newsletter (otherwise not available online):

Grass Root Groups Welcome Refugees to Canada

When Liz Rykert was working as a consultant a hospital in Oswego, New York, she and colleagues visited the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, which preserves the memories of nearly 1,000 European refugees rescued from the Nazis in World War II and housed in what was then the Fort Ontario Army barracks. She also learned of the work of Ruth Gruber, the woman whose book Haven describes the harrowing work of getting the refugees from war zones to a military ship for transport to the U.S. and safety. 

Rykert and her husband, John Sewell, who had accompanied her, thought of what refugees endure: dangers and hardships, loss of their worldly goods and comforts, fear of the future, and endless struggle to stay alive keep their children safe. Rykert recalls her husband saying: “We have to do something about Syrian refugees, being displaced by the millions, taking terrible risks.” His reaction was no surprise. Sewell, a life-long activist for progressive causes , was first elected to Toronto City Council in 1969. As Toronto’s Mayor from 1978-1980, he helped facilitate the city’s response to refugees from Vietnam, a grass roots initiative led by Operation Lifeline. Nearly two-thirds of the 60,000 who arrived in Canada settled in the Toronto area.

Rykert and Sewell are part of a group of 21 friends and neighbors sponsoring a refugee family who fled their home in Aleppo, Syrian, fearing for their lives. The family spent two years in emergency quarters in Turkey before their arrival in Canada in March of this year. Omer Suleyman, a cook, his wife, Aliye El Huseyin, a nurse, and their three children, daughters Esra, 13, and Marem, 8, and son Suleyman, 6, are now in an apartment in Toronto, adjusting to new and very different lives. A Toronto Globe and Mail story by Ian Brown describes the family, the sponsors, and their experiences. 

As of last February 8,527 Syrian refugees had private Canadian sponsors, an unusual system unmatched elsewhere in the world. Sewell says some 10,000 private groups like the ones he and Rykert helped form have organized to welcome refugees and many are frustrated with national and international bureaucracies that have delayed arrival of their families. Immigrations officials, observing the doors closing to refugees across the world, have been surprised to find Canadian citizens impatient for more to arrive.

The citizen sponsorship groups commit to paying all their family’s expenses for a full year. Sewell explains the groups collect money (his collected some $45,000 and members don’t know amounts of individual contributions), make connections, arrangements, and help meet individual needs. Some sponsors take classes in how to help without smothering, and how to help foster eventual independence. “It’s a brilliant system,” Sewell said. “We find them places to live, find doctors, get their kids into schools, parents into ESL classes, and a network of people gets them into society, all at small expense to the government, which does pay for healthcare.” Rykert explains the groups introduce newcomers to others who speak Arabic, find banks and other businesses where someone speaks Arabic, locate mosques and grocery stores that sell halal meat and other foods they need, find tutors for children who have missed years of schooling, and free language classes for all. While Suleyman and his wife were anxious to find jobs immediately, their sponsors encouraged them to focus on their new language for the sake of more success later.

The couple says many newcomers suffer from dental problems that result from the often-chaotic lives and erratic diets of refugee existence. Canadian health care doesn’t cover dentistry, so they found a friendly dentist who discounts rates treating their family. Sewell recently took the Suleyman youngsters on a downtown outing, where they were delighted with their first escalator ride.

Sponsors benefit a much as the families they help, Sewell observes. “This is extraordinary community building,” he said. “We have gotten to know our neighbors in more ways than we’d have thought. You think you know your neighbors until you start something like this. This expresses the best about being Canadian. We do this.” For the last 120 years, Sewell said, Canada has had immigrants and refugees equaling about one percent of the population annually. “That means we are very adaptable, and very accepting of new people and different cultures,” he said. “That has been our history.”

 

 

 

 

Systemic Constellations | Where’s the Money?

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Where’s the Money? Exploring for Clues.

Does the collective field have anything to tell us about where the money is?

Diana Claire Douglas joined us from Ottawa to share a brief (3 hour) orientation to Systemic Constellation Work, based on Bert Hellinger’s well-established practice for engaging families, organizations, and all types of social systems within the “knowing field” – a multi-dimensional field that is always present and has also evolved over the last 30 plus years. Systemic constellations consider issues, questions and propositions from a very broad, human and universal systemic perspective. It is used for diagnosing and resolving issues, making decisions, experiencing other ways of knowing, gathering collective intelligence, testing propositions, and creating new processes, services and products − for individuals, families, organizations and larger systems such as cities. For participants, the engagement process is highly experiential, felt, and mostly-nonverbal. The constellation process accesses information and energy that is beyond our mental conceptions through participants representing the elements, reporting their bodymind experiences with no interpretation, finding their place in the field, and allowing movements to emerge from the field as the representatives interact. -In the June DwD session 22 participants engaged in an experiential “experiment’ around the intention of discovering the sources and flow of money as a systemic cultural issue shared among people self-selecting to be in the field.

Stitched Panorama

Photos by Codrin Talaba

Systemic Constellation Work is a systemic perspective that embraces families and collectives as living systems, with an inner stance of the facilitator being in relation to the “Knowing Field.” SCW holds an extensive body of knowledge including premises, principles and themes based on the understanding that living systems are guided by principles of balance, internal order and exchange. This supports an experiential process and practice that allows for embodied energy and information to be made visible.

After a series of individual and paired constellation exercises that located the sources of money issues within family constellations, a large group process proceeded and evolved into configurations like those in the photographs. In asking the question “Where’s the money?” in two ways “Where’s the money out of need?” and “Where’s the money in the flow?,” the group generated about a dozen different elements to be represented in the field (yang money, alchemical goddess of money, new paradigm money, power, love, sex, purpose, past, future). These were randomly selected by participants and then represented in locations and relationships in a physical mapping of the field.

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The process is quite dynamic, as particpants move in relationship to re revelation of inquiries within the field. The attitude of response is one of “knowing” and is felt as a response from the representation of an identity or issue in the field (people represented the four dimensions of past, future, above and below – but also selected power,  mystery, “yang money,” love, and the new paradigm of money).    Background presentation on Systemic Constellation Work (1Mb PDF).

Reflection from Diana Claire Douglas, as facilitator:

For many months now, I have been hearing “where’s the money?” from almost every individual or group involved with (social) innovation. The DwD group seemed a wonderful opportunity to explore what the Knowing Field could show us about where the money is while introducing the systemic constellation work process.

The first three partner exercises allowed participants to experience what it means to be a representative in the knowing field, through exploring their own relationship with money and the impact of knowing why they wanted money. This was working at the personal and family system level. We moved to working at the collective level when doing the whole-group process. The original question “where’s the money?” became two questions: “where’s the money out of need/fear?” and “where’s the money in the flow?” There were a few surprises while we were doing the process: although both yang and yin money were named as elements to be in the constellation, no one chose to represent yin money, so it was not in the field; and in the middle of the constellation an apparent street person lay down across the outside of the window behind the Past.

The process is dynamic, as the representatives move in relationship to each other, revealing what is missing in the field, what is blocking the energy flow, and what needs to be seen, acknowledged and healed before there is flow in the system. This constellation ended when the Past and Future could see each other, when Love and Sex connected, when missing elements (Patriarchy and Family) were added, when Yang money felt it encompassed the whole field, and when almost all the elements were connected in a line from the Past to the Future.
In the short time we had to constellate such a big issue, we saw many movements and elements coming into alignment with each other…each of these planting a seed in our personal consciousness and the collective consciousness that will eventually emerge and show impact in the world. Afterwards, participants often report being more aware of the shifts they saw happening during the constellation — their perception had opened in a new way — and thus are tuned into what is emerging.

Some have called this work “action inquiry in the causal field!”  And I believe there are several further constellations that could be done emerging from this first constellation asking “where’s the money?” For example: what would happen if we did a constellation just with Yin money and did not have Yang money represented? What might we see when both Yin and Yang money are represented in the same process? What would happen if we explored the “who” of Who-has-the-money? New-paradigm money was not able to connect with Who-has-the-money until a missing element was added (patriarchy). As this element was put at the feet of Power, we could use a constellation to unpack the relationship between New-paradigm money, Power, and Patriarchy.

 

About Diana

DCDheadshotDiana Claire Douglas is a systemic  facilitator, coach and trainer (family, organizational, and social issues), social architect, artist, published author, and explorer of the depths. She is founder of Knowing Field Designs Aligning human systems with Life. She is internationally certified as an Organizational Constellation Work facilitator through the Bert Hellinger Institute of the Netherlands. She is the lead facilitator for systemic constellation work for Integral City and The Hague Centre for Global Governance, Innovation and Emergence, where SCW is used regularly for decision-making, designing creative projects, and team building. She has facilitated constellations at international conferences including INFOSYON conference in Amsterdam, Integral Theory Conference (ITC 2015) in California, and Integral European Conference 2016 in Hungary.  See more at The Knowing Field Issues 19, 22, 26, 27, 28.

Designing Places & Spaces for New Learning

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  • How might Youth Spaces in the education system support student goals and aspirations?
  • What can we do better having learned from observing decades of Toronto’s alternative schools?
  • How might we redesign an educational system that better serves all students and families in the city?

A recent student project in Strategic Foresight & Innovation proposed a system design for new modes of learning for disadvantaged youth in the GTA.  They presented their altSPACES study as a visual story of the social system, with a participatory design dialogue to engage further into these possibilities.

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Kelly

Live sketching by Patricia Kambitsch, Playthink.

LearningPKMural

 

ABOUT THE HOSTS

Aday Sami-Oringbe and Jade Lee Hoy represented the altSPACES team, from OCADU’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation (SFI) program.

Ayomide fondly known as Aday is a designer and engineer with a commitment to user-centered design and flair for project development. Her mission is to inspire growth using design principles. Aday is currently completing her MDes in the SFI program. Prior to SFI, Aday crafted her particular expertise in liaising with multiple Project Managers and project teams, managing multimedia projects, and contributing to the design of the web and print media components.

Jade Lee Hoy is a curious wanderer whose cross-sectoral and international experiences allow for a unique creative perspective. Her work often manifests itself through the creation of spaces, whether it be public space, the creation of a new arts centre, or large scale space activations. She is an active advocate for the power of arts and culture and believes in its ability to make change. She is passionate about building meaningful and innovative partnerships across sectors and cultures. Jade has worked on large scale projects such as the Pan Am Path, Manifesto Community Projects and Festival, and the City of Toronto’s Cultural Hot Spot. Current projects include Dais (new Bell Media film hub), Intent city (summer works festival), and the Lowline (worlds first underground park).

 

 

 

Sustainable Design for Flourishing Fashion

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How do we build trust in a complex multi-stakeholder relationship where the product is based on price?

Apparel matters.  We wear clothes throughout our life, yet little thought is given to modern garment making except for the cost. Despite well-meant laws, international trade policies, and CSR audit reporting, a mistrust gap exists between makers and end users on whether garments are sweatshop-free, endorse fair trade, or are relatively more or less sustainable. The session explored the systems of production and disposal of Catholic school uniforms, which bear a unique responsibility to their buyers to ensure equity and sustainability. Uniforms are mandated and bought by individual families have little say in ensuring that the people who made their clothes have worker equity and safety.

Kelly Okamura organized this design inquiry into sustainable product design held at Nuvango Gallery for the April 2016 DwD.  With a group of 25 particpants and industry stakeholders, we took a deep dive into what she calls Flourishing Fashion. The group explored the problem of how to build product trust and ensure that mandated school uniforms  – first purchased through a tendered bid process that includes CSR policy – are made with worker equity.

Kelly-uniform

Contemporary ethical garment making is difficult and the garment industry is extremely competitive. It’s very hard to make a profit if you do it right – made with worker equity and respect for the planet throughout the entire process. Buying garments in a transparent global market is equally tough when mistrust has been built based on evidence that is hearsay. And for mandated Catholic school uniforms, this make-take relationship compounds when a wearer doesn’t have a choice to vote with their purchasing dollars or mindlessly buy fast fashion.

Don Officer followed up with Kelly with a brief interview following the event.  Kelly describes in her own words what “flourishing fashion” represents:

“Flourishing Fashion addresses the desire to make sell and buy in a modern world where our purchasing choices impact living beings and planet. It addresses a major systemic equilibrium shift that impacts all of us as consumers of goods. In this broad sense, the reference to fashion is not just about clothing but fashion is a reflection of our times. It requires a new systemic understanding for the need to support more 3P (Profit with respect for People and Planet) goods for a finite planet if we want humanity to flourish.”

Q: As far as you know, who accepts and values that notion?

They identify as the fastest growing consumer group – the Aspirationals – who still want to buy ‘fashion’ but want to know their product’s origin and are willing to pay more for products that better align with their ethical values.

Q: Why should we care? 

We all wear clothes and make purchasing choices.  If we all keep buying stuff, consumers responsibility begins with purchasing goods, and we all have to better understand our roles as consumers in the purchasing system.

Q: Did you find the DwD group curious about flourishing fashion?

Since we all consume the immediate understanding is we are all active participants, not observers so the dialogues were engaging even if the wicked problem focused on mandated school uniforms. It was challenging to contain the dialogue and even bring the session to a timely close. The discussion continued after the event with both participants and later with others who expressed interest in future dialogues on the subject but did not attend.

Q: How did they engage on the topic? 

I showed a short film clip to create a personal awareness that most consumers don’t think beyond the price tag about of their purchases. So the attendee engagement was both on a conceptual level with the wicked problem focused on mandated school uniforms as well as on more personal relationships with their clothing.  For example, pointing out other required information on all textile products prompted some attendees to look up information on the clothes they wore to the session.  Stephen, my session collaborator, gained insight on information beyond the price tag, and began looking at clothing in a more informed way even before the DwD session took place.

Q: Did you detect any consensus or streams of thought?

There wasn’t consensus on a solution for the wicked problem presented.  But that’s understandable since our small group dialogues focused on segments of the apparel loop. On reflection, comments noted when we reconvened in full circle, could be encapsulated as a need for transparency. And generally, the take-away was a greater understanding there are no easy answers to establishing trust in global supply chains.  As individuals, attendees recognized more clearly how we are all active consumers in the modern apparel system.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway? 

My biggest take-away was a confirmation that consumers are interested in being more informed about their purchasing choices beyond the price tag. Apparel is a useful metaphor for our consuming habits and validating the high ratio of consumers who are not indifferent to the impact that their purchasing makes once they are informed, matters. I also immediately gained great content for my gooderGoods podcast #14 – Mis-Trust. You can hear it on rabble.ca or on soundcloud.  Note the visual for Mis-Trust was not a piece of clothing but the case of water purchased for the event.

Q: How might FF relate to design thinking? 

Fashion is an applied art. Design thinking is outcome driven vs. purely creative thought.  Often fashion is considered frivolous or on an esthetical level but for most of us, the retail price is a constraint to sell through or textile waste.  And combined with a respect for people and planet make it a wicked problem that is solvable but requires an equilibrium system shift.  Solutions to parts can contribute to the problem but to scale it needs greater accountability throughout the system that includes with consumers. Educating consumers on both their power and how they contribute to keeping the status quo is an important part of creating the shift.  That’s why I’m chasing Flourishing vs. Sustainable Fashion.  We want to continue to make sell and buy desirable products with holistic growth NOT sustain the purchasing process we have now.

Q: Where might the FF transformation come from? 

I love Frances Westley’s insight that change is hard but can also happen in the blink of an eye.  With clothing, it is something that literally touches us daily, and we are generally in control of what we choose to purchase, or not.

 

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See the recent event on Fair Labour and the Living Wage with Kelly Okamura and Auret van Heerden at The Fashion Institute of Technology, March 2016.

 

 

 

Idea Convener – Kelly Okamura 

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Kelly is a product designer and design strategist who is exploring the opportunities for flourishing business thinking in the fast-moving world of fashion and textiles. She is currently investigating the complexity of the purchasing system to provide solutions for transformative change. You can check out her gooderGoods podcasts on conscious consumption at rabble.ca or Soundcloud.

 

The Unintended Power of Silence | Acting in Networks

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By Donald Officer

We have become only too familiar with the overused term “generation gap.” But consider what it might look like if the gap were a chasm with frightful, fatal consequences for those it draws in.

Stephen Sillett primed attendees for that imaginary leap into danger at the March 2016 DwD when he invited us to explore the Networks of Influence model testing dramatizations his team uses in intergenerational communities as distant or diverse as North Eastern South Africa and Ontario’s Niagara Region.

We started with an experiential exercise, a Calabash of constructed fire. During this simulation we were not in real physical danger of course, as we were persuaded to step into the imaginary fire of the “calabash” cauldron, later to stamp out the flames together: An important lesson in trust like many facilitation icebreakers, but also a demonstration of how people become entrapped in collective blind trust in our customary roles.

Several after the fact observations:

  • This ritual brought our attention to how collective activity exerts a magical influence across perceptions of group members.
  • Forgetting the importance of rituals in our own communities, we miss the chance to examine our own customs or beliefs.
  • For instance, as an anthropologist turned Wall Street reporter, Gillian Tett saw the hidden rituals of the finance world tied to mental models and metaphors of how things are and watched how these dominated the risky actions of traders.
  • Culture trumps strategy.

Establishing a positive and workable context for the exploration to occur is key.  After the embodied opening exercise our paired discussions about influence and networks of influence unfolded unfolded more fluidly. Throughout the room you could feel the openness of the conversations – we already shared imagined worlds emerging from a jointly visualized hole in the ground. From that came insights into how we are influenced. Sharing in pairs again, we further reflected on “networks of influence.”

Over the three hours we spent together in OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) the roughly two dozen participants learned even more about dramatic enactment and the purpose of “Clean Language.” Clean Language (first presented in a session on Non-Directive Inquiry Stephen and Peter delivered), is a revealing form of unbiased speaking that strips away implicit judgments or unintended critical undertones that function to shut down communications in sensitive situations where pride, unspoken expectation and taboo are subtly, but often dangerously, in play. (Clean Language is a technique that originates from psychotherapy and coaching to help clients discover and develop symbols and metaphors without being influenced by the phrasing of a question.)

As the group began to edge into its own experiential learning circle, Stephen developed the contexts in which the trust fostering tools he was talking about were introduced by his team in the early days of their South African experience. Picture sub Saharan Africa just after the turn of this century. Almost everywhere communities had been hit hard by AIDS. Orphaned children were raised by their grandparents; whole communities were decimated.

Into a rural corner of Northern South Africa the Aiding Dramatic Change in Development group (ADCID) of which Stephen is now co-executive director, with his partner Jennifer Jimenez, humbly offered to help with the CrossGEN: Connecting across Age and Culture project. And humility was appropriate considering the wicked problem they faced. In that particular neighbourhood, young men felt pressure to father a child by 19 in order to be a man, and teenage pregnancy was very high. Marriage would be the focus of the plan except a young man with no cattle to offer the prospective bride’s family would never be groom material. A series of droughts and perpetual poverty meant that bar would stay too high for most of marrying age. Everyone looked the other way as young people routinely had unprotected sex with the aim of creating life even as they ran the risk of premature death.

Shame, guilt, fear and frustration shut down desperately needed intergenerational conversations between parents and adolescents before trust, acceptance and dialogue could be kindled. Why are such discussions avoided when so much is at stake? Ironically, it may be fear of the consequences of conflict.  unfortunately,  positions can’t be changed when they can’t be discussed. To make things worse, the rumor mill started up when suspicions spread that the HIV virus had been secretly inserted by authorities to contaminate the condom supply – one more destructive legacy of the apartheid era.

CrossGen

 

Networks of influence form in communities around the globe. They can be toxic barriers or powerful tools for intergenerational bonding depending on what is spoken or not spoken. How does ADCID bring parties and stakeholders to the point of transformation from negative to positive forces? In Southern Ontario, the problems and issues faced by yet another generational divide also presented gaps and taboos. As in Africa, trust building through multiple arts and dramatic mediums to reimagine community and connection opened eyes and hearts in the Niagara Region. Stephen and Jennifer’s transformation process seems to be transferable and repeatable.

The pictures and diagrams taken from Stephen’s work with ADCID illustrate the ingenuity that can be engaged to weave positive bonds of intergenerational communications while replacing the unspoken obstacles of the silent status quo. Note the mix of tools, institutions and media in the central Canada version of the CrossGEN: Connecting Across Age and Culture project diagram.

As often happens at DwD events, attendees brought their own broad swath of professional backgrounds to the session. Designers, health professionals, facilitators, marketing specialists, strategic foresight students and forecasters counted themselves in. Something about the process is contagious. Conversations energized as three hours flew by. Experiential learning works.