Grounding Practices that Enable Emergence in Dialogue

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Design and engagement practitioners have adopted mindfulness approaches to large group participation recently, that help participants move from “heady” intellectual interactions to more embodied states of presence and awareness. Perhaps the most well-known approach is that of Theory U (Presencing), which has been applied in a huge range of process contexts, including in the 2015 Unify Toronto series.

Stephen Sillett and Jenny Jimenez  present insights into the thinking behind how this work is informed by dialogic design practice in long term community development. They explored:

How can we quickly enable diverse groups of participants to gain trust in their engagement and go deeper? (Using approaches appropriate to the people, place and purpose.)

How might we facilitate participants to feel both free and grounded, through emergent embodiment?

What would help support each of us to risk approaching the Edge of what we know, or to enter into an unknown area of inquiry?

 

Stephen Sillett shared theory and practice behind the “Come to the Edge” performance they coordinated in Belgium last month. Jennifer shared how this approach relates to developments in the disability arts movement and the shifting relationship to time. This involves grounding practices, but also practices that help people become transport to other realities, and involves crossing different types of thresholds.

The DwD engaged approaches to enable free exploration and collective trust and comfort to be achieved through intentional process design. We will share situations where we (ADCID) have helped participants with complex disabilities who can feel burden with frustration at their situation, and resigned to a state of endurance. We have developed different approaches for these contexts, which have adaptations from actor training, and mental space psychology.

Working with pre-verbal approaches, and metaphorical representations of burdens, we found major impact on communities who use alternative and augmentative communication. These can be used in the design of other dialogic engagements, and also for activities seeking to use dialogue as part of participatory design methodologies.

Several exercises were used to open up participants to deeper engagement:

  • Chairs and Tables – exercise that uses a simple spectrogram followed by metaphorical objects which become psychoactive and which the group can bond as we unburden
  • Passing the energy – exercise that opens up individuals and establishes a group dynamic.
  • David Grove’s Clean Space – deeper engagement around an outcome

 

About the Presenters

Jennifer Jimenez has a background as a scenographer, theatre-maker, and arts educator. She seeks artistic projects rooted in devised collaborative processes where all elements can play an active role in creation. This can take the form of integrating lighting and design into the rehearsal and creation process, working with community members to create a performance piece or devising an audience interactive piece, where those present are actively involved in meaning making. She has participated in training workshops in collaborative creation with Ariane Mnouchkine’s Teatre Du Soleil, and in Image and Forum Theatre facilitation at the Centres for the Theatre of The Oppressed in London, Toronto, and New York. Jenny has a Masters in Devised Theatre Creation from Central School of Speech and Drama in London, UK, and a BFA and BEd from York University.  She has taught drama and visual arts in the Ontario Secondary School system and in the UK.

Jenny Jimenez and Stephen Sillett are co-directors of ADCID (Aiding Dramatic Change in Development), where they facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. Through ADCID projects and in partnership with other social actors, they explore approaches that engage community members in conversations, consciously orientated to maturing visions of the future. Research interests include the facilitation of non-verbal and spatial meaning-making practices within group workshop and the creation of interactive performance. They direct the InFusion Labs process where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.

 

Decolonizing Futures through Storytelling

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OCAD SFI grad student Pupul Bisht presented the October DwD on exploring storytelling to decolonize foresight methods. Pupul’s research in OCADU’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation program critiques and redefines futures methods by inquiring into cross-cultural and indigenous futures thinking.

Pupul explores several questions in the workshop:

  • How might storytelling work as a tool for inclusion of non-western perspectives in foresight?
  • How might we make futures methodology pluralistic, and hence more inclusive?
  • Who owns images of the future? Can stories help reveal these power structures?
  • How do different cultural epistemologies of time & future affect the ability of a community to participate in the current foresight design process?
  • How do different cultures visualize progress?

Different cultures around the world have diverse future temporalities and distinct ways of thinking about the future. In the Confucian worldview the future can be in the future as well as the past, so can it be in the Hindu and Buddhist worlds. The concept of time in these cultures is such that one can view the future in or from the past. This cyclic concept of time is often not included in foresight explorations, as most tools and frameworks used by practitioners visualize time as a linear entity, expressed “horizontally.”

This Design with Dialogue workshop was part of Pupul’s major research project in the SFI program, and  designed around exploration of the above mentioned questions in multidisciplinary teams of experts in foresight, storytelling and non-western perspectives. Through this dialogic workshop we will try to identify underlying cultural values, worldviews and assumptions that shape the current methods and theories in futures discourse. We will conclude with a generative session where we will explore practical frameworks that could be used to make the discipline more inclusive.

From this workshop, you can expect to:

  • Gain a better understanding of the epistemological limitations of the current futures discourse
  • Explore scope for intervention in multidisciplinary teams
  • Learn new methods and expand your foresight vocabularies and toolkits

Join us if you are interested in exploring ways to open the foresight process to non-western ways of knowing, doing and being through storytelling. This workshop will be an interesting opportunity to co-create frameworks at the intersection of Foresight, Storytelling and Decolonization

About the Presenter

Pupul is an Indian designer with deep passion for exploring cultural plurality in contemporary design practices.  With a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design from National Institute of Design, India Pupul moved to Toronto last year to pursue her Master’s in the OCAD Strategic Foresight and Innovation program. She is conducting this workshop as part of her Major Research Project. Her thesis explores the intersection of cultural foresight, storytelling and epistemological pluralism.

With a belief that the stories we tell of our pasts shape our futures, Pupul wants to dedicate her multi-disciplinary creative practice to uncovering narratives of alternative histories and desirable futures that otherwise lie in mundane yet under-explored nooks of our everyday world. Through the tool of storytelling she hopes to move foresight outside organizational confines and engage in mass-dialogue about our collective futures as a civilization.

Worldbuilding: A Workshop on Shared Futuring

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The first of two foresight workshops presented by Strategic Foresight and Innovation students was held in September with Maheen Zaidi sharing a methodology being proposed for long-horizon transition design and collaborative scenario thinking. Her workshop engaged about 30 participants in exploring futures through worldbuilding and narrative visioning practices. She organized the session around three inquiries:

  • Can the resurgence of science fiction narratives help us create a better society and social systems?
  • How can worldbuilding help us in designing practices for community and large system transition?
  • Can we combine worldbuilding and foresight practices such as backcasting to better inform social system design?

Over the past few years, an ongoing battle for the future of science fiction has plagued the literary community, and the crux of the problem was this: the genre was undergoing social change to better reflect the world’s diverse values and voices, and not everyone agreed that it should. Not only was this conflict a missed signal for the resurgence of social populism (and the Trump presidency), it raised concerns about who and what is informing society’s visions of the future, and what the implications of those visions are.

Though we can find science fiction at the root of most (if not all) of our technological accomplishments, it does not inspire society to adopt the moral and ethical lessons it imparts. As a result, we’re captivated by Orwell’s telescreens and Crichton’s Jurassic Park, but fail to act upon their warnings about mass surveillance or unchecked entrepreneurship. So where is the disconnect? Why is science fiction not leading the charge on informing transition and systemic design?

This Design with Dialogue workshop will introduce a model that tests if science fiction narratives and practices can help build better systems. The workshop will include an exercise that examines the fictional worlds in stories such as 1984 and Brave New World. We’ll also use the model to imagine a new society with more sustainable systems that are designed with a civilizational timescale in mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Host

Maheen Zaidi

Maheen is co-founder of The Innovation Shop, a design consultancy in Toronto. She specializes in strategic foresight, transition design, and narrative design. She is completing a Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation from OCAD University, and has an Honours Bachelor of Business Administration from York University. Her thesis explores the intersection of civilizational foresight, transition design, and science fiction.

A staunch believer that language is a critical medium of design and that foresight should be ambient, Maheen is a science fiction writer. In her previous life, she was a marketing executive who worked with multi-nationals, startups, and scale-ups to build brand equity.

 

 

The Alpha Expression Workshop

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DwD often hosts more open-ended, playful learning workshops in the summer months. For August we hosted Dexter Ico, well known as a video coach, with his Alpha Expression workshop. The experience we explored together:
Can we be self-expressed on demand? 

The promise: Discover your capacity to be yourself with others, on stage, on camera, on demand.

Dexter Ico has been coaching people from all walks of life to hold presence in unnerving situatins – the stage and video camera in particular – working with stand-up comedy, theatre, improve, and vlogging to gain presence and assurance. Earlier developments of his workshop were known as “Practice makes Practice.” Join Dexter and Design with Dialogue in this August session to safely explore the range and experience of you ability to hold presence with grace and focus, pushing the ranges of vocal and physical expression to learn from touching these boundaries in a safe environment. Dexter calls this form of over-acting the “alpha expression.”

Exercises were descriptively named following the impulse being explored. The following photos of community members show “Exaggerated Alpha” and some from “Expert Voice.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of us stage-shy, hyper-rational, modestly-composed speakers learned how to swing out and push the edges of self-expression and speech performance in the workshop. Of course, as only a 2.5 hour workshop there was only so much direct coaching available for the over 20 participants in the OCADU Auditorium. This was a first experience for many of this opportunity and even at that initial stage, was experienced as a personal breakthrough by many.

 

ABOUT THE GUEST HOST
My name is Dexter Ico. I have a knack for coaching people. I’ve helped kids to CEO’s, actors land TV shows, and held one-off talk shows. As a video producer, I interview and direct people all the time, encouraging the expression of that intuitive alpha in everyone.

 

“The Alpha is being yourself to an extreme, in your essence, wanting to engage with others, like children do.  It’s about empowering who you already are through playful exercises and interactive dialogue. The key component? A sense of play.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deliberating on Values in Digital Democracy

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The July DwD hosted a mixed group of designers, curious citizens and community activists to engage in the inquiry and workshop Exploring Values in Digital Democracy. The primary purpose of the workshop was to explore questions of values and positions openly to inform the design of the Nova Agora prototype and contribute to new model of digital citizenship.  The focal questions for the session were:

  • How might we better address policy disputes through citizen-led democratic practices?
  • How can we deliberate in democratic processes through sharing values?
  • How can we better employ “digital citizenship” to understand values commitments we may share in common?

Rationale. Today, adherents of mainstream political parties are unable to even speak with one another about issues of critical importance to their collective futures. Policy controversies, such as debates on globalization, abortion, or immigration, have polarized to become intractable disputes.  A lack of diversity or mobility, filter bubbles, social media echo chambers, and targeted advertising amplify this polarization. Digital feedback reinforces entrenched positions. Then, the more positions polarize, the more a simple policy controversy moves towards policy conflict and ruptured public discourse.

Approach. Jenny Whyte and Natalija Fischer facilitated July’s DwD with a workshop, a process and prototype. They presented Nova Agora, a citizen’s digital service and research platform, designed as a peacebuilding tool to deconstruct policy disputes by reframing how issues are expressed and interpreted, from positions to values, thereby facilitating connection, catharsis, and understanding.

The workshop was open for any citizens interested in fostering respectful discourse, self-awareness, and moral based reasoning. Participants engaged in several activities designed to draw out and deliberate on the values important in political decision making (specifically the set advocated by Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind from moral foundations theory). Values and political positions were explored through dialogue, embodied acting, and small group work.

 

Patricia Kambitsch sketched the summaries and process as seen in the final story map.   (Click to enlarge)

 

People were asked to visit the Nova Agora site in advance of the session and take the survey on positions or the survey on values.  Both of these resources remain open and available for others to review and the design team would welxome further feedback and insights on the process.

Nova Agora Team

Natalija Fisher  – natalija@nasagora.org, MSc Water Resources Management, UNESCO-IHE

Natalija has worked on freshwater protection across government, non-profits, and start-up systems.  Internationally, she facilitates youth inclusion at global events like the Budapest Water Summit and the World Water Forum.

Most recently, Natalija has launched two peace-building initiatives.

 

 

 

Jenny Whyte – jenny.c.whyte@gmail.com, Strategic Foresight and Innovation, MDes

Using the design tools learned in the SFI program she aims to tackle wicked with a human-centered approach.

She is currently winding up to defend her thesis exploring how better understanding ‘the self’ might encourage social change.