November 2014 DwD hosted over 25 participants. After introductions, Stephen Sillett cleared the space and everyone got on their feet and we positioned ourselves on a simple Spectrogram an enormously versatile and usable Action Sociometry method. Think of the spectrogram as a graph on the floor, in this case, one end represented being very comfortable participating in the session and the other end representing, not at all comfortable. We were invited to stand in the position that best represented how we felt at that moment. We then starting a drama activity, with the whole group milling around the room, shifting our attention from the spaces opening up on the floor and stepping into them, to the other bodies in the room and finally to greeting the faces of the other participants as they moved around the room. We continued milling, and we started to follow 2 people in the room, we then attempted to place ourselves equidistant between the 2 people we were following, and slowing down until the group came to a stable arrangement. This was a interesting activity, with shifts in dynamics. After the activity, all the participants reflected on the experience by again positioning ourselves on a the simple Spectrogram again and seeing how if there were shifts, or similarities in how comfortable we felt about participating.
We then shifted into some exercises from the world of physical theatre, looking at how personal and social space relates to perceptions of power, and how we interact with that in non-verbal ways. While exploring these activities, participants were asked to stay alive to the experience, and reflect on the how this may relate to engaging people more fully in community conversations.
Part 1. Shared inquiry: How can we involve people more fully in Community Dialogue?
Next, participants split into break-out groups, and a shared inquiry into what it might mean to bring the “whole person” into community dialogue began. This raised questions about definitions of the “whole person”. Does this mean the physical and mental aspects? What are the other aspects, that could/should be included in this?
We then formed a large circle to share the points raised in the shared inquiry, here are a few:
- How cultural aspects of the person always exist during our engagement – either visibly or invisibly.
- Values are always present at some level during our community engagement.
- Challenges exist in online communications, as this limits how much the “whole person” can be engaged in group conversations.
- We always marginalise certain aspects of ourselves when we engage, and this changes in different contexts.
- A state in which the “whole person” is engaged, can never be fully attained.
- Body scanning and meditation practice, can help bring the body into the space, and deepen engagement.
We ended this part of the session creating a Locogram, another Action Sociometry exercise (see The Living Stage for more info.). Participants engaged the exercise by reflecting on a particular situation, during which they were trying to deepen conversations. They then positioned themselves relative to a central point in the room, having done this we created body images to convey our thoughts and emotions from recounting that experience. This exercise was not unpacked, as we needed to take a break and prepare for part 2 of the session.
Summary: Part 1 of session helped participants experience:
- Approaches that build community trust and release communication barriers.
- Multiple perspectives regards how we engage with each other.
- Two simple yet powerful, Action Sociometry methods
Part 2. Strategic Action Fields
While the first part of the session worked through established methods, the 2nd involved Interactive Scenography, an innovation that Stephen and ADCID have been working on in their InFusion Lab sessions. For this part, participants were invited to take a performative journey, into a single Strategic Action Field (SAF) of their choosing. This was a personal journey, with others present and simultaneously creating their SAF at the same time. There was no external audience for this performative act, everyone was participating in the creation and exploration process. Participants created their field, explored it, and looked to discover what this may mean to them. Photo elicitation and fabric was used to help each participant to individually enter into a dialogue with the space, and generate a landscape of understanding. This was a shallow dive into what would normally be a longer, even multi-day process.
The goals for this final activity was more open. One outcome was that the activity provided an experimental insight into working with this emerging process. Another was to give a sense of ADCID’s approach to complex work across Fields of Strategic Action, and spark insights among those present. Stephen would like to thank all those who took the plunge into this activity, and appreciates all the feedback received after the session from members of the DwD community.
Background: Through his years of practice in international development and collaborating with local community-based organizations, Stephen and ADCID have found these processes very useful. They have been used to shift the relationships and dynamics that local Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) have with marginalised populations they serve. When working on projects in Africa and Canada, Stephen finds this depth of group inquiry to be particularly relevant to long-term, capacity focussed projects..
About the Host
Stephen Sillett is co-executive director of Aiding Dramatic Change in Development (ADCID), and helps the organization research, facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. Through ADCID projects and in partnership with other social actors, he is exploring 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. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.
ADCID’s community-driven approach, has evolved over 10 years in rural South Africa through:
- Peer Influence workshops in Schools across Ingwavuma, South Africa – supported by Health Canada
- Water and Sanitation project in rural South Africa supported by Oxfam Australia . Large-Group community dialogue and reflective Inquiry process using Socio-Drama Topography.
ADCID has also been focussing on 2 areas of engagement with communities in Canada.
- CrossGEN: Connecting across Age and Culture. Connecting newcomers with long-term residents to form networks that can inform service provision and innovate ways to deepen interactions in our public spaces. Supported by Ontario Trillium Foundation.
- Imagining Possibilities a project with communities with communication and complex physical disabilities to participate in a community arts journey and engage with others through story creation and performance. Supported by Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council.