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.
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).
How can we engage in difficult conversations in a way that is productive, satisfying, and even FUN?
How can we open ourselves to learn something new about the other person’s perspective?
What is the difference between a response and a reaction?
Lauren Stein presented an interactive, experiential exploration of “difficult conversations” at November’s DwD, engaging about 30 people in playful ways to approach these conversations – expressed as speaking and listening to concerns about criticism, personal emotions, relationships, money, and fears. Using the tools and experiences of improvisational theatre, Lauren showed us how to slow down conversations to separate reactions from responses. The goal of experiential learning was to identify and use internal information, both intellectual and emotional, to construct respectful responses rather than triggered or knee-jerk reactions.
Lauren emphasized the philosophy of “Yes/And” as a relational tool, a way to stay on the same side of the other person, even if we disagree about a particular issue. The exercises – from opening circle to improvisational conversation theatre – all reinforced the importance of an open and curious attitude.
From the very start, the OCADU Auditorium was buzzing with discussions, from the introductions, to paired exchanges into questions, to exercises exhausting the imaginative space of asking questions.
Some participants were asked deep questions and discovered things they did not know about themselves. People learned and took home new games for conversational exploration, such as the Curiosity Game and the Questions Game (based on the idea of asking your partner about anything you’re curious about). One couple even reportedly resolved a personal dispute just by using the improv principle of “Yes, And.”
The final exercise involved volunteer demonstrations of improvised conversations between participants acting out scenes drawn from their own feeling states.
Here two DwD participants, Hobeen and Peter improvise an emotional exchange between a worn-out boxer and his coach, both struggling with the will to win and the meaning of the match. Lauren skillfully set up the pair to adopt postures and positions, wait for the impulse, and to create the context and conversation as it emerged.
Lauren reminds us that sometimes the highest we can achieve from a difficult conversation is to understand the other person’s point of view and remain respectful.
About the Host
Lauren Stein is director of Laurentina’s Improv Club, where she performs and facilitates improvisational theatre experiences. She has taught and performed all over the world, including Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Ireland, and Switzerland. With a Master’s in Expressive Arts Therapy from European Graduate School, she helps people awaken their creativity and overcome life’s hurdles through play.
Stephen Sillett facilitated a contextual drama activity with 5 brave and generous DwD volunteers to explore the theme of “team communication and synergy”. The drama activity also provided a safe opportunity to develop characters who could input data into a software visualisation tool called Team Sociomapping. Stephen came across Sociomapping in 2010 and contacted Pauline Willis to learn more about it’s potential application. In 2011, he visited the offices of QED Group in Prague, whose founder Radvan Bahbouh developed Sociomapping – during that trip, Pauline Willis provided an opportunity for participants from a Scenofest workshop, to visit the QED Group offices and unpack their group interactions using an early form of Sociomapping software. Since then Stephen has been looking at ways to bring Sociomapping and other visualisation tools into his practice, and learning from organisational development practitioners that specialise in team dynamics.
Background: thoughts on session theme
How do we observe and intervene in the way groups interact?
How can we help organizations and teams improve their performance while relying less on top-down, command and control approaches?
When we look at dialogue between members of a small-medium size team, we may think that discussions are more about task type, resources, skills and goals. However, there are softer, less tangible group dynamics at play which can have significant impact on performance. The way that members of such groups interact, and the team dynamics at play, particularly when groups are separated by time and space, can be difficult to probe, monitor and make sense of.
The Sociomapping tool, has key utility in looking at changes in team/group dynamics over a time frame of months. For the purpose of the session we will use participatory drama simulations of groups, so that we can compress time, and explore how dynamics of groups can change through a couple of scenario interventions that our actors will represent. Stephen Sillett led our DwD group through what I many think of as a simulation workshop in which a team of performers played out a ‘set of scenarios’ involving a project a corporate publication team was assigned to complete. Stephen referred to the scenario as in terms of being a Contextual Drama session, and asked those attending the workshop to imagine that they are looking in on the action much like a fishbowl. This contrast to the normal way we think of theatre, where we are an audience watching a performance that has been designed with the audience in mind. In this “Contextual Drama”, the team in the scenario comprised of a millennial junior designer (Patricia), an efficiency-driven IT Lead (Tim), a new production team team leader (Kelly), a perfectionist Graphic Designer (Lauren), and their hyper-competitive Head of Sales and Marketing (Geoff).
Session Reflections from Farzad Sedghipour
The first part of the exercise was for the audience to identify one of the characters in the scene and follow them on their journey, looking at their relational perspective. In doing so they would see ‘what was happening’ from an outsider’s perspective, and reflect what we might have done were we involved in similar situations ourselves.
Photo by Farzad Sedghipour
What became noticeable for me observing the team simulation was how siloed and self-centered each team member was, and how in obsessing about their own interests and the project deliveries assigned, they missed the bigger picture and the relationships needed for the team to accomplish its collective goals. The story of ‘The Blind Men and the Elephant’ came to mind. This team was actually less than the sum of its parts – a team scenario I admittedly have been a player in more often than I would like to admit. This simulation reminded me that in times of such frustration with team (under) performance, it is important to seek to acknowledge my frustrations, take personal responsibility for having played a role in creating them, and to seek to understand the points of view of my other teammates’, instead of running to conclusions about their intentions and competencies.
Visualisation with Team Sociomapping
After the theatre scenarios were complete, every team member was asked to two questions: 1) to rank how ‘mutually positive’ their relationship had been with each colleague? and 2) how happy were they with the position they had at work?
These results were then visualized through the Sociomapping tool, which showed a sort of topographic ‘map like’ illustration of how each member connected with their fellow teammates, providing each member a view of how they themselves were perceived by the other members of their team.
For us the purpose of the Visualization tool was not diagnostic per say, but as a sense-making tool; it was proposed that instead of analyzing the results, the team members stand up and play out the their places with respect to each other on the floor, as the Socio-map illustrated on the computer screen.
We found this approach helpful in taking us away from ‘analytical judgement’ towards opening the space for understanding and co-creation. For example, the IT Lead could voice “I really hate that I’m so far from the New Project Manager and wish we could have a better relationship together.”
This interest-led approach opened up the space for authentic inquiry into the obstacles that had created distances between team members, and how the team could overcome these challenges in the future – connecting each team member’s point of view to see the whole elephant. This process would enable the team to design ‘interventions’ from within the group itself that might benefit the group’s behaviour and dynamic, and run them for 1-month intervals before re-assessing to evaluate if the intervention had been successful at helping the team develop, with the goal of becoming greater than the sum of their parts.
Suggested areas of further research included ways to ensure team members felt safe in answering the Socio-mapping questionnaire truthfully, and ways to explore power dynamics and how they might be addressed with the help of this tool.
About the Host and explorers/actors
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. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.
The actors in the team were Patricia Kambitsch, Tim Lloyd, Geoff Foulds, Lauren Stein, Kelly Okamura. Pam Patel stepped into the scenario as a disruptor character, but was not mapped as part of the team dynamics.
If you see potential for such teams development in your areas of practice please email Stephen.
Michael Jones and Michelle Holiday presented an exploration of regenerative leadership based on their living systems model on Sept 9. Engaging nearly 40 participants in a close circle, Michelle started off with a cycle of connections and engagement. The context was set to explore questions of engaged leadership, including:
What new ways of thinking and seeing are needed within the many participatory organizing structures that are emerging?
How can we integrate living systems principles as we explore the leadership that is needed now in our organizations and communities?
What are our new practice grounds – spaces and times of shared learning, renewal and relationship that deepen our connection with both people and place?
Michelle presented a core case story of their developmental work with the Montreal museum organization now known as Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life), a project which combined the Botanical Gardens, Planetarium, Biodome and Insectarium into a new biosciences museum group. As an evolving living system organization, the results of the journey are impressively real in the growing value the new combined museums have to the regional and scientific communities.
Michael Jones shared his stories, dialogue and music over the course of the evening, including insights from the four-step model in his book, The Soul of Place. The two revealed their combined four timeless patterns that shape all living, creative, expressive systems. We worked in small groups to find and share how these four patterns emerged in our own leadership work in the context of regenerative living organizations.
Michelle’s four patterns were drawn from years of study and development of living, biological systems. The nature of life “itself” is represented by four classic patterns that describe any non-mechanical system:
1. The parts, components, divergent members of a living context.
2. Their relationships with one another, how they connect and create new patterns.
3. Their convergence as a whole system, a unitary holon with its own wholeness of identity and distinct form.
4. The self-integration of life as an animating force that imbues a living system with its vitality.
Underlying the four patterns is a deep connection with place. Any living system is rooted in and nourished by the place where it grows, and we and our organizations and communities are no exception. Michael presented his four patterns from The Soul of Place, and through his stories of relationship with place, music and practice, and his own life, he showed how his four patterns connect neatly to the living system:
1. Homecoming, or the pattern of return of individuals to a place of recognition or home.
2. Belonging, the making of relationships among ourselves.
3. Regenerativity, the creative practice of leadership and acknowledgement of one’s role and source, form a place.
4. Carnival, transformative celebration, the expression of shared vitality (life) and possibility.
We explored the areas of practice offering the most fertile soil for these new possibilities to take root. A series of questions prompted exercises to reflect in small groups on possible applications and starting points.
What are (or could be) your practices for sensing and supporting what life calls for? What practice grounds are needed?
What do you feel called to steward? what could that look like, given the 4 patterns we explored?
Where do you see regenerative leadership coming ever more vibrantly to life? What is being done? How are the patterns present and cultivated?
What kind of greenhouse or Solarium do we need to create to cultivate regenerative leadership in ourselves and our communities?
The four phases of the evening’s session are described in Patricia Kambitsch’s sketch of the dialogue. Here the imagery moves from left to right, from the participant’s experiences in “feeling most alive” to the discussion of patterns and relationships in living systems (creating conditions for life to thrive) to the sets of patterns, and final dialogue.
About the Hosts
Michael Jones is a leadership educator, dialogue facilitator, writer and Juno-nominated pianist/composer. His most recent book, The Soul of Place, is the third in a series on Re-imagining Leadership. Others in the series include Artful Leadership and the award-winning Creating an Imaginative Life. Michael has also been a thought leader with the MIT Dialogue Project and Dialogos and other prominent leading edge universities and centres.
He has co-chaired several place-based initiatives and spoken on the leader’s emerging role as placemaker in a variety of forums including The Authentic Leadership in Action Conferences (ALIA), The Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) and many others. As a pianist/composer Michael has composed and recorded fifteen CD’s of his original piano compositions and performed as a solo pianist across North America as well as Korea and Japan. He has been integrating his music in his leadership and dialogue work for over twenty years. See www.pianoscapes.com to learn more about Michael and his work.
Michelle Holliday is a facilitator, organizational consultant, researcher and writer. Her work centers around “thrivability” — a set of perspectives, intentions and practices based on a view of organizations as living systems. To this end, she brings people together and helps them discover ways they can feel more alive, connect more meaningfully with each other, and serve life more powerfully through their work. This generally takes the form of designing and hosting transformative events, as well as delivering talks and workshops. Michelle also writes regularly, including a forthcoming book, The Age of Thrivability. Her research is summarized in a slideshow called Humanity 4.0, as well as in a TEDx presentation.
How do we make sense of the lifecycles in our individual lives, organizations, and systems?
How might we act and respond to ongoing change in ways that support individual and organizational resiliency?
August’s DwD was hosted by Vanessa Reid, with a session exploring the ways in which we make sense of the change in our personal and organizational lives.
Drawing from concepts of the Panarchy cycle, Vanessa worked with participants to discover how cycles of living and dying can help us to better understand the ways in which our actions can support or hinder transitional phases in our personal and organizational lives.
We explored the fears and disturbances that come up in transitions – such as “not-knowing”, uncertainty, grief, and chaos, to find how these can be leadership skills that we can hone. The group explored the nature of “practice leadership” for our individual and collective transitions, and translate concepts and models into a living practice.
Vanessa and Chris Lee working the floor at Lambert Lounge. The ecocycle loop sketch is taking shape at Vanessa’s feet on the floor.
About the Host
Vanessa Reid is the co-founder of Living Wholeness Institute, which works with citizens, teams, organizations and social movements around the globe on initiatives that are transforming broken systems and creating new, deeply sustainable social realities. She is the former executive director of Montreal’s Santropol Roulant, an innovative non-profit working with food and intergenerational relationship as a catalyst for social change. As the executive publisher of ascent magazine and timeless books, she co-created an organizational process of conscious closure, and stewards many end-of-life processes with people, families and systems.
Most recently, she has been living and working in Greece and the Middle East where the contexts of systemic collapse is asking citizens to respond in fundamentally new ways. She is a co-founder of the SIZ (Systemic Innovation Zone – Greece) working with citizens and groups towards new forms of participation and democracy, through the Art of Participatory Leadership. She co-created the practice grounds for social innovation labs including the Finance Innovation Lab and Tasting the Future-UK.
Design with Dialogue (DwD) is an open Toronto-based community of practice for learning and developing co-creation practices for community and organizational transformation. We hold dialogues as a space for shared inquiries that welcome all viewpoints.
DwD has the ultimate purpose of facilitating change and meaningful action in our organizations, communities, collaborative projects and as individuals. We learn and play together through participatory design, strategic dialogue, creative arts and emerging facilitation methods.
DwD is coordinated by: PETER JONES
OCAD University Strategic Foresight & Innovation, Managing partner at Redesign Network
With stewardship from Stephen Sillett and support from OCADU and community leaders.