Category Archives: Masters Workshop

Barefoot Facilitation | Kate Sutherland

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Author and facilitation expert Kate Sutherland presented Barefoot Facilitation at April’s DwD. Guided by appreciative interviews and dialogue questions, participants explored the landscape of facilitating where needs emerge, unbidden, for the benefit of groups and organizations we might serve.


Humans are going through a massive transitional period. This “Great Turning” is calling for collective intelligence, collective wisdom and collective capacity as never before. We are being asked to revolutionize how we work together.

Barefoot facilitators are to professional facilitators what paramedics are to doctors: a person with a basic and versatile toolkit and enough savvy to skillfully support what is needed 80% of the time, and for a fraction of the cost.

Kate is inspired by the “barefoot doctors” of revolutionary China. In the mid-60s, there was little access to medical care in rural areas, and not enough resources to supply fully trained doctors. Instead, 30,000 villagers were trained in basic Western and Chinese medicine — enough to treat common ailments, and to share information about hygiene, family planning, and prevention of epidemics.

They were called “barefoot doctors” because when they weren’t tending to basic medical needs, these people continued to farm barefoot in the rice paddies along side their neighbours. This important innovation rapidly revolutionized health outcomes in rural China.

By analogy, we do not have resources or capacity to supply professional facilitators to all the meetings and group endeavours supporting the great shifts underway. There are, however, thousands of people in all walks of life already up-skilling their ability to facilitate deep and lasting change in the human systems of which they are a part.

Questions we explored included the following:

  • What shifts in perspective will greatly enhance your effectiveness in groups?

  • What ways of being are like secret sauce for what you are doing?
  • What organizational theories are most helpful for a “barefoot facilitator” toolkit?
  • How can we grow a movement of barefoot facilitators who help each other  with supporting the groups of which they are a part?

Visual recording by Charlotte Young. Thanks also to Natalie Zend for facilitation support, and Patricia for the sketchnotes.

About Kate:

Kate Sutherland is an author and social entrepreneur who helps change agents and social benefit initiatives be more innovative and effective. As a consultant, trainer and coach, she has helped hundreds of leaders and organizations be more nimble, resilient and aligned with their core purpose.

Kate is the author of Make Light Work in Groups: 10 Tools to Transform Meetings, Companies and Communities, and Make Light Work: 10 Tools for Inner Knowing. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and teenaged daughter. For more about Kate, see

“We already have proven solutions to our toughest social challenges. Our bigger challenge is working together to scale them for wider benefit. Kate’s latest book is a precious resource for those looking to improve how they work not only with allies but also with opponents and strangers.”

– Al Etmanski, Co-chair of BC Partners for Social Impact

On Building Culture through Participatory Design

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Guest post by Leah Snyder of Mixed Bag Mag

When Gelareh Saadatpajouh, Programs Coordinator at Toronto Design Offsite set out to facilitate Design with Dialogue’s TO DO session she decided to have our group explore, as she puts it:

“Design processes, where plurality of indeterminate factors is approached together and in an ongoing manner, and where designers become adept in handling the growing complexity in both materials of their craft and their position in the world.”

Increasingly designers are being called upon to search their souls in order to create with meaning. In a world exhausted by consumer culture and in desperate need of cultural revision we as designers can play a key role. As Gelareh got us up and activated with an exercise where we mimed our way of working it was clear why design thinking is so adaptable across platforms, disciplines and cultures. For as many people as were in the room there was a different design process. As we later shared our revelations from watching each other I realized that my own design process is also adaptable to where I am in my life’s journey and can shift when I have a renewed way of interacting with my world.


For over a decade my creation happened in isolation. Working with clients to design promotional tools and branding strategy there would be a two-way dialogue with the client after which I would go inside to then create something that would ultimately reach out. After another exercise where we were directed to find a design process action then go out into the group with that action to mingle I realized that my process has radically shifted. Now my first step is to reach out. I start by engaging in multi-directional dialogue, sometimes with other designers, but more often than not those dialogues are with people from many different walks of life. Sometimes those dialogues occur at street corners, even with strangers. I design as I walk, I process as I talk.

More and more I see others who design programs or products, ad campaigns or architecture instinctively, like me, reach out first as the point from which to start. As Design Week in Toronto demonstrated there is a community expanding around the questions “What is design?” and “Can we as designers contribute to modeling a new type of world?”. The idea of the collective is now being understood as the base from which we need to grow ideas. At a time when we require it the most the spirit of collaboration has motivated designers into taking more radical positions. The result –  fertile ground in which we see new materials and new models rapidly sprout.

For the last part of the workshop Gelareh had us break out into small groups “guided by a designer who shared something of their design, resulting in new “artifacts” that were then constructed through brainstorming, creative discussions, and active participation throughout the design process.”













On the street, a few days later, I randomly bumped into someone whose group I was in. I was able to ask her if the exercise we did on her project was helpful to her. Did it result in a new “artifact” for her work? The answer –  an enthusiastic yes! And as we walked up to the street corner together, before going our separate ways, we continued to design as we walked and process as we talked.


Building Culture through Participatory Design

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What design practices facilitate the creation of culture?

  • How do we build culture in a durable, intentional way?
  • How do we learn and teach from design process itself?
  • How have we learned to improvise or hack design practices so that we personalize design thinking with our own experience?
  • How might we build on each other’s practices to make something new happen?

For the Toronto Design Offsite we created an experience for culture building through sharing and learning design processes. We will have an open space exchange of learning and generative framing through design participation. If you are a designer or participatory culture artist, we invite you to attend and share in this workshop a method or practice for small group envisioning, scenario or model making, or group sketching type practice.


Culture building is the re-creation of artistic and social evolutionary practices that enable continuous learning across generations. The workshop invited people to share their own design processes in small groups to co-create cultural artifacts, such as a learning experience, an interior, a song, a plan, or a website or publication. The goal was the participatory process itself, and learning from one another ways of revealing collective wisdom and aliveness in co-creation.

Design with Dialogue (DwD) is a Toronto-based open community of practice. This special workshop was a collaboration between Gelareh Saadatpajouh and Markus Doerr with Peter Jones from DwD, with Miranda Corcoran and Leah Snyder , photographers and Patricia Kambitsch, live sketching.

Cultural identification started with the introductions, which were simply adding a nametag to the Toronto map o’ culture waiting participants at the entrance:

Small groups met in spaces all around Lambert Lounge to co-create dialogues and pictures of practice:



Masters Workshop: The Reinvention of Civilization

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The Reinvention of Civilization : Our Historical Opportunity to Innovate Everything

The Reinvention of Civilization is an ideological shift in what constitutes the center of history. Such an invention comes about because of a change in awareness, which provides movement from a single locus of imagination and the knowledge it evokes, to an awareness of simultaneous, multiple, yet sovereign centers of history. This shift in the source of the imagination that constitutes knowledge brings a revolutionary matrix of history into existence.

In this workshop Yogiraj Charles Bates models his commitment to serve all sentient beings with designing in system inquiry (‘We’ can Relate), innovation (The 10th Dot®), reinvention endeavors (The Reinvention of Civilizationtm) and leadership (Integrity and The Fourth View).

A collaborative dialogic process (Sacred Dialogues) provides the practicum format to demonstrate the ideas he will bring forth. This is a participatory experience with developmental and transformational intent. Anyone contributing to creating sustainable models that seek to benefit humanity will be supported by this workshop.

This was the first workshop in the Masters series.  A companion workshop ‘We’ Can Relate was held Saturday April 30, 2011 at the Redesign studio, 7 Fraser Ave. #12, Toronto.