Game Changing – Adapting Workshops for Emergence

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In this DwD session with Stephen Sillett, we explored the nature of emergence in structured facilitated workshops and the approaches to breaking structure in planning and convening to create the conditions for generative emergence. A good cross-section of Toronto’s current generation of innovation leaders attended, about evenly balance between social innovators and business/design consultants. Th first sketch of the evening mapped the sectors and approaches from particpants during our check-in.

 

The Process

We used the Groupworks Pattern Language (available for download) to discuss and incorporate instigating (evocative) patterns for emergence. Several key patterns are core to engaging vitality and dynamic emergence in a group intervention: Emergence, Improvise, Letting Go, and most of the patterns included in Flow and Faith.

While these sound like simple expressions within a convening structure, they are not easy choices in practice.  When actually facilitating large group interventions, we often follow a strict plan of events, agreed upon in advance with our sponsors and stakeholders. Two questions explored in the session:

How do we best change options or parameters of a scripted workshop while maintaining integrity of the purpose and ensuring high-value outcome intended?

What happens when we change the structure and process of workshops, possibly violating key elements of a plan or facilitation approach?

The function of non-dual experience, BOTH / AND becomes operative here.  How do we know how (and when) to restructure, reduce, accelerate, or improvise within a well-defined group process? How does an interplay of structure and emergence in facilitating group interventions relate to these shifts?

Experienced group facilitators know well the difference in experience and participation between following a script and drawing out emergent engagement. However, experience also tells us there’s a balance, between some structure and some emergence, and a dynamics shift that occurs between them. Are these transitions between structure and emergence the key to creative balance in workshops? Also, even with experience these is a point at which we realise that changes to the workshop context, content of process fall outside previous encounters, and levels of uncertainty rise. How do we deal with this uncertainty? When should we say “let’s give this a go!” and when “this is not viable, it is not ethical to proceed!”


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sketches by Patricia, playthink.com. Harvest of evening final dialogue, as summary.

Small groups developed engagement stories and models for exploring these interventions in engagement. These were developed from several design provocations:

  • Use of time:  Some activities are multi-day journeys, others 1-day, 1 hour or last only 10 minutes.
  • Modularity: How do we scale to the needs of our stakeholders?
  • Intensity: Activities may vary in their level of intensity regarding participation, accountability, pressure to meet deadlines, level of physical activity
  • Outcome: Some processes may work toward consensus, others toward proposals, others are more fluidly co-creation .

 

 

Finding & Building Peace – What’s Possible?

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Design with Dialogue starts each new year with proposals for the upcoming sessions, and we aim for both intentional impacts and resonant emergence. Rather than planning a series of programs, we set themes and look for opportunities to engage those themes with interested hosts or presenters. A recurring and critical inquiry, both intentional and emergent, is that of a peaceful future in Canada, North America and our relationships with the world.

Our January DwD convened a group for a conversational dinner to explore together the possibility of policies and engagements for peace in Canada.  The intent was to start a continuing dialogue across viewpoints and cultures grounded in the unique Canadian experience and expression of “peace, order, and good government.” Rather than moving toward activism, the opportunity was held for discourse and perspectives that might promote peaceful relations to our governments and colleagues.

Throughout the year we’ll be joining other communities of inquiry – with Unify Toronto’s Indigenize or Die series and Interchange for Peace (Stephen Sillett) in particular.  Another fellow treveler is the Science for Peace series at UofT (also held on Wednesdays)

We started with several initial inquiries, that might continue throughout the year as recurrent themes:

  • Why isn’t there a robust peace movement in Canada? Given Canada’s longest participation in wartime in its history (Following Afghanistan, we are in Ukraine in the NATO build-up against Russia) – Why are we complacent? How do we wake up to the moment and realize the societal costs of these engagements?
  • The Doomsday Clock is set to the closest to midnight since the 1950’s nuclear arms race. There’s a good chance it will go closer in 2017 given the promised increase in nuclear weapons support by US presidents Trump and Obama. How might we live with and communicate about this symbol in our civic lives?
  • What ought to be our priorities for peace making in this era? How might we FIND peace?
  • How might we ally and participate with indigenous people to inform peace advocacy? See the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • What do we have to reconcile within ourselves and the national culture do become peacemaking a peacekeeping culture?
    (Can we design interventions relevant to Canada’s 150th?)

 

 

2016 Retreat / Visions for 2017

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Every year a group of DwD facilitators and stewards (community volunteers who curate sessions) meet for a year-end retreat. We celebrate and appreciate the learning and accomplishment of the year and have an inquiry toward planning for the next year.  Among the dreams and possibilities we considered for 2017 were:

Dreams from the Retreat

  • The Stoa and the Agora – Creating spaces for emerging challenges received as significant or arising within society as opportunities for deliberative dialogue. Extending DwD to civil society and public engagement.
  • Continuing with Unify’s Indigenize or Die, guiding its continuity toward a community to deepen participation with settlers toward reconciliation and becoming stewards of the original land
  • Rather than singular issues, fostering a commons to reveal connectedness between our programs: Such as Indigenous ways of knowing, Theory U, Listening practices (Bohmian)
  • Integrating an connecting issues or dialogues between the series events.
  • Host indigenous speakers in Systems Thinking ON to inquire into aboriginal systems of thinking
  • Inviting and appreciating the “Mixing of Unlike Minds”
  • DwD can take on specific problem areas: Environmental Defense – break stakeholders out of groupthink Inclusion and flourishing of newcomers with right livelihood
  • Host invitational innovation circles again – such as with Toronto Star
  • Cartography of social issues: Mapping issues and interfaces in collaborative dialogue, boundary crossing and boundary object formation
  • Creating pop-up labs and studios through DwD – Connect with MaRS, Innoweave, Interchange Peace Finding
  • Critically engage the rapidly forming memes of the day: “Fake News,” Russia-bashing, Fake foreign policy, …

Design with Dialogue – 2017

  • January – Can we Reenvision Peace as a Goal Again? Also, Ethics of Autonomy, Information Warfare, Causes and confusions of the Refugee Crisis
  • February – Play to Perform?
  • Invited Workshops
  • SSHRC Imagining Canada’s Future (Canada @150) and social futures

Systems Thinking Ontario – 2017

  • Reframing the purpose of ST-ON: Outreach, Education, Connecting local systems community, Creating contexts for teaching, youth engagement
  • Bringing local and international speakers to the regular sessions: Martin Bunch, Steve Easterbrook, Judith Rosen
  • Exploring classic issues, e.g. The Human Use of Human Beings (Wiener)
  • Entertaining “unlike minds”
  • Exploring mindsets – limited scope of thinking
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Invited subject experts who can host a systems conversation about their practice
  • Invite artists and creatives to explore systemic thinking
  • Constructivism
  • The human and natural systems of water

DwD Engagement Model

The Agoras model of staging from “Lab” to the field of stakeholders has relevance in the current proliferation of social innovation labs, as the lab concept has been employed ubiquitously and metaphorically. There’s little evidence of external impact in terms of higher quality programs and stakeholder services that would not have been done without the labs. They are often small developmental teams using facilitative approaches that work with policy or startup organizations. Given that the SFI MDes program trains people for leading in such roles, we need to consider whether there are more or less effective models of “lab work.”
Christakis and Warfield developed an approach 20+ years ago for the developmental evaluation of social science innovations in stakeholder applications, as a reference for SDD. Known as the Domain of Science Model, it shows that the “Lab” is the initial, most tentative stage in a series of four domains that are needed to develop an evidence-based social innovation. The stages are summarized in the following model:

 

      Lab – Building creative Foundations from philosophy, social science, systemics

      Lab – Visualizing Theory & building artefacts to test in Studio

      Studio – Design science, adapting Theory > Methodology

      Studio – Building new methods for application in Arena.

      Arena – Adapting & testing method & evaluating in Arenas with stakeholders

      Agora – Releasing to public in new forms.

 

 


Peter Pennefather shared a sketch of his extension to this model after the retreat, in the following diagram. His contributions adds several new dimensions, such as the dominant logic/reasoning process in each stage, the transformation of public goods (from need to effect) and the inclusion of the design process that’s central to DwD.

 

 

 

Envisioning the Future of Toronto’s Public Lands

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Can we ecologize Toronto’s green lands and watersheds? Can we enhance access and inclusion of cultural uses of our parks, common places and spaces? How might we recover, restore, reimagine or rewild Toronto’s public lands?

Toronto’s urban planning team has been comprehensively revising its downtown planning – the DwD engagement held a session to cocreate citizen proposals for the Toronto Parks and Public Realm Plan as part of TOcore: Planning Downtown.

tocore-areas

 

 

Unify Toronto Dialogues held its October session with the TOCore team, voicing indigenous perspectives on decolonizing the common lands and stewarding ecological restoration.  Following a presentation on the city’s regional public lands plan, over a dozen indigenous community members spoke up with visions and concerns for:

  • Restoring the native flora ecologies and balance of the Humber and Ontario shoreline waters
  • Opening up the ravines and public open space to urban farming and renewing healthy soils
  • Restoring and enabling the fish ecologies of Ontario, a lake that once teemed with indigenous freshwater fish
  • Ensuring indigenous access to land for ceremony, fire circles, and councils.

 

The live sketch (thanks Patricia) shows one of the maps of discussion and questions raised by particpants during this session.

unifyoct3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empowering Civic Dialogue with Aleco Christakis

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Design with Dialogue hosted Alexander “Aleco” Christakis and Maria Kakoulaki for a public workshop on the renewal of civic engagement through place-based dialogues. Aleco, author of “How People Harness their Collective Wisdom” (with Kenneth Bausch, 2006) was in Toronto as one of the keynote speakers at RSD5 Relating Systems Thinking and Design and their availability

Aleco and Maria shared their work from the Demoscopio project established with the mayor of the municipality Heraklion, Crete, which represents an emerging centre of civic innovation co-create and self-organized by citizen collaboration.  His RSD Keynote talk is on Demoscopio Culture: How do we empower and liberate citizen’s voices in designing their own social systems?

The session started with a brief story about the Demoscopio and discussion of the distinctions of  the Agora, the Arena, and the Lab. The dialogue shifted to our communities as committed stakeholders in the co-creation of place-based democratic centres for critical and creative citizen engagement.  Further questions were explored relevant to the RSD keynote, including:

  • How might the Demoscopio paradigm inspire strongly-centred democratic [r]evolutions  for  democratic societal evolution?
  • How  does  the  Demoscopio  design  and  culture  inspire,  connect, empower  and  liberate  citizen’s  voices  in  designing  their  own  social systems?
  • What are the new narratives of cultural innovation we can all undertake to inspire flourishing, democratic communities?

alecomaria1

 
Aleco and Maria explore the harvest mapping while groups developed engagement proposals.

Video presentation of the workshop made by Maria for presentation at their RSD5 keynote talk.

The workshop followed the typical Design with Dialogue process of a circle introduction and discussion, a challenge for small groups working on their preferred ideas, and a harvest and discussion with the plenary to complete the cycle.

natgroup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The live sketch harvest presents some of the core ideas of the Demoscopio project discussed by Aleco and Maria.  From the left, this starts with the history of social system design and the development of systems of dialogue for engaging people from all walks of life to propose better futures and address their concerns in civil discourse.  Proceeding to the right of the harvest, the story shows the unfolding of the Demoscopio, a proposal to the mayor of Heraklion that has been recently developed as a dedicated civic hub, a place for continuing civic engagement through co-creation. The Demoscopio itself is an evolution of the Social Planetarium as conceived by Harold Laswell, further updated by John Warfield as the Observatorium, and evolved into the societal conference hub proposed by Christakis.

patsalecomap

 

 

 

 

Behind Christakis and Patricia Kambitsch (Playthink, live sketching) we see at the right end of the sketch a drawing of Warfield’s Domain of Science Model is represented (crudely inscribed by Jones) showing the cycle of mutual learning and development from the Corpus (body of theory and scientific observations) to the Practice (the Arena and Agora).  We are changing the Warfield proposition of this cycle in several ways, consistent with systemic design practice. Four contexts identified by place and process are defined:

  • Lab – A place dedicated to research and socially-safe developmental trials and evaluations
  • Studio – A center for creative exploration of new models and configurations of social practices a prototypes with invited particpants
  • Arena – A neutral place convened for invited stakeholders to engage their values, proposals, dreams, and decisions in a facilitated, committed context
  • Agora – A public, accessible open domain available for all interested citizens to encounter and potentially engage in dialogue and “listen toward understanding.”

The cycle of learning is mutually constructed between the scientific base developed in the Lab and developed and published in the Corpus.  Trials, experiments and prototypes of co-creation with invited particpants are held in a Studio setting. Social design work, such as the DwD community of practice, can be developed in the Studio setting in a safe-to-fail environment. The Studio setting is what we might typically think of with the government or social innovation “labs.” In a social science sense, we would reserve the Lab as relevant to a dedicated environment for research and service design by core teams. A university laboratory is not usually a setting for stakeholder co-creation. The design studio setting is a more appropriate fit for creative engagements.

Co-Creating New Demospheres

Each group formed a proposal for convening dialogue engagements based on the DOSM / Lab -> Arena cycle. Several cases are shown, based on the emergent concerns identified in the opening dialogue (essentially, responding to “why are you here for this workshop?”)

ssgoran-group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen, Goran and Peter Pennefather drew up a model for healthcare organizations, titled “How to Care for Health.” Starting in a Lab (e.g. St. Mike’s Hospital) which is developing competencies, managing risk, focused on internal development. The Studio context (OCAD is shown) enables co-creation of prototypes and design for emergence of new capacities. The Arena(s) are defined as spaces for community health partnership, wherein power and systemic relationships can be reconfigured to support civic dialogue. The Agoras are conceived of as spaces for patient engagement.

deegroup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professor Czeslaw Mesjazc (visiting for RSD5 from UEK, Krakow) holds up their group’s model which Dee narrates as a model for democratic dialogue dealing with significant societal issues, such as the local stewardship of a shared future in the Anthropocene (whether “good” per B. Lomborg, or a “bad” Anthropocene per Clive Hamilton). The Lab is viewed as the expert-led context, researching futures and bridging to the Studio with the question: How do we relate between expert knowledges and indigenous wisdom? From Studio to Arena, they ask “how do we make a truly democratic dialogue” and from Arena to Agora, How might environmental stewardship be made relevant to the people?”

peterrosegroup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three other groups developed DOSM models such as Peter Rose’s group above, focusing on democratic practices in society and the failure of electoral process to fully represent citizen choices.

About Aleco

Alexander  “Aleco” Christakis  christakishas 40 years experience in developing and testing methods for engaging stakeholders in productive dialogue. In the 1960’s he consulted with Constantinos Doxiadis on the development of Ekistics, the science of settlements, and later conferred with Hasan Özbekhan to advance a methodology for social systems design, associated with the prospectus of the Club of Rome. This process became Interactive Management (as developed with John Warfield) and Structured Dialogic Design.

Aleco is the author of over 100 papers on dialogic design science, stakeholder participation, including How People Harness their Collective Wisdom and Power to Create the Future. He is founder of the Institute for 21st Century Agoras and past President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (2002). He is member of the Board of the Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), Advisor to the AIO and a advisor to the Ambassador’s leadership program for engaging tribal leaders from the USA and internationally. He travels across the globe to facilitate structured dialogues and promote the science of dialogic design.