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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?”)

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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.

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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?”

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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.

 

 

 

Innovate or Dinosaur! Serious Play for Innovation.

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September’s DwD explored the new board game (launched this week) by Traction Strategy, cheekily called Innovate or Dinosaur!  A truly collaborative innovation game, the playful approach helps teams generate and test new ideas, create a path to assess and implement them, and builds the capacity for organizations to “innovate everyday”.

Played by teams of 4 or more per table, the game is staged into two board and movements, Exploration and Evolution.   The  Explore board uses a standard die and chance to move players through a number of event and process cards that promote lateral thinking and exploration of your innovation ideas in novel, playful ways. gameboard

Players start by generating a set of proposed innovation proposals for their organization or projects that they choose to present in exploration with team members. Competition can be set up between groups and within teams in playful ways to drive the game process forward. We played with a time deadline model, where the first round of game play ended after 20 minutes and teams were credited with the number of innovation proposals explored within the period. Chance also played into some teams tackling fewer proposals, depending on board position and card actions.

Tamara and Shawna’s experience in innovation engagements with organizations led to creating a large catalog of provocations and lateral thinking concepts in the various process cards. Many of these are quite unexpected and fun, lending a real experience of surprise to the game proceedings.

The Innovate or Dinosaur game design is based on some of  the key ingredients for innovation identified in a study done on the innovation processes of  Nobel Prize Winners – some of  the most highly recognized innovators in the world. These key ingredients include: collaboration, competence, communication, vision, playfulness, and work (effort).

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A roomful of participants played through both boards of the game over a 2 hour + session, which was found to be insufficient time to explore more than one innovation proposal from each player. The game approach requires multiple rounds of ideation, and participants found real value in some of the idea development. By the end of the session, there was convincing evidence of the unique value of the gameboard approach and the value of the specific tools and processes built into the game.

Traction Strategy has since launched the game publicly, and the game is available and promoted at innovateordinosaur.com

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About the Hosts

Tamara Eberle, CPF, CTF, Founder and Director of Facilitation & Learning, Traction Strategy  and Shawna Eberle, Toronto-based Director of Traction Studio

tamTamara is an award-winning professional facilitator with over two decades of group leadership and process design experience. She is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF), Certified ToP Facilitator (ICA), has a degree in Sociology, and has specialized training in Public Participation (IAP2), Change Management, Design Charrettes (NCI), and organizational game design.

Traction Strategy is a multi-award winning, boutique consulting company providing Certified Professional Facilitation as well as leadership and organizational development training.  As experts with diverse, cross-functional teams and stakeholder groups, they use participatory methods and techniques to support teams and organizations while providing a meaningful experience.

Liberating Structures for Systemic Change

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So, ” how DO you change the culture around here?” July’s DwD brought Liz Rykert of Meta Strategies together with the DwD community for an exploration of Liberating Structures, a powerful set of 33 self-organizing group engagement and process change methods. The goal of the session was for all participants to learn and acquire initial experience in LS methods, for productively and playfully changing their conventional patterns of engagement. With a focus on Organizational Culture Change, Liz’s session employed a series of introductory methods for group learning of several of these ready-to-hand tools, all of which are powerful exercises for creating knowledge through relationships and convening explorations:

  • Impromptu Networking (Moving introductions)
  • Flocking (experiential understanding of network behavior)
  • What? So? Now What? (Framing questions using the 1-2-4 small group practice)
  • Brief Stories
  • Heard Seen Respected
  • 15% Solutions

Liberating Structures are well-known in organizational development and change work for helping to equalize input, access hidden creativity and insights and breakdown the barriers to full participation for everyone. A live sketch (thanks to Patricia at playthink) reveals the course of the evening’s program, from the compelling interest in organizational change, to the processes and principles of Liberating Structures, to the attitudes of engaged facilitation in the practice. Liz’ slides from the workshop are also available online.

liberating structures

One often hears how “we need to change the culture around here.” But changing the culture can feel particularly ephemeral and hard to pin down. The session explored how the patterns of relating contribute to the culture we co-create together in the groups and communities where we work and live. Liz turned the discussion toward the “ghosts” in culture, the patterns and attractors and understand how shifting up our behaviours and actions contribute to the outcomes. A mix of physical and movement exercises, brief dialogues, and guided explorations modeled the approach toward mixing methods within a well-planned workshop. A handout summarizing the assembled collection of best-known LS methods (Matchmaker) is also available online.

 

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Liz worked dozens of stories and examples into an engaging learning experience. References to organizational studies (Edgar Schein’s Org Culture and Humble Inquiry), complexity theory (Kaufmann and Snowden, Chaos,-Complexity-Bifurcation), and organizational development (Harrison Owen’s Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry) were integrated and sprinkled throughout the session, allowing for connecting the ready-to-use LS methods to larger theoretical constructs from which most of these were originally developed.

 

ABOUT THE HOST

LizLS Seattle

Liz Rykert is the President of Meta Strategies which she founded in 1997. It is a strategy group working in complex organizational change and technology. Meta Strategies delivers on: Change work including innovation, culture change, large system transformation, coaching and facilitation; Web work including strategy, online community, website design and programming; and Network strategy, development, visualization.  She is an active practitioner and coach of methods such as Liberating Structures. She practices Developmental Evaluation on the often uncertain and emergent qualities of projects she works on. Liz has a knack for uncovering new ideas and bringing them to life for the benefit of everyone.

Coincident with the recent DwD, a Plexus Institute newsletter just recounted an extraordinary story of Liz’ role in organizing support for Syrian refugees in Canada. The following post is referenced from this newsletter (otherwise not available online):

Grass Root Groups Welcome Refugees to Canada

When Liz Rykert was working as a consultant a hospital in Oswego, New York, she and colleagues visited the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, which preserves the memories of nearly 1,000 European refugees rescued from the Nazis in World War II and housed in what was then the Fort Ontario Army barracks. She also learned of the work of Ruth Gruber, the woman whose book Haven describes the harrowing work of getting the refugees from war zones to a military ship for transport to the U.S. and safety. 

Rykert and her husband, John Sewell, who had accompanied her, thought of what refugees endure: dangers and hardships, loss of their worldly goods and comforts, fear of the future, and endless struggle to stay alive keep their children safe. Rykert recalls her husband saying: “We have to do something about Syrian refugees, being displaced by the millions, taking terrible risks.” His reaction was no surprise. Sewell, a life-long activist for progressive causes , was first elected to Toronto City Council in 1969. As Toronto’s Mayor from 1978-1980, he helped facilitate the city’s response to refugees from Vietnam, a grass roots initiative led by Operation Lifeline. Nearly two-thirds of the 60,000 who arrived in Canada settled in the Toronto area.

Rykert and Sewell are part of a group of 21 friends and neighbors sponsoring a refugee family who fled their home in Aleppo, Syrian, fearing for their lives. The family spent two years in emergency quarters in Turkey before their arrival in Canada in March of this year. Omer Suleyman, a cook, his wife, Aliye El Huseyin, a nurse, and their three children, daughters Esra, 13, and Marem, 8, and son Suleyman, 6, are now in an apartment in Toronto, adjusting to new and very different lives. A Toronto Globe and Mail story by Ian Brown describes the family, the sponsors, and their experiences. 

As of last February 8,527 Syrian refugees had private Canadian sponsors, an unusual system unmatched elsewhere in the world. Sewell says some 10,000 private groups like the ones he and Rykert helped form have organized to welcome refugees and many are frustrated with national and international bureaucracies that have delayed arrival of their families. Immigrations officials, observing the doors closing to refugees across the world, have been surprised to find Canadian citizens impatient for more to arrive.

The citizen sponsorship groups commit to paying all their family’s expenses for a full year. Sewell explains the groups collect money (his collected some $45,000 and members don’t know amounts of individual contributions), make connections, arrangements, and help meet individual needs. Some sponsors take classes in how to help without smothering, and how to help foster eventual independence. “It’s a brilliant system,” Sewell said. “We find them places to live, find doctors, get their kids into schools, parents into ESL classes, and a network of people gets them into society, all at small expense to the government, which does pay for healthcare.” Rykert explains the groups introduce newcomers to others who speak Arabic, find banks and other businesses where someone speaks Arabic, locate mosques and grocery stores that sell halal meat and other foods they need, find tutors for children who have missed years of schooling, and free language classes for all. While Suleyman and his wife were anxious to find jobs immediately, their sponsors encouraged them to focus on their new language for the sake of more success later.

The couple says many newcomers suffer from dental problems that result from the often-chaotic lives and erratic diets of refugee existence. Canadian health care doesn’t cover dentistry, so they found a friendly dentist who discounts rates treating their family. Sewell recently took the Suleyman youngsters on a downtown outing, where they were delighted with their first escalator ride.

Sponsors benefit a much as the families they help, Sewell observes. “This is extraordinary community building,” he said. “We have gotten to know our neighbors in more ways than we’d have thought. You think you know your neighbors until you start something like this. This expresses the best about being Canadian. We do this.” For the last 120 years, Sewell said, Canada has had immigrants and refugees equaling about one percent of the population annually. “That means we are very adaptable, and very accepting of new people and different cultures,” he said. “That has been our history.”