Tag Archives: Community Dialogue

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.

 

 

 

The Unintended Power of Silence | Acting in Networks

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By Donald Officer

We have become only too familiar with the overused term “generation gap.” But consider what it might look like if the gap were a chasm with frightful, fatal consequences for those it draws in.

Stephen Sillett primed attendees for that imaginary leap into danger at the March 2016 DwD when he invited us to explore the Networks of Influence model testing dramatizations his team uses in intergenerational communities as distant or diverse as North Eastern South Africa and Ontario’s Niagara Region.

We started with an experiential exercise, a Calabash of constructed fire. During this simulation we were not in real physical danger of course, as we were persuaded to step into the imaginary fire of the “calabash” cauldron, later to stamp out the flames together: An important lesson in trust like many facilitation icebreakers, but also a demonstration of how people become entrapped in collective blind trust in our customary roles.

Several after the fact observations:

  • This ritual brought our attention to how collective activity exerts a magical influence across perceptions of group members.
  • Forgetting the importance of rituals in our own communities, we miss the chance to examine our own customs or beliefs.
  • For instance, as an anthropologist turned Wall Street reporter, Gillian Tett saw the hidden rituals of the finance world tied to mental models and metaphors of how things are and watched how these dominated the risky actions of traders.
  • Culture trumps strategy.

Establishing a positive and workable context for the exploration to occur is key.  After the embodied opening exercise our paired discussions about influence and networks of influence unfolded unfolded more fluidly. Throughout the room you could feel the openness of the conversations – we already shared imagined worlds emerging from a jointly visualized hole in the ground. From that came insights into how we are influenced. Sharing in pairs again, we further reflected on “networks of influence.”

Over the three hours we spent together in OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) the roughly two dozen participants learned even more about dramatic enactment and the purpose of “Clean Language.” Clean Language (first presented in a session on Non-Directive Inquiry Stephen and Peter delivered), is a revealing form of unbiased speaking that strips away implicit judgments or unintended critical undertones that function to shut down communications in sensitive situations where pride, unspoken expectation and taboo are subtly, but often dangerously, in play. (Clean Language is a technique that originates from psychotherapy and coaching to help clients discover and develop symbols and metaphors without being influenced by the phrasing of a question.)

As the group began to edge into its own experiential learning circle, Stephen developed the contexts in which the trust fostering tools he was talking about were introduced by his team in the early days of their South African experience. Picture sub Saharan Africa just after the turn of this century. Almost everywhere communities had been hit hard by AIDS. Orphaned children were raised by their grandparents; whole communities were decimated.

Into a rural corner of Northern South Africa the Aiding Dramatic Change in Development group (ADCID) of which Stephen is now co-executive director, with his partner Jennifer Jimenez, humbly offered to help with the CrossGEN: Connecting across Age and Culture project. And humility was appropriate considering the wicked problem they faced. In that particular neighbourhood, young men felt pressure to father a child by 19 in order to be a man, and teenage pregnancy was very high. Marriage would be the focus of the plan except a young man with no cattle to offer the prospective bride’s family would never be groom material. A series of droughts and perpetual poverty meant that bar would stay too high for most of marrying age. Everyone looked the other way as young people routinely had unprotected sex with the aim of creating life even as they ran the risk of premature death.

Shame, guilt, fear and frustration shut down desperately needed intergenerational conversations between parents and adolescents before trust, acceptance and dialogue could be kindled. Why are such discussions avoided when so much is at stake? Ironically, it may be fear of the consequences of conflict.  unfortunately,  positions can’t be changed when they can’t be discussed. To make things worse, the rumor mill started up when suspicions spread that the HIV virus had been secretly inserted by authorities to contaminate the condom supply – one more destructive legacy of the apartheid era.

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Networks of influence form in communities around the globe. They can be toxic barriers or powerful tools for intergenerational bonding depending on what is spoken or not spoken. How does ADCID bring parties and stakeholders to the point of transformation from negative to positive forces? In Southern Ontario, the problems and issues faced by yet another generational divide also presented gaps and taboos. As in Africa, trust building through multiple arts and dramatic mediums to reimagine community and connection opened eyes and hearts in the Niagara Region. Stephen and Jennifer’s transformation process seems to be transferable and repeatable.

The pictures and diagrams taken from Stephen’s work with ADCID illustrate the ingenuity that can be engaged to weave positive bonds of intergenerational communications while replacing the unspoken obstacles of the silent status quo. Note the mix of tools, institutions and media in the central Canada version of the CrossGEN: Connecting Across Age and Culture project diagram.

As often happens at DwD events, attendees brought their own broad swath of professional backgrounds to the session. Designers, health professionals, facilitators, marketing specialists, strategic foresight students and forecasters counted themselves in. Something about the process is contagious. Conversations energized as three hours flew by. Experiential learning works.

Framing Four Perspectives on Mental Wellness

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DwD 11.13.13

Adapting a method we call an Innovation Town Hall, November’s Design with Dialogue explored the landscape of campus and community mental wellness, the innovation of responsive care, and the experience of health services. The session was organized as a collaboration with OCAD University’s Health and Wellness Centre as part of their service design to provide a positive, growthful experience with students and clients. Recent campus dialogues and news stories have contributed to deepening our understanding of the student experience of emotional and mental health in learning and dealing with stresses and growth. Partnering with the Wellness Centre in a community-focused DwD, students, faculty, and professionals joined to explore the experience and struggles of mental health and the enhancement of health services.

Several significant questions were introduced as starting points:

  • How can we move beyond the conventional views of mental health and learn from each other?
  • Are there innovations in community and social health that might enhance awareness and improve mental wellbeing?
  • What might we understand together to cultivate empathy and insight about the experience of emotional and mental health journeys?

A visual summary of the proceedings, live sketched by Patricia Kambitsch, illustrates the main issues that emerged from the dialogue:

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The Innovation Town Hall engaged the perspectives of four committed presenters who shared about their current, personal and professional issues in mental wellness and care:

  • Canadian society, Mark Henick
  • OCAD / Institutional, Andrea Yip
  • Psychological,  Jennifer Robinson
  • Student perspective, Alicia Raimundo

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 aliciaThe four speakers engaged in whole group dialogue, then moved to small groups based on their perspective, and developed contextual stories and health concepts co-created within each groups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inquiries by each of the four perspective groups led to unpacking of concerns and issues, including the systemic drivers and experiences in each worldview. The Psychological group, for example, identified concerns and suggested remedies found later to be very well aligned with the student experience. The inclusion of peers and education of faculty and other campus employees were found to be significant opportunities for complementing clinical services with safe, trusted caring relationships in the immediate learning context.

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Group moderator Karen Oikonen presents the conclusions from  the Psychological group’s inquiry.

 

 

 

Session Hosts

Peter Jones
Peter is co-founder of Design with Dialogue and associate professor at OCAD University, in the Strategic Foresight and Innovation MDes program.

Andrea Yip

Andrea Yip, MPH is the Coordinator of Mental Health Initiatives at OCAD U and Ryerson University and is working to co-design a collaborative mental health strategy between both schools. Working along the intersections of art, social design and health promotion, Andrea is coordinates community-led initiatives that have human-centered impact. ayheadshot

Andrea is an advisor to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and the Wellspring Centre for Innovation.  MentalHealthxDesign.com   AndreaLYip.com  Twitter: @andrealyip

What is the True Nature of Partnership?

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March’s DwD session was hosted by Mary Pickering of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund.

What is the true nature of “partnership”?

 Funders want it, social innovation demands it and professionals now “broker” it. With the rising clamor to establish partnerships within and across organizations to get people working together more effectively, the time has come to reflect on what a partnership really means in the social change context.
 
At this dialogue session we explored these questions:
  • What defines a true partnership?
  • Is there partnership potential in every working relationship?
  • When should – and shouldn’t – we create partnerships to advance our causes?
  • How might a partnership impact an initiative?
  • What are the key principles for making, managing – and breaking up – working partnerships?
Mary Pickering Mary Pickering has been with Toronto Atmospheric Fund since 2004, serving as VP Programs and Partnerships. Previously she worked for six years for World Wildlife Fund Canada as a major gift fundraiser. Her work with TAF focuses on incubating collaborations focused on local greenhouse gas reduction strategies. Mary has led TAF’s work on Solar Neighbourhoods, ClimateSpark, MOVE the GTHA, and the Collaboration on Home Energy Efficiency in Ontario (CHEERIO). She is currently undertaking Level 2 accreditation with the Partnership Brokers Association and is very interested in your experiences and views on creating effective partnerships.

FROM ENGAGEMENT TO EMPOWERMENT | DwD Berlin

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Citizens as Co-creators of Community Services

The Citizen Engagement to Empowerment workshop was held in Berlin, Saturday Nov 24 4:00 – 7:00 as the inaugural event at the new co-working hub d.collective.
Peter collaborated with Agoras Institute associate Heiner Benking and d.collective facilitator Johannes Milke to facilitate a workshop based on the recent Toronto DwD held a week before. About 30 people (Potsdam d.school students and recent grads), and others from the design community attended and fanned out into several small groups to develop community service concepts.
The primary question was that of “For a community in which you participate, what service could members invent or radically improve? ”

After a brief overview of dialogic design and DwD, the workshop followed the same 4 stages – two visual recorders worked together to create a single composition of the evening’s dialogues:

Dialogue 1: “What are the some stories from here or around the world of community-led local services?”

 

Dialogue 2: Possibilities   “For your neighbourhood, what service could community members invent or radically improve? ”

Idea Selection

Dialogue 3: Idea Design     For your idea:

  • What personal or community need does this service address?
  • How might this service involve the community to deliver maximum value?
  • What, tools, resources or incentives would community members need to help them initiate and implement this service?
  • What support could government provide to kickstart or sustain this service?

Dialogue 4: Design Harvest

Every dialogue was captured in pictorial detail by the fantastic volunteer recorders.
Each table started with an open brainstorm around their idea and the first of 4 questions.
The “Party Payback” team bodystormed their presentation on the idea of paying their neighbours an incentive gift to allow their flat parties (a pay-it-forward bribe to not call the police!)
The Berlin d.collective crew were great to work with, and we have started discussions about continuing with design dialogue exchange as their design community space grows and takes shape over the next year. Gratitude and thanks to Heiner, Eva and Johannes (shown here), and Lukas, Laura, and all the d.collective members.