Here are some stories about group dynamics that we've noticed which may lend insight into pattern writing. (Add your own stories on Anonymous):
Almost all significant differences and conflicts are grounded in the stories we tell ourselves. An important part of holding those differences realistically is actually sharing and hearing our various stories-we-tell-ourselves about it. Sometimes that, itself, ends the problem. Other times it offers needed perspective to address it directly. -- Tom
When we assume good or ill in others, that is just a story we tell ourselves. It is often useful to share "the story I'm telling myself" and to really hear (see Listening and Mirroring) the stories of other people's experience of whatever's going on. You almost always find good intentions behind even the most distressing situations. - Tom
Your job as a mirror of what someone is saying is to not just reflect back words they said, but to really get into their story and let them know you are there with them. It doesn't mean you have to agree with them, but it does mean that they really have to know that you can see what they see and feel what they feel. -- Tom
Briefly tell participants the story of how the gathering came about, putting their work in context of a larger Trajectory. -- Tom [Alternately, inviting folks to tell their story (relevant to the group gathered) is a fabulous way to connect and focus and begin to engage. --Sue]
There are also some stories in patterns' examples field:
Natural environment preferable to manufactured - Example: a group who met at a beautiful location near the sea but, for fear of distraction, did not open the curtain.
Working with the space you have: Dave had the experience of speaking right after Al Gore, in a large venue holding 2000 with a small audience of 25. Solution: move to another venue and make a circle of chairs, or if that's not possible, go outside.
A vase of fresh flowers can make a big difference; so can PlayDoh for people to play with while listening.
World café table layout includes newsprint for people to write on.
Accelerated Solutions Environment - tailor-made space for creative events, includes extra high ceilings to allow expanded thinking, plus nooks around edge with toys . http://www.capgemini.com/services-and-solutions/consulting/ase/overview/
Beauty: Centerpieces at FireHawk and Pele's Dreaming Ceremony and Summer Solstices
Centerpieces at FireHawk and Pele's Dreaming Ceremony and Summer Solstices
- Stepping Up — People are invited to respond to a collective question with a body movement (stepping onto or back from a line on the floor, standing or sitting, raising or lower their hands, clicking keypads, the game Big Wind Blows). Early questions are safe, “How many of you used an alarm to wake up this morning”. Questions move to deeper, harder questions. “How many of you were ever hungry as a child?”, “How many ever have lost a loved one to violence?” A famous, and moving instance of this method is portrayed in the film, and even in the trailer for Freedom Writers.
- Trigger words — Words are put up that are a trigger for people on different sides of a polarized issue or of a hostile or mistrustful relationship. Participants are invited to tell stories about what the word brings up for them. Malka & Aziza, two young women facilitating Palestinian and Israeli Dialogues use this method.
- Playback Theatre Individual stories, briefly told, and powerfully enacted in a dance that amplifies the feelings that accompany the story can allow an entire audience to connect with a vulnerable moment of one of their number, and open them up to sharing at a similar level with each other.
- Keypads — David Campt uses individual keypads to do something similar, but anonymously. In response to demographic and humorous queries, people press one or more choices, and in a minute all get instant feedback of everyone’s responses via bar graphs projected on a screen. Thus all can see “who’s in the room”—ages, colors, backgrounds, beliefs, interests, with no person having to reveal themselves initially. Tougher questions can then be slipped in, opening up the space for talking.
“(1) Have you experienced rejection because of your religion? (2) Because of your lack of religion? (3) Have you found yourself in the political minority and said nothing? (4) “Feared abuse if you spoke up”? (5) Do you consider yourself the “political” outsider in most situations? (6) Do you hesitate to question the views of those whose ideas are usually closest to your own?
Chris was working in Alaska, with an aboriginal Child Welfare Authority, sitting in a board room, (bored room??), trying to figure out what the next level of our work was going to be, and we had a whiteboard at one end fo the room, and began sketching on flip chart paper hanging on the flipchart. The power in the room lay with whoever was at the flipchart, had the power… we met for 8 days in conversation…people came and went out of it, the dynamic of the power in the conversation shifted completely when Chris took the flipchart off the wall and placed it in the centre of the table, where everyone could have access to it, and this completely changed the nature of a group of people working together. In any group, whatever size, when you put the focal point of the group’s work in the centre of the group, rather than at an end of the room, it becomes more co-creative, collaborative, cooperative.
- A skills inventory will have different paces.
- Airline example: instructor gave some instructions for airline ticketing, but let participants discover on their own that they didn't have enough. Some would try to power through, others would recognize they needed more, and ask for clarification. (Dan)
In True Colours, people self assess and discover their predominance from one of 4 personality types. One type tends to ignore instructions (orange), and jump in. In this exercise, the process itself highlights the difference (Carol).
(Example of variations in instructions – directions for getting somewhere. Picture, landmarks, “left, right”)
- The container is an indicator of magic when things end exactly at the time designated for the event to be over.
- Coherence in the field – everything is flowing in the direction of purpose; everything is feeding into the higher purpose of what people are there for.
- Participants feel comfortable and there is a sense of psychological safety in the group that allows people to speak and know their voice will be heard.
The development of this pattern language itself required multiple events, each with a specific Purpose and Intention, plus much individual activity in between events. A Core Group was established to coordinate all these activities to ensure they collectively achieved the projects overarching Purpose.
“Who would like to stand up and do a demonstration about this (whatever) so that we can give you feedback and draw out the learnings?” …by the time five people have done that, the participants have learned a tremendous amount and you can summarize or invite reflection to find the richest learnings.
“Let’s make this decision and see if we can make it work…we’ll figure out the policies later”
From the Art of Hosting:
The Dynamic Facilitation method allows for greater divergence than many methods. By allowing the fullest expression of diverse viewpoints, the energy of them is naturally expended and the group arrives at irregular intervals at points of convergence more radical and therefore more satisfying than if they'd been restricted to business as usual.
Jerry Michalski is a master of holding differences. He uses Quaker techniques (e.g. silences when differences become too emotional), and intervenes frequently in discussions whenever there is unfairness, lack of clarity, power politics or over-emotionalism, naming the cause of the tension and suggesting ways to resolve it without glossing over essential differences. In this way he is able to encourage differences and dissonances, often several at once in a group discussion, while actively teaching participants how to appreciate and help hold open space for these differences.
Citizen Juries are processes where a randomly selected group of citizens are charged with developing a policy position on a specified issue. They are instructed to develop and direct questions to a panel of experts assembled to give testimony on the issues at hand, and the citizen jury then weighs the completing expert claims and comes to their own collective resolution about what would be the best course to recommend. http://www.jefferson-center.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B2BD10C3C-90AF-438C-B04F-88682B6393BE%7D
A second example is provided by the method of the Highlander Folks School, a community in Tennessee that trains grassroots social activists [provide link]. In one instance, a group of rural Virginia welfare recipients gathered at Highlander in the 1980's to learn community organizing strategies in order to effect change in their state's welfare system. First they chose to reflect on what they knew about what worked or didn't work based on their own experiences of being on welfare. After educating themselves and designing their plan of action, the group solicited specific technical help from lawyers, university students and church organizations in support of their efforts. [insert reference here]
A Future Search on the future of education in BC. One of the participants, a well known education thinkiner, donned a table cloth as part of the skit that reflected the preferred future of the group. That act lifted the group, engendered hope and helped them jump beyond problems solving “Yeah, buts” and the rational frames of mind that were limiting the group's vision of the future. It also invited those who were unable or unwilling to participate in the rational aspects of the discussion to participate resulting in a fuller experience and a richer outcome where many voices contributed in diverse ways.
(Chris & Carol)