There is more than one way to price a workshop: experiments in shared economy

For those of us who work in participatory design, what does it look like to extend engagement to questions of money as well?

So you’ve got a small budget set aside for professional development. You find a training that looks good on paper, costs say $100 to attend and you register by paying the fee and submitting your name. At the end of a long day of powerpoints, you leave with a few notes in hand and your receipt/attendance confirmation for the human resources department, never having given much thought to the cost or value of the workshop.

At Percolab events that doesn’t happen.   

For many years now, we has been experimenting with different ways to engage with with cost and value of trainings. Percolab has taken inspiration from practices in the Art of Hosting community, from The Commons, and in particular, a practice that our colleague Ria in Brussels introduced us to: the shared economy.


With each of the open workshops that I was a part of hosting in 2017, we experimented with different ways to present this useful practice. Most of us are not comfortable talking about money. We have very little practice being open and transparent about how much we would like to earn, how much we can afford to pay, and the value we receive from a training. With inspiration from my colleagues around the world, this is what I have learned so far about how to present the shared economy in a way that is inviting, clear, reassuring and effective.

Experiment #1

At the self-management workshop we hosted back in May, we gave participants two options.

1) Register and pay the listed price on Eventbrite ahead of time

OR

2) Engage with the shared economy by paying a small registration fee (so that we know you’re actually coming) and then paying the remaining amount, of your choice, at the end of the event.

It sounds like a pay-what-you-can model, or a sliding scale, but that’s not the idea behind it. While we do want our workshops to be accessible to anyone regardless of their financial situation, what we were aiming for was a shared economy practice. It’s an opportunity to take into account the budget of the event, and then choose what to pay based on the information available, including the number of participants. i.e. “sharing” the cost.

What’s unique about this model, is that it’s an engagement. You are agreeing to share the responsibility, and cover the minimum cost for the event to run successfully.

At the end of the workshop, we share our budget with you (including how much we would like to receive as hosts/facilitators/trainers). We then divide the total cost by the number of participants and everyone makes a choice based on that proposed average cost.

The result?

For that particular event, about half the participants paid the listed event price ahead of time, and half engaged with the shared economy. Our budget included the cost of the room, catered lunch, printed materials, and the time and expertise of the facilitators.

In the end, it turned out that this two-option, shared economy acted like a sliding scale. If you had a company paying your training bill, you paid the full listed price. If you were an independent, or coming from a non-profit organization, you participated in shared economy. Some paid a bit more than average, some paid a bit less. Everyone has a fairly good idea of where they fit on a scale of income, so they know for themselves if they can contribute a bit more than the average, or not. We covered all of our costs, and paid ourselves. And we learned something about the demonstrated need for accommodating different budgets.

But there was more to be experimented with.

There is also the question of perceived value. Are you engaging with the budget and making a choice that is not just a matter of what you can afford, but the value that you have received? Are you consciously participating in the financial reality of your learning experience?

For those of us whose profession it is to increase participation and engagement in events and organizations, this is an important question. For the trainings that are based on, and designed for engagement, it seems pertinent that we extend that engagement to the question of money as well.

Our good friend Frederic Laloux asked similar questions of his readers when he published the online version of his book (which was a foundational building block of our self-management workshop) Reinventing Organizations.

The idea is, “I cannot know what the book is worth to you, so I’m not sure a fixed price makes much sense.” It’s an experiment in abundance where I trust that when I give, I will also receive.”

When our colleague Nil was in town, co-hosting The Money Game with Cedric, they took inspiration from the gifting economy and asked participants: “What would be a contribution you could offer that would give you joy?”

This consciousness around our relationship to money is important to us. We are shifting our budgeting and allocations for project work internally away from a time-based model (how many hours did it take you to do this?) to one that factors in complexity, expertise, and value. Some very human qualities of the work.

Experiment #2

At our most recent evening workshop, on the topic of generative decision making, we decided to combine a few of these ideas, and encourage an engagement with the value of the event.

As we closed the session, we asked participants to write down on one side of a paper what they learned, or are taking away from the workshop.

On the other side, thinking about the value this event has had for you, write 3 numbers:

1) A contribution that would feel unjust or too low,

2) An amount that would feel like too much for this evening of learning,

3) A number that you would feel good about contributing to this event, based on what you have learned and what you can afford.

The first step was about reflecting on value and money on your own.

The second step was to share the budget of the event.

We listed the cost of the room, the snacks we provided (essential for an event at the end of the workday) and what we hoped to receive as hosts of the event. For the line item relating to the honorarium for the facilitators (our pay), we set a range for what we would each be willing to receive, on the low and the high end, for this evening of work. We had a similar range for the percentage that we would put back into the Percolab pot for overhead as we do with every project.

We counted the number of people in the room and did the math together for the average amount each person would need to contribute to cover the cost. We were left with a range depending on whether the facilitators were to receive their low-mid or high honorarium amount.

With that, we told participants which methods of payment were available, and left the rest up to them.

The result?

The added step of having each participant reflect on their own about their relationship to the value of the event was important. It changed the nature of the conversation and the participants were more engaged with the budget we presented.

For ourselves, it felt more honest to list a range for the pay we would each receive (and to be clear whether it would be split 50/50 between us and why). As organizers of an event, it is not easy to declare how much you would like to make. Mostly because we don’t practice it very often. And then to discuss with a co-host whether we are splitting the profits evenly or not, for whatever reason. It’s a step that I push until the last minute every time. But being able to include it in the presentation of the budget makes it that much more transparent and that much more clear.

Things to experiment with next time:
How could we include the collective aspect of shared economy? Until now participants have been making the decision on their own, with or without time to reflect on value first. What if we had a discussion about it and shared the responsibility openly as a group?
This is something that was factored in when the Shared Economy was first piloted at a learning village that our colleague Ria was a part of. To read more about the origins of this idea: https://slovenialearningvillage.wordpress.com/how-much/

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Principles and processes for co-designing self-organizing events

It’s easier than it sounds. If you organize events, this is for you.

The international Art of Hosting community has developed a different way to design gatherings. There is an underlying pattern that has been fine-tuned and experimented around the world for over 20 years. No matter what the convening topic, from collaboration methods to water management, to financial matters, it is possible to design, organize and meet with the flavour and feel of life, because they are the result of an underlying pattern.

Participants and conveners do not necessarily get to see this backstage, (how the hosting team works together through the design/preparation day and onwards) though everyone is sensing its existence. Over and over, it has laid the conditions for groups to experience a functional self-organizing operating system, live an enlivening experience, access deep co-learning, and do good work. A friend with decades of event organisation explains it as an update of the system software we have been working with for a long time; a 2.0 version, if you will. This is my attempt to share the pattern in a practical and helpful way, without reducing it to a simple recipe to follow. The pattern holds deep consciousness and wisdom, and I hope I am honouring it well. It begins with three principles.

It is wise that a facilitation team spends some time together just prior to a convening. The length of time will depend on elements such as the duration of the convening, the familiarity between the team members, the challenges and risks. Typically, for a three-day event, the hosting team will spend one or two days together prior to the event. For a very short meeting, the hosts will spend a shorter time.


Principle 1: Responsive design — Wait until as close to the gathering/training as possible to design the program

Certain aspects related to organizing a gathering/training can and should be done well in advance of the event, such as the venue, food, decorations, lodging, budget, registration, communication. What the team also does upfront is getting to know the context more, and getting to know each other a better, so they become a real team. As for the design of the actual program, if we want it to be acutely responsive to the context and needs that connect to the convening, to the tiny changes, local and beyond, that are forever taking place right up to the first day of the convening, then it makes sense to leave the programming to just prior to the event.

Friendly warning: We have become so accustomed to developing our event programs months in advance of an event, that waiting until just prior to the event may generate a certain level of anxiety.

Principle 2: A strong container — Give importance to the invisible field that holds a meeting

If we want power, depth and flow in our gatherings then we will need to accord time and space to build what we call, for lack of a better word, “a relationship field” or a “strong container”. This is the invisible field that holds the potential of a group. It is the collective presence and the quality of the relationships between the team members that make up the quality of this field. If this is strong and healthy, it can facilitate generative conversations, paradigm shifts and deep connections. With it, the event team will stay in healthy collaboration even if the event brings stormy weather. This can mean taking time to be together, play, sing, cook, share silence, whatever flows. This is how friendship and familiarity grows. Being in good relationship with yourself and with others helps to enjoy and benefit from the diversity of others.

Friendly warning: We have become so accustomed to time management for performance that giving time and spaciousness to being together may cause some anxiety.

Principle 3: — Learning edges, self-organisation and community of practice — Practice our own medicine

Every work session in the preparation is a micro-example of what is being created. How you are imagining the event should be showing up during this preparation time. If you want participants to harvest online, the team should start during the design days. Be in this practice with the team before the event and you will be practicing well at the event. The practice contributes to the container. If we want the event participants to experience deep learning, then the team should share their learning edges with each other. If the team is trusting and trying something new during the convening, beyond our fears, with the support of each other, then we are modelling that for the whole event. There is life in the trembling and this is being in a community of practice.

Friendly warning: We have become so accustomed to showing up with our expertise that it can be uncomfortable to reveal our learning edges.

How do we design together?

When we finally get to design the actual event our reflex is to jump in directly. Go slow and begin with the following. By doing these steps, the design that is needed will reveal itself. Embody the principles described above in the actual design time.

Need, purpose and participants

Take time to strengthen the connection to the need underlying the event and then to the purpose. Since the purpose is the invisible leader it needs to be held clearly by the whole team. The original call for the event began with this and so should the design. It is the centre of the work.

Team learnings

What is the intention or learning edges of each person in the team? If we want to facilitate learning we need to be in learning ourselves. If we embody the work we strengthen it.

Sensing in

Take time to understand the context, the people who will be coming, what is going on around to be more in tune and responsive to what is needed. Listen with all your senses, on all kind of levels.

Outputs — Acting more wisely for the world

Good work should always yields real results. The Hopi Indians say: “Will it grown corn for the people?”. What is the convening going to create that will be useful for the world?

The venue

The venue can support the quality of the convening. When it is possible spend some time at the venue? Connect and feel the flow in the space. How can the event make use of it? Are there any outdoor possibilities? Imagine the space and beauty unfolding. Embrace the constraints that come with it.

Friendly reminder: It is not either or, you need the analytical and planning capacities together with many soft skills.

How do we design for self-organization?

When the time comes to actual designing the event, the same principles apply.

  1. Clarify responsibilities/teams

If the event goes over a few days, create sub-teams. One way to approach this is a team for each day, a team for space and beauty and a team for documenting (harvesting). It can be helpful to identify how many spots there are in each team; then it is clear if people are in a single team or multiple teams. When it is time to decide who is in which team, in a self-organizing framework it is important that each person choses for herself. It can be useful to invite people to think about their offering and their learning edges before and then place pens on the table and in silence everyone writes their name where they are feeling they should be. It is important to note that the sub-team have a role of stewarding the tasks, not of executing all the activities and work of the day.

2) Clarify the flow and structure

Each team spends time designing a flow of activities for their area of responsibility. It is NOT yet time to dig into the design, only identifying the flow of activities (ex. team hosts, team coaches, participants) and the number of each. Then, to ensure that all the parts work together, the teams share their flow and activities and receive comments. Friction points and blind spots will be revealed. The teams then have a bit of time to produce a second version of their flow and activities if necessary. The group then comes back together to agree on the design. In this way everyone is aware and in support of the total design.

3) Activity designing

Only now each person identifies the activities/roles they will be responsible for, individually or in teams. Now each activity can be designed in detail. Those for day one will take priority. Some will be done prior to the event and some will be designed during the event with (some of) the participants (during breaks or evening).

4) Inviting in

During the first morning of the event, participants are invited to step in with their own activities or proposals within the scaffolding structure set up by the team. This structure holds the space so that the facilitation/hosting and documenting/harvesting can be done with the ample participation of all, in an open and flexible way. When the preparation work has been done – attending to all the details with care — the principles described above allow the loose structure to be held with quality and rigour. It can appear chaotic but the freedom is held by a container that supports coherence, alignment and freedom. It allows us to open up to what is possible and alive. This is how we organise amongst ourselves.

The Art of Hosting way creates a self-organizing operating system, an edginess of possibility, a depth of learning and a quality in human connection that often eludes us in other types of gatherings and meetings. Events all over the world are organized in this manner with great success, from the European Institutions, to local neighbourhoods, from businesses to professional networks.


Learn more about Art of Hosting and upcoming trainings.

Thank you to Ria Baeck for contribution and support in writing this article.

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Collective sense-making as practice

Semi-structured co-learning across projects, domains, territories

Collective sense making is not evaluation nor debate. Very simply it requires some common themes which serve as common language or filters through which to think together about work that is very different. The common filters honor what is specific of what is happening in each place or domain and invite in a common language and thinking angle.

Recently I joined the European university of public sector territorial innovation for a 3 day adventure with over 200 people structured around 16 real projects from multiple countries. I was invited as an external witness, a healthy innovation practice, and was invited to intervene at the closing session. My task was to bridge between the event itself and the future via my external observations and insights. It was an invitation to work in emergence, with no possibility to plan ahead; this is the zone in which I thrive.

 At the end of the three days, I spoke to the group on the importance of prototyping as a rapid learning process, imperfect doing in order to gain information and insights. I reminded us all that co-creation requires being explicit with ourselves and the group on our commitment and contribution level. It is ok to be involved intensely and then step out, as long as it is made known. And then I finished on the topic of collective sense-making as a key process to help see more systemically. It is this point I wish to share in more detail.

I invited participants to identify some themes that could be interesting for us all. I do love how I can trust human beings and their intelligence and natural care. The themes that emerged were:

#citizeninvolvement

#coherence

#interdisciplinarity

There was no need to modify or improve upon these themes. They came straight from those who had lived the three days together. They would serve us for our collective sense making. We needed only to trust that that they were helpful themes for us.

I invited everyone to spend 5 minutes in silence to write whatever came up for them around these themes and our last three days of exploration around public sector innovation via the projects. Just a raw 5 minute writing time to prepare us for our collective sense-making.

Then it was time to step into conversations in pairs. Again, I reminded everyone to help each other not fall into debate or evaluation culture and to find someone who they had not met and who had worked on a different project than them. We had 15 minutes together in co-learning around our agreed themes.

There was some hesitation and then the entire room delved into deep conversation. Afterwards we had a share back and people spoke to how this had brought forward insights, anchored learning and made connections. People spoke of the delight to be in this type of flowing conversation with depth. The process was received as a gift. Some even used the term “soothing”. It does feel good to step back from our daily work, and converse with someone we don’t even know. Having a light “container” of shared themes and a little bit of solo time helps us access the deeper learnings that are ready to surface. It is about the sweet spot between chaos and order that allows generative emergence.

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8 visual check-ins to invite creative presence

How do we create the conditions in our meetings so that we can be fully present together and tap into our creative capacities?

Check-ins are an important part of life within Percolab and working and being with others. They are collective moments to stop, reflect, share and become present. In my experience, they are also very helpful to move us away from analytical thinking when working in creativity and innovation. They are invitations for people to step into a creative mindset.

Over the past few years, as part of our check-in process with the team and within projects with clients and partners, we have developed and experimented with a number of different visual methods that can gently host us into a space of collective presence and creativity:

1. Quick blind draw

Materials

  • 4 index cards per person
  • Pens (enough for one each)

Method

  1. Each person takes between 4 index cards and a marker
  2. Ask the group to stand and mix up
  3. Ask them to find a partner
  4. Start a 30 second timer
  5. At the same time, each person looks at their partner in the eyes and draws their face on the index card. Without looking at the card!
  6. When the times up, each person gives the card upside down to their partner (the partner hides it at the bottom of their picture
  7. Repeat 3 times (so each person has 4 pictures of themselves)
  8. Everyone returns to their place and looks at their picture
  9. Ask each person to select a picture that resonates with how they see themselves
  10. Write their names on it
  11. Create a gallery

2. In One Line

Materials needed

  • Pens (enough for one each)
  • Paper (A4 or letter works well)

Method

  1. Make sure everyone has access to a piece of plain paper and a marker.
  2. Ask that everyone only draws one continuous line in a short time period (say 30 seconds)
  3. Ask that everyone shares at the same time (hold it in front of them and keep it there)
  4. Give a moment to look around the circle to see what has been drawn
  5. Ask for a quick explanation for why they drew what they drew.

Modifications

  • Ask everyone to select a color that resonates with them at that moment and then when sharing ask to talk about their drawing and why that color.

Example questions

  • How are you arriving today?
  • What energy are you bringing with you?
  • How do you feel about X project/topic?

3. Mark the paper

 

This process works well when dealing with creativity and innovation, with those who feel less comfortable drawing, as it pushes people to make a mark on a sheet. Also works well when working with large groups split up into smaller tables.

Materials needed

  • Large sheet of paper on the table(s)
  • Pens (enough for one each)

Method

  1. Ask everyone to write their name on the sheet
  2. Then to draw something that resonates with their name
  3. Ask the groups to share within their table
  4. For a larger group, you can invite one or two tables to share what they see emerge, or speaks to them

4. Squiggle Birds

Materials needed

  • Pens
  • Paper

Method

  1. Draw a squiggle on your paper
  2. Turn it into a bird by first adding feet like sticks
  3. Then look at it and decide where you want the head to be
  4. Draw some eyes and give it a very simple tail feather

Example questions

  • How is your squiggle bird arriving at this meeting?

5. Pick a Card

Materials

  • Set of cards
    Example: Percolab circle cards

Method

  1. Lay the cards out in the group.
  2. Ask people to choose one and turn it over.
  3. Ask some questions around the card choice, like “Why did you choose that colour or card?”

Example questions

  • What are you noticing when you look at the image (or see the picture)?
  • What does it say to you?”

6. Answer in image

Materials

  • Large paper (big enough for everyone)
  • Pens

Method

  1. Put a big piece of paper in the middle of the group.
  2. Make sure everyone has a marker
  3. Ask a question like “How are you arriving today?” or “What’s important for you today?”.  Everyone draws in response at the same time.
  4. Stand back and see what’s been drawn
  5. Go around and ask for people to share something about their image

7. Quick Find

Works well with distance teams i.e. via zoom or skype

Materials

  • Access to computer (ideally laptop) or smart phone

Method

  1. Use Google as your image bank.
  2. Think of an idea or your project and search for an image that represents something about it you’d like to share.
  3. Remember to give yourself a short time to search, otherwise you might fall into the internet and never come back! We suggest a one minute timer.
  4. Have each person share their image

8. Body talk

Materials

  • Paper and pens

Method

  1. Draw a body — it can be a stick or star person.
  2. What does the head, heart, arms and legs have to say?  Write this on your paper — either as a group exercise on a big sheet of paper or on individual sheets.
  3. Share around the group.

Visual check-ins help to bring people into innovation and creativity in a light way. Feel free to play around with these suggestions. Try them out with your team. Each of these are easily adaptable to the situation and context, as well as the needs and purpose of the meeting or the event. You have some other similar practices you would like to share? we would love to hear from you.

If you want to discover how Visual Thinking can relate to your business, project or ideas, join online in the VISUAL THINKING LAB, starting June 28, 2017.

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Playing with Open Space Methodology

How far can you stretch an open space methodology? For the facilitator in me, there is nothing like a good ol’ open space to nimbly pass the power and responsability of an event over to the participants. People can forget that I am in the room as the life of self-organization flows. The process leads to new found clarity, ideas, connections that can help unstick thinking, open a field, prepare a decision etc, but the output I appreciate the most is the flip that happens inside people. The “Oh, things can be that simple and real”. And the “Oh, if there is something I care about strongly, that means it’s me who should be doing something about it.” This is great stuff and I have found myself playing with it in ways that are surprising me.

City as open space

Recently, we co-organized a three day event in Montreal on the theme of the commons for 75 participants [Art of Commoning] with three international experts: David Bollier (USA), Silke Helfrich (Germany) and Frédérique Sultan (France). The first two days of the event took place at the natural science museum, Space for Life.

daytwo

Art of Commoning at the Rio Tinto Planetarium, Montreal

We knew that the venue was not available for the third day and we had made a deliberate decision to NOT rent another venue and try out a wild idea.

What if for day three we trusted the group to self-organise their day in different locations around the city?

This super wide open space had some risks given the time of year was November and the number of people involved,  but the team was up for the experimentation.

I must say it was helpful that the event was pushing self-organization in multiple ways. Lunch for day two was a 75 person potluck  with light instructions to run it efficiently. All dishes, sweet and savoury, were laid out in the centre of a long dining table. With 4 starting points, everyone moved along the table serving themselves. Only once everyone was served did we sit down.

table

75 person potluck

At the end of day two, we announced that the whole next day was dedicated to working on our projects together in any way we wanted. 15 people stepped up with a project. Each person shared how much time they wanted to work on their project – 3 hours being the most popular. We invited everyone to self organise, where and when they would meet the next day and with whom. There was a period of semi-chaos with lots of noise and some concern that the facilitators should have done more, and then, magically, the dust settled. Everyone knew where things were going to take place the next day, at someone’s home, at a coworking, a fablab. The full schedule was emailed to all later that evening with details of locations, times, project leaders, contact numbers and a one stop emergency number. We all shared a collective online space (framapad) for documentation. Finally, we all agreed to meet up at the end of the day for dinner and celebrations (some people took up the “dinner for 75 challenge”).

The experience was true to open space spirit. The work was engaging, deep, dynamic. Most people attended two sessions, some in different locations.

commons patterns3

Art of Commoning day 3, work session at EchoFab, Montréal

Over the course of the day the projects leapfrogged to their next step. A school of commoning moved to the next level, a community land trust initiative got unstuck, a group contributed to an international initiative of patterns of the commons, a business transitioned and a some projects of  living spaces as commons gathered momentum and much more.

commoningfab2

Session on Patterns of commoning with Silke Helfrich

At the evening meeting point, at ECTO co-working cooperative we were all a-buzz, sharing our experiences and projects over a home cooked meal, with a bit of play and  video harvesting and then some good ol’ dancing.

party3

andyDuring the evening  a time bank was set up and those who wanted to made further commitments to the projects of the day. The mutual support that had begun that day was able to continue on.

And so, the light frame that holds the freedom of an open space can extend out even across a city and coming back together  helps the collective field to continue to grow.

Guide to City Wide Open Space

Day Before

  • Invite in a culture of helping each other and a way of working for wiser action.
  • Allow  specific time and space whereby those who hold the projects and those who are keen to help out work out when and where they would like to meet by themselves. Trust that they will be able to figure out what is best to do.
  • Share digitally, web/email the open space market place, with contact info and maps

The day of

  • Allow the magic to happen
  • Share through social media, an online collective writing space (ex. frampad)
  • Come together to see a collective harvest and generally celebrate!
  • Set up a time bank to facilitate continued collaboration.

 

 

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