The city of the future is the one people narrate together

Guest Author: Mary Alice Arthur, Get Soaring

If you’ve ever been to Montreal, you will have experienced the vibrant hum of the city. It is a city that has distinctive neighbourhoods and an international flavour, and it is also a city committed to exploring and vitalising diversity. 2017 marks 375 years for Montreal and the city is helping to mark the celebration by making a public process of community storytelling.

Imagine, if you will wooden circular structures popping up in the midst of St Catherines walking street or in your local neighbourhood. They look very much like an open basket, because that was their inspiration.

Their intention is to create a network of points in space that transform people’s narrative about where they are and how they inhabit the space. Although they appear like little separate pods, they are all connected to the element of surprise and forming community, enabling people who sit in them to imagine space in a different way and create possibilities that were not there before.

They are called Nacelles, a French word meaning the basket of a hot air balloon, but conceptually pointing to network or multiplicity. In a tangible, physical way, they create a commons, a place to gather and share. By their very shape, they create an interesting bounded object in a public space in the shape of a circle. You’re exposed like you would be in public space, but you have a container of intimacy, and intentional collaborative moments in conversation. The nacelles create intimacy while you’re outside.

Each Nacelle is a set of pre-fabricated pieces which are easy to build together in about 20 minutes. In fact, the very act of building them starts creating community. They are about 12 feet in diameter, and seat around 12 – 15 people on two tiers of benches with a small table in the middle. But they are also permeable. People can stand outside the structure and lean in, making it possible to take part in something, even if you’ve just arrived.

Using these structures for public dialog and storytelling is the brainchild of French-based group Comm1possible. It fits seamlessly into Montreal-based practice Percolab‘s approach to dialogue and storytelling. Cédric Jamet explains: “We need more ways to connect people than social networks. The “smart city” as we think about it, is not enough. We need structures that allow us to do this in a real and physical way. That’s how Nacelles emerged.

“There was a consciousness around the circle as a way to connect people that informed the structure of the Nacelle. The idea of the city of the future is a city created by the people who live in it. Nacelles become a physical representation of that.

This project around inclusion is also around sharing individual stories, and what comes up is a common story of inclusion.

“When we think about it, this project around inclusion is also around sharing individual stories, and what comes up is a common story of inclusion. Nacelles help create a commons. The original idea was how can we experiment to create urban commons and cities as commons. That’s where it came from and where it’s headed. Really at the heart of the project is the idea of what becomes possible when we build the spaces we live in together.”

“The physical structure invites curiosity. And when you go over the threshold of curiosity it invites in relationship,” says Elizabeth Hunt. “One of our upcoming projects is around diversity and multi-culturalism with a borough of Montreal. Around their multi-cultural citizen day, we will be working with storytellers in the nacelles and then we will invite citizens with their own stories of how to shift the dominant discourse from integration to one of inclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s about building this together, shared responsibility. People show up with strollers, walking their dog. When a whole bunch of different kinds of people are there, you have the permission to go see. It’s a strange attractor. You enter the structure as strangers and emerge as allies. We are continuing to ask ourselves how we can use Nacelles as a collective sensemaking structure.”

Cedric chimes in again: “It shapes a bunch of things, experimenting with the Nacelle as a natural way to inclusion. We all have a relationship to this theme, whether we are born here or not, came here or not. I was hosting during the storytelling process – the storyteller was indigenous and his theme was around what it is to welcome and host people in. I was thinking ‘I’m an immigrant here. I’m French originally. I have a colonial background in me.’ Everyone who participated and shared stories verbalized their connection to this place in ways that were not anticipated. There’s something that happens when story gets shared and space gets held. Holding space is the condition for emergence. Something special happens.”

Elizabeth agrees, even though her story is completely different: “I’m born and bred in Montreal – same hospital as my dad – 11 – 15 generations each side. Those streets I’ve walked as a child, my parents, my grandparents also walked. I graduated from University on those steps over there. I had supper with someone there a few blocks over. My relationships to this space – what else is possible in my relationship to this city – is forever transformed by being there with the nacelles. We can transform an area into a storytelling platform, what else can we do in terms of moulding this city?”

Percolab has been partnering with French company Comm1Possible, which developed the concept and has used the nacelles in France and Morocco. Percolab is their only North American partner, but it seems obvious that the nacelles are far more than a way of creating community conversation and storytelling.  Even the way the two organisations are working together is seeking to create a commons out of the application of nacelles.

“Nacelles help create a commons,” Cedric tells me. “Then there’s the whole aspect of how we work together — if our purpose is to create commons, then Nacelles itself has to be a commons. That’s what we’re building on with Comm1Possible – how do we develop the system supporting Nacelles that is thought of and lived as a commons? Yes, there’s the object, but there’s a whole philosophy and business model that goes around it.”

Elizabeth continues: “We haven’t explored the questions, but the physicality of it invites the questions – how do we share this? Who does it belong to? How do we share the decisions? What is our vision for greater social change? We’re trying to work a commons based agreement – our working relationship is a commons relationship.”

In the end, it comes back to the magic of creating a space for people to narrate their common future.

As Cedric says: “The more people there are in the Nacelle, the more the Nacelle becomes invisible and it becomes a circle that’s about people. When we were using them on St Catherine and I walked away for a few minutes, I could see a conglomerate of people, but you couldn’t see the Nacelles. It was like a bunch of grapes but you can’t see the stem. It is an architecture that is holding people together but that you can’t see when its working well – it becomes invisible. That’s a metaphor for excellent hosting work.”

 

Find the original post by Mary Alice Arthur

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À quoi sert une formation percolab?

Je suis consciente que notre approche de formation est non-conventionnelle, voir déstabilisante pour les participants.  

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Formation auprès des élus et agents de développement économique du Québec.

Il y a trois motivations derrière notre modèle  :

  1. Connecter ses façons de travailler avec des cadres conceptuels pour créer du sens.
  2. Vivre des expériences qui permettent d’entrer dans des subtilités pour amplifier sa manière de travailler.
  3. Construire sur ce que l’on fait déjà si bien avec plus de conscience.
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Atelier offert au secteur des entreprises d’insertion sociale du Québec.

Pas évident d’avoir des indicateurs sur de telles intentions.

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Des participants en plein travail lors d’un atelier sur les Méthodes d’intelligence collective.

Quand Philippe Garon, un participant d’une formation en région (Gaspésie, Québec), m’a fait un retour sur son expérience, ça m’a fait chaud au coeur. J’entends l’impact à travers son récit.

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Philippe Garon en action professionnelle.

“Bonjour !

Je suis un artiste multidisciplinaire qui vit en Gaspésie. J’offre aussi mes services en rédaction, correction et animation. Grâce à la direction régionale du ministère de la Culture et des Communications, j’ai eu la chance de suivre une formation de Percolab avec Samantha Slade ici à Bonaventure en juillet 2015. En compagnie de 15 autres intervenant(e)s culturels de toute la région, j’ai pu me familiariser avec de nouvelles techniques de mobilisation créative. Quelle belle bouffée d’oxygène ! Nous avons pu nous familiariser avec plusieurs méthodes originales pour dynamiser les rencontres des multiples organisations qui œuvrent dans nos milieux. Samantha a réussi à adapter le contenu et son approche en fonction de nos réalités.

Personnellement, depuis cette formation, j’applique le plus possible dans mon travail mes apprentissages et je sens réellement une différence. Mes clients aiment expérimenter des activités qui sortent de l’ordinaire dans le cadre de leurs réunions. Leur efficacité et le plaisir qu’ils éprouvent à travailler ensemble s’en trouvent décuplés. Mais au-delà des méthodes que nous pouvons maintenant leur proposer, il y a l’importance de l’ambiance, de l’atmosphère que nous installons au sein des équipes que nous aidons. Mettre l’accent sur l’énergie positive, sur l’intelligence collective. Offrir aux gens un maximum d’espace pour leur permettre de s’exprimer et prendre le temps de vraiment les écouter. Encourager le questionnement, le rire, l’accueil des émotions, la réflexion, la créativité et la recherche d’idées audacieuses. Voilà un programme ambitieux, mais tellement motivant ! Percolab m’a donné le goût de pousser plus loin la maîtrise de l’art d’animer pour aider les gens de chez nous.”

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Philippe Garon en plein travail lors de la formation percolab dans sa région.

Merci Philippe pour un retour si ouvert. Si vous avez un retour apprenant suite à un atelier ou expérience percolab, svp partagez!!

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La participation citoyenne, une démarche pédagogique?

Comment les citoyens peuvent-ils vraiment contribuer à des projets majeurs? Est-ce un vœu pieux, peu réaliste, de vouloir les impliquer directement, dès le début, dans la conception et le développement des projets?

Chez percolab, nous croyons profondément à la participation active des citoyens dans la construction de leur environnement de vie et de travail. C’est d’autant plus vrai que, devant la complexité des défis auxquels nous sommes confrontés, on ne peut se priver de leur expertise. La démarche sera plus profitable si les citoyens sont invités à s’y impliquer rapidement. Le plus tôt sera le mieux.

Nous aimons co-développer les démarches de participation citoyenne sur base des quatre principes suivants :

  1. Aller vers le citoyen, dans son milieu, ses routines, son quotidien. Par exemple, dans le cadre du projet Imaginons Saint-Marc, nous avons été à la rencontre des paroissiens après une messe, en offrant du thé et le partage d’un repas léger. C’était le moment idéal pour les interpeller. Ces personnes n’allaient probablement pas se déplacer à un évènement formel, bien qu’elles aient beaucoup d’idées à partager.
  2. Offrir un espace-temps pour s’ouvrir aux possibles et accueillir l’inattendu. Cela peut se faire à travers le partage d’expériences inspirantes, d’anecdotes, ou encore à travers des mises en situation qui permettent d’explorer différentes perspectives. Nous aimons utiliser le prototypage in situ pour permettre aux participants d’entrer dans une démarche de découverte active.
  3. Soutenir le citoyen dans l’appropriation de la complexité d’un projet. Il importe de ne pas submerger le citoyen d’informations mais de lui permettre de saisir la complexité du projet de manière progressive. Il est par exemple possible de délimiter un volet très précis du projet et de proposer aux citoyens de poser toutes les questions qu’ils souhaitent à des professionnels et à des experts afin de mieux saisir les enjeux et les éléments clés du projet. Il est également envisageable d’élaborer un outil pédagogique. Par exemple, dans le cadre d’une démarche concernant l’avenir d’une bibliothèque, nous avons utilisé une affiche (infographie) pour expliquer l’histoire de l’évolution des bibliothèques. Les citoyens ont ainsi eu l’occasion d’explorer la question avec une certaine perspective.
  4. Offrir un espace pour l’émergence d’une voix collective. Nous estimons que la participation citoyenne est bien plus que la somme des avis individuels. Il importe d’aller au-delà de la collecte des points de vue individuels et de chercher à obtenir, à travers les échanges, l’exploration et l’expérimentation, la convergence et l’émergence d’idées fortes, partagées et porteuses d’énergie.

La clé de la réussite dans tout cela? Elle tient dans l’art du design du processus, de la médiation de la démarche et dans une sensibilité andragogique constante – celle qui reconnaît à toute personne une expérience et des acquis qui peuvent servir dans toutes les facettes de sa vie, et ce, y compris en tant que citoyen actif. En tant que designer pédagogique, je suis profondément convaincue de l’importance de cette approche.

 

 

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Photos par Kim Auclair, Journée participation citoyenne dans le cadre du Projet secteur Champ-de-Mars (septembre 2014).

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Art Hives : social inclusion through art

Art Hives are interactive community spaces that welcomes everyone as an artist, a “third space” focused on arts-based social inclusion. The model and practice of Art Hives have evolved through two decades of sustained practice research, continuous observation and adaptation, and experimentation with spaces and organizational structures led by Dr. Janis Timm-Bottos (Concordia University), who has developed and established six successful art hives in different locations across North America. In the last few years the Montreal-based art hives have garnered much attention and have been highly appreciated by the local community. Funding was acquired to seed a three-year initiative intended to facilitate learning and information-sharing on how both the model and practice of arts-based social inclusion can be replicated or adapted in other communities, both locally and across Canada.

The percolab team collaborated with the researcher team to explore, formalize and disseminate the Art Hive practice across Canada. This involved an integrated approach for a live event and online community support tools. Percolab co-organised a pan-canadian symposium of three days, with 50 participants ; a creative and participatory experience to support the diverse initiatives emerging across the country and the development of an Art Hive community. A stylish online space was developed to support the community in collaborating beyond the event – http://www.arthives.org/ –  it helps federate and inspire an open and self-organizing community. percolab also created an open-source branding for the emerging movement.

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Serving seniors with social innovation

An initiative of the Fondation Berthiaume-Du Tremblay, PRÉSÂGES  supports the development the community-based organizations that work with the elderly across Québec. The project « Trajectoire » aims to introduce social innovation to this sector.

Trajectoire invited percolab to accompany them in the planning, design, and hosting of their event the “Grand Ralliement sur l’innovation sociale”. Above and beyond ensuring that the execution of their event was congruent with the principles behind social innovation, Trajectoire asked to be coached by percolab in order to develop its own capacity in working with collective intelligence and organizing participatory events.

Feedback:

The day reached a level that neared perfection in our eyes, participants invested of themselves more than we could have possibly hoped.

Steeven Pedneault, Project Coordinator, Trajectoire

We discovered percolab, a real gem, and as we are innovating, they added their innovations to ours and now we are all in a hyper-innovative mode!

Marilou Brasseur, Trajectoire

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Cultural neighbourhoods

Montreal is a city brimming with culture and urban cultural spaces. To consolidate and showcase Montréal’s creative entities the City of Montreal has adopted a Cultural Quarters vision for itself around what it means to be a “cultural quarter.” As part of this process the City of Montreal mandated percolab to develop and design a one-day workshop (held twice) for managers and professionals working on this idea, either at city-centre or in individual boroughs. The objective of the day was to explore what it means to work on the notion of cultural quarters, share what is already being done, cross-pollinate ideas across the city, and generate an open and collaborative space of possibility.

percolab designed the day and hosted participants through a project sharing workshop, an Open Space session, creative brainstorming, and a reflection circle, all the while capturing the day in a “mini-book” containing photos, a visual harvest, and process documentation.

Participants worked together so that Cultural Quarters may become a source of vitality for the city of Montréal.

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