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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Engineers without Borders meets Art of Hosting

Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) invited the Montreal Art of Hosting community to collaborate at their annual conference, a significant event uniting 750 people for 3 days, 200 of whom participated in a pre-conference leadership day. The collaboration was natural given both communities work on complex issues and questions in service of the common good; EWB’s mandate is to « create systemic change, wherever it’s needed to accelerate Africa’s development and unlock the potential of its people. »

The EWB community had sharp clarity on the themes of this year’s conference, entitled Unite to Unlock: connect, co-create and act. On our end, the Art of Hosting team came to the collaboration with these learning intentions:

1. What is a light but high-impact way of bringing Art of Hosting practice into a more conventionally organized large-scale gathering?

2. How can we host at a huge event with the same lightness and playfulness as at a smaller event?

For the high impact presence of Art of Hosting, we agreed to implement a daily check-in and check-out practice for the four days. This means each day we would offer a short activity at the beginning and end of the day, to amplify the individual learning and collective experience. Leadership day began with a co-created check-in which included reflections on leadership, some conscious walking around the room and a good ol’ collective scream and closed on a completely different note, with a silent sharing of our learning edges.

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Since, the conference opened with some powerful storytelling, the check-in naturally focused on « How does my story connect to the stories that have been told? ». In the space that opened up « droplets of humanity » filled the room (as one participant described the experience).

Each check-in and check-out was carefully designed and matched to the beat and rhythm of the conference. At one point, the room burst into a one minute « crazy dance », a release of energy and an expression of joy that did a world of good. Another day began by by sharing our calling with another person, three times over, a series of exchanges that were both meaningful and helped participants to hone in on what they wished to get from the event. After that particular check-in, the keynote speaker, Dr. Sulley Gariba, shared his surprise and delight with his check-in experience,  in one he encountered an old friend from 30 years ago he hadn’t expected to meet and another  a young engineer.

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On the Saturday evening of the conference, we hosted a home-cooked dinner for delegates who wished to discover more about the Art of Hosting community. Engineering students and recent graduates joined some local Art of Hosting practitioners in mutual discovery (including a bit of dancing). When the engineers understood that the Art of Hosting community exists across the country, they were excited about furthering collaborations at their local level.

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At the conference, participants and organizers, seeing us on our own learning edges, stepped up, trembling, into their learning edges and wowed themselves and the crowd with their acts of courage and leadership. The conference co-chair took the microphone and, with tears running down her cheek, spoke with heart and clarity on the intention of the gathering. Pushing boundaries requires trusting and trying, and that is what we were all doing, each day, more and more.

The final check-out was a huge improvisation in trust and trying, where an ecosystem of groups/teams organized and ran their own check-out (open space style), allowing a collective, powerful whole to unfold.

messy

What was the impact and learning? The conference organizers say:

« I keep receiving comments about how positive people felt the entire time, and it’s clear that the moments you spent helping people arrive and leave the space each day played an important role in that.  »

« We had an incredibly ambitious vision about how to unite all of these people in an inclusive way and your collective art helped create something even better than we could have imagined. »

« One sponsor said said the check-ins and outs of this conference were some of his favorite moments. A highlight in fact! »

On our end, we held the intention of lightness well. One member of our team sums it up when with these words

« That was so easy. You don’t even notice there are 750 people in the room ».

And as for the connection between EWB and AOH? As usual, I find that we tend to go in with this idea of « bringing » our practice and in the end it’s us who are « getting » a huge gift and learning ourselves. I bow to the powerful, sharp and heart felt system work of the EWB community. My world has widened to include the shifts of the engineering profession and the caring and challenges of their work, and the courageous leadership afoot, here and in Africa. When communities come together in collaboration and inquiry, their collective strength grows.

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Montreal Art of Hosting community who partook in the collaboration: Samantha Slade, Jonathan Jubinville, Juan Carlos Londono, Cedric Jamet, Ezra Bridgman, Paul Messer, Lisa Gravel and Hélène Brown.

 

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Trois astuces pour ouvrir une rencontre en douceur

Il nous arrive fréquemment de participer à une réunion qui commence par une simple question telle que  « Comment ça va aujourd’hui ? ». Cela nous permet d’apprendre que notre collègue fête son 30e anniversaire de mariage, que la nuit a été courte pour un autre parce que son petit était malade, ou encore que la marche dans la neige était particulièrement magique le matin. Cette petite attention informelle nous permet d’accéder à l’humain, de nous rappeler que nous ne sommes pas des machines. Et ça fait du bien !

Ce n’est pas toujours possible ou pertinent de le faire, pensez-vous ? Détrompez-vous ! La plupart du temps, on doit entrer tout de suite dans le vif de l’ordre du jour de la rencontre. Évidemment, il y a tant de choses à faire ! Or, prendre un petit moment en début de réunion est loin d’être du temps perdu ! Il peut servir à améliorer l’efficacité de la rencontre et à la rendre plus agréable, et ce, autant pour des rencontres de travail régulières que pour un grand rassemblement.

Attention, l’art du « check in » demande du soin. Avant toute chose, on doit se rappeler l’intention de la rencontre (= le fil invisible !). Ensuite, on cherche à formuler une question simple, authentique, sans trop se casser la tête. Enfin, on passe notre question à la moulinette d’assurance qualité ! Voici les trois critères que nous utilisons couramment pour concevoir une ouverture de réunion réussie et sympathique :

checkin triangle1. La question nous ouvre (directement ou indirectement) à l’intention de la rencontre.

2. La question nous invite à quitter notre mode intellectuel. Elle nous fait entrer en mode ressenti et elle nous aide à être plus présent. 

3. La démarche tient compte des possibles et des contraintes de la rencontre et elle nous aide à développer un sens du groupe. 

Au besoin, il est possible de valider la question d’ouverture avec une autre personne, surtout dans le cadre d’une rencontre particulièrement stratégique ou d’envergure. Il est également envisageable de travailler la question en équipe.

Concrètement, en pratique, ça ressemble à quoi ? Voici cinq exemples authentiques :

Lorsque les personnes du groupe ne se connaissent pas :

1. Une session de travail de 2 heures avec 15 chercheurs universitaires et des jeunes dans une démarche d’idéation pour des projets environnementaux.

Question : « Partagez un moment vécu en nature cet été. »
(Version de travail :  Pourquoi l’environnement est important pour vous ? )

Déroulement : 10 minutes. Chacun, à tour de rôle, partage sa réponse.

2. Un événement de 3 jours ayant réuni 70 personnes autour du sujet « les biens communs ».

Question :  « Qu’est-ce que les « Communs » pour vous ? »

Déroulement : 15 minutes. Chaque personne se lève et va à la rencontre de quelqu’un pour échanger pendant 2 minutes. Répétition de la situation à quatre reprises, avant un partage de quelques observations en grand groupe.

checkin

À l’Espace pour la vie, Biodôme de Montréal, atelier de participation citoyenne : moment d’ouverture.

3. Un atelier de participation citoyenne de 5 heures avec une trentaine de personnes au Biodôme de Montréal.  

Question : « Pourquoi avez-vous choisi de participer à cette journée ? »

Déroulement : 35 minutes. Chaque personne se lève et va à la rencontre d’une personne inconnue au sein du groupe. Elles se  présentent et partagent leurs réponses pendant 5 minutes. Retour en grand groupe pour présenter son/sa partenaire.

Lorsque les personnes du groupe se connaissent déjà :

4. Un conseil d’administration d’un organisme (œuvrant dans le domaine de l’entrepreneuriat) se rencontre pour une journée de réflexion stratégique (12 personnes). 

Question : « Partagez une entreprise que vous avez découvert cet été et qui vous a inspiré. » (Version de travail : Qu’est-ce que l’innovation pour vous ?)

Déroulement : 30 minutes. Chaque personne partage sa réponse à tour de rôle.

5. Formation de 90 minutes sur la créativité avec 50 employés de différents services d’une ville. 

Question :  « Quel lieu, fait, aspect de votre ville avez-vous découvert récemment et apprécié ? »

Déroulement: 10 minutes.  Chaque personne écrit sa réponse sur une fiche et va ensuite à la rencontre d’une autre personne. Elles se présentent, partagent leurs réponses et créent une nouvelle idée à partir des deux fiches. Partage de quelques réponses en grand groupe.

Vous n’êtes pas convaincu que cela marcherait dans votre milieu ? Les questions à imaginer peuvent être créatives et amusantes. Voici quelques exemples ayant bien fonctionné pour nous :

Que deux minutes pour se dire bonjour ? Une question légère, rapide et révélatrice : « Si vous étiez un animal, lequel seriez-vous ? »

Il fait beau et à la dernière minute vous choisissez de déplacer la rencontre au parc ? Posez la question d’ouverture et laissez les gens y répondre en marchant.

Cinq cents personnes, une créneau de 90 minutes et une rencontre téléphonique ? Prendre 10 minutes pour se dire bonjour dans des centaines de petits groupes virtuels de 4 à 5 personnes (grâce à la technologie Maestro) et répondre à la question : «Pourquoi est-ce important pour moi de participer à cet appel ?»

Vous voyez ? Que du plaisir et de la créativité !

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Percolab leads workshops that introduce collaborative skills…

to anyone with pen, paper and a desire to achieve.
Exploring the ‘chaordic path’ can open new vistas for businesses.
By Jennifer Westlake, Special to the Gazette. Montreal Gazette, 2nd May 2014

 

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From “Quick and Dirty” to “Easy and Light”: Frameworks for getting stuff done

A few weeks ago, as our team at percolab was being interviewed by a reporter, I blurted something out. A kinda funny little something that I would normally forget as soon as it came out of my mouth. Weeks later, my off-the-cuff remark is still rankling me.

We were talking about percolab’s agile approach to working with organizations, a tangent to the main question “What exactly does percolab do?” (Hmmm….how much time do you have?), when the discussion veered deeper into how challenging it is for both individuals and organizations to take risks, even really small ones.

Taking risks is scary. Many of us carry a metric of perfection that dictates if something is worth doing it must be done perfectly – or at least extremely well. When I consider a new task I calculate the effort it will take for me to accomplish it to the highest possible standard. If I don’t feel like I can put in that full effort right away I try to schedule it in for another day – assuming, of course, that this particular day will be more amenable to this task. The predictable result is that my to-do list is typically quite long and I often feel weighed down by standards that absolutely no one is holding me to but myself.

The issue here is not one of productivity or efficiency, nor one of quality. As I carry around the limiting belief that the work I do must be perfect, I am robbing myself of the most important and pleasurable aspects of working: the opportunity to learn, and the possibility of learning with others.

For instance, I take notes in meetings: what I’m hearing, what I think, new ideas, related tasks, connections to other concepts, things to consider, big picture thinking, that kinda thing. My notes aren’t perfect. They range from insipid to insightful, and they may or may not prove to be useful. But here’s the thing: if they stay in my notebook or laptop their possible usefulness is moot. I often think of sharing my notes with others but my metric of perfection tells me that these notes need to be edited, properly researched and annotated, massaged into complete sentences, and then made pretty. Very, very rarely (ever?) have I managed to meet this standard, more often than I would like to admit, I simply don’t get around to sharing my notes. So there they sit, depreciating by the day. The impact? My focus on making ’em pretty detracts from the ideas in my notes and the possible learning they could provide me should I actually share said ideas and interact with others over their content. On the other hand, not sharing my notes is relatively risk-free.

Recently, I’ve been trying to override my metric of perfection. Now, after a meeting I’ll read over my notes, correct any typos, do a quick spell check, delete anything irrelevant, take a deep breath, take a risk, and press send. Just like that: quick and dirty.

As we talked to the reporter about how percolab accompanies organizations through change, Samantha elaborated on the beautiful challenge we face of creating a space where people feel comfortable enough to do imperfect things so that they (we) may learn: to experiment, to draft, to model, to prototype, to play. We hasten a process of production along (that often gets bogged down by perfectionist tendencies) to get to the learning it contains. We learn about the soundness of our ideas this way. Sometimes it’s just about getting it done.

“Quick and dirty,” I quipped to the reporter.

“Easy and light,” Samantha said in the same breath.

I laughed at my rougher take on the same idea. But a discomfort caused by the gaping difference in how we each expressed the same idea stayed with me for the rest of the interview. It stayed all the next day too. Weeks later that discomfort is still rattling around my brain.

Doing things “quick and dirty” has liberated me from (some of) my perfectionist tendencies. But it is also an excuse in and of itself. If something is quick and dirty it absolves me from the risk of it not being good enough by ranking pretty low on the metric of perfection. Quick and dirty implies no effort.

“Easy and light” is an entirely new paradigm. It is effortless. Easy and light emerges from creativity and inspiration. Easy and light doesn’t even acknowledge the notion of perfection. Something that is easy and light, simply is. It is something that we use to gain learning and wisdom. There is no expectation of anything more.

So should you ever happen to find yourself in a meeting with me and would like to see my notes: just ask. I will happily send them to you so that we may learn together.

Easy and light. Just like that.

 

elizabeth@percolab.com

 

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