Brainstorming/choice-creating

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Jim Rough

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Nov 25, 2009, 4:10:05 AM11/25/09
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Hi Nancy,

Yes, the seminar used to have a high energy creative exercise using brainstorming ... we brainstormed uses for "slug slime" and other weird stuff. It was structured in a way to help people get in touch with the amazing creative potential inside themselves and how it could link up with group creativity. But over the years as the central importance of Choice-creating became clear, the traditional "creative problem solving" aspects of the seminar fell aside. In 1991 I wrote an article describing the difference between brainstorming and choice-creating that is still pretty good. It's posted at http://blog.tobe.net/?p=12

Brainstorming is one of the "run and jump" processes, where you set aside judgement, generate a great spirit of creativity and collaboration and lots of ideas, and then you bring back judgment to assess which ideas are best.  As soon as the judgement comes back in, though, the group can lose a lot of the good energy it created. Many trust-building activities are like that. You do the trust-building and then hope it lasts while you handle the real material. Dialogue and deliberation supposedly fit together in a similar way.  I don't think they fit so well, but the idea is that you use dialogue to build the spirit of openness and creativity and then employ deliberation to assess which options are best. That's choice-making and not choice-creating. With choice-creating you talk in a heartfelt, authentic, creative way and then at some point you notice that a number of group "decisions" have already been made. Actually they aren't really decisions though, because you never used judgment. The term that we've come to use ... my wife Jean coined it ... is "of courses." We look back and "harvest" the "of courses." 

So choice-creating is NOT so much about creating options, or creating choices, and then making the choice. That's the world of brainstorming. In brainstorming you are NOT authentic. Your creativity comes off the top of the head. Choice-creating is where you must be authentic and speak from the heart. It's more heart creativity. Choice-creating transforms us.

Jim


On Nov 25, 2009, at 3:22 AM, Nancy Robb wrote:

Thanks Jim for this clarity.  I remember when I took your DF class in Port Townsend, we did a lot of brainstorming to create options.  This is back when you were using the slug slime exercise.  You wrote here about creating choices.  What is the distinction between that and looking for options?

Happy Thanksgiving all.

nancy


-----Original Message----- 
From: Jim Rough 
Sent: Nov 24, 2009 9:38 AM 
To: DynamicFa...@googlegroups.com, wisdomcouncil 
Subject: [WC] Re: Promise USA 

Hi Raffi,

Thank you for the "heads up" on this.  I hope you and others will help the people at Promise USA know about Dynamic Facilitation and the Wisdom Council process and about choice-creating.  I'm optimistic because Nancy Margulies, is a founding member of Promise USA, as well as a co-originator of World Cafe, plus being a world-reknowned graphic facilitator. She came to the DF seminar this past September and has been a strong supporter of the Wisdom Council Process for some time. I think her deep understanding of these different approaches will affect the orientation of Promise USA, as yours has with the folk at Open Space Technology. However, their orientation to "dialogue" makes me hesitate. I've seen a number of well-intentioned national dialogue networks fizzle because, in my mind, they misunderstand what is needed. 

There are many of us now who see that the problem with our society has something to do with our way of talking and thinking together. Many see "dialogue" as the missing ingredient, others see "deliberation," or the combination of dialogue and deliberation. I see it to be "choice-creating." The problem is that those in the dialogue community "get" the value of deliberation but don't tend to distinguish choice-creating. Those in the deliberation community tend to see the value of dialogue, but don't distinguish choice-creating. I used to think DF generated a form of "dialogue" and I used to talk about how the "Wisdom Council" would change the national "dialogue". I still do on occasion. But this is misleading. It's choice-creating that is the missing ingredient. 

Because others do not recognize the distinction, however, it's possible for us to pretend that we offer a new method of "dialogue" and fit under that umbrella. But since we set up the room differently, we don't require guidelines of talking, we encouraged advocacy, and we seek a unanimous perspective, our approach undermines dialogue. Ultimately, if we carry on in this way, we get people upset. The same is true for the methods of "deliberative democracy." We don't fit into that basket either but they don't make the distinction, so we seem to fit. Eventually people get upset with our different approach. Once, for example, some deliberative democracy gurus became so frustrated with me and my perspective ... we were going to meet with a high level government official ... they insisted I NOT give him a copy of my book. They didn't want my view of deliberation to mess up real deliberation.

As Rosa Zubizarreta said in a recent public letter ... 
"our work does not fit tidily into the pre-existing categories of “dialogue” or “deliberation”. Instead, it falls squarely “between and beyond”. In some ways it resembles dialogue, as the conversation unfolds in an open-ended way with a “continually emerging agenda” of people’s concerns as they are expressed in the moment. The effects of the process are often extremely empowering to participants, especially those who have not often had the experience of being fully heard in groups or public forums. At the same time, this work is similar in some ways to deliberation, in that our forte is helping groups arrive at concrete action steps with regard to practical problems, action steps that emerge from a shared systemic understanding of the situation at hand."

We need a new kind of public conversation. This is the point of greatest leverage for us to achieve real solutions to Peak Oil, Climate Change, the Environmental Crisis, etc. You name it. But to actually make this shift in our society requires choice-creating. That's my view. New national dialogue attempts like Promise USA start up often but they run into big problems immediately no matter who is behind it. One is that only members of the Blue Team show up. The Red Team goes missing. Another is that the process is fundamentally a small-group process that requires high levels of consciousness from participants. It sets up expectations for how people can talk with one another but there is no viable way to make this kind of talking systemic. Plus, of course, dialogue doesn't enable people to reach group conclusions.

It's obvious to most process-aware people that we need to distinguish "discussion" and "dialogue." If we don't make this distinction, dialogue is impossible. Since dialogue requires an attitude of inquiry, not advocacy, it just takes one person to speak with advocacy in order to collapse the spirit of dialogue. The same thing happens when we do not distinguish between dialogue and choice-creating (or deliberation and choice-creating). Without understanding the requirements for choice-creating and setting up a proper structure to assure it -- mainly having a good DF'er in charge of the process -- it's easy to trash the spirit of choice-creating. But with a DF'er present we can achieve and sustain choice-creating and we don't need to rely on the skills of individual participants, as one does with both dialogue and deliberation. We just need people to care about an issue. This means the Red Team can show up as well as the Blue Team and the conversation will remain at a high level. Choice-creating doesn't avoid advocacy. It requires that people bluntly say what they want us to do. That's how people think already and with the DF'er present its OK. They don't have to define the problem first. They can jump to solutions. That's how people think already and it's OK, too. The DF'er provides a structure around how people naturally think rather than teaching them to think in a special way. He or she helps the group to hold these individual statements and behaviors in a way that supports the spirit of inquiry for the group.

I've spent a lot of time trying to influence the advocates of dialogue methods and deliberation methods, encouraging them to see and appreciate this distinction. My efforts often backfire. Even some of the best supporters of this process have become really upset with me when I take the third path of just being honest about the different nature of DF, that it isn't deliberative or dialogic. So here's my current strategy, particularly that things are working so well in Austria.

 I think the best strategy for me is to aim toward communicating to the people who have impossible-seeming, messy, systemic problems. Government officials, for example, increasingly find themselves in these untenable situations. Since the Wisdom Council Process and the Creative Insight Council really do transform the public conversation and since Manfred Hellrigl in Austria has already begun demonstrating this in an organized a way, the time will come when this distinction and the need to make it will just become obvious.

In the meantime I'm hoping you contact Promise USA and others to tell them about what's happening with the Wisdom Council Process and Dynamic Facilitation. 

Thanks for your persistence in helping to get processes into the mainstream that can help the human community transform the way we all make collective decisions.

Jim

On Nov 24, 2009, at 6:36 AM, Raffi Aftandelian wrote:

[x-[posted from OSlist. Would Wise Democracy see it worthwhile to be part of this?] 

warmly, 
raffi 

Dear Open Space Friends,


I'm excited to announce that several of your Open Space and World Cafe
friends are inviting Michelle Obama to engage the country in a
national network of citizen conversations, using World Cafe and other
dialogue methods such as Open Space Technology and Appreciative
Inquiry. Please visit our new Promise USA blog and be sure to post
your comments so that Michelle can see the groundswell of support.

We invite you to become an individual supporter of Promise USA. And if
you know of any organizations or communities that might want to offer
official support, please let us know.

You do not need to be a US citizen to share our passion. We welcome
all your comments and questions!

Warm wishes from a warm autumn in the desert,

Christine

Christine Whitney Sanchez
Collaborative Wisdom & Strategy
480.759.0262
www.christinewhitneysanchez.com
Skype: christinewhitneysanchez
http://www.facebook.com/ChristineWhitneySanchez





---------------------    
Jim Rough
Dynamic Facilitation Associates. | 360-385-7118j...@dynamicfacilitation.com | 

Upcoming public programs . . .
 
  • Upcoming seminars in Atlanta (Feb 22-24); London (March 8-11); Bregenz, Austria  (March 22-26); Bangkok, and Hong Kong.



























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Jim Rough
Dynamic Facilitation Associates. | 360-385-7118j...@dynamicfacilitation.com | 

Upcoming public programs . . .
 
  • Upcoming seminars in Atlanta (Feb 22-24); London (March 8-11); Bregenz, Austria  (March 22-26); Bangkok, and Hong Kong.

























Rosa Zubizarreta

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Nov 27, 2009, 12:18:30 AM11/27/09
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Hi Jim,

I just re-read your article... not only is it "still pretty good"...  it seems to me there's a lot more there, than I got from it the earlier times I have read it!

. In 1991 I wrote an article describing the difference between brainstorming and choice-creating that is still pretty good. It's posted at http://blog.tobe.net/?p=12


About "choice-creating"...  Earlier this evening, a few hours before I re-read your paper, I was having a conversation with someone where I was describing how you created DF, as a way to bring together "creativity of the head" and "creativity of the heart"...

I was also explaining how what we do in DF is a "third way", something that is not exactly either "dialogue" or "deliberation" as they are usually practiced, but something that has a bit of both...

After reading your post here, and re-reading your article, I am just now realizing that we could make a correspondence between these two sets of metaphors...

we could say that (in a way), "dialogue" is like "creativity of the heart"...
and that (in a way,) "deliberation" is like "creativity of the head"....

and that this "third way", whatever term we use for it (whether choice-creating, or practical dialogue, or creative deliberation, or diapraxis, or whatever... i like any and all of the above...:- )

This "third thing" that we are pointing to, that is creativity of the "head AND heart"...
that's WHY it doesn't "fit" exactly into either of the two categories of "dialogue" or "deliberation"....
because it's BOTH, head-and-heart, together...

Anyway, as you say, dialogue is great. We need more heart-centered conversations...
AND, we also need, to realize that we really CAN address practical issues, with both head-and-heart....

with all best wishes,

Rosa

Richard Moore

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Nov 27, 2009, 11:19:21 AM11/27/09
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Greetings,

Despite the fact that WCs are intended by Jim to ongoing events, the actual experience has been that DF and WCs tend to be one-off events, or in the case of Victoria, there were three, and there are some other exceptions as well. But basically, they tend to be 'interventions' rather than ongoing processes. If we hope for choice-creating to go viral, we unfortunately are not seeing that happen with DF and WCs, at least not yet.

I think it might be worth our while to discuss as well other approaches, that might also lead to choice creating outcomes, and that might have more promising propagation characteristics. I've been working on a concept I call 'harmonization circles'. It's a variant on the well-known circle process, and it is intended to be used by an ongoing group that meets regularly. I've gotten some good feedback on the ideas from Tom, Rosa, and Tree, and below is a write-up that incorporates (I hope) their suggestions. 

best wishes,
richard
__________________

Harmonization circles: enhancing group effectiveness

Harmonization circles
A harmonization circle is any ongoing group, that meets regularly, and that follows a certain dialog protocol. It is a simple circle process, where people sit in a circle facing one another, and take turns speaking. There are three guidelines that people agree to respect and practice in these circles. These are:
• speaking from the heart about what really matters to you
• listening attentively to what others say
• respecting one another as peers, each entitled to their own beliefs and concerns

The role of the host
One of the circle members acts as host, and the host has a very important role in the development of the circle. The host serves as guardian of the process, by supporting the group in following the guidelines, and by creating an atmosphere where people feel their contributions are being valued. In order to do this effectively, the host needs to have prior experience working with groups, and a basic 'feel' for group dynamics.
In particular the host needs to model the process by listening very carefully to what people say, by expressing himself or herself from a 'deep place', and by showing respect for all the participants. When the host's turn comes to speak, it is useful for them to include a reflection on the threads under discussion. This contributes to the coherence of the dialog, demonstrates that people have been heard, and may encourage people to expand further on their ideas and concerns.

Benefits of the circle process
The circle process is a particularly effective way for a group to operate. Such circles are in fact an ancient form, used by indigenous societies as a way of making tribal decisions. As the dialog goes around the circle, the group gains a deeper and deeper understanding of the issues under discussion, and eventually it becomes clear to everyone what is the best way forward. While debate narrows down discussion to a few options, the circle opens up discussion, so that new approaches can be found that deal with everyone's concerns.
By using the process, the people in the group come to know and understand one another at a deep level, and a sense of mutual trust and respect develops. By practicing the guidelines of the process, the guidelines eventually become the natural culture of the group, the most comfortable way of being together. Such a group, using the process, is unusually effective at making plans and decisions, and bringing the combined wisdom of the group to bear on such matters. In addition, each of the members of the group develops the experience and sensitivity that can enable them to act as host of a new circle, bringing the benefits of the process to some other group as well. 
The process is particularly effective when there are strong differences in beliefs and concerns in the group. When each viewpoint can be fully expressed, and when everyone gives it a fair hearing without interrupting, it becomes possible to find common ground. And when there is mutual trust and respect, people naturally want to find solutions that work for everyone, just as they would in their families.

Benefits for activist groups
Harmonization circles are particularly beneficial for activist groups. Activists want their time to be used efficiently, and they want to be able make effective decisions and plans and get on with doing things. However, this is easier said than done. There can be struggles over leadership, debates over agendas, personality conflicts, etc. Group dynamics can always be problematic, and activists lack the imposed structure of groups that exist within organizations. The circle process provides a simple way to overcome these kinds of difficulties, and enable the group to function at its full potential in defining and pursuing its objectives.

Benefits for stakeholder groups
When a problem or conflict arises in a community, it makes sense to gather together people from all sides of the issue – the stakeholders – and see if they can talk things through and find a way to solve the problem or resolve the conflict. Again, this is easier said than done. In such situations there are usually factions, perhaps with entrenched positions, and even animosity between the factions. 
These can be very difficult groups indeed, as regards group dynamics, and for such groups some kind of process is frequently employed, with a mediator or facilitator of some kind. This can raise new issues, regarding the neutrality of the facilitator, the bias of the process, or the expense involved. 
If the issues are important ones, and the stakeholder group is willing to keep meeting for a while, seeking resolution, the harmonization circle process can be very effective. As people hear each other out, and get to understand one another as people with real concerns, it becomes possible for them to talk with one another rather than against one another. 
As mutual understanding grows, the sense of competing factions melts away, and people realize they have a shared problem, and that they can best solve it by cooperating and working on it creatively together. What was a divisive problem in the community can ultimately serve to bring the community together, with a stronger sense of shared community than existed before the problem arose. 

__________________

Nancy Margulies

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Nov 27, 2009, 3:29:56 PM11/27/09
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I like Richard's proposed Harmonization Circles and think they combine some critical elements of other processes and address  some of the problems that often occur in group processes. This proposal merits further discussion. 

The World Cafe, for example, often does end up as a one or two time occasion and not an on-going process (although it is an ongoing process in some groups and companies). A process designed to be on-going helps build the capacity of the individuals and the group to become increasingly able to listen deeply, think together, etc. 

The World Café creates an atmosphere in which people are usually able to listen respectfully, etc, but it can't assure this, since every table takes on its own flavor and on occasion one or two people dominate the conversation. Richard's proposal addresses this as well.

Let's explore further -- because there might be  role for DF as the jumping off point for the HC's for example...

N

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George Sranko

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Nov 27, 2009, 11:30:03 PM11/27/09
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Thanks Richard for your thoughts on harmonization circles -- an additional approach to propagation of choice-creating systems.  I'm always impressed with your willingness consider the big challenges from a variety of angles.
 
Here in Victoria we worked with a circle-process for several years in the '90s (known to us Victorians as the "Group With No Name").  The quality of conversation was indeed very high and the levels of trust, heart-involvement, and personal authenticity were all high on the scale.  Even though most of us considered the circle as an ideal "hothouse environment" -- where we felt nourished and protected... many members became frustrated with what they perceived as an inability to translate our conversations into real change out in the world.  In the end, the group drifted apart because very little in concrete terms was accomplished (not to deny the immense benefits many of us received at the personal level; for example, in my case, this experience opened the door to engaging with this work and the possibilities for higher level conversations and group process that could truly engender collective wisdom.)
 
One difference that I appreciate with your idea of the harmonization circle is the presence of a facilitator or host.  Such a person taking a DF approach would likely make a big difference in the outcomes such a circle might experience, but then I wonder, are there any advantages over a WC or CIC?
 
That said, from my perspective I believe that the greatest opportunity for propagation of choice-creation processes and systems will be through the integration of WCs and CICs with official processes and protocols that already exist -- particularly at the local or municipal level.  By this I mean the "powers that be" -- the institutions and governance bodies (city councils, etc) with the power to tax, establish regulations, etc.  I once thought that the best opportunity was to work largely outside the existing system, but now I believe it has to be integral to all spheres -- including the established and activist spheres.
 
Based on our experience with three WCs in Victoria, many of us here have come to the conclusion that such a citizen-lead initiative represents a truly noble and grand experiment- however, it is not a sustainable through the efforts of volunteers alone.  In this regard, I believe that the closest model we have to an effective, sustainable, and proven "choice-creation" system is represented by the CICs and WCs that Manfred Hellrigl (on this list) has undertaken with various communities in Austria.  This represents a model that can be readily replicated in communities everywhere in the world, and it makes "choice-creation" an officially sanctioned -- and eventually promoted -- methodology. 
 
In Victoria we've begun to work more closely with the neighborhood associations who have direct input to the city council, as well as with council members and public service staff.  If we had a champion equivalent to Manfred's Office of Future-Related Issues at the provincial level -- with a budget no less -- our task would become much easier, I believe.  I'm firmly convinced that once civic politicians see the benefits that CICs and WCs can bring to them personally (improved public accountability, reduced stress in trying to make the right decisions, increased transparency, more informed interactions with lobbyists, stakeholders, etc, etc).  At least we have Manfred's work in Austria to point to when we talk to interested folks!   (If you have more of your work translated into English, Manfred, please let us know.)
 
BTW, I'm very pleased to have seen the discussion over the last few days regarding "dialogue -- deliberation -- choice-creation" -- Jim, Rosa -- you have once again provided me with some important clarifications regarding the key distinctions.  Regardless of the name, we know that choice-creation "works" with real groups to create meaningful change at the personal, group and community level. 
 
When (not if!) choice-creation becomes an accepted component of doing business by the "powers that be" at the local community level -- then it will spread amazingly quickly... then it will go viral.  As proponents, I believe THAT is where our highest opportunity and greatest leverage can be found.
 
Warm regards to all,
George

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Richard Moore

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Nov 28, 2009, 11:34:45 AM11/28/09
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__________

The HC guidelines:
• speaking from the heart about what really matters to you
• listening attentively to what others say
• respecting one another as peers, each entitled to their own beliefs and concerns
___________

Greetings,

Thanks very much for your comments. Permit me to clarify a bit what is intended with harmonization circles (HCs), by responding to selected comments...

Harmonization circles look like they would be a good process for an organization at a “retreat,” say, to sort out where the organization may want to go, what it’s priorities are, etc. 

For an organizational retreat, I would recommend some combination of DF, Open Space, and Appreciative Inquiry, with at least one hard-working facilitator. HCs are for ongoing groups, meeting regularly, with the same participants always attending. One of the important features of an HC is that there is no outside facilitator. HCs can grow by gradually adding new people, immersing them in the evolving group culture, the way you would fold ingredients into a white sauce.

Although the immediate purpose of the HC process is to enhance the effectiveness of a group, the real purpose is to be an instrument of cultural transformation – from a dominator culture to a harmonization culture, or to use Jim's terminology, from a triangle/square culture to a circle culture. 

One of the things you didn’t touch on is how you select people for the circles and how many people should participate. Where this process is used for the Board or Executive of an organization, there is no problem. But how would it work if you wanted to open the process to all members in an organization or community?

As for numbers, I'd think HCs would work best with about 6-12 members. More than that is unwieldy. An HC is not intended to represent some larger constituency, as with a WC. If a group already sees itself as representing a larger constituency, however, then it could probably do a better job if it used the HC process. 

If there is an existing group, such as an Executive Board, then the selection process has of course already been decided. If such a board decides to use the HC process, that does not necessarily mean good things for the organization. It might lead to a more efficient process of worker exploitation, depending on what's in the hearts and minds of the board members. 

If we want to make organizations more democratic, I'd recommend that weekly team meetings use the HC process at all levels in the organization, but that could only get the results we want if the top management wants to act in the employees' best interests. Unfortunately, that is not the criteria by which CEOs are typically selected these days.

My favorite use of HCs is for community groups, whether it be a group of neighbors, or activists, or a civic-minded group gathered around some issue. The main guideline for selection, apart from what is already bringing the group together, would be inclusion of diversity of views. Such a circle would presumably meet in member's homes.

Do you see dynamic facilitation as playing any role in these circles, or do you stick to the idea of letting each person speak in turn, either going round the circle or using something like a “talking-stick?”

The guidelines that people agree to, speaking from the heart etc., are the very things that DF seeks to achieve with a group. HC's are a slow-cooker, do-it-at-home approach to choice-creating, while DF is a pressure-cooker, professional-caterer approach. The advantage of HC's is that the group can enjoy the cuisine at every meal, not just when they can afford to bring in a caterer.
 
While harmonization circles should certainly be part of our arsenal for community governance, I would still like to see Jury Councils (I think Caspar called them) tried. These would essentially be Wisdom Councils with an agenda.

I think the generally agreed term is Citizens Inquiry Council, CIC. I see HCs as being very complementary to WCs & CICs. Out of community HCs could emerge a motivation to convene a WC or CIC, and HCs provide forums for community dialog to follow-up on the outcomes of a WC or CIC.

---

Nancy Margulies wrote to all of us:
I like Richard's proposed Harmonization Circles and think they combine some critical elements of other processes and address  some of the problems that often occur in group processes. This proposal merits further discussion. 

I very much appreciate the interest of you and others in the proposal.

Let's explore further -- because there might be a role for DF as the jumping off point for the HC's for example...

Yes, a DF session could be a quick-start enculturation process, to get a group off on the right track. Presumably at least one person in the group would then be capable of acting as a competent host, aided by their prior experience with groups and their innate talent. 

In my case, however, I've done DF facilitating, I want to start a circle locally, and I'm not planning to suggest DF. I think people would be more willing to try a circle process and I'd rather get to know them that way and gradually develop our process. I see charts as listening training-wheels. I believe in teaching a kid to learn to ride a bicycle by running along and holding the bike level until he gets going, and then letting go, with no training wheels. In DF the goal is not to teach how to ride a bike, but for the facilitator to keep the bike balanced throughout the session, and charts help with that.

---

Mitch Gold wrote to wisdom...@googlegroups.com:
Hi Richard - we used the circle process for 5 years in Toronto as a "Conversation Cafe". it was reasonably succesful - but I think that the Wisdom Council Process is intended to be more dynamic.

There are many varieties of the circle process. Unless a circle includes all of the attributes of an HC, it is not likely to have the same kind of results as an HC. A facilitated event will always be more dynamic and intense than a circle; again it's the pressure cooker vs. the slow cooker. But if the recipe's right, you can get the same meal either way, if you're willing to take your time.

---

George Sranko wrote to us all:
Here in Victoria we worked with a circle-process for several years in the '90s (known to us Victorians as the "Group With No Name").  The quality of conversation was indeed very high and the levels of trust, heart-involvement, and personal authenticity were all high on the scale.  Even though most of us considered the circle as an ideal "hothouse environment" -- where we felt nourished and protected... many members became frustrated with what they perceived as an inability to translate our conversations into real change out in the world.

It seems that your experience with 'No Name' is a of proof-of-concept of what can be achieved with an ongoing circle-process group. Thanks for that. Not only did you achieve the quality of conversation that is intended for HCs, but some of you retained that harmonious cultural perspective and went on to create Wise Democracy Victoria. 
It was a real eye-opener for me when I visited and watched you folks in action. It became clear to me that the culture of the convening group is just as important as the process they are promoting. I noticed the same kind of harmony, and respectful listening, in your group that I noticed earlier in the group that convened the Rogue Valley WC. Special people all, with a special spiritual quality, and a high sense of integrity.

As regards making 'real change out in the world', there are two ways to look at this. On the one hand we might think in terms of a group with an activist agenda, such as bringing the Transition Town movement to a community. In this case, the HC process could be used by the activist group as a way of enhancing its effectiveness. It seems that the No Name group was searching for such an activist agenda and couldn't come up with one. Not surprising, 'real change' is not easy to achieve. 

On the other hand, we might think in terms of the circle itself as being 'real change' – in the way people relate to one another. For me, this is the real prize on which to keep our eyes. In order to propagate this kind of 'change', the people in a circle can pair up and launch new circles as joint hosts, and invite new people to join them. In this way circles could spread exponentially, as a cultural-transformation meme. If enough people in a community were involved in circles, and if they stayed in touch with one another, I imagine agendas for change would emerge and have some real weight behind them.

In Victoria we've begun to work more closely with the neighborhood associations who have direct input to the city council, as well as with council members and public service staff.  If we had a champion equivalent to Manfred's Office of Future-Related Issues at the provincial level -- with a budget no less -- our task would become much easier, I believe.  I'm firmly convinced that once civic politicians see the benefits that CICs and WCs can bring to them personally (improved public accountability, reduced stress in trying to make the right decisions, increased transparency, more informed interactions with lobbyists, stakeholders, etc, etc).  At least we have Manfred's work in Austria to point to when we talk to interested folks!

Whenever there is a government entity that sincerely wants to work with the people in setting policy, then CICs and WCs have a very valuable contribution to make. HCs could also make a contribution, if the neighborhood associations were to use that process, for example. 

The further you get from the local level, however, the more problematic this becomes. When you have politicians that are funded by deep-pocket special interests, and who need lots of money to run their campaigns, you will find few who will be willing to go against those special interests. Always keep in mind what happened in BC, when a rather good participatory process, under the auspices of government, came up with a voting-system recommendation – and the outcome was ignored. And whatever happened to those great outcomes from the Maclean experiment?

---

Thanks again to everyone for giving attention to these ideas.

best wishes,
richard

Raffi Aftandelian

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Nov 28, 2009, 2:56:37 PM11/28/09
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richard, thanks much for sharing this.

i'm wondering what space, if any, do you see for the Law of Two Feet - at the core of open space technology- as having a part in harmonization circles?

the law of two feet is phrased in different ways:
"if at any time you feel you can neither learn nor contribute, you are responsible to use your two feet and leave, and move to somewhere where you can.

or

as peggy holman puts it:

"take responsibility for what you love as an act of service"

i think the "living energy of needs" concept in nonviolent communication, attending from moment to moment to what is alive to you is the same idea...

i recall there is a small passage in one of christine baldwin's on circle work on how there are times when in spite of best efforts of the group things just don't work out in a group.

perhaps because the explicit intention to let the circle breathe (invite people to let the law of two feet guide their participation) has not been built in?

your thoughts?

warmly,
raffi

p.s. when you say, "tom, rosa, and tree" gave feedback, do you mean tom atlee, rosa zubizarreta, and tree bressen?

Richard Moore

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Nov 28, 2009, 11:45:25 PM11/28/09
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Raffi Aftandelian wrote:
i recall there is a small passage in one of christine baldwin's on circle work on how there are times when in spite of best efforts of the group things just don't work out in a group. 

perhaps because the explicit intention to let the circle breathe (invite people to let the law of two feet guide their participation) has not been built in?

your thoughts?


Hi Raffi,

In an OS setting, the law of two feet is important, because etiquette and habit discourage people from getting up and walking out on a discussion in progress. It is good to give permission for leaving, to support the dynamics of the OS process.

In a voluntary weekly meeting situation, I don't think there is any need to give people permission to drop out; they'll do it quite readily without being given permission. However, the law of two feet still makes sense for another reason: just because one circle doesn't work out, that doesn't mean circles are a waste of time. So it makes sense to tell people, "If you don't get value from this circle, leave and try another one". Thanks for that.

What would also be useful, I think, is to ask people to share with the group, in the event they decide to drop out. I was at one conference where one of the participants departed in the middle of the night, leaving only a brief angry note. There was a lot of upset in the group over the lack of closure, the unanswered questions, the lack of opportunity to offer support, etc. Indeed, if the person had 'purged' his anger, he might have turned the whole conference around, opened it up to a new level, and he might have decided to stay. So the modified law of two feet becomes: "If you don't get value from this circle, you might get value from another one, but please talk to us about your decision before dropping out".

As regards circles that don't work out, I don't find that disturbing or surprising. Given that we're talking about Christine Baldwin, the problem was probably not in the process, but rather the nature of the group. Something Rosa mentioned in a message was the importance of the intent of a group. In some cases the intent might be to experience the culture of the process itself, but in many cases it might be to undertake a collective project, or to explore what could be done about a certain problem. Such undertakings have no guarantee of success; if they did the world would be a very different place. 

Christine is very much into the culture of the circle, so for her any circle is probably valuable, and she might find it disturbing that everyone else doesn't share her passion. But most of us need to get a lot more out of a weekly commitment than camaraderie and the 'heart' part of process. Of course it could always be useful to conduct a post-mortem analysis and find out why a group didn't work, and it might be useful for the group to self-reflect before disbanding. But there is no inherent reason why a group that tries meeting together should always continue. 

p.s. when you say, "tom, rosa, and tree" gave feedback, do you mean tom atlee, rosa zubizarreta, and tree bressen?

Correct.

thanks again,
richard

d1do...@gmail.com

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Nov 29, 2009, 11:17:47 AM11/29/09
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Am loving the discussion on different models and the hopes for national recognition and engagement around the renewed democracy conversation the the USA.

I imagine a table that illustrates the outcomes from each diaogue/facilitation model...
A systems analysis if you will:
When you have this sort of group or this challenge, or you want this type result...use this mode/model.

Rather than which model is better, I see it as which model is best suited for a particular situation.
For example one that is engaging for large groups and is easy to facilitate can spread dialogue widely.
One that addresses complex problems and requires skilled facilitation can deepen the dialogue.


Mode/Model Input Output Outcome
------------------ -------- ---------- -------------
World Cafe
Appreciative Inquiry
Dynamic Facilitation
Wisdom Council
etc...

I know there are comparative charts out there...anyone have some links?

In his recent movie about capitalism, Michael Moore calls people to reclaim democracy. I sent an email, but no reply yet. Does anyone know how to contact him? He might be encouraged by the models we are discussing.

---Dan in Victoria

Nancy Margulies

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Nov 29, 2009, 12:43:43 PM11/29/09
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yes, this makes sense to me. Thanks for your insights, Dan.  There is a lot of good information and tables in Peggy Holman's most recent version of The Change Handbook. Nancy

On Nov 29, 2009, at 8:17 AM, d1do...@gmail.com wrote:

Rather than which model is better, I see it as which model is best suited for a particular situation.
For example one that is engaging for large groups and is easy to facilitate can spread dialogue widely.
One that addresses complex problems and requires skilled facilitation can deepen the dialogue.

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