Tag Archive: World Cafe

October 7, 2019

Participatory Methods and Approaches for Equitable Food Systems Work

“Nothing about us without us is for us.”

South African slogan

“What is missing from the policy analyst’s tool kit – and from the set of accepted, well-developed theories of human organization – is an adequately specified theory of collective action whereby a group of principals can organize themselves voluntarily to retain the residuals of their own efforts.”

Elinor Ostrom (1996) Governing the Commons

“…there’s no real evidence that one can become expert in something as broad as ‘decision making’ or ‘policy’ or ‘strategy.’ Auto repair, piloting, skiing, perhaps even management: these are skills that yield to application, hard work, and native talent. But forecasting an uncertain future and deciding the best course of action in the face of that future are much less likely to do so. And much of what we’ve seen so far suggests that a large group of diverse individuals will come up with better and more robust forecasts and make more intelligent decisions than even the most skilled ‘decision maker.’”

James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop for one of the sub-networks of the Vermont Farm to Plate Network focused on food access (including food justice and racial equity). Farm to Plate is moving into a second decade of work and looking to refresh its strategic work and structure (version 2.0). As part of this move, various members are interested in how they can engage others more robustly and/or responsibly in their work, including those who are negatively impacted by the current system (those living with hunger and in poverty, struggling farmers, farm workers, indigenous people, etc.). The workshop was designed around some core IISC collaborative frameworks, which participants applied to their work in pairs and small groups, and it also elicited different participatory methods that those in the room were already using or aware of.

One of the operating assumptions in the workshop was that engagement and participation can and should look different in different situations, and that more is not necessarily better. Rather, it is important to get clear on the aims of an initiative, carefully consider who the key stakeholders are, weigh various factors (time, complexity, readiness, power dynamics, etc.) and think about timing and different phases of the work. Doing this kind of due diligence can help to clarify when and where on a spectrum of engagement options different individuals and groups might fall (see below for some examples).

For the last segment of the workshop, we explored a variety of participatory models and methods, and here is some of what came up (specifically considering the context of Vermont food systems work).

Organizational/Network Models:

Tools, Techniques, Roles:

Governance/Decision-Making:

Participatory Planning and Assessment Approaches:

Of course there are many others out there. Please feel free to suggest additional models, examples, techniques and tools!

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April 25, 2017

Strategic Questions From and For Liberating Structures

With inspiration from Nancy White – thank you! (and make sure to check out Nancy’s blog) – I have been returning to and reviewing the list of Liberating Structures created and collected by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless for application to some strategy development work with a couple of social change networks. As described on the website:

Liberating Structures are “easy-to-learn microstructures that enhance relational coordination and trust.

Liberating Structures are meant to foster enlivening participation in groups of all sizes, making it possible to truly include and unleash everyone.”

In reviewing the various structures, I’ve pulled out and added to a list of strategic questions that could be offered in concert with different group processes (World Cafe, Open Space, pair shares, fishbowls, individual reflection, etc.) to open up possibilities … Read More

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December 4, 2013

Networks and Structural Change

“Ultimately if we are to avoid failure in the most critical work of this century, the deepest reaches of our beings must be brought to bear in honestly reevaluating and shifting the most basic structures of our society.” 

– john a. powell

The following is a textual recapturing of a Pecha Kucha-like presentation that I gave at an ARNOVA Pre-Conference Session in Hartford, CT two weeks ago.  This was part of a 3-hour interactive conversation, co-designed and facilitated with Dr. Angela Frusciante of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, focusing on the power of networks for learning and social change, primarily with academic researchers and philanthropists.

At the Interaction Institute for Social Change, we are in agreement with Professor john a. powell when he points to the need to consider and make fundamental structural changes in our country and communities for the causes of greater social justice and sustainability. Read More

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January 24, 2013

Reframing the Systems We Want

reframe

|Photo by Darrel Birkett|http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrelbirkett/6935043394/sizes/m/in/photostream|

I’ve been playing with different reflection questions lately to try and help various networks and multi-stakeholder collaborative change efforts put a clearer and more aligned frame around the kinds of systems (food, education, health, etc.) that would yield more equitable, sustainable, and enriching results.  This is not to pretend that they can take control of the systems and command them to be different, but rather to create an image toward which they can nudge these systems via various leverage points.  In one recent convening, I borrowed a page from critical systems heuristics, which asks us to identify and play with the existing systemic boundaries, including motivation, power, expertise and legitimacy. Read More

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November 10, 2010

Having What We Have

have what we have

|Photo by a_whisper_of_unremitting_demand|http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpovey/2039387260|

“How do you do that?  How do you step back and get perspective?”  The question came from a table mate in an Art of Hosting workshop at this week’s Systems Thinking in Action conference.  The earnest and wide-eyed inquisitor silently suggested the qualifier, “And how do  you do this when there is so little time?”  The question hung in the air in the midst of our World Cafe-inspired conversation about the kinds of change that are being called for in our respective communities, however we choose to define them.

My first response was to laugh.  How indeed?  As parents of three small children under the age of five, my wife and I often scratch our heads at how we can create more breathing space in general.  Frankly, the notion of stepping back often feels like a luxury we can’t afford.  And I know there are others in the same space with a variety of unremitting demands.  My laugh was surely an acknowledgment of this seemingly impossible situation.  And in the context of this rich albeit brief cafe conversation it also became something else, thanks to the careful attending of my colleagues. Read More

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May 24, 2010

The Power of Conversation

In a recent post, Janice Molloy of the Pegasus Blog had an insightful way to illustrate the “Power of Conversation,” Janice says:

Where are new ideas born? While some develop through formal processes and innovation think tanks, throughout history, many of the most transformative notions have arisen from informal conversations over a glass of wine or cup of coffee in a café, living room, or neighborhood pub. In this way, sewing circles and “committees of correspondence” played a role in the birth of the American Republic, and debates that took place in cafés and salons helped spawn the French Revolution. Read More

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May 20, 2010

Welcome to the GeoDome

earth rise

|Photo by woodleywonderworks|http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/2223340202|

Last Thursday my IA colleagues Ashley Welch and Andy Atkins and I teamed up with David McConville of The Elumenati and Ned Gardiner of  NOAA to take a group of cross-sectoral leaders and thinkers on a unique journey.  This trip included a visit to the outer edges of our universe, passing through our solar system, galaxy, and neighboring galactic bodies.   Then, out of breath, we zoomed back in to take a new look at our planet Earth through the lens and visualized overlay of data about our terrestrial home – warming trends, population density, biodiversity and traffic patterns.  Welcome to the GeoDome!

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March 23, 2010

World Café for the US Senate

capitol

|Photo by Kevin Dooley|http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/4046734044/|

If you have been paying any attention to the national political scene, you know that in these days of no compromise everything seems to balance on the mathematics of the US Senate.  Given the latest equation, it was no small deal to learn that Senator Evan Bayh will not be running for re-election.  About a month ago he wrote a New York Times opinion piece that has been on my mind since then – Why I’m Leaving the Senate.

The piece is worth reading in full, but here is the part that inspired this post:

Any improvement must begin by changing the personal chemistry among senators. More interaction in a non-adversarial atmosphere would help…  It shouldn’t take a constitutional crisis or an attack on the nation to create honest dialogue in the Senate. Let’s start with a simple proposal: why not have a monthly lunch of all 100 senators?

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February 11, 2010

Question Box

Question

|Photo by Mikl Roventine|http://www.flickr.com/photos/myklroventine/2372327933/|

My wife and I recently missed one of our favorite church services of the year – The Question Box Service.  For a few weeks leading up to this particular Sunday, parishioners are typically invited to submit questions for the ministers to respond to.  These questions can be of any number of varieties – philosophical, ethical, political, personal, whimsical – and tend to be very wide ranging.  The answers to selected questions become that day’s sermon.   As interesting and entertaining as it is to hear the clergy offer their spontaneous reflections (they dress down for the occasion, doffing their robes and sitting crossed-legged on stools in front of the pulpit, a la talk show hosts), I find the questions themselves fascinating, especially when artfully phrased.  Just the reading of the card can elicit a ceremonious “oooh” or “ahhh” from the listeners.

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