Thu 23 Apr 2020

Dynamic Facilitation... thank you and following up

Rosa Zubizarreta Public Seen by 146

.First I want to start by thanking Joe Milton for all the work he has done, supporting so many good trainings! Back in February, I had plans to be in London and wanted to offer a pro-bono in person workshop on Dynamic Facilitation to XR Rebels. Joe did a tremendous amount of organizing for it, and then... Corona happened! So we ended up offering the workshop online instead, which was a first for us, and a grand and valiant experiment indeed.

Since then, the community of Dynamic Facilitation practitioners has continued to move full steam ahead with figuring out how to effectively carry out this advanced collaborative sense-making practice, into an online environment. Yet it all started here, so I remain extremely grateful to Joe and to all of the participants who attended, for your willingness to be experimental and adventurous.

Now that several of us have accumulated a significant amount of concentrated experience in this last month with doing this work online, I wanted to circle back and share the harvests from that workshop. While it was a bit bumpy at times, (especially on the second day where participants were experimenting right along with us!) some really good work happened nonetheless.

The following are three different harvests from the same conversation, a 45-minute demo that took place on the first day. (All of this has been shared previously with the workshop participants, except for Harvest #3 below.) While some of the contents of the harvests may be a bit outdated, I thought it could still offer a good example of what is possible with this approach.

Harvest #3 is a "word collage" type of document. It is the most accessible way to get a quick sense of the facilitated conversation we had. It is almost exactly the same, content-wise, as harvest #2 below, yet without letters and numbers. I have only recently stumbled across the value of this format for offering greater accessibility by reaching a different part of our brains.

Harvest #2 is what I call a "light sort" -- a thematized version of the conversation. Each item has a unique identifier to it, which makes it particularly useful for things like determining levels of consensus on particular items, etc. Other than those identifiers (and a bit of formatting) it is basically the same as Harvest #3.

Harvest #1 is what I call the "raw notes". Again, the contents are the same, yet they are in the form of four long lists, which is the way that we initially harvest all of the contributions that are offered during a facilitated session.

In a DF session, participants' contributions are both reflected back by the facilitator (a bit like Empathy Circles) AND, they are also written down on the either the data/perspectives chart, the solutions chart, and/or the concerns chart. There is an additional problem-statements chart that is used to track the flow of the non-linear conversation as it evolves.

(While the conversation itself is non-linear and usually highly creative, the material is sorted retroactively into themes, which is why harvests #2 and #3 above look like very orderly conversations. :-)

Well, that's almost it for now... I just want to close by saying that I am deeply committed to encouraging and mentoring any facilitation practitioners who want to develop their skills in Dynamic Facilitation. Here is an online version of the manual from 2006... there's a few additional chapters in the 2014 published version, but most of it is pretty much the same.

Earlier this week, three colleagues and I finished leading a three-week "Prototyping Online DF" workshop that was primarily for advanced DF practitioners who want to experience how this work can be applied in an online environment. And, we were delighted to also have a few XR Empathy Circle leaders in the mix! Now that that workshop has concluded, I'm feeling quite confident about having reached a milestone with regard to the process that began here, what feels like ages ago now...

At some point, assuming there is interest, I would be happy to offer an intensive online workshop in this practice, specifically for XR rebels. I'm thinking it would be a four-week workshop, with one three-hour session per week.

The one limitation we haven't gotten around yet, is that like Empathy Circles, this work is best done in small groups -- in this case, 10 - 15 people. So for example, if we were using DF in the context of either a People's Assembly or a Citizen's Assembly, we would need one DF-trained facilitator for each small group.

When we are teaching this work, we also work with a small-ish groups. In person, the workshops are usually 24 people max, who then form four smaller practice groups of about 6 people each. Online, we will be keeping it to 18 participants for starters, and using zoom breakout rooms for the three practice groups.

This means that if there were some significant interest, we would need to figure out how to manage enrollment... maybe with some form of written applications followed by a lottery system?

Anyway, those are just some initial thoughts. I look forward to hearing from anyone who might want to explore this further.

with all best wishes,




Rosa Zubizarreta Thu 23 Apr 2020

Thanks again Joe, great to see all the good work taking place here!


James McCarthy Fri 17 Jul 2020

Great to hear about your work again Rosa.