Peggy Holman on Designing for Community
My friend Peggy Holman is about to write a short series of posts on how to manage the tension between hearing from luminaries and hosting participation in gatherings that aim to:
- Make the most of the knowledge and experience of the people in the room;
- Support participants to make great connections;
- Bring the wisdom of luminaries â€“ respected, deep thinkers â€” on whatever subject drew people together; and
- Deepen collective understanding of a complex topic.
Peggy notes that:
A common design challenge with such gatherings is to work the tension between hearing from luminaries and engaging participants. When the mix is off, it shows up in missed expectations and at its worst, a revolt by participants.Â (It didnâ€™t go that far at this gathering, though Iâ€™ve been on the receiving end of a revolt.Â But thatâ€™s another storyâ€¦)
I left this conference contemplating four design choices to support the four goals I mentioned above.Â They are:
- Invite thought leaders with different world views so that participants benefit from a tapestry of ideas.
- Mix theory and practice so that they inform and amplify each other.
- Do activities that make the experience in the room visible so that we meet kindred spirits, discover each otherâ€™s gifts, and learn as much as possible about what works.
- Take a co-creative stand, so that the unexpected becomes a source of engagement and learning.
As a participant from time to time, I find that I can be cynical about how I am hosted (as if I am a perfect facilitator every time!). Â But what I like about being hosted is the opportunity to practice participation. Â Let go of the “perfect container” and show up as curious and committed to learning as possible. Â IN this way I can honour the host (and sometimes help a process succeed by moving the conversation towards substance and away from process). Â It will be good to read Peggy’s thinking, as always.