On Monday I was up in Kamloops taking part in an annual gathering called the “Stop Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth” Conference. That’s a mouthful but it’s a truly wonderful annual gathering hosted by The Justice Institute of British Columbia (itself a great thing we have here in BC).
I was asked to come and deliever a workshop on dialogue and deliberation methods with youth, and so I showed up to do that. In my design I though it would be cool to see if I could give people a tast of what it feels like to be engaged so deeply that we experience emergence. I wanted people to experience what it feels like to work from their strengths and have something appear about youth engagement that no one person brought into the room with them. And I had 2.5 hours.
I began where I always begin, telling the story of the quadrants, and mapping the four open space practices in some detail (link opens a .pdf). Instead of filling in my own practices, I asked people what their practices were and we filled in the map together. This is important, because people truly do know how to do opening, inviting, holding and grounding. It’s just a matter of turning their attention to how they do it.
After that, we moved into an opening practice, with a bit of an Appreciative Inquiry experience. I invited people to pair up and interview one another on the question of “Tell me a story or two of a time when you felt deeply engaged by others. What might we learn from that about engagement in general?” People spent a very short time interviewing – 10 minutes each – and then they returned to the circle.
Next I gave them a taste of The World Cafe and we moved into fours to process some of this learning. The question for the first 20 minute round was “What can we learn from these reflections about deeply engaging youth.” After the first round was over, the groups mixed up and continued exploring the question. At the end of the second 20 minutes, I asked them to remain in their spots and turn their collective minds to discerning “What ideas want to hatch now?” The third round was quieter and more deliberate.
Finally we reconvened in a circle and I invited reflections about where we were at after spending this time thinking through this work. We got a number of ideas, including thoughts about deep listening, about approaching youth where they are, both physically and emotionally and about showing up completely authentically in engagement and with curiosity about where the process might lead. There were also a number of “aha’s” about detaching from outcomes.
In just over an hour and a half, using nothing but the resources and stories of the people in the room we did experience a little bit of emergence and a I think everyone got some good ideas out of the session. If we had had more time, I would have then worked with the most interesting ideas (as determined by the group) and perhaps split people up into little design teams to figure out how these principles might work in a grounded engagement process. Then we could have melded these conversations together into some tools and approaches that might be useful.
I think the biggest learning for people was just how fast learning can take place when you are engaged in deep conversation about stuff that matters. And how the most important person in that kind of process is not the facilitator or the teacher, but the experts you are surrounded by, and the stories and experiences of your own life, seen in a new light.