Saturday, 1 September 2007

Working on it ourselves (Oct & Dec TTT sessions)

Working on it ourselves (Oct & Dec TTT sessions)
Eleanor Roosevelt said 'It's not enough to want peace. You have to believe it in. And it's not enough to believe in peace. You have to work for it.'

Well the time has come for us Turning-the-Tiders to start doing our little bit of work IN THE WORKSHOPS for peace, (active) nonviolence, NVDA, campaigning, empowerment, the constructing the alternative, facilitation, and group-process.

As you know, the first part of the course has focused on content, and now we're switching gears and going to start working on the how to help other groups work on these topics: the facilitation and group-working skills bit of conducting trainings.

In August a group of us met to talk about any suggestions or recommendations we might have for how to organise these remaining sessions. The notes from this meeting have been circulated via email, and today I'm posting them here with the idea that the blog might provide a quicker and more easily accessible forum for us to discuss these ideas.

At the end of the Empowerment workshop 8 September, time has been made for us as a group to talk about how we'd like to collectively organise and facilitate the Oct (group-process) and Dec (facilitation and basic group skills) sessions. Since not everyone was able to come in August, this conversation will hopefully be more inclusive and an action-planning time.

This week Carl and I are going to work on a framework to suggest to the group about how we might facilitate Oct & Dec. We'll post these ideas ideas, and look forward to your comments and ideas, as well as your offers for more active involvement when we discuss this next Saturday. And so, welcome to September and see you next week. Notes are posted below.

Notes from 4 August

August small TTT group (AsTTTG) meeting

Who was there?

Carl, Denise, Kathryn (host, thank you), Luke and Zaria

What did we do?

It was decided to modify the proposed agenda and focus mostly on our learning, the design and delivery of the course to date. NOTE: this discarded agenda can be viewed in an earlier blog posting, scroll down to the end of July/beginning of August.

There were two 'sessions' (conversations really). Carl facilitated the first on evaluating the course so far – what have we learned about facilitation, NV practice and theory. Then we had a lovely lunch with very (!) fresh vegs and fruits in Kathryn's allotment across the street. In the afternoon session we discussed what we have liked or what has worked well over the past seven sessions.

The following are paraphrased chunks of comments recorded from participants from these conversations.

Conversation 1: Evaluation of the course thus far

Comment 1-1

I've learned a lot about NV, but I've been missing a lot of information about facilitation, or I've misunderstood what I'm suppose to be 'picking up' about facilitation just by watching. I don't feel at all ready to design or plan a workshop, let alone facilitate one.

Comment 1-2

I guess for me I went in curious, thinking I didn't know all that much about the subject matter (NV), but I've been surprised to learn that I know much more than I expected. What has been missing for me is well-modelled facilitation and discussion about facilitation choices – why did we did it that way? Or what else could we have done? I would say that I've been received training in the topic NV but not facilitation.

Comment 1-3

I don't feel that the facilitation has been that inspiring and that the facilitators have been constrained by their agendas. I think an agenda works best when you use it as a proposed route or a general plan minus the details, and you allow yourself to play with the group's outcomes and follow the way the group wants to go. Use the group to develop the agenda. We're a very interesting group with a wide range of experiences and skills, and that hasn't been tapped.

Looking over the facilitators' shoulders I've seen the agendas and they are planned down to the minute. And I don't know what that means. Does that level of planning come from a culture that says it's necessary, or is it uncertainty on the facilitators' part? What I would like are facilitators that respond to us – Fair enough, you say you want to do this, we can, but it means we won't do that. Is that what you want?

And I recognise there are conceptual differences. For me, feeding back on the homework is not facilitation, but I've talked to TTT about that, and in their way of thinking it is.

And one last thing, circumstances have been extraordinary, yes, but the course has suffered greatly because of the lack of continuity in facilitators. Continuity is important in a developmental course.

Comment 1-4

One thing I thought about the course was that I would be learning about different ways to protest, how to deal with the cops, relevant legal issues, that stuff.

Comment 1-5

I expected or hoped to find a community of like-minded people, and that has been fulfilled. The training for trainers aspect not so much. I expected engaging, inspiring, fresh, old material about NV and safe spaces to try out new ways of working with that material. The space has been safe (for me), yes, but overall I would say I've felt about 40% engaged with the material, I get more (grow) from other things I do (I think, maybe it's all just too close right now to tell), then from the Saturday trainings. Although watching the group has been very interesting and full of lessons, so I've no regrets. One thing that I also wondered about before the course was whether we would be applying what we were learning to organise an action or event or whatever the group came up with. No, we haven't, which seems like a sorely missed learning opportunity. We still of course can, but it might be an element to consider for future year-long courses.

Summary comments 1 (1-5)

I think what we're saying is that there is not great clarity about the programme on the part of the participants. We all have different expectations. One thing is – why is that? how come we are all found different messages about what the course would be?

Another thing is – what do we do about it? Or what could have been done from the beginning?

We could have talked about, what are your expectations? What are TTT's? Let's map them. Where do we overlap, where are the gaps, can we fill them, or what should be done?

Comment 1-6

The homework has been another greatly under-utilised resource of the course. Some of the readings have been interesting, one or two have grabbed me, but overall, not really. And I know there is good, inspiring stuff out there about NV, I read it. So the content is one thing, and then the attention or the way the homework has been treated as an after thought or a side dish seems unfair – here, do this reading to give context to the workshop, 5 minutes here, 5 there and let's move on to the agenda.

It elevates the agenda above the homework, where it all could be integrated, all of our contributions valued. It is especially a pity that the homework has not been used as a training tool to give people a chance to facilitate mini-exercises using the homework as a springboard. I agree with the previous comment that reflecting on homework is not facilitation, it's presentation.

Comment 1-7

Part of the discomfort that occurs is because the facilitators resist working with the conflict or the discomfort that arises. What can be done is to say – OK, what's going on right now is interesting, but I'm feeling uncertain about what to do. But what I think I'm hearing is ... So what do you want to do about it? ..... .... .... .... Done. OK, now, how do we all feel? Let's reflect on what we just did. What happened there?

The way conflict and discomfort has been generally dealt with is like going to do an action and when you get there, the police are already there, and you say to them 'Go away, you're not suppose to be here yet'.

Comment 1-8

In general I feel there is a hierarchy between the facilitators and us. And should it be that way if it's a training for trainers?

Comment 1-9

Facilitation is a bit like improvised music. You can only improvise if you know your scales. Facilitation requires adaptation and response to the environment. The facilitator is only there because the group has gathered and wants to accomplish something. The facilitator may have his/her own plan, but if that's not what the group wants to do, then the facilitator needs to adapt to the group.

The way it's been working is interesting – inside that room, we are a mini-representation of the outside world. The group is an issue and the facilitators have been playing the part of 'the system' (wanting to lead) and the group is saying, we don't want to be lead, let's work together.

Summary comments 1 (6-9)

So far what have we been saying? We've been talking about the art of facilitation and the theories and concepts behind NV. And what we're missing is

-- theory and concepts behind facilitation

-- opportunities to practice facilitation in small groups

-- reflection on the process of facilitation (which activities were chosen and why, how they went, what could have been done differently)

-- design, how to design workshops

-- common understanding of what training for trainers is

And then the group dynamics are interesting. People sometimes feel agitated and uncomfortable and there is a push-pull – I want to talk about this, and you don't.

And this system we're in. We're the core of a year-long group that gets together each month. We've changed, the system is changing, but perhaps more slowly, and certainly not willing or with ease.

And the language and the words we use to work through these issues. How do you do that so people don't feel alientated?

Comment 1-10

There needs to be a good deal of thought put into the next course, how it might be re-designed or completely re-done. Everyone's feedback should be included about the design and delivery of the course. How do I feel, you feel, TTT? What will service the needs of the organisation while still meeting the needs/expectations of participants, and how to maintain check-ins on that on-going process.

Comment 1-11

Yes, it seems like constant evaluation of a new (and if possible this one too) course like this should have been integrated into the design. Pen and paper evaluations at the end of each session, and time made for participants to fill them out. Or some kind of evaluation that is more thorough than just smiles and frowns. What we tend to do (not always, but generally) for evaluation is really more of a closing tool than a real evaluation tool.

Summary comments 1 (10-11)

One of the expectations of today was that we'd talk about how we'd like to facilitate the remaining sessions. But we have some gaps or doubts:

Is it realistic to think we have time to get it together to run September?

We need more information about the expected outputs of the remaining sessions.

Carl is not particularly interested in doing much facilitation as it's what he does professionally, and believes the practice opportunity could be better utilised by someone else. He's happy to playing a supporting role and be involved, but does not want to be a main facilitator.

Others present (with the exception of Luke) were indifferent in their responses – could do, but don't have to

Luke would be happy to try things out but would want support

Conversation 2: What we have liked, or what has worked well in the last 7 sessions

Comment 2-1

The films have been good, you have a fuzzy idea about history and events (like Leach was 'the man') but you're not really clear about how it all worked. And discussing the films is good because other people notice or know things that I don't.

Comment 2-2

I appreciate a lot of the sessions, but I want more on how to do NVDA and less on the context. That's just passive reception; I can find that out on my own. I want more on how, and less about why. More workshops like Matt and Alison's.

Comment 2-3

One of the points that interested me the most was when we talked about the wider ways social change happens – not just through NVDA – but how it all comes together and what sort of action is appropriate when. And why certain actions just will fail because the conditions are not yet ripe. That was very enlightening.

Comment 2-4

New words. I've learned words, like affinity group, non-cooperation, gathering 'I'd like to invite you to ..’

Comment 2-5

I've mostly valued the people. I missed one month and even though the next topic was not for me, I was very happy to go just to see people. And what is also interesting is hearing what other people say, I realise that I can take community for granted as I've got lots of little communities here and there.

Comment 2-6

Reflecting on the past conversation we just had and thinking about the bits and pieces that have been interesting, we've learned a bit about history of NV, power structures, campaign planning and all very good, fair enough, but I'm still unclear about what the outcomes of the programme will be. What will I be able to do once it's done?

Comment 2-7

I was the G8 in Scotland and I watched the protests, the police and I was bemused, annoyed, scared, energised. It was all very dramatic, but I didn't understand it. So in joining the course I thought I might better be able to and sometimes I think 'yes! I do' and then I think 'hold on, no I don't' ... 'or do I?' So working through all that has been interesting.

Comment 2-8

I've had this interest in NV for a while, but I've felt very alone with it. I've found the community and culture we're creating in the course very comforting. And have only felt that two times before, both in rather unique environments, one a monastery and the other in Israel.

I also have liked the videos; the videos have helped me to see the many varied creative ways of NV. NV is a very broad topic and the specific cases have helped me to know better that I need to focus myself. The images or stories told in the videos are so rare, people just don't know about that. They are very good; they take an abstract concept like NV and make it very real.

I can see now that I need to link NV to something that I already care about. I guess I need to volunteer or find opportunities to see or do myself the application of these tools.

Comment 2-9

We've had good lunches and proven chaos theory correct – even without a plan, not everyone will bring hummus!

Comment 2-10

The blog has been good thing, but it's been kept alive by a core group of us. We should think about ways to broaden the circle of users in the future.

Comment 2-11

I like the group represents such a diverse range of interests but we're all connected by valuing NV.

Comment 2-12

I like the re-confirmation that I've got about the notion of everything you do accumulates towards the ends. You may not see the immediate outcome of X action, but it does all build up and contribute towards something larger.

Action suggstion from a follow-up email, Carl suggests this:


Thanks for the notes. I've read them and thought it might be good to agree a summary.

My understanding is that we have appreciated the range of topics, butbelieve that the programme should more explicitly cover the 'how to' of facilitation, using the various perspectives we came up with.
As to actions - I'm happy to provide support to whoever delivers the programme later in the year, but if no one is willing than I'm also happy to deliver the group process and facilitation sessions (Oct and Dec), as long as I understand what Steve and Mathew will cover in Nov.

Question from DD:

How does the wider group – all of you, not just the handful of us who were there, feel about Carl’s suggested summary and action points?

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