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Toward a common language across methodologies

This post was submitted by Sue Woehrlin of Antioch University, summarizing the great pre-conference workshop she led the afternoon before the 2012 NCDD conference in Seattle.

There was much intensity, discovery, and laughter from the thirty of us who assembled at Antioch University in Seattle October 11th for the pre-conference “Method Mapping” workshop. What happens when you invite practitioners with deep experience in the field, indeed several originators of participatory methodologies, to play with the Group Works deck of group facilitation patterns to “map” essential aspects of different approaches to working with groups?

Enjoy this video of Peggy Holman using the cards to describe a collaborative budgeting event held in San Jose, California…

We learned that whether you were already familiar with the cards or just encountering them for the first time, it didn’t take long to become deeply immersed in spirited dialogue about the heart and bones of a methodology using the patterns on the cards as the medium. Through two rounds, small groups mapped some 15 methodologies from World Cafe to Restorative Circles, from Collaborative Budgeting to Appreciative Inquiry.

What especially delighted everyone and prompted both insight and laughter was noticing how the teams’ process of approaching the task, and resulting maps, reflected the very nature of the method: so the Parliamentary Procedure group presented in a very orderly fashion and had their selected pattern cards arranged in straight rows; the Consensus group’s arrangement of cards was a swirl of coalescing forces and collaboratively spoken; and the Community Weaving group got the whole room participating in their unfolding map!

Another group insight was the realization that a still photo of the outcome couldn’t begin to capture the richness of the group’s “snapshot” of that method. Instead we learned to record the report outs on video so as to capture the narrative story behind the choice of specific pattern cards that described a methodology. Reflecting at the end of the session, all agreed it was a meaningful and needed dialogue to search for a meta language across approaches.

Here are the links if you want to learn more about the Group Works card deck (www.groupworksdeck.org/deck), and/or see the method maps & participate in their further development (www.groupworksdeck.org/methodmaps).

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