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Developing a Pattern Language of Group Process

I asked NCDD member Tree Bressen to write a post for the blog about an exciting project you may want to know about: the Pattern Language of Group Process project….

“For more than a year now a small group of folks have been hard at work developing a Pattern Language of Group Process.  The people involved come from a variety of backgrounds including theory and practice, the academy and the street, and bring experiences from diverse sectors including technology, political activism, education, communal living, financial services and other private corporations, nonprofits, and more.

A Pattern Language is an attempt to express the deeper wisdom of what brings aliveness within a particular field of human endeavor, through a set of interconnected expressions arising from that wisdom.  Aliveness is one placeholder term for “the quality that has no name”: a sense of wholeness, spirit, or grace, that while of varying form, is precise and empirically verifiable.  The term was originally coined by architect Christopher Alexander, who, together with five colleagues, published A Pattern Language for building in 1977. Others have since applied the term to economics, software design, liberatory communication, and other fields.

This particular pattern language focuses on face-to-face group sessions with a dialogic or deliberative intent.  While there are already a few existing resources that address general theory or values underlying facilitation, and many resources available that teach particular methods or techniques, the pattern language homes in on a level between those, the level of design principles.  If the project is successful, it will be helping people to think well about design, to recognize the common patterns underlying many successful methods, and to act improvisationally to evolve (in advance or in the moment!) group sessions that both fulfill the purpose for which they were convened and leave participants feeling more alive than when they walked in.

While some of the people involved with this make a living as paid facilitators, we believe that facilitation and hosting are too important to be left to professionals.  We aim at a democratization and sharing of the depth of these skills, so that people are empowered to become co-creators of their own process rather than passive consumers of expert process.

The project is being developed primarily online at http://grouppatternlanguage.org, supplemented by occasional conference calls and in-person meetings (on the U.S. west coast so far).  There are live meetings coming up in Bowen Island (BC), Seattle, and Berkeley, and newcomers are invited to get involved!

Tree Bressen has been a community-based facilitator for more than a decade, working on a gift economy basis with groups she can reach in one day’s train travel from Eugene, Oregon.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. Pretty exciting project! Look forward to listening in on one of the upcoming Berkeley meetings.

  2. John Abbe says:

    Hopefully i'll run into you there – and feel free to do more than listen in!

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