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NCDD Austin’s 5-Person Graphic Recording Team

The Graphic Recording Team at NCDD 2008 included Sunni Brown, Julie Gieseke, Mariah Howard, Marilyn Martin and team leader Avril Orloff. NCDD owes each of these women a huge debt of gratitude for the incredible contributions they made to the 2008 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation!

Graphic recording has long been a feature of NCDD conferences, but for the 2008 conference we took it up a few notches. Instead of just one or two graphic recorders, we had a whole team — and rather than having them record quietly in the back of the room, we closely integrated the graphics with the rest of the program.

In addition to recording the plenaries and sub-plenaries, the graphic recording team created mural-size posters for each of the five challenge areas we focused on at the conference. The posters were displayed throughout the conference, and the graphic recorders worked with our challenge leaders to add to the posters each day as new thoughts, insights and ideas emerged related to the challenges.

Conference participants were also urged to contribute ideas to the posters, and many did. And to help people along, our Graphic Recording Team offered a graphic recording demo/session at the D&D marketplace on the first day of the conference, giving dozens of conference attendees the opportunity to try their hand at graphic recording and learn some basic graphic recording skills.

Avril Orloff created the mural that captured themes related to the Framing Challenge, which explored the question “How can we talk about and present dialogue and deliberation work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?” At the 2008 conference, we focused on the need to attract more conservatives to D&D work in particular. Click on the image below to see a larger version of this mural on Avril’s website. You can learn more about Avril’s work at www.avrilorloff.com.

Mural by Avril Orloff

Many more images of the graphic recordings created at NCDD Austin have been uploaded to Flickr by conference participants. Be sure to check them out at www.flickr.com/search/?q=ncdd2008&w=all.

What are Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation anyway?

According to graphic facilitator Brandy Agerbeck (www.loosetooth.com), graphic facilitation is the practice of using words and images to create a conceptual map of a conversation. A graphic facilitator is the visual, usually silent partner to the traditional, verbal facilitator, drawing a large scale image at the front of the room in real-time.

Agerbeck describes graphic facilitation as both a process and product. Watching the graphic facilitator create the map as the group speaks is highly experiential and immediate. It focuses the group as they work, aiding concentration by capturing and organizing their ideas. Everyone can watch their ideas take shape; the manifestation is most resonant with the visual, spatial and systematic thinkers in the group, but it’s a powerful tool of recognition for everyone. After the event, the map becomes a document; evidence of the meeting’s progress and direction. This resulting conceptual map is an engaging and meaningful tool, because the audience watched its creation in relationship to their experience. Images being emotional and subjective, participants can interpret the image and recall their own ‘Aha!’ moments.

According to visualpractitioner.org, graphic facilitators (or ‘visual practitioners’) use visual methods to assist learning and communication between groups and individuals. Graphic facilitators tap into the power of ‘visual thinking’–they literally draw information out of people, functioning as facilitators and scribes to get the wisdom of groups into a tangible form. Some use visual presentations to ‘PUSH’ information to people. Other use a ‘PULL’ approach, gathering the information that is pulled out of people, into graphic displays or renderings. Whatever approach is used, the artifacts that are created have a very graphic or visual nature.

What Are the Benefits of Working Visually?

As human beings our world is speeding up and the amount of information that we are forced to digest is growing exponentially. One of the prime benefits of working visually is that it is humane! The human brain processes information visually – pictures help convey reams of data efficiently. Visual Practitioners know and use the efficiencies of visuals. We know how to extract and distill the key messages, wisdom and knowledge held within an individual or group.

Working graphically is efficient and effective – as such it saves time, money and much aggravation. Comprehension increases, participation increases, the quality of decision-making tends to increase; all in all, working visually helps people more effectively see their circumstances, understand themselves and one another, and results in smoother decisions and agreements.

The ease of reproduction is another large benefit of working visually, particularly in the case of business meetings or settings where meeting minutes and summary notes are of prime importance. No longer does someone have to slave over the transcription of an important meeting – most of the approaches that visual practitioners use do not require additional writing work; the minutes are literally created as we go (particularly in graphic recording and graphic facilitation venues).

Benefits of interactive, highly facilitated approaches to graphic recording:
Increases Clarity And Comprehension (People Literally See What They Mean); Boosts Learning For Visual And Kinesthetic Learners (Over 88% Of People); Heightens Thinking Levels (Enables Higher Level Of Dialogue And Discussion); Saves Time And Increases Efficiency By Reducing Repetition And Redundancy; Lowers Misunderstandings And Helps Resolve Conflict; Increases Quality Of Decisions And Understanding Of Commitments And Accountabilities; Shrinks The Need For Traditional Meeting Minutes And Reports (The Charts Become The Report).

Benefits of passive, off-on-the-side scribing approaches:
Collects Key Information Without Invasive Questioning Or Interruption; Expands Retention And Understanding Of Key Themes And Main Ideas; Increases The ROI For Speakers & Presenters (Documents Their Crucial Points); Builds A Graphic Summary That Leaders Can Use To Summarize/Interact With; Equips Participants With A Unique ‘Takeaway’ Of Their Experience (Paper Or Digital); Makes For Easy Sharing And Communication Of The ‘Gestalt’ Of The Event.

Resources on Graphic Facilitation

Grove Consultants International, a well-established group of graphic facilitators based in the San Francisco Bay area, feature a number of video demos on their website.  The short videos walk users through using their most popular planning templates.  At grove.com, you’ll find a number of other great resources on graphic facilitation.  A great place to start is at the resources section of their online learning center.

The International Forum of Visual Practitioners website, at visualpractitioner.org, features a nice database of graphic facilitators you can hire. For over 25 years, business people, artists, communities, governments, educators, and individuals have been leveraging the power of their Visual Practitioner community of graphic recorders and graphic facilitators.

This introductory text about graphic recording and graphic facilitation was excerpted from www.visualpractitioner.org and www.loosetooth.com.

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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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