Taking a decision is a difficult thing to do by oneself, taking it together in a group can seem impossible. Creating an alchemy of all perspectives into a common agreement is a mastery and ensuring that the individuals then stick to the agreement is wizardry. Yet, collective decision making it is at the heart of a fruitful collaboration and we are confronted by it on a day by day basis. So how do we deal with this challenge?
To be honest, I thought I knew quite a lot about gender and diversity but what I found was that I actually still don’t know that much, which was a shock and a huge pill to swallow!
The Mission Impossible is a fun way for a group to bond by solving a challenge together. At the same time the challenge can be tailored to the purpose and content of the workshop. Most frequently used at the beginning of a workshop after the check-in.
collaboratio helvetica am Podiumsgespräch im Rahmen des Landesstreiks 1918
Ein Podiumsgespräch im Rahmen des Landestreiks 1918 in der alten Hauptwerkstätte der SBB widmete sich den Fragen um Verteilung von Macht, Reichtum und Armut.
Heute feiern wir die Gründung der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft! Wir alle kennen die sagenumwobene Geschichte des Rütlischwurs, wo die Uhrkantone ein Bündnis schlossen und somit den Gründungsakt der Eidgenossenschaft festlegten. Gründungsmythen haben eine starke kulturelle und verbindende Relevanz, die nicht unterschätzt werden darf. Zum heutigen Nationalfeiertag stellen wir uns zwei Fragen: Wie schaffen Mythen Realitäten und wie sieht die Schweiz aus in der wir leben wollen?
This method is a simple, fun and powerful way to break the ice, make people move and mingle, set the frame and check-in with each other.
On June 12, WeSpace invited representatives of women communities in Zurich to the first cross-women-communities event. WeSpace aimed to provide a physical space for the teams to meet, interact and share. However, we understood the need of professional expertise to be able to meet this goal, therefore, Collaboratio Helvetica was the obvious co-host. WeSpace aims to act as the home-base for women communities where interactions and collaborations can continue in the future.
At collaboratio helvetica, one of our key methods and principles is dialogue. By ‘dialogue’ we mean the kinds of conversations that change something in us when we take part in them, and that shift something between the people who are involved in the conversation. We mean dialogues where we need to “risk” being authentic and to co-create a space where others can do the same. We mean dialogues about challenging our habits of thought and conversation: listening with attention, speaking with intention and daring to turn the camera around to face ourselves and the roles we might have within the systems we are trying to change.
Eleven years ago, I made a conscious decision to wear my permanent Gender glasses.
Despite pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, Rhetoric and Public Discourse at the time, when my influential university professor, Shira Tarrant, introduced me to the field of gender justice, my entire worldview drastically changed.
For how long might we allow ourselves to hold a question, and what could it create?
WHAT IS THIS METHOD?
"As we enter an era in which systemic issues often lie at the root of critical challenges, in which diverse perspectives are required for sustainable solutions, and in which cause-and-effect relationships are not immediately apparent, the capacity to raise penetrating questions that challenge current operating assumptions will be key to creating positive futures.”
In our lives today questions and answers does not have the same weight or value. This partly has to do with the influence of our educational environments. Since the beginning of our educational entry point, we learn that when there is a question it means that there is an answer, and that your success as a student is tied to with which speed and accuracy you can find this answer. We do not get educated in asking questions but in answering questions.
In our everyday life we all know the experience of having a question and the assiduous tickling need of wanting (so badly) to find the answer or the solution. The mechanism is as natural and familiar as making coffee after waking up is for many. The bigger and more important the question in front of us seems to be, the more energy we put into finding the answer and the solution as fast as possible. Unless you function as a researcher, you will most likely go about this answer-finding-process by occupying your own mind. Potentially you might bring your question(s) to some friend or family members whom you feel familiar with and close, too. Or you might not even have to because right at our fingertips, google might already offer us all the answers you need.This is an completely normative process of how to deal with questions, that we all know about and use.
Holding the question is about bringing the focus away from the answer and back to the question. It is about putting as much thought into the question as we have traditionally given to answers. Holding the question is a method of opening the mind and asking life to respond.
HOW DOES THE PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
First becoming aware of the present condition (of yourself or your group), to sit with the needs that are surfaced, and from there it is about crafting a powerful question. Without giving in to any creeping urge to answer it right away, it is instead about appreciating the quality of the question in itself and to notice all the new possibilities it brings.
a. powerful questions are usually made with Why, How, or What prepositions, they possibility-focused and not problem-oriented, they are open and they often evokes more questions. A powerful question invites and challenges you to reflect on a deeper level — to find the knowledge or wisdom that’s already there beneath the surface. Using a powerful question usually adds more value to the process than one that is not.
When the question is there and presents itself to you, you want to decide for how long you are going to hold it.
Then you will go about your life as usual, but you will be holding a question, and you will ask life to respond to give you clues and signals. Being aware of the question and not trying to consciously answer it, but rather inviting a state of mind that allows a natural flow, thoughts, ideas and images related to the question will flow into the mind. It is especially helpful to take a walk in nature when holding a question.
Do not expect to find any answer before the time of the holding is coming to an end, just collect undeterred what comes and trust that it will make sense later. (Use the metaphor of a basket that you fill up with clues)
When the time of holding the question is over, you sit with your question again, and you might wanna try to conduct and define an answer. However what is most likely to happen is that the entire process of holding the question long enough dismantles or changes the reason for holding the question. The process often allows the arrival of a non-dual state and meaning creation, which resolve tensions we had and helps us shift the thinking we had when we made the question. This allows us to understand the question we asked from a new depth, to find more profound answers and to penetrate and rejuvenate our assumptions. Holding the question opens the door to dialogue and discovery.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
TOOLS, MATERIALS, TIME, ROLES
Holding the question can last from hours, days, weeks and even months. It depends on the question and the context. A person might hold a question that pops up over the lunch-break, a couple might hold a question for some weeks about where they would like to travel to in summer, a team or a group might hold a question together for a longer period about which direction their project or work should take.
The question(s) that are held need(s) to be put somewhere into writing, and there needs to be an agreement with the self or with the people, on the timeframe of how long the question will be hold and when it needs to be re-visited.
Although groups can easily use this method, we recommend to use it mostly as an individual practice.
Further literature to the topic:
Peter Block (2008): Community.
I realized that my education has the power to influence me and change my values. In ways that goes beyond the knowledge I am taught, in ways that I am in fact blind to. As soon as I had this realization I could not deviate from it anymore. It was like a gate that had been opened, and as I continued to pay attention, it was not possible to close that gate again. In fact, it just became more open. I left the traditional education system, I went out into the world (and into the unknown) and decided on a path that I really wanted and felt I had truly chosen myself.
The Design for Wiser Action is a great way to co-create a project or a piece of work with the help of diverse perspectives. The process enables all participants to put their learnings and experiences in service of new creative projects. On the one hand, the process enables the project-giver to get support and advice and on the other hand it allows for the collective intelligence to unfold.
How a Dialogue Evening on Sustainable Consumption helped leading change actors to let go of frustration and anger and become more positive towards their actions.
Why do many people who try to make a difference often feel frustrated or angered because the world isn’t changing fast enough for them or that some people do not share their awareness about an issue? In this story, leading activists for more sustainable human behaviour feel that they carry the weight of the consumption patterns of 8 billion people on their backs. But this negativity only hinders their contributions for a more sustainable future. In this blog article I share with you my insights from a Dialogue Evening on Sustainable Consumption, and how it offered us some solutions.
On the evening of April 5th 2018 a group of 9 people gathered in the Impact Hub Lausanne for a Dialogue Evening (see footer) on the topic of Sustainable Consumption, the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 12. It is a topic broadly debated in society. Can we consume sustainably? What does it mean to consume sustainably? How much can we consume now whilst sustaining our planet for future generations? During this Dialogue Evening we were asked to exchange views on our own relationship towards the consumption of food, relationships, money and more. We approached the topic from different angles: How our backgrounds and families shaped our consumption patterns, when in our lives we realized that our consumption comes with consequences or what actually keeps us from changing our behaviour.
What struck me during this evening were the negative emotions that some of the people in this group – myself included – expressed during the conversations. Anger, frustration and guilt are often connected to the topic of Sustainable Consumption. It is the feeling of guilt that comes with the consumption of certain goods and the feeling of anger or frustration that leading actors pushing for a change in this topic carry.
Negative feelings around Sustainable Consumption
Let us focus a bit more on the second group of emotions: Anger and Frustration. Many activists and leader for a change to a more sustainable society are people who bring all of themselves, all of their best intentions and loads of innovative ideas to guide the way forward for a better world. They put an enormous amount of energy into their convictions and want to share their awareness on the topic with the rest of society. However, observing the way that the world and its resources are currently still exploited by the world’s population, one participant commented that this role was challenging:
“Activists are translators of knowledge and hold the weight of the behaviour of 8 billion people.”
(Participant Dialogue Evening, Impact Hub Lausanne, 5th April 2018)
Consumption is first and foremost a personal matter. It is to some extend about consuming right or wrongly, and this is where our emotions towards the outside gets activated. Living with a permanent sense of frustration with the situation, and anger against those who are perceived not to be changing things despite clearly understood issues and solutions is exhausting and depressing for those trying to drive social change or be socially responsible. What can be done about this? Persistent negativity is not attractive, and activists run the risk of giving up, succumbing to depression or becoming passive.
Dialogue provides a way forwards
To a certain degree this Dialogue Evening was a first step for a change. While talking and connecting on a deeper level with each other, the group became aware of the anger and frustration in the room. The people present became aware of their emotions and started to question their attitude. Other persons offered support as they saw them struggle to let go of the negativity.
“Activists really struggle with anxiety. I want to contribute to make them feel better.”
(Participant Dialogue Evening, Impact Hub Lausanne, 5th April 2018)
Another participant said: “Awareness shouldn’t paralyze you and it shouldn’t frustrate you”. This sentence made quite an impression on me. I often catch myself in situations where I observe other people’s unsustainable behaviour which angers me. Or another moment where I eat something that my sustainable consciousness wouldn’t actually allow – which produces guilt. But these reactions don’t really change anything: It only frustrates me and if I show this feeling against the other person he or her might get upset.
What do we take away from the Dialogue Evening?
Everybody left this Dialogue Evening with a good feeling. There was no frustration, anger or guilt produced. We listened carefully to each other’s perspectives and experiences. All the people taking part had the chance to reflect on their own behaviour and the feelings coming with it. Everyone took something with her or him and left the evening either motivated, felt understood or maybe just a tiny bit more aware of themselves and their surroundings.
“I want to support the emergence of a more sustainable future but with a positive feeling and attitude!”
(Participant Dialogue Evening, Impact Hub Lausanne, 5th April 2018)
Where do we go from here?
We decided to make another Dialogue Evening on June 12th where everybody in the room agreed on taking someone with them that wouldn’t have come her-/himself. Either because they do not care much about the topic or are just not attracted by the format. We will see if and how different the conversations will be. But I am sure that if we approach the new people in the group with the same openness and positivity, a similar positive atmosphere like on this last evening in Lausanne will occur.
On Dialogue Evenings:
A Dialogue Evening is a format that allows a group to exchange on personal and local experiences of a societal challenge. It is all about the quality of listening and speaking. And therein lies the way we can change relationships between us when we dare to deeply listen to others perspectives, ideas and experiences.
Isabelle Ruckli is communication manager at collaboratio helvetica. She is highly interested in the nexus of human behaviour, sustainable development, democracy and governance. She wrote this blog article after visiting a Dialogue Evening in Lausanne on the topic of Sustainable Consumption.
In December 2017, collaboratio helvetica (cohe) began to recruit some new team members to join its core team. The process was unusual: Over one month, around 25 people were brought together in different spaces, from whom 2-3 were subsequently selected to join the team. Why would cohe do this? Cohe is an organisation dedicated to creating spaces for open dialogue, experimentation and collaboration to create the Switzerland we want to live in. It is an organisation that tries to lead by example: trying new methods and approaches, and learning as it does so. It is also a very small organisation, juggling many commitments, projects, contacts and trying to do big, complex things on a small budget. Therefore, the right team members are crucial.
Interview With Director Sylvie Durrer Of The Eidgenössisches Büro Für Die Gleichstellung Von Frau Und Mann (EBG)
Collective Story Harvesting is a storytelling process that enables us to deeply connect with and learn from the experience in our community, team or organization. It builds our capacity for targeted listening, group learning and therein for collective meaning making. Collective Story Harvesting takes learning to a deeper level as it surfaces insights that exist beneath the surface of our stories.
Am 15. Februar 2018 kamen in Bern 250 Menschen zusammen, um das Sustainable Development Solutions Network Schweiz SDSN zu lancieren und um die Schweiz einige Schritte weiter in Richtung Agenda 2030 zu bewegen. Selten genug treffen so viele Menschen mit so viel Wissen und Erfahrungen zusammen. Diese Chance galt es zu nutzen. Aber wie? Das Hostingteam der Konferenz in Zusammenarbeit mit collaboratio helvetica hat sich für das Lernen von Geschichten entschieden. Methodisch fiel die Wahl auf das Collective Story Harvesting. Klingender Name – und was darf man sich konkret darunter vorstellen?
We partnered up with SDSN and supported the design of their launch conference. In particular, we designed flow and are co-facilitating the break-out session. Nora and Osi, together with a facilitator crew of 10 people, will take the participants through a process including storytelling as the main methodology.
When a group of people must tackle a common complex challenge you can release their inherent creativity and leadership as well as their capacity to self-organize. With the Open Space method all issues that are most important to the participants are raised, included in the agenda and addressed. With the co-created agenda people will take responsibility very quickly for solving problems and moving into action. Letting go of central control (i.e. the agenda and assignments) and putting it in the hands of everyone generates commitment, action and innovation.