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Questions and reflective practice

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This morning I came across a resource that really resonated with me. Its geared toward visual practitioners however the idea is pertinent to all facilitators, process designers, strategists and others managing processes for change. You can view it here:

http://drawingchange.com/question-well-a-reflection-tool-for-visual-practitioners/

The question well (name of the resource) is about taking a moment to pause and reflect on the work you are doing. It poses great questions that relate to you and your work, you and your client, the client and your work and so forth. As a process facilitator, blogger and someone who works with groups on reflective practice, learning and making meaning – this resource is a fabulous start to ensuring our work is more effective. It helps us understand things from different perspective, look for areas to make change, adapt as well as reinforce where things are going well.

In addition to pointing out the usefulness of reflective practice, it also presents questions that can be applied in a variety of circumstances beyond visual work. These questions help us design better processes, engage with groups on a deeper level and build understanding amongst diverse stakeholders that are often trying to work on layered and complex challenges.

Lastly, a big thank you to the authors for taking time to pull together the resource and generously sharing their work!

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Meeting intros…beyond the go around.

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A few weeks ago, I got a request from someone new to facilitation asking about a great way to do introductions at a meeting. I have a lot of icebreakers up my sleeve but I was testing out something new at another meeting and had been given some ideas from an online group too. I wanted to feel it out before replying. After testing out some new things and thinking about the games I was suggested, my advice went back to something tried and true that I find a fabulous way to start a meeting.

One thing I’ve always found fun is a 3 round speed meeting. Its helpful to have a chance to meet the people you are going to be working with for the next few hours / days/etc. upfront. It can be very simple or you can put a spin on it to go deeper into your meeting content. The instructions are something like this:

  • Find someone you don’t know and introduce yourselves.
  • You have 3 minutes for the first round and then I will ring a bell and you have to meet another person (90 seconds each during your intros).
  • Do it 3 times
  • Regroup together, stand in a circle and ask people how that was for them.  Do a go-around or a ‘popcorn’ to get feedback.
  • Remind people that often we sit in meetings and don’t know who is around the room. If they didn’t get to meet everyone, take time during the breaks to continue the introductions.

If you want to go DEEPER or be more focused on the meeting itself, similar to above but:

  • Give them 4 mins per round (2 mins each to share)
  • During the intros, ask them to tell each other what they hope to get out of the meeting.
  • During the debrief, ask for examples of what people said they are hoping to get out of the meeting. Ask people if most people they met had similar expectations or where they different? How were they different? What does that mean for the meeting? Ask if anybody has anything further to add that wasn’t said.

Even though each person will only have done 3 rounds, they will know more and have more depth than a simple go around sharing names and where they work.

In general, I believe the debrief for every session/activity is a key part of the session. “What, So What, Now What” are 3 questions to consider for each session you do. Even the introductions can set the tone for the type of meeting you are going to have.

Good luck!

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Planning an update, stay tuned!

The year has flown by and I have been neglectful in writing, reflecting and sharing online. However, lots of interesting work has taken place, and shamefully I got caught up in the busy frenzy. On the positive, I was spending more time with people face to face and less time on my computer.

Now its time to take a deep breath, consider some of the highlights and articulate these thoughts through my blog. Reflective practice is always something I have found useful, encourage others to do and will commit to doing this October. I am setting a goal to update pages and write a few new blog posts. Thank you for your patience. If you want to get in touch, contact info remains the same and email still works great: michelle.k.laurie(@)gmail.com. Off to work….

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Announcing two workshops for September 2016

This year I am very excited to host two workshops focused on the use of visuals in our facilitation practice.

The first is called My Pens, Our Pens and is a brand new offering Sept 16-17. This is being developed with Nancy White (my co-conspirator of the last six years). We are treading into new territory as we explore the role of visuals in design and facilitation.   This is not your traditional workshop. We are looking to push our boundaries (and yours) in terms of the role of visuals in design and facilitation. We will ask hard questions about who captures content and what is its use?  Can visual methods help reporting out be more meaningful? What is the role of metaphor? Constraints? Where are there visual opportunities in process design? When does it make sense to use visuals and where does it detract from the process? What is the process of others capturing and harvesting content? For those joining and wanting an introduction to drawing on walls, there is an optional half-day Sept 15 to teach the basics.

The second is the 7th annual  Rosviz graphic facilitation workshop. This two-day experiential workshop provides the fundamentals needed to get started drawing on walls, use visuals to achieve your goals or hone your existing practice (Sept 19-20). Whether helping communities plan their futures or groups track progress, we will provide the skills and confidence needed to use a range of visuals in your work and engage beyond words.

Workshop details for both offerings are found here!

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Volunteer project complete – what did I learn?

When I saw an ad from a researcher wanting to help visualize mental health training for female sex workers in Kathmandu, I thought maybe my graphic facilitation skills could be of use. Besides, it sounded like an interesting project and very different from my usual environment and development focused work. The project is now complete.

As a facilitator, its typical to debrief with three questions:  what? so what? now what?

What?

Over a period of three months, we had one pilot and three sessions where the women who took the training debriefed their learning and I drew the key points on a wall. Meanwhile, an artist was refining my ideas on a wacom tablet in order to produce a digital image in real time. After the discussion died down, the women went through my drawing explaining what they saw and I added or commented on anything that was new or different from their interpretation.  Sometimes they saw things I never imagined however typically we both had the main ideas in sync. The refined digital image was saved on a USB and taken to a print shop nearby while the women were given a free lunch of Nepali Daal Bhat. The print out was delivered and all women took a copy with them to use in their own discussions with women in their ‘professional networks’.

Here is an example of the last training session output.  The left side is the refined version by the artist and the right side was the sketch I drew on the wall in front of the ladies as they provided their learning impressions.  The debrief sessions were always about 30 minutes max so this was a very quick interpretation of their training.

Graphic representation of lessons learned.  Left side by Adi Bereshit-Elias and Right side by Michelle Laurie

Graphic representation of lessons learned. Left side by Adi Bereshit-Elias and Right side by Michelle Laurie

So what?

I’m still waiting for the researcher to do her analysis on how the visuals contributed (or not) to facilitating mental health discussions by the trainees with their colleagues.  However, she did send a note recently saying, “In the post-training reactions a couple of the women said that their favorite part of the training was the “learning through drawing” part! With your help, we were able to provide a largely illiterate population with a practical and meaningful tool that helped them complete their teaching tasks with a lot more confidence than they otherwise would have had.”

For all us of involved it was a big learning experience.  I have learned a few things including:

  • It is possible to draw without words and explain ideas (though I find this very intimidating!)
  • Keying in on the main message and using a central image are helpful tactics
  • Putting the icons/drawing onto a landscape or setting helps the ideas to not ‘sit in space’
  • Perfection isn’t needed though an artist can do amazing things to spruce up a sketch (i.e. make it look professional)
  • People remember the discussion having watched the drawing take place before their eyes and take part in the meaning making
  • Visuals are a bridge across language but can also be tricky (i.e. watch out for cultural metaphors and faux pas!)

Now What?

I hope to take part in the celebration with the participants this April and learn more about how their on the ground sessions went with their colleagues.  Personally, I have learned a lot about having confidence to make a mark on the page in front of a group of people talking about serious issues AND have the ability to step back and be okay with what they like and dislike with the drawing created.

While I really appreciated the artists’ support, I also plan to work on my visual vocabulary as it does get easier to draw on the fly with practice, and use of specific icons.

I am happy to have participated in a new and exciting application of visual methods and will continue to push my edges.

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Linking research to policy – my new project

I have recently joined an interesting project to establish a South Asia Urban Knowledge Hub (funded by the Asian Development Bank).  I will have the opportunity to work with research institutes in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (to start) on sustainable development issues in the urban sector. My role as knowledge management specialist is to build capacity of the researchers to undertake outcome focused research for policy influencing.  I am tasked with creating a template to help the researchers develop policy influencing strategies, improve technical writing skills for policy briefs, provide a 2-day training workshop and will also act as a mentor on an ongoing basis for two years.  For anyone who knows me, this sounds like a dream!

In some ways, it is a dream and in other ways, I have gone down a rabbit hole of jargon that is giving me nightmares.

evaluator_jargon_evalblogAs I consider the assessment I need to undertake as a first step, I cannot imagine asking people about their familiarity or confidence level in using tools like: problem trees, objective tress, force field analysis, stakeholder maps, SWOT, theory of change, the RAPID framework, alignment/interest/influence matrix, outcome mapping, advocacy strategy, communications strategy, etc etc etc.  Don’t you feel overwhelmed just reading the list of available and suggested tools? I do.

This is forcing me to really take a step back and figure out what I need to know from the participants beforehand in order to design a good training and what is the best way to get the information from them (this is before I even start doing the real work!).

While originally I thought a simple online survey would work, I have decided that this is not the best tool given many people may not use the same terms for undertaking analytical tasks.  My simple assessment could get wordy and complicated.  Moreover, if I leave the online survey open-ended, I won’t have the opportunity to really understand the responses provided without proper follow-up.  This leads me to the idea of conducting group interviews with each centre.  This way, I can probe into the questions I ask with the group from each centre and build on the conversation as it evolves. I believe I will gain a better understanding of the types of methods they have used (or not used) previously.

I have already had one introductory Skype meeting with each centre so this is also a nice way to build our relationship given I am going to be working with them for the next two years.

Sooooo…given I want to learn about what experience (or lack of experience) the centres have with undertaking outcome oriented research for policy influencing these are the questions I’m considering using to guide my interviews.  The results need to inform the design of a template for policy influencing as well as a 2-day training for the centres.  I would love your feedback as its still in draft form.  Or maybe you work in this area and have other bits of advice for me?  If so, thanks for sharing!

1.    Please share an example or two of research you undertook in the past specifically with the purpose of changing policy:

  • How was the research topic decided?
  • Did the research lead to a change? If yes, what were the key factors?
  • Did you document your assumptions for creating change? If yes, how?
  • Were other actors/partners involved? How so?
  • Did you have a strategy in place that you followed?
  • Did you use specific tools or techniques to understand the different actors/stakeholders involved?  Those who would support or challenge your research?
  • How did you monitor the change that took place?
  • How do you know your influence on the change, as opposed to other outside forces?
  •       If not, have you used a strategy for other advocacy work? If yes, please describe what this looked like.
  •       If not, how do you feel embarking on this type of work in the future? What are you most excited about and most concerned about?

 

2.    Please describe how you typically disseminate the knowledge generated from research.

  • What methods do you use? Example strategy?
  • What has been most successful? What has been least successful?
  • How do you define your audiences?
  • Do you typically write different messages for different audiences?
  • Do you work with communication professionals?
  • What type of communications products do you think policy makers find most useful? For example:
    • Policy briefs
    • Opinion articles, News items
    • Media, Community radio
    • Working groups
    • High profile events
    • Public pressure

3.    To what extent are policies in your field evidence-informed?

  • What are some of the factors that determine whether, and to what extent, evidence informs or even influences policy decisions?
  • Is demand a necessary condition for the uptake of research?
  • Do you think well-conceived and compellingly packaged research findings stimulate the interest of policy makers?

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Sense making with community and an artist in Nepal

Female sex workers ready to train colleagues with their 'visual training aid' (Feb 7, 2014)

Female sex workers ready to train their colleagues with jointly created ‘visual training aid’ (Feb 7, 2014)

This blog post follows up from an earlier post I wrote about applying graphic facilitation in new contexts. The day arrived last Friday for the first official training of female sex workers (in Nepal) in improving their mental health.  Women were given a training and then debriefed.  During the debrief, the facilitator asked the women, what are the main messages you learned from the training?

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Mental health training workshop with female sex workers in Nepal.

The women provided feedback on what they learned, what they felt was most important and the key messages to provide to their colleagues in the trainings they will provide on their own over the next two weeks. They were enthusiastic and had lots to say.

During that time, I drew out the main messages on a wall that was in plain view.   I started with a woman hugging herself as the key point was the importance to love yourself and be kind to yourself in order to be able to give to others such as family and the community.  It also helps for creativity and generating new ideas.  The idea of taking time for oneself was talked about, physical pain being related to mental illness, as well as the struggle of implementing what was learned in the real world, when one walks out the door. They gave the drawing a title, “My Life”.

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Adi, an Israeli artist, drawing on the tablet.

When finished, we went over the drawing as a group sharing what we saw and how it reflected back what they said.  At the same time, an artist was drawing the key points on her wacom tablet to create a refined, digital version that could be printed immediately for women to take away with them.  The entire process of reflection, drawing and refinement was about 30 minutes (i.e. quick!).

Here is the rough live version (done by me) as well as the artists’ rendition (with Nepali translation) and some additional images to remind them to share what they learned with their colleagues.

The live image I created on a visible wall.

The live image I created on a visible wall.

The artists rendition drawn on a tablet.

The artists rendition drawn on a tablet.

The final digital drawing was taken to a print shop nearby while the women were given a free lunch.  The free food was key to getting the women to stick around after the training.

The copies were brought back and distributed so they had something to help them remember the content when training their colleagues and friends.  The women were very thankful and interested in the whole visualization process. Despite the language barrier, I gather they appreciated being heard and having input into the product they took home.  This is certainly one of the main messages I promote for why graphic facilitation is a great tool with meaning making and groups.

We are planning to use the same technique next week in the second training of the three part series.

Overall, working with an artist is really amazing and I will try it again in the future in other contexts.    

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The women were very appreciative and thanked us with flowers and tika.

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