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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Social Learning and sense-making in events


"One day a woman went hoeing in the field. Before she started hoeing she put her baby under the shade of a tree. Whilst she was working in the field some baboons came and stole her baby." The constantly original and creative Charles Dhewa grabbed instantly our attention during a session at the 2011 IFAD ShareFair as he told one of the Bantu narratives he describes in his powerful paper, "Traducture and Sensemaking: Experiences from Southern Africa". We were working together in a session exploring sense-making as a process, and the stories were triggers for us to reflect on how different people take different meanings from a single prompt.



Dhewa developed the sense-making framework illustrated above that embraces the complexity of this process, especially when working with people from different cultures and with widely varied experience. The paper explores the dimensions illustrated above and it's a good introduction thinking about the role of a facilitator in working with large and small groups of people as they sense together and shape ideas and new meanings from their discussions.

As we described in our first blog on sense-making and emergence, the process of collective learning and making sense of what is emerging is probably the most complex part of a workshop. Several popular and well-tested facilitation techniques can be used to support these processes, including:
World Cafe, where participants have rounds of conversations on linked sets of questions, with 'hosts' at tables recording the progressively richer exchanges.
  • The wide range of variations in storytelling methods 
  • The different approaches to Appreciative Inquiry, with their emphasis on seeking the affirmative and positive as the basis for considering future actions 
  • Future Backwards or Backcasting - taking people out to a future they construct, either or both ideal or nightmare and then considering how they will or did get to that future, as the basis for thinking about what they might do next 
[Information about FacilitationAnywhere courses (next one likely to be in April 2017), the associated wiki of resources, and further examples of methods to encourage sense-making can be found in the remainder of this blog on the FacilitationAnywhere site]

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