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Energizing Eugene Sessions

November was a busy month for the project, and we're just catching up with sending out news of our latest round of events. The core team of Dave Pollard, Tree Bressen, Daniel Lindenberger and Sue Woehrlin convened once again in Eugene, Oregon—where we've met many times for work sessions over the past six years as it's the home of Tree, our project founder—and indeed, our "corporate headquarters" for business purposes. But as Tree had been increasingly pointing out, we'd never done a public workshop in Eugene! … so we figured it was past time to right this situation.

The energizing intensive launched Friday night, November 16th, with a rousing Group Works “Games night” at Tree's, preceded by a delicious potluck. Dave, game designer and gamemaster extraordinaire, led some 15 of us through multiple rounds of play at three game tables. In and amidst the play, laughter, learning, some serious consultative help and community building, refinements were made to some games, even as other new games were envisioned.

While we've incorporated Group Works games as educational components of public workshops a number of times in the past, this was our first try at a whole event just comprised of games, and the feedback was a resounding thumbs up. OK, so perhaps not every social circle would have been so open to having fun on a weekend night playing with notions of good group dynamics, but if you have some process oriented friends and associates, give it a try! Certainly Group Works games are a great way to introduce reflection on groups in a more playful manner in your facilitation or training work.

You'll find detailed instructions of play for a growing list of games on our website. Note that most of the games are inspired by popular games, so many new players are already familiar with the essential idea and rules of play. For example, Groups Works “The Best Fit Game" is modeled on “Apples to Apples;” "The Act it Out Game” combines elements of "Inspiration," "Cranium," "Pictionary" and "Charades;” and the “It's All Related Game” is inspired by the dynamics of play in “Dominoes.” If this isn't enough to entice you onto the site to check out Group Works games for yourself, just imagine what might be involved in the latest new game titled “They Cooked and Ate the Facilitator”!! ;-)

Bright and early the next day, we convened a public workshop for about 20 who were mostly being introduced to Group Works for the first time. Participants reflected a typical range of kinds of group work, different professional roles and an array of organizational/community affiliations. Three groups had sent small teams which is a wonderful way to intensify/leverage learning for application back at the workplace. We're getting more attentive to identifying which activities in a workshop design work especially well for a natural team to engage together, versus when it makes more sense for the coworkers to split up and work with other participants for greater perspective and networking. Certain common elements always appear in our workshops: ways to use the cards for learning and assessment, planning, mid-stream guidance and debriefing and reflection… However, we continue to remix and invent new activities. For example, using just the category cards to do an organizational assessment, and in another exercise, doing dilemma sharing in trios using a period of asking questions prompted by selected pattern cards—that are purposefully not answered in the moment to deepen reflectivity. When by workshop's end we invite everyone to consider how they might use Group Works in their own lives/work no one ever has any trouble imagining multiple ways. . . .  It continues to be gratifying to see the infinite number of applications and to keep learning ourselves new dimensions of the group pattern language.

A number of folks from the workshop exchanged names and contact info with the intent to stay in touch and perhaps form some sort on on-going community of active Group Works users for peer consultation and collaboration in the Eugene area.

After an evening out to celebrate, the core team settled into a three day work session, which was considerably enlivened by the active participation of three new local folks, each interested in contributing in unique ways. Caitlin Robertson, interested in broadening our outreach, has immediately taken on managing the mailing lists and invigorating our FaceBook activity, while starting to mine sales data for new marketing ideas. Antonia Lewis insisted she liked doing errands (as well as proofreading/editing or other attention to detail work) and immediately made herself useful by driving back to the workshop site to collect the leftover soup that had been mistakenly left in the refrigerator the day before. Wesley Lucas, a graduate student at U of O is going to build his internship around volunteer work with the project over at least the next 6 months to include a wide range of activities he can both contribute to and learn from including: further games testing, workshop segment organizing, curriculum development, writing up case studies, creative commons tie-ins and spin-offs, and event planning.

In addition, mostly the four of us core team members attended to a number of on-going housekeeping issues and continued to discover and clarify how to frame the open source dimensions of Group Works. That is, how to support project members—or anyone!—developing “branch” projects/products off of creative commons material. We spent considerable time developing priorities for the coming year—the top ones include: organizing and disseminating materials and continuing to host events (and perhaps soon, webinars and consultation referrals) to support usage of the deck, and discovering new ways to attract and engage project volunteers to mutual benefit. We also approved the budget for 2015.

Finally, trying to be more attentive to analytics, we also marveled at the continued flow of Group Works decks (including free downloads) across every continent (well, not Antarctica, yet!) and delighting in how the group pattern language continues to grow and evolve in an ever-widening community of users.

Thanks for your continued interest and support. Be in touch with your ideas and interests, especially if sparked by something you read in this report.

Best wishes for the coming year!