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Vancouver Workshops Successful

This weekend was our most ambitious set of workshop offerings yet for the Group Pattern Language Project.  It was 2 full days of interactive presentations, with 5 of us co-presenting.  Sue Woehrlin & i led off with an introductory workshop on a variety of ways to use the deck.  While we are still developing more ways to actually use Group Works with groups in action, it's clear there are many applications in planning, studying, and debriefing group processes.  And depending on how process-savvy or open groups are, it can also be brought in in other ways; for example, Daniel Lindenberger of Source is starting to use it with clients to define the essential aims and intentions for a session. 

After that, Dave Pollard led a skit on "How Not to Do Public Engagement," comprising 9 vignettes which the audience acted out, noted the problems of, and then called out which patterns from the deck could have made the situation go much better.  For anyone with experience in public engagement, the skit struck humorously close to home, and was a reminder of just how far we have to go in making public meetings better. 

Next up, Daniel & Dave invited people to try out a few different games with the deck.  While the past year and a half since publication has seen the rise of many "activities" to do with the deck, actual "games"--something that feels more like play, and has an element of winning in it (whether cooperative or competitive)--have been few and far between.  We did the "Best Fit" game invented by Betsy Morris (sort of like Apples to Apples), and one that was sort of like Cranium (itself a mixture of Charades, Pictionary, and Taboo), and explored other possibilities.  In the Cranium-like game, i was amazed how effective my teammates were in expressing patterns through gesture and without words:  with 12 cards laid out on the table, actors would pick one to enact and others had to guess which one it was--good actors could get their team to successfully guess 5 or 6 pattern cards in sequence in within a minute total!  Games is an area of sufficiently active interest that i'll be surprised if an in-person games development session doesn't take place around Group Works sometime within the next year.

On Sunday, Sue led a method-mapping session, similar to what we've run before in Seattle & Berkeley.  That's where people who are knowledgeable in one or more particular facilitation approaches (such as Open Space, or dot voting, or even Robert's Rules of Order) work out which cards in the deck best illustrate that method, and how.  For more experienced facilitators, i think method-mapping is one of the most satisfying ways to engage with the deck.  While you can do it alone, it's a lot more fun in groups.  The 3 examples mentioned above all got worked on this time, along with Dynamic Facilitation, how to apply the patterns in a personal coaching practice, and other things i'm not remembering in this moment of writing on the train home.  Some of us are longing for a deeper dive into method-mapping, with more time to polish our drafts and also the process of doing the maps themselves.  So who knows, perhaps a full weekend with experienced practitioners might happen in the next year or two as well. 

Rounding out Sunday afternoon, Christopher Allen (the newest member of our Stewards' Circle) presented on group patterns in "virtual" environments, meaning anything from a conference call to more elaborate video conference settings.  Christopher has a tremendous amount of experience in this area, and was able to inspire some of our skeptics with the possibility that non-face-to-face meetings can actually be fulfilling and alive if done well.  The discernment of group patterns for online interaction is a "branch" area for GPLP--beyond our initial scope, but something we are happy to support and be in relationship with. 

For me personally, one of the elements i found most exciting was seeing some of the early hopes for the deck actually starting to be fulfilled.  For example, Daniel convened a method-mapping group on Dynamic Facilitation (DF), a method he's done some reading on but hasn't been fully trained in yet.  I sat in with that small group, and because i have more experience with DF, i was able to quickly use the cards to convey to him and others who understand Group Works more of the essence of DF and how it functions.  The possibility for the deck to serve as a common vocabulary, one that can help practitioners analyze, compare, and teach facilitation methods easily and more quickly than has been possibile before, is exciting and important.  This deck came into being because we recognized that the world badly (and quickly) needs increased skills in collaboration, and now i'm starting to see how that can really happen. 

It was a delight to meet Canadians from a variety of organizational backgrounds who were excited to find out how to really use the deck in their practice, and people seemed to go home fired up and ready to try out a bunch of things.