The assembly will take place on February 28th 2012. Thinking, in a new way, about the future participants want to see become a reality. Selecting participants to reflect Scotlandʼs diversity. Discussing values along with what purpose and vision is important for the Future of Scotland.
People work in groups, thinking together. Facilitators hold the space to make sure everyone has a say. Priorities from the morning session focus the afternoon. Consideration is on how to create a society, where what we care about is brought to life in the way we live, work and play.
Connecting with the lived experience of citizens, harnessing the inherent wisdom of folk. Building on the wealth of work underway. Engaging people in meaningful participation, crafting a future fit to face the challenges of our century.
Inspired and supported by the assembly movement in Iceland, this unique event is hosted by So Say Scotland in partnership with Future of Scotland, The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Church of Scotland, Electoral Reform Society and others.
Aim high, travel hopefully, stay present and reflect honestly!
To get in touch or help the So Say Scotland folks, contact Zara Kitson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07910138535.]]>
The following questions will be put to the electorate in the referendum:
Participants are inspired with a wide open positive question about the visioning theme. The main purpose is to stimulate right brain activity, as participant are usually in a left brain mode when joining a new form of sessions, like the Visioning Forum. This inspiration point is optimal and can be skipped on shorter forums.
Examples for Question 1:
This is the real opening ceremony of the Visioning Forum. We ask for just a one single word that can represent a value (a word that can contain virtues, behaviour, emotions or views). The question asked here is used to build a consensus on the key factors or core values to build on during the rest of the visioning session.
Examples for Question 2:
This is the main idea generation part of the forum. The question needs to promote divergence with a broad and open subject. This will support flexibility and stimulate the mind of the participants.
It is important not to ask too narrow questions to empower full freedom for all participants.
Examples for Question 3:
In the 6th session, specific questions can be asked for deepening the idea generation. For example for a visioning session for a better city, questions can be asked like; “Do we have some practical implementations that can empower our higher values, like in personal, family, community or work life?”, “Are there ideas that represent a process of change within us that enables transformation in our community or country?”, “Is there anything here that can affect the direction of society to deeper dimensions of our humanity?”, and so forth.
The following table summarizes the two thinking processes as defined by Benjamin Bloom in 1956:
|Creative Thinking||Critical Thinking|
|Involves creating something new or original. It involves the skills of;||Involves logical thinking and reasoning including skills such as;|
|flexibility, originality, fluency, elaboration, brainstorming, modification, imagery, associative thinking, attribute listing, metaphorical thinking, forced relationships. The aim of creative thinking is to stimulate curiosity and promote divergence.||comparison, classification, sequencing, cause/effect, patterning, webbing, analogies, deductive and inductive reasoning, forecasting, planning, hyphothesizing, and critquing.|
Based on the experience of the two major Visioning Forums in Iceland (National Assembly of Iceland Value and Vision 2009 and National Forum on a New Constitution 2010) it was expected the majority of the participant thinking process was as the following:
Establish a coalition which needs to be well connected within the community and possess intellectual skills to fully grasp the project and its nature. The first task is to unite this coalition around a strong mission, like: „Harness the wisdom of the people to build a better future for all of us“. The founding team can call on international experts and specialists to enhance the dream.
Select a team of experts (facilitation experts). These are preferably professional facilitators, people from academia or people with experience from management position within corporations. Select a depending on the total number of facilitators needed to facilitate the dialogue at the events. Include these people in the DREAM and get them on board. They will now serve the role of being „head facilitators“.
Give the head facilitators thorough training so that they fully understand the nature and organization of the event. They need to be the flow experts and provide support to their facilitators at all times. In some cases, the head facilitators would need to be trained as trainers for the facilitators. This is especially true when language can be a barrier and strong group of local people have the capabiltiy to fully capture the methodology (trained in English), and carry it forward.
Ask them to recruit facilitators, 9- 18 each; people they know and trust are able to do the job. They will thus each be responsible for a team of facilitators. When that is done, organize a training of facilitators. The training relies on the event handbook (already available), where the facilitators will be taken through the handbook a number of times in a simulation excercise. They will be given tools to use at the event itself when unsure how to handle issues, but their responsible head facilitator will always be there for support.
If there is information technology available, get IT specialists on board. They need to devise a system to capture the data and register it. This can be a simple registration of points from cards and need not be that complicated, but the IT experts usually find ways to enhance the basic task. It would be preferable if someone in the founding team was an IT person.
Furthermore, people who are in the position of summoning volunteers for various tasks at the event itself need to be included in the dream. They will head the organization around catering, reception of delegates, call center to contactd delegates etc.
A special coordination team works in the evening after the event to organize the data, take out repetitions, combine categories within themes etc. This is important to think through in the beginning to secure the outcome will be available soonest possible (the following day).
Stakeholders like authorities, religious groups and special interests groups usually don‘t want to be directlly involved in an event like this. It is not adviseable in any way, since it could give the event a certain label.
They should be offered to support the event in cognito without having to worry about the organization of it. The founding team and all others should agree to work on a voluntary basis, but would have to pay for possible expenses like experts flown in, training of head facilitators, project administration plus possible out of pocket costs relating to facilities, equipment, catering etc.
What the founding team is really offering is to organise a „day of the people“,where there will be secured an authentic space free from all outside influences focusing on how best to fulfill the needs for a better future. The output would be an important contribution to general policymaking, which thus would be grounded in the „wisdom of the people“ and as such more likely accepted.
It is important to include the stakeholders in the meeting under the premises that they are there just as anyboty else; only representing themselves.]]>
This process is about human interactions and can help build a balance between online platforms and the physical truth/reality. Just as online platform needs good usability in design to work, an idea capturing platform in the human organization within the physical space needs the same design to be able to capture ideas in the most optimal way.
It is assumed that all the facilitators have been trained in managing the flow of the forum. Individuals who are trained in human relations and have a positive attitude towards life are chosen for this job. One of the responsibilities of the facilitators is to bring out as many viewpoints from the participants as possible, making certain that they are comfortable, feel independent and have a positive attitude.
The main purpose of the announcer or master facilitator is to create tranquillity. Therefore, there are almost no announcements or direct chairing at this meeting from a speaker system. The communication between the facilitators and the announcer(s) is composed and with a minimum disruption.
The basis of the methodology of the Visioning Forum is to always use discussion rounds (brainstorming), where everyone has the same right to express his/her ideas. Participants put forth their ideas with short explanations on small cards. Simplicity is emphasised when going round and round, ensuring everyone an equal relevancy.
The key element of the Visioning Forum is to start the meetings by creating a frame of mind with a discussion about the values or visions that the subject is based upon. An opening dialogue is about the core values. This discussion is an important icebreaker for the meeting and creates trust between the participants.
At the end of the first half participants select the core values by democratic voting. The conclusions from all the tables are given to the chairmen of the meeting who group them in a certain way and find which values or visions are predominant at the meeting. The overall conclusion of the meeting on the core values is then announced. This creates faith on behalf of the participants in the methodology of the Forum, right from the beginning.
Formulations and discussions about the proposals of the idea card start in the second half of the meeting. It is important that the question is simple, clear and that it allows participants to grasp the subject totally.
Free discussion creates an atmosphere at the meeting. The participants always decide which topics they want to bring forward, at any time. This enables them to work at their own speed and deliver their proposals as they choose. It is easy to put forward ideas with reference to visions or values from the first part of the meeting. This gives participants a convenient framework in which to work.
The facilitator always serves the table the best he can and helps with the grouping of the proposals, in close cooperation with the participants. The facilitators never discuss individual topics or take a stand for or against the participants’ proposals. The facilitator makes sure that the participants at the table agree on the categorisation on the table which is automatically formulated by the grouping. The facilitator makes sure that acceptable category titles are formulated on the table.
Towards the end of the first part of the meeting the back office has processed the data from the discussions about values and visions. The final themes of the Forum have thus been formulated. This method ensures that the meeting itself formulates the themes instead of them being prescribed or created by a small number of specialists. This generates trust and demonstrates that the participants themselves are in control.
The participants now start a discussion about how the proposals of the idea card can best be tied in with their values and visions. This creates depth in the discussion where everyday discussions about ideas are now tied into their attitude towards life and our values. This will also result in an open discussion which will be directed at several themes.
In the next session the guests have had lunch and the areas and tables have been re-grouped according to the themes. Everyone goes to a table where there is a stack of values cards. The participants help each other to group the proposals on the table. This work creates new sub-categories. The same method is always used throughout the meeting and the facilitator makes sure all the participants at the table are active in categorising in a clear way as well as deepening the discussion even more.
After the participants have come to an agreement about a clear and substantial structure of the main themes on the table, the next task can be addressed. Every participant will choose the priorities he feels are most important as well as mark the issues he finds new and important. By marking new items, ideas are brought forward that could renew and bring positive, fresh currents into the society. This could create an opportunity for a new approach, a new way of thinking or a change from old ways.
The participants will complete this task by formulating a statement on each table. The statement is to include the most important items in the theme that was being worked on, items that people feel should characterize the manifesto from the forum. When this has been done all the data is collected on each table and a special caution is used to save all connections that have shaped the data at the meeting.
The meeting is brought to an end with announcements and a summary of the conclusions of the meeting. However, the facilitators of the meeting will continue their work and have a processing session where the proposals will be grouped, repetitions will be taken out and ideas that are identical will be joined. Therefore it will be possible to introduce the main conclusions of the meeting already the next day.
Author: Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson, Reykjavik, Iceland]]>
An authentic public sphere, in which participants can express their thoughts in a safe and uncritical environment, is necessary for harnessing collective intelligence. This enables genuine joint meaning-making through sharing of experience and storytelling, resulting in a representative view of the desired identity, values and vision of the social system involved.
The nature of human social systems differs fundamentally from that of a living organism, although belonging to the same class of meta systems. A crucial factor distinguishing human social systems from other meta systems, apart from the degree of internal autonomy, is language. Therefore, “the identity of human social systems depends on the conservation of adaption of human beings not only as organisms (in a general sense) but also as components of their linguistic domains”.
Maturana and Varela defined this particular dynamic of human social system adaptation as structural coupling, an important concept in what is to follow. It is not only a question of coupling or adaptation between the system and its environment, called second order coupling by Maturana and Varela, but a structural coupling within the components of the system itself, called third order coupling. Third order is a structural coupling among the components within the system, which then unify it.
The focus of this article is Citizen Communicative Engagement, or alternatively Employee Communicative Engagement, if applied in a corporate setting, as the fundamental process for adaptation of human social systems to their environment, not only as organisms (in a general sense) but also as components of their linguistic domains.
The following is based on a study which is a dissertation by the author of this paper, at Adizes Graduate School, Santa Barbara, California, which currently is under final review of the respective Doctoral Committee. It involves two so-called National Assemblies [Visioning] held in Iceland following the financial crisis that affected not only the society’s livelihood, but its very identity. The first public dialogue, organized by a grass root movement called the Anthill, was so successful that the Parliament of Iceland called for the second in preparation for revising the nation’s Constitution. Within the Constitutional Council, which was a 25 publicly elected member council to present a proposal for a new constitution to the Parliament of Iceland, several members stated that the resulting 700-page document with the conclusions from the second National Assembly, was a significant factor in equipping them material to reach a decision in only four months, on a full draft proposal for a new Constitution.
This report relates to the particular process, called “The Assembly Process” (Visioning) applied in these two instances, to the dynamics of a greater range of human social systems in the hope that it will contribute to facilitating conscious and constructive evolution of such systems. As it turns out, multiple such events have been organized in Iceland since November 2009 among corporations, municipalities, associations and more, many of whom have been organized by the author of this report.
Below the discussion will focus on the data i.e. what kind of data was gathered and how. Furthermore, how this data was classified and how it would fit different deliberation approaches, one of which is linked to the capacity of the software package developed by the Parmenides Foundation in Germany, called EIDOS. The author had permission to use the software for research purposes during his study and the following is a brief overview of the main findings.
It is argued that these types of large crowd dialogue events, organized according to the methodology of Participatory Action Research, are useful for visioning in human systems in general, be they countries, municipalities, corporations or communities of any kind and that it can, not only generate a vision for change, but also a very strong momentum for action.
Collective Intelligence, Wisdom of Crowds and the like, is a phenomenon widely studied not only with reference to humans, but also, and perhaps more so, with reference to other living social systems. The whole idea behind the Assembly Process is that of harnessing the wisdom of the crowd, under the premises that the crowd is selected in an authentic way securing proper diversity to represent the total population in question.
The process referred to in this document will be called Assembly Process while a human system is representing a human social system of any kind. A handbook for this process is available for everyone to use, and as earlier stated, multiple such events have taken place. The author has the raw data from two national assemblies and over 20 assemblies performed at corporate level.
The Assembly Process is in effect a participatory inquiry based on an open question or questions starting with an organized brainstorming to get the raw data on which to deliberate. The deliberation is done through categorization according to the principles of Grounded Theory, which participants themselves perform according to the natural classification in their terms with reference to the different subject points which were presented in the brainstorming session. The Categorization done in this way, involves an extensive meaning making discussion between participants to explain and understand the nature of each point. As later discussed.
The categorization of the data is dependent on the nature of the question involved and the context in which it is handled. In accordance with Grounded Theory, categories form through the participants studying the available data and are peculiar for each instance, although similar in nature. This similarity allows grouping the categories according to their actual nature and content in the following general groups:
Given the brainstorming principles, part of the data will always be unclear or vague not really involving an actionable point or idea. These are kept for the purpose of authenticity, but do not really make a contribution to the deliberation. Furthermore all repetitions are taken out by the participants in the process.
The application of the EIDOS software is related to the Systemic Issues as described above. The applicability is very significant, in that the prerequisite for solving the so called Sub-System issues is paying attention to whatever Systemic Issues which might get in the way of activating operational change for the benefit of the system. The Systemic group of issues is usually very interdependent and therefore sophisticated software dealing with complex interdependency of data is of tremendous significance. This becomes particularly the case
Later in this report, a particular example will be given relating to a large crowd representing a cross section of a whole nation. The process can also be used in sub-units within those macro systems involving communities (states, municipalities or however else a community would be defined) as well as corporations, which would want to tap the wisdom of their employees for evolutionary purposes and associations of any kind.
Without excluding any possibilities below are some examples of how this process would be of significance:
As earlier mentioned, a so called Iceland National Assembly was organized by a grass root organization called the Anthill in November 2009. The method by which participants was carefully planned as to maintain authenticity by choosing the participants in a transparent and objective manner; however, it was also important that stakeholders in national and economic leadership be present in order to gain their support. Transferring the results of this meeting to the wider population would be problematic without first grounding those results with the “establishment.” A random sample of the total population was used, aged 18 and older, culled from the National Registry. This eliminated both hand-picking and open access, which would not have allowed control of the participant profile. Being a National Assembly, it was desired that the participants represent the nation’s demographic profile as much as possible. To approach a 3% error margin with 95% confidentiality, 1,200 attendees would be required. In order to get a turnout of 1200 attendees, a total sample of 6000 individual was drawn.
At the first Assembly, an expert committee categorized the collected data into themes and sub-themes. Experience proved, however, that this part of the data deliberation needed further development to save time and secure integrity of the categorization. Thus, at the 2010 Assembly, the participants themselves performed final data registration and categorization.
At both Assemblies, participants registered their thoughts on data cards and categorized the cards into nine themes, each with multiple sub-themes. Each card contained the number that had been assigned to the participant, to which demographic information such as age, gender, and geographic origin of the contributor was linked. All data, unedited in any way by Assembly facilitators, was registered the same evening and later made available on the Assembly’s website for public access.
To prioritize the data participants were given three sticky dots to place on three issues presented at their table. Through this voting, data pieces were collected to work with further in deliberation from the meeting. The themes which evolved at the 2009 Assembly were: Economy, Education, Environment, Welfare, Family, Public Administration, Equality, Sustainability, and an open category called New Iceland. Participants formed vision statements around these themes, a sample of which can be seen at the Assembly’s website.
Further studying the data, however, revealed another model as outlined in the below figure:
The Social Stratification Model—Forces of Social Evolution—Visionary View
By carefully studying all marked data from the assembly, they could fall into the above subject areas and many threads proved to be mutually interdependent requiring simultaneous initiative at multiple strata involving a multiple of stakeholders which would have to be combined.
Given the features of the EIDOS package, it proved a promising alternative to handle the complex data analysis resulting from this study and to link the data between different strata and stakeholders. However, since the focus of this particular dissertation study was the Assembly Process itself, i.e. the data generation activity and its validation, the EIDOS possibilities are still to be explored to its full potential. To do that further research is required; research I am convinced will open new possibilities of handling a large crowd qualitative inquiry data and transform into strategic wisdom and actionable policy grounded to the members of the human social system at stake.
In the enclosed overview presentation generated from the EIDOS package, a very brief example is given as to how the data was handled within the software. It is important to note, that this is just a sample case involving real data but the interdependencies and links between the different data is a matter for further exploration and discussion. Two analysis were done; one involving the themes which evolved during the meeting and another involving the model shown in above figure. The example below is the one generated with the Social Stratification Model.
Using the elements above, pieces of the data was placed in an option development matrix as shown below:
The data was classified according to Social Stratification Model, and listed under the different heading as follows (note: this is only sample data):
When using interdependencies strategic clusters were identified as follows:
Relevant combinations were studied and would form a basis for stakeholder analysis and further planning with respect to internal interdependency. Several options could be explored in this regard, but as a matter of fact, further proficiency on behalf of the author of this report would be required to do the full analysis. It can be stated that the matrix involving the themes from the assembly was considerably more complex involving 57 million different combinations as opposed to 6300 different combination of the simplified version shown above.
The Goals features of the packages were also considered and visulaized as follows:
The goals were listed, without, however, assigning any features to them, since that would be a matter of policy making and strategizing using the data.
It is important to realize the levels of data and that the data used in the above examples represent only the top layer, i.e. top categories, each containing multiple sub-categories each containing multiple points.
The above report is a brief overview of a dissertation study done by the author involving large scale communicative engagement dealing with national issues. It is argued in this study that this method can apply to whatever human social system at hand. The event is in essence a participatory research process involving a large crowd where sufficient diversity and authentic physical space are secured to facilitate simultaenous dialogue and preserve the integrity of the data. The focus of the dissertation was mostly around the inquiry process itself and its validation.
Experience has shown, that an event like this produces multiple of outcomes. The most significan ones being on one hand a vast array of diverse data relating to the subject of inquiry and on the other hand a great momentum for change and action created by the enthusiasm around the possibilities and ideas from participants. The third significant outcome has been the general discovery among the participants, that at the core, all have the same needs and desires for a better life and share views in that regard to a considerable degree. This creates a tremendous sense of unity among the participants.
The most important feature in making an event like this of significance in conscious and constructive evolution of human systems is the ability to act on the data generated from such events. Given the diversity and complexity of the data, a temendous work is involed in gathering, making sense and using the data for the purpose of facilitating movement and change towards the desired direction.
Modern technology enables handling of complex qualitative data. In this instance the features of Parmenides EIDOS software was studied in relation to handling of the data gathered from the socalled National Assembly, which was organized in Iceland in November of 2009 involving a random sample of the Icelandic Nation. It is clear, that while such a large scale event can produce very rich source of data relating to national evolution and improvement, the EIDOS package provides the potential to extract the collective wisdom and actionable points from such data imperative to any follow-up and policy making. An example was shown above, but there are clearly much wider application possibilities involving both similar events in different settings, as well as more complex and eloquent data analysis involving goal assessment, option evalutation, stakeholder analysi, project planning and risk analysis to mention a few.
A lot of data is already available to do further tests. Data from two similar large scale events (1000+ participants) on a national scale and multiple events on a community and organizational level, which would allow for much deeper study of the potential of the package to take the rich raw material extracted from such large crowd events and turn them into focussed and mutually interpendent strategic intiatives and policies aimed at aligning the human system involved for greater prosperity.
Reykjavik, Iceland, July 23, Bjarni S. Jonsson
email: bjarni [at] agora.is
The document in this blog gives an idea on how you can gather the future vision from a random sample of 1.000 to 2.400 people of your city.
The questions are:
The process is neutral and organized in a way it can capture every idea brought forward by each of the participants. The output of the Visioning Forum is easy to understand and navigate. It can be presented only a few hours after the session in the form of a mind map.
Visioning for a city involves inspirations on the Why, What and Wow. It is important for the creators of a Visioning Forum to have a consensus for the difference between Creative Thinking and Critical Thinking of the participants. The methodology of the Visioning Forum takes into account these two different thinking processes during the flow of the session.
This process is about human interactions and can help build a balance between online platforms and the physical truth/reality. Just as online platform needs good usability in design to work, an idea capturing platform in the human organization within the physical space needs the same design to be able to capture ideas in the most optimal way.]]>
Agora had the opportunity to meet some of the members and organizers of the Forum and discuss ideology and the Agora visioning methodology. As a part of the information presented from Agora is the following draft handbook for The Spirit of Humanity Forum to use as an inspiration and a source of free flow of ideas.
The document is open for anyone in an editable wiki-like format. Anyone can download this handbook as Word, PDF or OpenOffice document or create a new Google Docs version.
This draft handbook was prepared by Agora for the wonderful members and organizers of the Spirit of Humanity Forum.
Click here to open the Spirit of Humanity Forum Handbook.]]>
This handbook can be used for smaller assemblies. It can be fune-tuned or forked. Best of luck!]]>