Facilitator Improv FAQ

What is Facilitator Improv?

It is a participatory format where everyone in a group is able to facilitate the group with experiential exercises. Its a process by which a group can co-pilot itself. Traditionally we a group is dependent on a leader to guide it. Facilitator Improv is a process that allows a group to not have that dependence.

What is the basic format of Facilitator Improv?

guidelines:

  • Sit in a circle (2 to 20 people)
  • Sit in meditation until someone gets an intuition of some exercise to lead the group in
  • Optional : give some signal that you are done with exercise
  • Again, sit in meditation until someone gets an intuition of another exercise
  • Keep repeating this.

What are some examples of exercises people have led at Facilitator Improv circles?

Loosen up your jaws. Describe what icecream flavor the universe is to you this moment.  Pair up, place hands on partner shoulder and massage. Make a gesture with a part of your body that creates confidence. Text someone you have been a bit out of contact with a nice message. Create a visual hologram of an issue/problem you are dealing with, then walk around it . Ground energetically and let that energy join with others into a flower. Smell something . Meditate and watch your thoughts and emotions without judgment .Notice something that catches your attention, then move like it, Touch a body part of yours that you do not pay much attention to usually. Do kapali breathing .Look at each other as if you had power of the other, then look at each other as if you share power with. Do a 1 minute pitch about project or yourself . Mirror each others movements – Make a sound from your belly. Imagine connecting your third eye with the others third eye. Share your earliest memory. Build a tower collaboratively (with stuff in the room) . Draw a pagoda collaboratively. Find a way to join hands of the group that is not just holding the hand of person next to you . Say someone’s elses name and your own. Imagine a fire in the middle of the circle that is warming your stomach . Say a sound that a cartoon would make. Tune into your emotions and name three that you are experiencing. Forgive someone. Wear the shoe of someone else in the circle and walk around.

How do you guide a group into using Facilitator Improv?

Its easiest to start off with a short Facilitator Improv, like one around 10-15 minutes. People are then encouraged to come up with exercises that are about a minute in length during this short Facilitator Improv. This shorter length gives people a chance to sense into the group field, how to allow others a chance to lead, how to feed off each other etc. People can discuss how it went.

Can a Facilitator Improv be too talk focused?

It depends on the intent of the group. If a group would like to be more experiential, which we do suggest because it allows for a more embodied way of knowing, then this can be clarified before hand. If during the Facilitator Improv too many exercises are focused around dialogue, then someone can make a meta-comment about the situation. A group can choose a hand signal for making meta-comments if so desired.

Can you use Facilitator Improv in more specific fields?

Yes, you can for instance do an Art Facilitator Improv, where everyone leads artistic exercises. Or you could do a Yoga Facilitator Improv where everyone leads a yoga pose. You could do group collaboration groups, restorative justice, holistic health, entertainment Facilitator Improv’s.

How does Facilitator Improv create a new model for workshops?

Its an operating system for workshops that can allow a workshop to be hosted without the host necessarily knowing too much about the material.

So for instance, someone can put on a workshop “How to manage your time efficiently” run on a facilitator improv format, which means that everyone goes into silence, until someone gets a hit on an exercise to lead the group related to managing your time. Then after that exercise is led, the group goes back into silence again, until someone else gets an intuitive hit. People can share feedback as to how well the exercises land.

It allows much greater freedom and ease in putting on workshops, for one doesn’t need to prepare so much. One can put on a workshop on “Tapping into your intuition”, “Overcoming anger”, “Improving your relationship to money” etc… by simply advertising it and having a space to hold it, and then allowing people to come to help run the workshop. Its a new model, a new paradigm of what workshops are. It doesn’t require beforehand to have the teacher, and the exercises all prepared, it instead depends on emergence from people coming.

There’s a similarity to how in Open Space Technology facilitation events, where anyone can call a group, even if they do not know anything about it, and then people coming would discuss the topic. The difference to Open Space Technology here is that anyone can call a stand alone workshop, and also that there is more of a focus on facilitating experiential exercises rather than dialogue.

How can Facilitator Improv spread cultural memes?

The exercises people come up with can be recorded on a website, and also put into an open source deck of cards. There is currently a deck of cards called Ish which contains exercises many people have come up with. Others can then by looking at the website, or using the deck of cards also use these exercises, thus propagating and spreading the facilitation exercise cultural meme

What is the relationship between Faciliator Improv and the new paradigm of leadership?

Traditionally we have a Leader as Boss. We are now moving as a society into the direction of Leader as Facilitator. The next step after that will be Leader as Co-Facilitator. Meaning everyone can facilitate. Facillitator Improv is one of the leading edge social architectures that embodies this new paradigm that allows for omni-facilitation, where omni-facilitation means everyone can facilitate.

At what stage of consciousness (in Ken Wilber’s Integral theory) does the Facilitator Improv social architecture lie at?

At the amber(blue) stage the paradigm is Leader as Boss who rules through punishment. At orange the paradigm is Leader as Boss who rules through the carrot. At green and teal the paradigm is Leader as Facilitator. At turquoise the paradigm is Leader as Co-facilitator.

What does this have to do with new political and justice systems?

Currently we have a top-down political system. A more bottom-up inclusive political system can happen when people from different demographics and interests can come together and co-facilitate themselves to understand each other, and to work together in society.

Currently we have a top-down justice system which is based on cops, jails, courts, and lawyers. A more bottom-up system of restorative justice would involve a community coming together, including ‘victim’ and ‘offender’ to listen, empathize, forgive, and make amends.

A new paradigm of workshop : participant led workshops

Facilitator Improv is a process which allows everyone in a circle to guide the group in experiential exercises.

Its an operating system for workshops that can allow a workshop to be hosted without the host necessarily knowing too much about the material.

So for instance, someone can put on a workshop “How to manage your time efficiently” run on a facilitator improv format, which means that everyone goes into silence, until someone gets a hit on an exercise to lead the group related to managing your time. Then after that exercise is led, the group goes back into silence again, until someone else gets an intuitive hit. People can share feedback as to how well the exercises land.

It allows much greater freedom and ease in putting on workshops, for one doesn’t need to prepare so much. One can put on a workshop on “Tapping into your intuition”, “Overcoming anger”, “Improving your relationship to money” etc… by simply advertising it and having a space to hold it, and then allowing people to come to help run the workshop. Its a new model, a new paradigm of what workshops are. It doesn’t require beforehand to have the teacher, and the exercises all prepared, it instead depends on emergence from people coming.

There’s a similarity to how in Open Space Technology facilitation events, where anyone can call a group, even if they do not know anything about it, and then people coming would discuss the topic. The difference to Open Space Technology here is that anyone can call a stand alone workshop, and also that there is more of a focus on facilitating experiential exercises rather than dialogue.

Conflict transformation cards

The Conflict Transformation cards are printed! They have been sourced from the many suggestions people gave when the call was put out, and also from disciplines like Nonviolent Communication, Bryon Katie’s ‘The work’, Dennis Merzel’s ‘Big Mind Process’, Arnold Mindell’s process work, somatic psychology, expressive arts therapy, and ‘Theatre of the oppressed’. Its 54 cards that people can draw together to work through situations and conflicts. You can use them like tarot, or use them as a source of exercise ideas to choose from. (You can purchase them here https://www.etsy.com/shop/ConflictTransform )

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A place you can go to – to say sorry : Sorry Circles

We were sitting in our kitchen throwing out ridiculous party ideas, and I expressed it would be funny to form a circle and have everyone apologize for something they had done. I had forgotten the idea by the time the party got going. Then at a moment when a little bit of quiet descended, soft like a leaf, onto the party, my friend, who hadn’t forgotten, said why don’t we go around and say what we are sorry for. We formed a circle, and she started by apologizing for there not being curtains in the rooms. The next person apologized for cursing someone who had cut him off that morning. Followed by a third person apologizing for introducing a political discussion (that got slightly heated) at the party. Then my friend, feeling that we could take advantage of the energy of everyone in the circle, suggested that we all say “We forgive you” to the person after they admitted/confessed/expressed themselves. We started saying that in unison, which sounded a little bit cult-ish at first. But after we did it a couple of times, it began to feel really beautiful. We were giving real forgiveness. As we continued around the circle, it felt people were coming from a more emotional place. There’s a power to be given a space in which you can express your regrets, to be released from that place where you may have become secretive with your past, wracked with your guilt, numb from your emotions, or combative with your defensiveness. As people spoke and listened, a deeper shift began to move in the room, something powerful was unfolding. After the circle some participants called people up to express their apologies….

It struck us this is beautiful, simple and powerful technique – you can do with your friends at a party, as a workshop, and while just hanging out. A Sorry Circle is a place where people can go to, to express their regrets and apologies, and experience some healing around it. A network of Sorry Circles in a town can help in transforming the community’s emotional health.
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The mathematics of Non-Violent Communication (NVC)

I was looking at functions and how they translate one thing to another, so the function f(x) translates x into y where f(x)=y, and it seemed to me there was analogy here to Nonviolent communication (NVC) where one translates a contentious sentence into a nonviolent one. And I started wondering whether there might be mathematics of NVC.

So for instance lets say we have two people Bob and Ted. Bob says ‘I feel attacked.’ The statement ‘I feel attacked’ can be translated into I am scared and I have a need for safety. So mathematically this means f(‘I feel attacked’) = ‘I am scared and I have a need for safety’

Now the reason ‘I feel attacked’ is more contentious is because Bob is implying that Ted attacked him. Ted may reply ‘I did not attack you’. We thus have two statements that do not agree each other. One statement is ‘state of Ted=attack’ . The other statement is state of ‘Ted=not attack’. These two statements do not agree with each other, and cannot exist together in the same set.

Now the NVC translation of Bob’s statement ‘I feel attacked’ – ‘I am scared and I have a need for safety’ ,can coexist with a statement Ted makes about himself.

So translated in mathematical notation
where x1,x2,a,b are statements

x1 = I feel attacked
x2 = I did not attack

a=I am scared because my need for safety is not met
b=I raised my voice because I was nervous.

f(x1) =a
f(x2) =b
where f() is the act of nvc translation

x1 and x2 cannot form a set which is consistent so you need these statements to be in different sets {x1},{x2} . The brackets {} connotes a set.

whereas you can form a set {a,b} with the statements a and be, which has more than one component.

So you can have a larger sets of statements that can coexist in NVC.

The sets of these points form topological spaces. So the set of non-NVC statements forms a smaller topological space than the set of NVC statements.

I have an intuition that somehow in understanding these topological spaces more we can understand more about how collaboration can work, and which types of collaborations are possible.

We can move around more in the NVC statement space since it forms a larger topological space. I think what this means somehow is more freedom somehow in NVC topological spaces. And it is analogical to having more freedom in our real world. By studying these spaces I think we can get a sense of what types of collaborations and ways of working together people can have, of what kind of strategies that they can have to meet everyone’s needs.

I also think this mathematical formulation may help us understand how to generalize NVC to larger populations where multiple people are making statements. Also this may have a larger possibility of generalizing to form an economic theory out of NVC. (see my article on NVC and economics https://opencollaboration.wordpress.com/…/good-communicati…/ )

New paradigms of leadership : from leader to facilitator to we-facilitator.

I have been to a number of workshops where something the facilitator/leader of the workshop did was questioned, an act which created a certain degree of uncomfortableness, not only because something is being challenged, but also because in this situation it is no longer clear who is facilitating the discussion. The workshop leader has lost a lot their authority temporarily. I have watched with intrigue as different members of the group then attempt to take up the role of facilitator, guiding how and what is to be discussed, highlighting areas of interest, and suggesting certain processes. There can occur what might be dubbed facilitator overlap, as different facilitation processes compete for airtime. Sometimes the ensuing discussion gets off the tracks, and falls apart. Other times through people listening, empathy, synergy, and proper switching of process tracks can guide the whole group into balance.

At the New Story Summit gathering last year in Findhorn, Scotland which was brought to discuss the New Story, the new paradigms coming into reality, the agenda was interrupted when the cards outlining the schedule was rearranged by to say We Don’t Know. The schedule was something that had been designed using a process called Open Space Technology which allowed many different circles/groups to form. The cards designating where events were to be held had moved from their original positions. There was a shocked silence, then the head facilitator suggested people meditate. Then people spoke up. Some were quite angry that this had occurred, one man said it was a violent. There was an urgency from some people in the room to get the conference ‘back on track’ onto a known schedule. Then someone else spoke up and said lets not jump back in so quick, lets be present to what is occurring. Charles Eisenstein ( who writes a lot about the new story in his books, and who later turned out to be one of the pranksters who had rearranged the cards) stood up and asked who it is that we turn to, who has the power in a group. The question of who has the authority hung in the air.

It is at these times the skills of improvisational co-facilitation are needed. Where people are able to listen to the multiple perspectives and energies in the room, and also able to sense into the efficacy of different facilitation strategies. It requires being able to assess on the fly the skills of other facilitators and efficacy of different process strategies. It is about intuitively knowing when better to stay quiet or when to speak. And its about being to dance in that confusion.

What is being looked for, when there is no clear leader, no clear facilitation process, is a way for the group to self-organize into functional and energetically healthy collective. What is wanted is a way to avoid having the group descend into a divisive, chaotic anarchy. What is needed, is presence, and the ability to intuitively sense, anticipate each other, to guide it back to healthier grounds. It requires a number of subtle Tao-like skills, skills that can easily be missed by people used to more ‘rigid’ organizational structures.

These are some of the skills the Facilitator Improv process seeks to train people to become better at. Facilitator Improv creates a situation where anyone in the group can facilitate the group in a process, and so helps people listen to the group energy, and also be uncomfortable with the extra creativity and unknown that comes with allowing anyone to lead the group at any one time. The basic Facilitator Improv process involves people going into silence until someone gets an intuitive hit of what to exercise to facilitate the group with. Then everyone goes back into silence until someone gets an intuitive hit of what to lead the group with. In more advance versions of Facilitator Improv exercises can be suggested at anytime, even if another exercise is in progress. People have to use their intuition and energetic listening to guide the group well through this format where ostensibly on the surface its anything goes.

In the current mainstream model of organizational development, we have a person at the top who is telling others what to do, they have the authority. In a more advanced model of organizational development, the person at the top is more of a facilitator (as was the case at the New Story Summit). A facilitator model allows more people to participate, to feel involved, to contribute their knowledge, passion, and essence. However there is still an inherent power dynamic there (which is what Charles Eisenstein was bringing up), we still look to the facilitator as the leader. And any leader will have their blind-spots. In the Occupy Movement, there were people who were frustrated with how people who were facilitators seem to have a lot of power to contour where they wanted the conversation to go. In an even more advance model of organizational development, there is a chance for everyone to become a facilitator. Processes are we-facilitated, omni-facilitated. This model requires participants to also have a higher inner self development, where they are able to be present and aware of their own emotions and thoughts, to sense into the collective energy, and to have a higher degree of empathy.

We can think of a society going from a model of leader to facilitator to we-facilitator. In the Integral theory of Ken Wilber the leader level would be correlated with blue and orange levels of the collective, the facilitator level correlates with the green and teal levels of the collective, and the co-facilitator level correlates with turquoise levels of the collective. The hope is the Facilitator Improv practice spreads it will help usher in turquoise levels of development of our culture.

More about Facilitator Improv:

How you are empowered to facilitate humanity into a new operating system

How you are empowered to facilitate humanity into a radically new operating system

Facilitation holds a key to world change.

Facilitation is about bringing people together, to listen to each other, to connect, to empathize, to work things out, to heal social trauma, to collaborate, and to dream.

Facilitation is about creating a space for people’s deeper selves to emerge, for people’s creativity to blossom, for people’s intuitions to come alive.

Being a facilitator is a subtle art, like that of being a healer or coach. A good healer or coach does very little, allowing the client to heal or activate themselves. Its about accessing the Tao.

Facilitation is a key to changing the political, economic, justice, legal, education, healthcare and entertainment systems. New political systems can be based on facilitation brings people together to hear each other, to empathize and to collaborate. Different demographics and groups at odds with each other through facilitation can learn to work together to find holistic solutions. Solutions and governance then emerge bottom up from the collective. New economic systems can be based on facilitating people to work together in commons and gift economies e.g. gift circles are about facilitating people to express their needs and gifts. New justice and legal systems can be based in facilitating people to come together, to acknowledge, understand, empathize and forgive. Justice is then restorative and not punitive, it comes in bottom-up circles and gatherings, rather than top-down government, police, and court imposed actions. New education systems will come from facilitating people to learn from each other in peer-based learning systems. New healthcare systems will come from facilitating people in community to support each other in healing, it will come from facilitating people to come together in circles, to open up to their subtle energetic energies, to heal each other. New entertainment forms will come from facilitating people to access their creativity and co-create with each other.

Facilitation will help us transition to a bottom-up, openly collaborative world, where its our interactations with other, that emerge our beautiful co-created reality. It allows order to emerge without the need for so much top-down hierarchical goverance.

What we need is a way for facilitation to go viral, to spread all around the world. What we need is process that allows i) everyone to become empowered to facilitate ii)people to co-facilitate together, iii) teach people to facilitate iv) activate people to create facilitation happenings v) allow simple facilitation processes to evolve into societies building blocks Here is an idea for how this can happen.

First, create gatherings called Facilitation Improv. In these gatherings everyone becomes a facilitator. The circle sits in silence to someone gets a ‘hit’, gets an intuition about what to facilitate the group in. It could be a body-centered, emotion-centered, mind-centered, or spirit centered activity. The group then does this activity. When its finished, the group goes into silent meditation, until someone else gets a ‘hit’ of what to facilitate the group in. Facilitator Improv is like co-piloting a group into deeper and deeper spaces. It opens up doorways. It also trains people to become facilitators. As different people lead different activities it offers the opportunity for other people in the circle to pick up tips and tricks. As people try different things different facilitation techniques may morph and evolve. These Facilitator Improv meetings can be held regularly. And then here’s the important point to make this go viral. People in the Facilitator Improv circle are encouraged to also start another Facilitator Improv circle. They are given advice, tips, and emotional support for starting a new circle from the others in the circle. So people would then often belong to more than one facilitator circles. So each Facilitator Circle is both a co-facilitation activity, and also guidance group to help people start more circles.

The vision is to have a global network of Facilitator Improv circles happening regularly, where people are sometimes flowing, sometimes not moving from circle to circle. Facilitator Improv circles can specialize, so they can focus on political issues, they can be fitness and body-centered, they can be about diversity and social justice. And they can evolve to these specializations from a more general Facilitator Improv circle. As a community has more and more Facilitator Improv circles, the diversity of areas they focus on will increase.

What is special about Facilitator Improv circles is that it is something everyone can do. You can start one of these circles yourself. Its not like you have to wait to the government or corporations or even some big movement to do some action. You organize people to get together into a Facilitator Improv circle, and start setting in motion new ways that humanity can relate. And as you guide others in your circle to start other Facilitator Improv circles, you are setting in motion large scale ripple effects into the world. Facilitator circles are profound in how they can shift paradigms and ‘normal’ ways of doing things. By helping set up these Facilitator circles can help usher in a new socio-econo-educ-health-political operating systems for humanity.

[this article was reprinted on the Peer to Peer Foundation website http://p2pfoundation.net/Facilitator_Improv ]

More about Facilitator Improv:

New paradigms of leadership: from leader to facilitator to we-facilitator