Learning from experience in the past and elsewhere to prepare one’s community for epidemics that may or may not happen

This “Design sketch” is to initiate a series of Collaborative Explorations (CEs) in one’s community on a range of angles on epidemics and community responses. It arose for Case 3 for the session, “Gathering into Community,” of Design for Living Complexities, a case that involved “Learning from experience in the past and elsewhere to prepare one’s community for epidemics that may or may not happen”—see further description to follow and woven into the sketch (which builds on one drafted two years ago).

The design sketch could be a plan with timeline, or a method of gathering people together, or a resource package (e.g., key issues, concepts, arguments, evidence, references, websites, summaries of case studies, quotes, images, organizations, people to contact, research already under way, research questions and proposals), or a portfolio of images to stir discussion, or…

Design sketch

(This proposal fits under “a method of gathering people together” and of assembling resources.)

Initiate a series of Collaborative Explorations (CEs [1]) in one’s community [2] on a range of angles on epidemics [3] and community responses [4].

The stated goals would be a) to “learn… from experience in the past and elsewhere”; b) foster a culture of learning and provide a structure for learning – rapid learning if need be – to prepare to resist the mode of interacting that often occurs during crises, namely, to arm people who then obey orders without judgement (and often with strong biases [e.g., National Guard in New Orleans after Katrina]).

CEs could spin off action groups, but this is not one of the stated goals; a prospective participant can see themselves making time to engage with learning without having to fit more into their lives (unless or until they were ready).

  1. What are Collaborative Explorations?

Collaborative Explorations (CEs) are an extension of Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education that begin from a real-world scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, which invites participants to shape their own directions of inquiry and develop their skills as investigators and teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). The basic mode of a CE centers on interactions over a delimited period of time in small groups—online or face-to-face—in ways that create an experience of re-engagement with oneself as an avid learner and inquirer.

(from 2013 post).  In online CEs the group meets one hour/week for 4 sessions and each person undertakes their own inquiry and reflection between meetings.  For elaboration, see also http://cct.wikispaces.com/CEp

As mentioned in the case description:

2. “Your ‘community’ might be your neighborhood or town, but it could also be your profession, your workplace, your ethnic group, your political group, etc.” (If the community were one’s neighborhood or town, then helping people join in CEs could be a credit-earning activity under the Communter proposal.)

3. Angles on “what goes on in epidemics” might include “the effect on communities or the fate of orphans from the 1918 flu pandemic, 1918 flu photocompeting approaches to scientific detective work and action recommendations in the SARS epidemic, the scapegoating of jews in the time of the Black Death, new ebolaclimate change and disease spread,…”  Angles could also include the dynamics of media-induced scare-mongering and silencing (as has been evident recently with ebola and then zika), circulation of myth-information, strange bedfellows (e.g., in anti-vaccination campaigns), government action and inaction, social care-giving versus self- and family-preservation,  and more.

4. Angles on community responses might include “Cuban Emergency Response System (not for epidemics) ,Lifeboat ethics, a PBL case on improving responses to extreme climate events and one student’s response.”  Angles might also include how to convene and host CEs with participants who have become inclined to responding by flaming or, at least, asserting more than inquiring.  (This might require lines of inquiry on cult deprogramming or exit counseling, conflict resolution.)

Design principles

a. Use the 4Rs to design the phases of any workshop or group process (background).


This sequence is evident in the sequence of the 4 sessions of an online CE, the first, emphasizing the Respect phases, being for everyone to do extended Autobiographical introductions.

b. Integrate face-to-face dynamics into the structure and expectations of online platforms (post).

c. Address goals for the experience, not only for the content.  In this case,

Experiences… include how much can be learned in a short time using the PBL [or CE] structure (where learning is not only about the topic of the scenario but also about oneself as an inquirer and learner) and re-engagement with oneself as an avid learner. What makes this re-engagement possible is a combination of:

  • the tools and processes used for inquiry, dialogue, reflection, and collaboration;

  • the connections we make among the different participants who bring diverse interests, skills, knowledge, experience, and aspirations to the PBL; and

  • the contributions to the topic laid out in the scenario on which the PBL is based.

(from http://cct.wikispaces.umb.edu/PBLguidedtour)


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