Tag Archives: cardstorming

Historical Scan: Review a group’s evolution or set the scene in which a project is to be undertaken

A Historical Scan is a variant of Focused Conversation used either to review a group’s progress or evolution over time or to set the scene in which a project is to be undertaken.
In Focused Conversations (Stanfield 1997) a group, which could be a class, a grass roots activist organization, or a business, addresses some challenging or difficult situation by proceeding through four stages:

* 1. Objective (getting the facts)
* 2. Reflective (eliciting feelings and associations)
* 3. Interpretive (consider the meaning and significance)
* 4. Decisional (formulating a decision, an action, or a shared picture)

Participants who jump quickly to a decision or interpretation are encouraged to spend more time on the earlier stages, to be careful to separate facts from feelings, and to recognize at each step the differing assessments other participants have. The result is not necessarily a consensus, but because the group shares a common pool of experiences of the situation, the result is larger than what any one person had beforehand, and there is a firmer basis for extensions of the group’s work, either as a group or, in the case of a class, by group members in other settings.

In a Historical Scan, as in a Focused Conversation, the facilitator should, as neutrally as possible, lead the group through a series of questions. Answers should be telegraphic, to allow for as wide a pool of contributions as possible. To give the 4-step process a chance to have its effect, participants should try to answer the question asked and not jump ahead, even if others do, to give their overall conclusion.

For the end of a group project or course a sequence of questions appropriate to a Historical Scan might be:
“As this project/course draws to a close, let’s look back at the experiences we’ve had, from the time you heard of this project/course on insert project/course topic until today.
Take a moment to jot down specific concrete things that struck you, e.g., insert range of examples,….
Now choose 5* of them and write them in on the large post-its in as large block letters as will fit.
Select one from early on. [Put them on the board, consulting the class to keep them in order]
… from the middle… from the later part of the project/course…. others [including those covering the whole period]
When were you excited?….discouraged?
What do these experiences remind you of?
When were there transitions?
If this were a book, what name would you give for the “chapters” between the transitions?
…name for the whole “book”?
What have you learned about a diverse group of people coming together to “read this book”? [Remind participants to be telegraphic — avoid speeches.]
What have you learned about facilitating planning and action/thinking and learning as they relate to project/course topic?
How shall you translate the learning to future situations?”

(* Adjust this number to ensure 40-60 postits for the group as a whole.)

For setting the scene in which a project is to be undertaken a sequence of questions appropriate to a Historical Scan might be:
“As you consider your involvement in this project, let’s paint a picture of the context in which we will be operating. Let’s think about this context having a past and a possible future and operating on three levels: “local,” “regional,” and “global.”*
Take a moment to jot down significant events at each of the levels over the past xx years or a future event that you hope will be in the yy years ahead.
Now choose 5* of them and write them in on the large post-its in as large block letters as will fit.
Select one from early on in this period. [Put them on the board, consulting the class to keep them in order]
… from the middle… from the later part of the period…. others [including those covering the whole period]
When were you excited?….discouraged?
What do these events remind you of?
When were there transitions?
If this were a book, what name would you give for the “chapters” between the transitions?
…name for the whole “book”?
What have you learned about a diverse group of people coming together to “read this book”? [Remind participants to be telegraphic — avoid speeches.]
What have you learned about the context in which your planning and action/thinking and learning will take place?
How shall you translate the learning into what you will do?”

(* As described in Tuecke (2000), the “global” is the largest view relevant to the project, which may be the world, but may also be the profession. The “local” is the personal perspective gained in the immediate unit [family, workplace, …). The regional is the specific arena in which the project operates, e.g., the management of water resources [in an environmental context] or the state educational system [in the context of improving school outcomes].)

Extracted from http://cct.wikispaces.umb.edu/HistoricalScan, a section of a book manuscript, Taking Yourself Seriously: A Fieldbook of Processes of Research and Engagement, also on the web.)

References
Tuecke, Patricia. 2000. Creating a wall of wonder with the TOP environmental scan. International Association of Facilitators, Toronto, Canada, April 27 – 30 (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/tuecke00.pdf).

Future Ideal Retrospective: Collaboratively generate a practical vision for future developments

Collaboratively contribute to each participant generating a practical vision for future developments based on evaluations or on statements, questions, and/or reservations concerning a certain challenge, such as learning from what has happened before (e.g., in a course, at a conference, etc.). This approach is based on Strategic Personal Planning as developed by the Institute for Cultural Affairs in Canada.

Preparation
1. Either a. assemble written evaluations from, say, a conference, or b. ask a defined group (e.g., students in a course) to compose five statements, questions, and/or reservations that are important to them concerning a defined challenge (e.g., supporting each other to complete the course project by the end of the semester).
Session Proper (which may only include a subset of those who composed the evaluations or statements, Qs, etc.)
2. Circulate the sheets. Digest them one by one and make notes on what you read with a view to representing not only your own views but also those of others (who may or may not be present at the session).
3. Future ideal retrospective:

  • Imagine yourself some time in the FUTURE looking back with a sense of accomplishment on how far the group (e.g., conference organizing group, the students in the course) have come in response to the challenge (e.g., the issues raised the evaluation) = the IDEAL. Construe accomplishment broadly so it can include your own reflection and growth. RETROSPECTIVE: What happened to make this so?–What different kinds of things do you envisage having gone into or contributed to the positive developments?
  • These things can span the mundane and inspiring; tangible and intangible; process, as well as product; relationships as well as individual skills. Record these things on Post-its (3-5 WORDS IN BLOCK LETTERS)
    3a. Discussion in pairs of each other’s post-its while waiting for others to finish.
    4. Photocopy assembled post-its (so each participant has a copy).
    5. Grouping, naming, and synthesis done separately by each participant:
    Once you have about 30 post-its

  • Move the post-its around into groups of items that have something in common in the way they address the challenge.
  • Describe the groups using a phrase that has a verb in it or, at least, indicates some action. For example, instead of “Holistic Artistic Survival Project,” an active name would be “Moving holistically from surviving to thriving as artists.”
  • Group the groups in pairs or threes and give these larger groups descriptive active names.
  • Group these groups and name them, until you arrive at a descriptive active name for the practical vision post-its as a whole.
  • After the session
    6. Complete stage 5 and distribute them to others (example)

    Goals

  • Collaboratively contribute to each of us generating a practical vision of future steps
  • Use post-it brainstorming (incl. clustering & naming) to rapidly assess a complex situation in a way that creates an experience of creativity
  • Experience post-it clustering as a fruitful way to clarify your future and thus go on to complete the activity after the session is over.
  • Collaboration among diverse participants

    “…the challenge of bringing into interaction not only a wider range of researchers, but a wider range of social agents, and to the challenge of keeping them working through differences and tensions until plans and practices are developed in which all the participants are invested.”

    The quote comes from p.199 of my book, Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement Chicago UP (2005). In this book, I argue (quoting here from my website homepage) “that both the situations studied and the social situation of the researchers can be characterized in terms of unruly complexity or ‘intersecting processes’ that cut across scales, involve heterogeneous components, and develop over time. These cannot be understood from an outside view; instead positions of engagement must be taken within the complexity. Knowledge production needs to be linked with planning for action and action itself in an ongoing process so that knowledge, plans, and action can be continually reassessed in response to developments — predicted and surprising alike.”

    The emphasis on “involv[ing] heterogeneous components” poses a challenge for such a process view of knowledge-making and reassessing, thus the question this session aims to address. The emphasis on “cut[ting] across scales” also sets up a tension that concerns me, namely, taking seriously the participation of diverse people whose livelihood is directly dependent on an ecosystem or city or…, and, at the same time, acknowledging researchers’ professional identities and abilities as people who can contribute analyses of changes that arise beyond the local region or at a larger scale than the local.

    A 18 Feb. 2010 faculty seminar addressed these challenges through a post-it brainstorming and clustering (described elsewhere).   In brief, to generate ideas on post-its participants were asked to: “Imagine a project you’re working on or and endeavor you’d like to pursue. It’s 2-3 years in the future. You meet a friend and are telling them how wonderful it is that the project is managing to ‘bring… into interaction not only a wider range of researchers, but a wider range of social agents, and [kept] them working through differences and tensions until plans and practices are developed in which all the participants are invested.’ The friend asks what has contributed to making that possible.”  Each participant then grouped the post-its and named the resulting clusters, then grouped those clusters, etc.  This is my synthesis.

    Later, I subject the clusters to back-of-the-envelope “interpretive structural modeling,” in which the cluster is lower in the diagram and linked to a cluster above it if the addressing or acknowledging the consideration reflected in the first cluster makes it easier to address the consideration reflected in the second cluster. The result is given in a prezi presentation, in which the clusters are also grouped within three frames as defined in the original synthesis, and these are grouped into one overall theme at the top.*

    * This prezi can be viewed as a whole by zooming in or out using the + and – button. Or, by clicking the arrow you can trace the various pathways of the form addressing/acknowledging the lower consideration makes it easier to address the higher consideration. Or, by clicking the More button you can do this automatically and can see a full screen view.

    It is interesting to note that addressing or acknowledging that “FEAR IS REAL, BUT WE HAVE HAD SECURE BASES” lies at the root. In the jargon of ISM, it is a deep driver. (Conversely, not taking time/space to address that makes it harder to make progress on the other concerns.)