Art @Learn&Share Lab

(This is a cross-post from DIYTollkit)

Earlier this year I worked with Ci2iGlobal, a global group of social entrepreneurs and NGO practitioners, to organise a Learn and Share Lab focusing on lessons learned around co-creation. The event itself modelled a co-creative approach, and featured 14 case studies of co-creative initiatives that were discussed both in facilitated and open space. As a global group spanning numerous time zones and languages, and looking to maximize input from attendees, having a focus on accessible and practical tools was an important element for us.

A variety of tools

Our tool choice was primarily guided by the goals of:

(1) Co-creative design and facilitation

(2) Interactive participation

(3) Ongoing discussion after the in-person event

A few months before the lab, a call went out through blog posts, social media, e-mail and other ‘broadcast’ tools to Ci2iGlobal’s networks asking for co-creation case studies in impact and innovation. Co-creation and co-creative impact are hard terms to define, but the 21 case studies submitted showed us that the term has a cross-cutting ability to capture how more inclusive change is happening in all kinds of contexts.

To consider how to organise the case studies for further review and discussion, Ci2iGlobal partner Christina Jordan prepared a matrix, and the core team members then individually ranked each of the submissions.  The case studies with all round high scores were accepted, those with lower scores were regretfully eliminated, and those that had middling scores were discussed by the group to choose the final 14.

Each core team member then partnered with the leads of the 14 co-creative efforts to help organise their thoughts and presentations for maximum in-person discussion, and eventual written document archiving.  As well as using Skype, a Facebook page was created for Lab attendees to begin discussions prior to the in-person event.  This ‘virtual discussion’ space is especially useful to help facilitate both individual and collective discussions and connections when people meet in person. It also can provide a place for continued communication after an event.

The core team prepared an agenda for the two-day session via Google docs, which was refined in-person the day before the meeting when we all arrived at the workshop location.  During the session, the eight members of the core team took turns facilitating sessions, as did other Lab participants who volunteered to do so.  To help facilitate the discussion, the formats and tools we used included:

  •  Opening Circle – having attendees sit in a circle facing each other sets the tone for an interactive session, where everyone can feel free to participate and engage with each other. Adding a talking stick to the circle also helps to send the message that although there is no one leader and lead roles will be shared, when someone does have the lead or has asked to talk, the group is expected to give full attention to that individual.
  • Open Space – this allows attendees to help develop the agenda for a given session (or a whole workshop) rather than being given an already developed agenda by the workshop/conference organisers.
  • World Café– small groups (around four or five people) converse together around tables about a common topic. After the first conversation, someone stays at the table as a ‘host’, while the others move to a new table. The host summarises what has taken place at that table and those who are new share their previous conversations. In this way, the threads of the various conversations are woven together.
  • Artistic Visualisation – a hands-on art activity that incorporates the themes of the event and helps to illustrate them.
  • Mapping – this involves collecting information verbally from attendees on a given topic area of interest, and then recording it on a flipchart or some type of ‘map’ that the group can logically follow. For example, you might gather information on who is using co-creation tools and where or how they are using them.  A map flows better than a standard chart (with horizontal and vertical columns) and allows you to better see linkages.

Ongoing tool identification and use

A list of co-creation tools that could help build on the workshop was also collected during the Lab and shared in an accessible online document.

After the event, attendees were encouraged to keep the discussion going via Ci2iGlobal sponsored sites (such as the Facebook page mentioned above and Ci2iGlobal website), participating in sites sponsored by attendees (such as Edgeryders) and by blogging.

Some attendees, through connections developed during the lab, have continued to work together on co-creative projects.  Making virtual tools available prior to and after the event was an important part of the energy and synergies created both during the event and after.

The lab helped us test the theory – and gain some evidence – that when a group of people come together from many different cultures, countries and languages who have not previously met each other, co-creative tools can help create fairly quick connections and a deep sense of shared purpose.


Take a break to reflect with us. Make yourself confortable, breathe and let´s enjoy together our ci2i work group calls from an artistic perspective.

Deep gratitude for your eyes that see, connect and co-create with us

What means a well lived life to you?

2014_05_15 ci2i group call

May 15, 2014 ci2i group call

At our May 15 call this is what ci2i group talked about what a well lived life meant to us and how we are thriving to achieve it.

How do you visualize a well lived life?

Last February I was honored once again with the facilitation of an artistic visualization in our 3rd ci2i Global event Learn/ Share Lab for Co-creative Impact and Innovation.

Believe me when I say honored, I mean it.  God knows how much I enjoy creating these activities, and being a vehicle to make things happen not having a clue what will come out but confident that the results will  exceed my expectations (if there is still any, because here I try hard to expect nothing and to let things flow, hard task for us humans).

As time goes by (yes Sam play it again) I enjoy more and more the fact that the outcomes of the artistic visualizations do have own life.

Each artist breathing life into his/ her creation: hands, hearts and spirits guided by the emotional intelligence. Isn´t that a privilege? It is fun time, time to be playful, precious moments to connect with ourselves and with others through the lense of art.

My offer is simple:

  • A name: the activity has a name, as everything must for our sake. A notion that structures the idea to work in, the word (or words) that will structure our thoughts, a path to move on.
  • A comment: brief – very, very – did I say it? once again very brief explanation, never on what is intended to, because nothing is intended, but a brief description of the materials that are offered, the space where we can work and the timing.

One of the things that thrills me most is the feeling that,  by the time I am on my own designing,  I hardly know the people that will take part of the art activity; but when it takes place, there is a  whole new bondage with those  “new dear artists”.

The ci2i team worked hard and gracefully in the design of the Learn/ Share Lab for Co-creative Impact and Innovation   so when thinking in the art activity, the words that came vividly to me were UNIQUENESS and TOGETHERNESS. Somehow they materialized what for me was all the co-creative process in which we, ci2i founders, were immersed in those pre Lab days. Each of us was bringing her uniqueness (personality, experience, light and shadows) to the process convinced that with our togetherness (collective knowledge, social commitment and will for the global good) the Learn Share Lab will come true.

And by the time the cases on co-creation started flowing in for their selection as case presenters to the event, the sense of those two words grew stronger.

The 9 selected practices (from the 21 that had arrived to us from all over the world) on co-creative approaches in social organizations, business corporations, universities and developing communities confirmed that their uniqueness and togetherness should be the guidelines for the Lab´s artistic visualization.

So I found myself on a wonderful February Chiang Mai night facilitating an activity with 25 co-creative artists, case presenters, practitioners and ci2i team members.

Now reflecting on those 3 Lab “juicy days” (reading blogposts, the Edgeryders dialogues, enjoying the pictures) I reflect in the leadership issue, to appreciate its evolution during the art visualization experienced as it developed.

It was night (almost 9 pm) and I proposed to do art to a very tired audience who had worked their heads off on that of the first lab day. I was a bit hesitant on the timing, the willingness and, of course, the success of this activity.

As the leader, I found myself trying to bring confidence and enthusiasm to the group, compensating with jokes and big corporal movements the sleepiness that I assumed was conquering everybody.

It was the way of leadership we are used to: one strong voice, with one strong idea engaging the will and work of the group. I briefly introduced the activity (name), its intention, timing and materials to work with (comment), making a special point that we should have fun.

The invitation was made… now what? As the leader I was anxious. Why?  I was afraid that things wouldn´t flow, though sure as I am that these activities role by themselves. The anxiety dissolved a few minutes later when the colors, glitters, glue, plastic boards and wooden sticks began to flow in the room.

Materials Mandala artistic visualizations @ Chiang Mai (Feb 2014)

Materials Mandala artistic visualizations @ Chiang Mai (Feb 2014)

Hands on artistic visualizations @ Chiang Mai (Feb 2014)

Hands on artistic visualizations @ Chiang Mai (Feb 2014)

Art was welcomed as a moment to play and relax, a new space where the leadership role naturally adjusted to, taking a step aside. I found myself watching and being at hand to particular questions and needs. Everyone was creating with enthusiasm, empowered in their arts and commenting to the ones sitting near. Uniqueness was excelling.

Respectful of the timing, I reassumed the leadership in informing that the activity would be completed on the following morning. Some artists went to rest, some chose to go on with their creations.

Speaking on the evolution of leadership, the following morning was a quite surprise to me. As soon as I shared the invitation to place creations on a common table to visualize them, participants started to move the pieces, commenting on which they think should go next to which, according to what they were expressing. Hands and words started flowing and relocating the art pieces, debating if there was sense in that move, if the owner agreed on the move.

Suddenly the traditional leader role I was holding was evolving into many leaders, many respectful leaders thinking together in the relations to each other´s pieces and minding the integrity of the whole.

There was even one participant that hadn´t done the art activity the night before but found himself offering a rock from the nearby river to be part of the collective, and was gladly accepted and even relocated in the whole. That was the moment I spoke to myself “wow, isn´t this co-creativity?” Togetherness was excelling.

Now, almost three months later, through the lense of leadership I can shared that I have experienced the evolution of the traditional leader role to a co-creative one. The simple, deep and generous art made it visible and tangible to all.


"respectful leaders thinking together in the relations to each other´s pieces and minding the integrity of the whole. "

“respectful leaders thinking together in the relations to each other´s pieces and minding the integrity of the whole. “

During the open space sessions at the Learn / Share Lab we debated on co- creative leadership and we arrived to some conclusions that totally fitted in the Uniqueness and Togetherness Art Visualization I facilitated such as:

  1. in co-creative approaches there may be many leaders (yes there were!) but they may not be as obvious (though they felt pretty obvious to me in the art visualization)
  2. in co-creative approaches there may be many different coordinators who have different areas of responsibility. Rather than “leaderless”, they “leaderful”  (aha! Leaderful yes! it was sensed in the air)
  3. there is often a difference between an initiator/s and a leader/s in co-creative contexts  (may I call myself initiator in a the co-created art activity?)
  4. there is shared responsibility and authority for activities and outcomes and often contribution from many others.
  5. empowering people to express the diversity of ideas reflected . I HOPE TO HAVE BEEN A VEHCILE TO THIS.

Much gratitude to these co-creative leaders. come in, meet them here  UNIQUENESS & TOGETHERNESS recap pics2 CTocalliArt 2014

Carolina Tocalli