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.

 


Artistic visualization of our co-creative journeys at the Feb 2014 Learn/Share Lab in Thailand.

Do you see it?

For some years now, I’ve found it useful to believe that the tipping point (as Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the concept) has already been reached when it comes to the kind of social transformation that’s needed at a global level, in order to put our planet back on track. My growing sense is that in spite of all the troubling news we see around us, there are also many important levels at which we are actually on a firm path toward positive global transformation. We just don’t (know how) to see it yet.

The most valuable gift that orchestrating our recent Learn/Share Lab has left me with, is a heartfelt imperative to encourage all those using and reading about co-creation and co-creativity to be mindful of the potential transformation upon us, and step up to help nurture the the best possible global impact.

“Cocreation” is indeed the latest in better-world memes that is spreading like a virus, in a way that’s transecting all of our global systems. You hear about it from the business sector, universities are teaching it, organizations like Ashoka are investing in it, and all of them are using the word co-creation to talk about seemingly different things. At #cocreate14 we learned and shared about cases where cocreative approaches and processes were generating social impact – thru corporate employment policy, social product development, health administration, waste management, human rights policy, local resilience initiatives, online & offline community development, and more.

The wikipedia entry on co-creation is simply outdated, in my view. I wonder if C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy (credited with popularizing the term in 2000), realized then that the term would also align with the direction in which the social space has long been moving. I saw the other day that a leadership coach has trademarked “co-creative leadership,” which feels a little ironic to me, but there it is. In the end, the path through which we’ve all arrived to this confused space of knowing that lots of people are talking about co-creation is not really important. What is important – especially for those claiming the term – is that we embrace this organic emergence as a moment to recognize the strong commonality in what all of us are talking about at the core, when we speak of co-creation.

“increased We-ness”

I think I see that everyone who is using the co-creation meme is talking – in one way or another – about including more voices of the people who are connected through stuff that affects them, in developing stuff and getting stuff done. Wonderful! An across the board increase in the we-ness of how governments, organizations and businesses operate couldn’t be a bad thing, could it?

It could be, actually, if we don’t really see it. By seeing it, I don’t mean noticing and championing co-creativity everywhere. but developing tools for continents of people to see the we-ness in co-creative stuff with a discerning eye. WE-washing or cocreation-washing in some corporate and government media strategies could prove a nightmare of Orwellian proportions if co-creation becomes a hot meme that is exaggerated in ways which can’t be easily verified, even ranked. Could it ever be possible to imagine verifying such a thing? Especially since, as John Baxter reminds us, Our world is already inherently cocreated— we just don’t do it very well. (Discussion).

Doing co-creation well is not really about how many voices are included, or whether a group is closed or open, or working toward determined or emergent goals, as we plotted them for cross-silo analysis at the Lab. As Jean Russell writes, through the social impact lens it can often be about phasing co-creative processes into building something that is more centrally owned and managed. In fact, at #cocreate14 a common value we unearthed is that the process in co-creative approaches can be just as socially impactful for the participants as the actual outcomes achieved by any group of voices working together, large or small. I would posit that even in co-creative corporate branding and product development strategies, the process used will impact the participants personally in describable ways.

How co-creative is your co-creation?

I find myself wondering if a useful co-creativity index or scoring system could be developed, that’s built around the self reported impact of the process on the people involved in any process/initiative that claims to be co-creative. If I were to allow myself to imagine, I’d see:

  • A trip-advisor-like online interface for folks co-creating in the connected world. Co-creation listings with user scores (Thank you Nic Meredith for that inspired marketplace discussion at the Lab)
  • A simple survey that generates a co-creativity score or a composite index, based on how participants feel about a range of co-creative process elements.
  • Online scouts who find stuff that claims to be co-creative and add it to the platform for rating
  • Armies of volunteer travelers recruited to survey under-connected participants in local/international development initiatives.

With that picture come so many interesting questions:

  • Could a simplified common survey be designed for participants/stakeholders co-creating in business, international development, education and community building, that enables them to meaningfully rate the impact of a co-creative process on them?
  • What would that inquiry look like, and what other things would folks need to see, in order to discern a truth in the use of the co-creation/ cocreation/ cocreative/ memes?
  • A co-creation index? A WE index? A Ci2i index? What name would help “memify” the highest genuine level of meaningful increased WE-ness into the history of “co-creation” that’s emerging at this point?

If not an index or scoring system, surely some other kind of tool could be developed to help us recognize and evaluate the co-creation increasingly around us more clearly – not just for what it is but for what it isn’t.

When WE-ness goes viral

An amazing amount of good – empowerment, confidence, sense of connection – could happen in people’s lives all over the world if the increased we-ness inherent in the co-creation meme actually became something “real” that people could learn to look for and demand in making our consumer decisions, investment decisions, career decisions….

But really, any significant increase in the number of people on the planet who are learning to see and want more genuine WE in our lives, inevitably results in deep ripples of transformation at multiple levels – potentially impacting not only the design and operation of products and projects, but socially impacting the individual people that comprise their eco-systems. It’s a gentle but powerful shift that appears to be taking root within, among and outside of our existing systems.  My hunch is that increased levels of WE-ness are already re-working and remaking the systems that guide and nurture our lives on this planet all around us right now, both within and well beyond those who will be meming about co-creation in times to come.

In that lies Gladwell’s tipping point, toward transformation everywhere.

This is a call, however, to all of us who talk about co-creation in our work these days, to think carefully about what we expect of ourselves and each other in walking our co-creative talk. We should all be thinking about how to proactively protect the integrity of “increased we-ness” that’s implied in the co-creation memes, and start imagining tools for resisting the potential perils in the worldwide wave of co-creation that’s upon us.

Share your lens?

I am so curious to have more views on this perspective. Your comments are very welcome in the space below. If there’s interest from among co-creative practitioners in working on an index or some other kind of lens developing tool for discerning truth in co-creation, maybe we can start some deeper thinking and planning in the Ci2i Global group at Edgeryders.


In the aftermath of #cocreate14, we’re left with a wonderful richness of case studies and learnings to sort through, study, analyze and share.

One of the ways we’re doing that is by finalizing with the presenters of the cases we’ve collected, on how/what to publish. As that process continues in the context of all our busy schedules, we’ll be uploading the cases that are ready to share here.  Another way we’re planning to share on our collective learnings is to invite the #cocreate14 folks and other practitioners we know to co-create of a book about co-creative impact.

The model we’re pursuing to make that initiative happen is inspired by the case study presented by Jean Russell at #cocreate14.

Co-created book: Thrivability – a sketch

The case study offers insights into how Jean orchestrated the “flash collaboration” which resulted in a book compiled by 65+ contributors in just 90 days. Thrivability – A Sketch has had almost 30,000 views on slideshare since Jean published it in 2010.

As a contributor to Thrivability – A Sketch back in 2010, I was personally impressed with and inspired by the co-creative leadership skills that Jean employed in making the book happen. Here are a couple of things that stood out for me as particularly aspirational:

  • The purpose behind the book was acknowledgement that the term “thrivability” is something that no one person can own. Instead of defining it herself (leading from the front), Jean asked people who she knew were using the term to help define it. The result of that approach for me personally was a greater sense of alignment with the term and an increase in my active usage of it.
  • She engaged contributors by making us feel shiny. The way Jean spoke of her admiration for all of the contributors made it feel like an opportunity to be a part of it.
  • She created a clear, time-bound invitation to collaborate in a very specific and easily manageable way, while at the same time offering a blank canvas for independent thought.  My contribution to the book was requested with respect and honor for whatever I might say around the sub-topic I was asked to write about (stakeholder engagement).

We’ll aim to be mindful of these and other aspects of the case study as we at Ci2i Global set out to replicate the model for co-defining co-creative impact. Learn more about our upcoming book here.

 


liacocreatingIn October 2013, Ci2i Global issued a call among our peers around the world for case studies in co-creative impact and innovation, to be presented at our upcoming Learn/Share Lab in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We issued this call knowing full well that “co-creative impact” is not a term that’s currently very well defined. In fact, one of our reasons for inviting case studies is to learn more about what people mean when they use the term co-creative in a social change related context.

After examining 21 case studies, we’re liking the term more and more for it’s cross-cutting ability to capture a description of how more inclusive change is happening lately in all kinds of contexts. Communities, non-profits, companies, cities, universities, and entrepreneurs are experiencing, practicing and inviting co-creation in varying degrees to achieve social objectives.

We noticed that the case studies we received were spread almost evenly across a matrix that plotted two spectra:

1) Social objectives that are determined in advance, versus completely emergent.
2) Participant groups that are highly curated, versus offering a completely open invitation to the general public.

The case studies submitted were of an extremely high caliber. We were unable to limit ourselves to the initial 7 we thought to invite. In selecting 10 cases to study in Chiang Mai alongside our 5 partner cases, we’ve chosen a cross-section from across the matrix, that also represents a global spread. We’re thrilled to have excellent examples of co-creative social impact in action from business, academia, the non-profit world and social entrepreneurs.

One of our key co-creative activities at the Learn/Share Lab will be to hack and dissect these cases to determine the co-creative attributes they have in common, and how those can be taught, replicated and nurtured in the pursuit of social change in even more contexts. With a clearer picture that lab participants and case study presenters alike can begin to see around the nature of co-creation and how it works, we’d like to start refining our global discourse about social change, and begin to actively nurture more know how and a broader awareness of co-creativity as a critical factor in building new systems that thrive.

Case Studies Co-creativity Matrix (1)The cases we’re honoring with an invitation to help us define co-creative impact and innovation by presenting at the Learn/Share Lab for Co-creative Impact and Innovation in Chiang Mai include: 

CURATED CO-CREATION FOR DETERMINED OBJECTIVES

    • Letsrecycle, India - Paul Biplab is an Ashoka Fellow emancipating roadside waste pickers from exploitative informal waste buyers. When the company experienced a recent fire, the waste pickers contributed their ideas for rebuilding in a better way, that now enables them to collect even more.
    • Witness, D.R. Congo – Gillian Caldwell served as the Executive Director of Witness when they played a major role in equipping, training and supporting local human rights advocates in the DRC to engage in participatory video production about the human rights abuses surrounding the recruitment and abduction of child soldiers.
    • McDonalds/DISCAR, Latin America - Carolina Tocalli served as executive director of DISCAR Argentina, a social entreprise currently partnered with McDonalds to involve the managers, co-workers and families of mentally disabled workers in co-creating a supported employment model at McDonalds across Latin America.
    • Thrivable, global - Jean Russell curates co-created books around the topic of thrivability, lifting up an idea by lifting the visibility of the contributors.

OPEN CO-CREATION FOR DETERMINED OBJECTIVES

    • Sistema SER, Argentina - Simon Gronda carries on the work of his father – an Ashoka Fellow and doctor who co-created a new health care system with poor women in the Jujuy region, which has since partnered with the State and served more than 67,000 people.
    • The Barefoot Guides, Global - Doug Reeler is part of the core team behind a global and local community of social change leaders and practitioners, from many countries, who co-create resources to deepen and develop approaches and initiatives that contribute to a changing world
    • GetLocal coop, Ireland - Eimhin Shortt is creating cooperative businesses with a focus on local resource resilience by carbon neutral means in a way that is non-coercive and is democratically owned and run by member/customers.

Curated Co-creation for Emergent Objectives

    • NESIS, Chile - Gianncarlo Durán Díaz nurtures Higher Education Hubs for Social Innovation in Chile: Fostering cross-sector collaborations from the Academic Sector.
    • YES! Meshwork, Global – based in the Netherlands, Anne Marie Voorhoeve led 55 youth leaders from 30 countries in a facilitated meshwork process where stakeholders bring together their strengths and resources to achieve a common purpose.
    • Evolutionize It, Uganda / Thailand - Christina Jordan guides displaced communities in developing local community project plans and finding resources from global supporters through co-creative online campaigns.
    • Ci2i Global – Bonnie Koenig leads on organizational development as a Ci2i Global partner.

Open co-creation for emergent objectives

    • The Women’s School and Interfaith Movement, IndonesiaLian Gogali is an Ashoka Fellow who has created a method for trauma healing and cultivating empathy by which women and children transform themselves from victims of war, into survivors, and peacemakers.
    • Co-create Adelaide, Australia - John Baxter has developed a methodology called Freespace to expand the principles of Open Space Technologies to a festival and a collaboration.
    • Edgeryders, Europe - Nadia EL-Imam was the creative director for a research project that should result in recommendations on youth employment to the Council of Europe. In response, the Edgeryders Open Consultancy was designed for participants to help one another bridge the growing gap between the need to make a living and the need to do meaningful work that at least doesn’t harm the ecosocial systems we live in.
    • Omidyar.net, GlobalJean Russell and Christina Jordan met 8 years ago through a co-creative online community space hosted by the Omidyar Network. This case will examine some of the global collaborations that emerged through the network, and invite conversation around developing practical working spaces for co-creative practitioners.

Congratulations to all the cases selected and to the presenters invited to join us in Chiang Mai. Next, we’ll be working hard to help raise the funds to get them all there!

Do you sense the potential impact of learning from these case studies like we do? Co-create this opportunity with us at Startsomegood.com/LearnShareLab.

UPDATE 19 December 2013: 
The Learn/share Lab has been fully funded, and registration is now open!
Won’t you join us? 
Click here for booking details.


Dear Visitor,

Please excuse our dust! We are co-creating the ci2iglobal website, and you’ve managed to find us before the process is finished. Follow us on Twitter to find out when we’re better prepared for you.

Warmly,

Jean (USA), Carolina (Argentina), Christelle (France), Bonnie (USA), Nathalie (France) and Christina (Thailand).