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In Quest of Facilitation -- Beyond the Facile

Appendix to Enacting Transformative Integral Thinking through Playful Elegance: a symposium at the End of the Universe? (2010)

The following comments relate primarily to the organization of the Symposium in its plenary format rather than as experienced in the thematic sessions. Dimensions calling for reflection:

  • no attempt was made to determine the variety of participants and their relevant preferences, as suggested above with respect to: kind or quantity of information, or the kind and nature of presentation (notably length) ?
  • what range of preferences might be expected regarding facilitation (structured or unstructured) and might these reflect the above-mentioned arguments for "strong" and "weak" integration and many subtler variants ?
  • despite the focus on "research across boundaries", no consideration was given to the nature of participant boundaries, cognitive or otherwise. ?
  • to what degree do participants feel unduly trapped by organizational and facilitation decisions on which no comment is invited ?
  • is there a case for a variety of facilitation options (or opt-outs) to respond to the preferences of a variety of participants ?
  • to what extent are organizational and facilitation options a reflection of mindsets active in institutional and political structures, and with a tendency to reinforce them ?
  • do facilitators have an understandable tendency to "get in the way of their own agenda" without recognizing it, or being willing to do so ?
  • in seeking to enable a midwifing function for the emergence of the new, is there a tendency for facilitators to adopt female styles inappropriately ? ***
  • is the conventional academic mode of knowing and interaction as "non-negotiable" as has been famously claimed for the American Way of Life ?
  • to what extent is an integrative event vulnerable to over-design inhibiting timely self-organization as insights and possibilities emerge ?
  • to what extent should the lack of ability to reorganize in the light of preferences and new insights be regretted -- other than to rearrange chairs (recalling references to the deck chairs on the Titanic) ?

With regard to use of the World Café and Open Space formats:

  • are these to be considered the unquestioned nec plus ultra of integrative facilitation ?
  • where do such assumptions come from ?
  • what kinds of participants tolerate them and why ?
  • to what extent are they to be understood as mechanistic, even recalling (in the case of the World Café):
    • musical chairs
    • the expectations of the "magic" wheel of Ramon Llull -- who used a mechanical way of investigating truth, a set of concentric wheels on which words were written. By rotating the wheels, the words were combined in unexpected ways
    • the family of stone and pebble games (Mancala) played around the world
  • in the aspiration to provide a magical mediating function, to facilitators deny the extent to which they effectively take on the characteristics of a sorcerer's apprentice, blindly following a book of rules: Do this, Do that, where Neti Neti (Not this, Not that) might be more appropriate ?
  • in the spirit of the Sufi tale, not being birds, are they to be assumed to have no "didactic fault" ?

With regard to critical in-process feedback:

  • why does the organization of such an integrative event acquire a contextual status that is not open to question or criticism in the moment, especially with respect to the choices and styles of facilitators ?
  • to what extent does such a posture again reflect the questionable pattern in other institutional structures and processes ?
  • to what extent are participants subject to a form of blackmail, symptomatic of practices in other settings: courtesy and politeness as invitees, prudent diplomacy in caring for career opportunities, contractual obligations consequent on travel grants, peer group pressure ?
  • in the negligence of participant diversity, or the irrelevance of any such distinctions, might it be said that there was an absence of critical thinking (even though the institgator of that school of thought was a keynote speaker) ?
  • what might be the nature of the unheard voices, effectively designed out for whatever reason ?
  • how did the programme threads reframe the event processes -- were any meta-theoretical insights reflected in the structure ?

What examples point to possibilities of re-imagining a self-reflexive, integrative event and the very nature of the event space:

What are young attendees expected to learn from such behaviour ?

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