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Stefan Morales

Experiencing Liberating Structures, Learning with Peers, and Practicing in Community in multi-week “Studio”

Now that the pandemic has forced our gatherings online, how we design our interactions and what facilitation exercises or structures we use to enact our design in a digital setting, are more important than ever.

I’ve recently written a little about this in the context of designing online workshops. This post is about the what: the facilitation exercises or structures we use in our groupwork. In particular, it’s about a set of facilitation practices called Liberating Structures (LS), and our invitation to you to come practice them with us at our Virtual Liberating Structures Studio.

The original Liberating Structures. There are many more LS in development, and “riffs” on the originals too!

LS are a well-organized menu…

Dual photos of empty office chairs and meeting rooms.
Dual photos of empty office chairs and meeting rooms.
From top to bottom: Photos by Crew and Serge Le Strat on Unsplash.

Zoom fatigue is real. But I also want to challenge the hype around this and say: don’t confuse Zoom fatigue with bad meeting fatigue.

As someone who brings large gatherings of people together face-to-face to explore problems and solutions, the pandemic has been quite an adaptation for my facilitation practice! But when I put my organizational development consultant glasses on, I see the same need as before, in the midst of new digital constraints: working together effectively requires forethought and planning. Meetings shouldn’t just happen.

Thankfully, by working remotely for much of the past 2 years, I’ve been able to practice my facilitation skills in a digital environment, and plan and design gatherings with my collaborators and peers at a distance.

But until now…

Beginning in the Middle

A few weeks back, I was going to drive to the pool for some swim therapy. And to take a shower.

It had been over a week since my last shower, and the pool was the best opportunity to have one.

So, I “battened” the truck, and piled the kids in. When I turned my keys in the ignition, the engine turned over with a struggle. And nothing happened.

I tried again. More struggle, but even weaker.

I paused and took a deep breath.

I knew that my truck’s batteries were near the end of their lives, this day was…

Wilbur Wright, American pioneer in aviation, and Paul Zens, famous French flier, preparing for two man flight in Le Mans, France, September 16, 1908.

The answer is easy, and we’ve implicitly known it our whole lives.

Ever since about 6 years ago, when I became a dad, I’ve had the fortune of being able to watch my two littles grow up. Growing-up, if you recall, has a lot to do with the basics. It starts with seeing, feeling, tasting – noticing familiar patterns.

Familiarity (coincidentally sharing the etymological root of family) is something we learn to seek-out from the big, new world around us. And over time we learn to master our ability to recognize the familiar. …

A few weeks back, I celebrated the 20th episode of The Working Together Podcast with a compilation of clips from previous episodes–all centered on the concept of efficacy, which is like a red thread running through my Minotaur’s labyrinth of conversations with thinkers makers and doers.

Have a listen to the episode on Google Play, or through any other podcast directories by searching for The Working Together Podcast:

In the episode I explore the concept of efficacy in personal, political and technical modes (in that order).

Efficacy is like a motif behind all good social innovations, community engagement efforts, co-design…

OMFG, I say to myself, as another speaker gets up to the podium to deliver another slide deck.

My ass is numb. My eyes are dry. I feel like I’m in solitary confinement even though I’m in a room with 100+ people. I’ve got the jitters because I drank too much conference coffee. But I’m also on the verge of falling into a conference coma.

Half asleep, bored and jacked on caffeine all at once. I am in a strange limbo.

While there is a bountiful supply of ice-cold water in the pitchers at my table (refilled again and again…


Quoting some interesting scientific studies about the evolution of aggressive and violent behavior, Tom Bartlett writes:

“We reliably stigmatize the other. We also reliably respond to certain kinds of information and interventions, our positions soften, we become more open. We’re more predictable than we imagine, less entrenched than we assume.”

While our default switch is hopelessly set to “exclude the outsider”, the switch is really flimsy. Like, it doesn’t even lock into place very well.

Under the right conditions, it reliably switches off. Because we're actually pretty warm and fuzzy. But we need the right setups and prompts. …

Not the original shirt that did the magic — but I used the same stencil to recreate this one for a Wayward School fundraiser back in 2012.

Charlottesville and its fallout has irreparably wounded the body politic in North America and beyond.

The situation was, and is dire. We need to be steadfast with the truth: hatred and the resistance to hatred, are not morally equivalent.

But how do we keep conflict from escalating into violence? If the worst has already happened, how do we heal these wounds? How do we bring groups that are prejudiced against one another, together?

In this week’s Working Together Review, I distill some insights from research that has sought to answer just these questions.

“To Improve Society, Spend More Time With People You Haven’t Met”

Although I’m fascinated by social innovations that…

Those of us who are familiar with design thinking are familiar with IDEO. These guys are the godfathers of interesting facilitation techniques that stimulate diverse groups of people to solve problems and come up with solutions.

So the story goes, the first thing IDEO does when they tackle a new design challenge is to begin with the question “How Might We…?” and then generate responses from there.

The technical term for their approach is “Challenge Mapping.”

But every time I’ve heard of this approach, I’ve wondered if there was more to this than just the HMW question. What does Challenge…

Pablo Picasso. Guernica. 1937.

Conflict is actually a really good thingbut I didn’t see that until I learned how to mine it’s treasures.

I have always had a hard time with conflict. Who doesn’t?

Whether it’s conflict with family and friends, or (very rarely) on the street with strangers. I freeze up and have a hard time knowing what to do other than try to avoid it.

If the worst case scenario happens and things get violent, then I really get paralyzed.

I’ve asked myself many times: What can I do? How can I stop this? How can I avoid this?

It wasn’t…

Stefan Morales

Coaching + consulting w/ orgs striving to build a regenerative future @ | Founding Member @ INCOMMON | Associate @ Greaterthan

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