Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rhyzomatic Education, Democracy and Open Space Technology

I’ve had a broadly productive couple of days. I keep chasing down one idea only to be led to another linked but independently fascinating concept. This scattering of attention started a few days ago when I revisited Dave Cormier’s treatise on rhyzomatic education or community as curriculum.

I was first introduced to this concept via Wiaoc09 - Fun & Games in Professional Development Online Conference when I took part in Dave's facilitated a session called You Can’t Collaborate Alone (UStream recording of the presentation is here.) That highly collaborative experience made sense to me; it felt right, despite my inability at that time to clearly articulate the concept to others. (I'm still working on that.)

Shortly after this I attended a residency at Royal Roads as part of the MA in Leadership program. Two related concepts were presented while I was there. The first, democracy, threaded through the entire residency. I’m still struggling to understand and define democracy but at least I’m in good company there.

In my view, the primary challenge with democracy as we know it, is that is assumes all voices are equal. This is not the case, again, at least from my experience. I think we can do better than democracy in its current form. I think we ought to be aiming for a system, in education, government, and work that looks and feels more like Helgeson’s Web of Inclusion.

The second related idea, Open Space Technology (OST), was introduced during the residency as a way to use a democratic process to facilitate learning. Harrison Owen is credited with inventing OST however even he suggests that it is a method of self-organizing that has been around since human began gathering in groups to get things done. There are four guiding principles and one law in OST.

Principle 1 - Whoever comes is the right people. You don’t need hundreds or thousands showing up, nor do you need the “leaders”. What you do need is that the people showing are invested and willing take action.

Principle 2 - Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Keep focused on the here and now.

Principle 3 - Whenever it starts is the right time. No clock watching, inspiration and creativity are impossible to schedule.

Principle 4 - When it’s over it’s over. Don’t waste time. Just do it and once done move on.

The Law is the Law of Two Feet. If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use you two feet and move to some place. Unhappy people are unlikely to be productive people.

Every time I read these I am reminded of Angeles Arrien’s Four Fold Way. Show up, be present, tell the truth and be open but not attached to outcomes. This of course brings me back to the idea of rhyzomatic learning and education.

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