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A message from Rosa Zubizarreta
Jan. 6, 2017
Rosa will be returning to Maine to offer a 3-day training in Dynamic Facilitation & Heart Centered Listening in February 2017

Last time I was invited to Maine to offer a Dynamic Facilitation workshop, here’s what a participant wrote afterward about the results of this work:

“…a dynamic shift in the capacity of the participants and the group as a whole to hold diversity and complexity with their eyes and hearts wide open.”

It seems to me, that the need for this work is growing ever stronger. At the same time, to arrive at powerful outcomes, we often need to do things differently than we’ve been used to doing them. In Germany, Dynamic Facilitation is often described as “ein ganz anders moderieren” (“a very different way of facilitating”). How accurate is that? I’ll describe four of the basic elements of we do, so you can decide for yourself:

1) Heart-centered listening. What might “active listening” look like, if our aim as facilitators or mediators was not to “be impartial”, but instead, to be “multi-partial” and to really support each participant? In this work, we take a highly relational approach. Our intention as facilitators or mediators is to establish a connection with each person, to really “get” what they are wanting to express, to let them know what we are hearing, and to create a space where they can hear themselves.

As we do this, others are better able to hear that person, too. After facilitating high-friction meetings, it’s quite common that a participant will come up afterward and confess, “I had never really heard before, what so-and-so was trying to say, until you reflected it back to him… It’s like some part of my brain would shut off, whenever he (or she) would start to speak.”

2) Welcoming initial solutions. What would happen if as facilitators or mediators, we viewed each person’s “initial solutions” as their best creative effort to date to make sense of a complex situation and come up with an appropriate response? Of course most initial solutions are usually quite limited, as they are based on the narrow amount of data each person has from their own vantage point in the larger system. And of course we want to support participants in moving beyond initial solutions!

Yet what we’ve discovered is that by welcoming and listening deeply to each initial solution, participants are much more able to take in new information afterward. Once they start hearing others’ initial solutions… along with, the various concerns about the various solutions… and even, all the divergent ways of framing the initial problem — all within a relational, heart-centered space that honors each person’s best creative effort to date — participants are quick to realize the limitations of all initial proposals. So, we are “going slow” in order to “go fast”….

3) Catching and translating critical energy. As facilitators or mediators, what would happen if we viewed any criticism as a sign that the person offering the criticism, really cares about a positive outcome? Furthermore, what would happen if we understood our role as being the “designated catcher” on the team, so that each participant can more easily stay in their creative brain rather than shifting into their reactive brain?

In this work, we create a trusted space for the co-existence of creative thinking AND critical thinking by inviting participants to re-direct any charged or critical comments toward us, instead of toward one another. That way, each participant can speak freely and be heard, with less likelihood of setting off reactive triggers. This might sound a bit challenging — all of that energy directed toward us, as the facilitator or mediator?? I know it sounds paradoxical, yet one of the benefits that practitioners of this work frequently report, is a greater sense of ease in working with conflict.

4) Harvesting each contribution. What would happen if we saw each contribution as a piece of the larger puzzle that is emerging, and our own role as creating a faithful map of that larger whole? As we record each contribution, it adds another layer to the trust that is building. Each person is being heard, each offering is being gathered…. not just the “major decisions”, nor what the facilitator deems as important. Each bit is being gathered, for our collective work of bricolage… And, as we pause to verify with participants whether what’s on the chart paper is an accurate reflection of their contributions, it creates yet another opportunity to deepen the shared weave of meaning-making that is taking place.

So, those are four key elements of this practice. You are welcome to experiment with any one or more of these elements on your own. I have also written a book that goes into much more detail about what it looks like, when all of these elements are used together. I love it when people tell me that they have been able to start exploring this approach just by reading my book! There are also several free articles available on my website, at www.diapraxis.com.

At the same time, I’ve also heard this practice described as “simple, but not easy”. So if you’d like an opportunity to experience it in person, and to practice it in a supportive context, you are warmly welcome to attend our upcoming workshop in Maine.

During this highly experiential workshop, we will have plenty of opportunities to see Dynamic Facilitation in action, to experience it as participants, as well as to practice it in small groups, where each participant will be receiving appreciative feedback from peers, as well as in-the-moment coaching and support from the instructor.

We’ll also be exploring various special topics, including how to work with power differences, how to engage in “skillful interrupting” as a facilitator, how to manage flow when emotions are high, and how to adapt this approach when working with two people instead of with a group.

I’ll close with another quote from a participant in the 2015 Maine workshop:

“…an elegantly simple process for helping people call their power back from interpersonal or group conflict, and recast it in the direction of the change they want to see in the world.”

If you feel called, I look forward to having you join us!

NVC & Dynamic Facilitation, a Perfect Match
by Leah Boyd
February 19, 2015

Like so many people, I have spent years participating in groups. So often we start with an inspiring vision only to encounter communication challenges that leave us stuck and frustrated. For me, these experiences stimulated a yearning for authentic communication and to better understand group process. I wanted to believe there was a sustainable way to collaborate and cooperate in service to a shared purpose. It was this longing that first led me to Nonviolent Communication. I remember to this day the thrill that raced through me when I read on the NVC brochure, “Would you like authentic connection with others while remaining true to yourself?” YES, exactly!

Throughout my NVC journey I have continued to be deeply curious about group process. I admire groups of people attempting to do something beautiful together in the world and I long to contribute to their success. I have sought out learning and apprenticeship opportunities in processes that are in alignment with NVC consciousness to enhance my understanding. In this ongoing search I have had the great fortune to train in something called Dynamic Facilitation (DF), also known as the Choice Creating Process. DF was created by Jim Rough as a way to address seemingly “impossible to solve” problems, by transforming conflict into creative experience. DF has been described as “a highly effective and agile way to welcome task groups into a co-creative ‘flow zone’ – where participants create practical and innovative solutions while building trust, empathy and authentic community.”

According to Rosa Zubizarreta, facilitator and author of From Conflict to Creative Collaboration, the foundational skills required for using the Dynamic Facilitation approach include:

  • Listening deeply and well to others
  • Being willing to take all sides
  • Trusting, allowing and following an emergent process
  • Having enough self-understanding to be able to get out of the way

As I see it, the basic skills of Nonviolent Communication are a perfect foundation for successful use of the Dynamic Facilitation process. Through our NVC training, we learn to listen well to what’s being said and to be curious about the underlying needs. We understand that we can listen carefully for understanding and reflect what we’ve heard with care and accuracy, whether or not we are in agreement. In addition we have the self-care tools of self-empathy and requesting empathy from others as ways to foster personal self-awareness.

Some of the many needs that I experience as being nourished by DF are: To hear and be heard, understanding, clarity, creativity, collaboration, contribution, choice, mattering, expression, empathy, trust, to be seen for our true intentions and mutuality. It seems to me that first and foremost, DF prioritizes and protects the creativity that naturally results from welcoming all viewpoints. Using a few guidelines that are simple yet profound, the DF facilitator holds a space where the expression of divergent views is encouraged. In fact, DF recognizes that the honoring of diverse views leads to the natural emergence of elegant solutions.

I would like to share a few ways that training in DF has impacted my work as an NVC mediator as well as my day to day life as a practitioner of NVC. Experiencing DF has allowed a certain type of courage to blossom in me. It is the courage to trust the part of a conversation or mediation where we aren’t yet in agreement, and to not be in a rush to get everyone “on the same page.” Rather, I now am much more likely to draw people out, to ask them to say more and to invite more divergent ideas. And when it appears we’re starting to get into agreement, I’m much more likely to ask people to take a moment to check in and see if there’s anything else to bring up, rather than rushing to get the agreement on paper. In casual conversations with friends or family, I’m noticing how contagious the subtle and covert use of DF principles can be.

I see that when I start drawing people out and model a true interest and ease in hearing all the different views, others in the conversation start moving in that direction, too. Toward the end of one animated family discussion, my nephew said, “This is like Wikipedia, everyone puts in their piece and we end up with a better definition!”

Here’s what a few NVC trainers have had to say about Dynamic Facilitation:
“DF is a process I have been trained in and think very highly of. It allows groups to break through logjams and move to a new creative possibility.” ~ Miki Kashtan, CNVC certified trainer

“I found DF to be breathtakingly simple to grasp conceptually, and complex to live. I recommend this training very highly.” ~ Shulamit Day Berlevtov, psychotherapist, Focusing teacher and NVC trainer.

In closing, I will say that in my experience Nonviolent Communication and Dynamic Facilitation are in harmony both in underlying consciousness and in practical application. I am delighted to continue to deepen my skills in both areas in the hope of fulfilling my original passion to assist and participate in sustainable group processes. For me, that’s the juiciest thing of all!

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I HAD A DREAM

January 15, 2012

Greetings,

I had this intense dream on Friday night and I feel moved to share it with you.

There was a game called “The Universal Game of Peace.” It was so powerful that it was a threat to the powers that be and so it was an underground movement. Anyone who got the opportunity to play the game was transformed and the numbers of people who had undergone this transformation were quietly growing….a peaceful tsunami was building. The people who shared the game, “The Keepers”, tended to disguise themselves as craft vendors and traveled like gypsies between holistic gatherings, spiritual gatherings and the like…they sought places where there was already a certain level of consciousness awakening. In the dream, Rei and I arrived at a gathering just as it had ended and all the vendors were finished packing and saying their goodbyes. Someone introduced us to the Keepers. We had never heard of the game before, but I immediately knew that I needed to PLAY! It was too late to play at that moment as they were packed and ready to move on, but I felt a powerful commitment to following them, playing the game, maybe becoming a Keeper.

This dream was so vivid for me that I got up and Googled “The Universal Game of Peace.” I didn’t find anything . . . guess it’s still well disguised!!

So this is present in my heart as we approach Martin Luther King’s Birthday. I see those of us who are somewhat aware as the bridge between an old conditioned way of being and a new possibility. With one foot in each world, we’re torn…..so wanting to embody the high ideals (needs) of peace, acceptance, collaboration, compassion, etc and yet still experiencing getting lost in old habits and patterns that we don’t enjoy, that don’t contribute to our flourishing in the way we’d like. I see us as the brave one’s that chose to incarnate at this pivotal time to pave the way, to make the challenging shift – we’re the pioneers. So, I can’t help but wonder if the work we’re doing together IS The Game! Here’s a beautiful quote by MLK. In peace, Leah

We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.