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Listening to Difference, Made Practical

We gathered community leaders and a remarkable diversity of storytellers, to use the "collective story harvest" method as a way to practice listening across differences. Part of the 2018 Pittsburgh Inclusive Innovation Week. A blog post describing the workshop in more detail is here:

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Listening to Difference, Made Practical

  1. 1. Listening to difference, made practical Hannah du Plessis and Marc Rettig 2 April 2018 Welcome! Get a cup of coffee, find a table, and please make a name tag Name Affiliation (optional) Preferred pronoun
  2. 2. Listening to Difference, Made Practical Marc Rettig and Hannah du Plessis, Fit Associates These notes were produced in support of a workshop conducted April 2, 2018 as part of Pittsburgh Inclusive Innovation Week. See for more information. © 2018, Fit Associates LLC This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike-4.0 International License. You can copy and redistribute it, so long as you attribute credit to its authors and offer what you make under the same license. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.
  3. 3. How might we create a world that works for all? Briefly share why you care about this question
  4. 4. Principal Professor, Design for Social Innovation Adjunct Professor Fit Associates School of Visual Arts Carnegie Mellon School of Design @hannahdup
  5. 5. Principal Professor, Design for Social Innovation Adjunct Professor Fit Associates School of Visual Arts Carnegie Mellon School of Design @mrettig
  6. 6.
  7. 7. We equip people with tools, methods and practices that help them transform their world We teach Individual transformation Healthy relationships Good gatherings, good facilitation, and collaboration We teach the fundamentals of emergent change
  8. 8. Slides and more:
  9. 9. Do your best to return to the present Be mindful to include all voices Keep the story teller’s stories in confidentiality As citizens of this experience, we ask you to
  10. 10. Thank you to for sponsoring the room and the breakfast Tip o’ the hat to Jennifer Cloonan
  11. 11. “We’re on the same ship, but we live on different decks” Victor Lee Lewis
  12. 12. What would happen if you could strip away all difference? At what point will we show favoritism for the in- group and bias towards the other? Once our identity is tied to our group membership, we tend to see other groups as “lesser then” Henri Tajifel See
  13. 13. “Oppression is the systematic and pervasive mistreatment of individuals on the basis of their memberships in various groups which are disadvantaged by the institutionalized imbalances in social power in a particular society… It includes the invalidation, denial, or the non-recognition of the complete humanness (the goodness, uniqueness, smartness, powerfulness, etc.) of those who are members of the mistreated group.” Oppression
  14. 14. “It is possible to recover the buried memories of our socialization, to share our stories and heal the hurts imposed by the conditioning, to act in the present in a humane and caring matter, to rebuild our human connections and to change our world.” Ricky Sherover-Marcuse Liberation is possible …
  15. 15. “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lilla Watson Our liberation is tied together
  16. 16. The ideal: power to create is shared James Charlton “We know what is best for us”
  17. 17. Approaches to power inequity within organizations Exclusionary Neutrality Adapted by AORTA from a handout from Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations/ Asian Americans Advancing Justice Multi- Culturalism Cultural Competency Social Justice
  18. 18. Stages in adult development Unaware Unable Aware Unable Aware Able Unaware Unable
  19. 19. Unaware Unable Aware Unable Aware Able Exclusionary Neutrality Multi- Culturalism Cultural Competency Social Justice This method is great way to help people move
  20. 20. Experience is much more transformative than persuasion. We find that
  21. 21. The key idea, why it matters, where it comes from.
  22. 22. 22 Same people, same space, same conversation, same outcomes The Office, NBC
  23. 23. 23 Different people? Different space? Closed ears & hearts: same outcomes. SAP
  24. 24. 24 We can’t mandate openness. We can’t repeat our way to something new. The Office, NBC
  25. 25. 25 What conditions open conversations, loosen the old story, afford new outcomes?
  26. 26. How we divide and use time Agreements about speaking, listening, deciding, and control The space and stuff in the room The way we group ourselves What conditions create more openness, make room for open conversations, loosen the old story, afford new outcomes? We can learn to use our ingredients differently:
  27. 27. A global community of people is exploring this. Just two of many examples:
  28. 28. World Café
  29. 29. Story circles, reflection circles, “the circle way”
  30. 30. Situation Modeling
  31. 31. Collective Story Harvest
  32. 32. How can we focus a group’s attention on stories that matter, and get the most from them? Collective Story Harvest provides… An easy-to-facilitate method for group listening and sense-making A fast way for many people in an organization or community to get meaningful exposure to “others“ (and each other) A way to get from stories to “so what”
  33. 33. Let’s try it. We’ll describe how it works. Then we’ll introduce our topic question, and four guest storytellers. We’ll take 3 minutes to capture our assumptions about the topic question, then do the “Collective Story Harvest.” (with a short break partway through) When it’s over, we’ll reflect on the experience, talk about its usefulness, and answer questions.
  34. 34. Here’s how it works… Short introduction to our stories… Got it! First stage: all together
  35. 35. Once upon a time, there was… Second stage: small groups Environment Relationships Emotions …with “listening lenses”
  36. 36. Four story groups will be going on at the same time.
  37. 37. The listening lenses Key moments: decisions, conflicts, learning, resisting, letting go, resolving, persisting, giving up,…. Relationships: other people in the story: their perceptions, actions, and words Inner experience: emotions, beliefs, mood. Capture the inner ups and downs of the story. Environment: places, objects, systems, interfaces, policies, infrastructure,….
  38. 38. Listeners… • Please listen and take notes according to the instructions on your listening lens worksheet. • Hold questions until the end of the story. Of course it’s okay to ask the teller to repeat something you didn’t understand, or to explain an unusual word. But let’s do our best to let the person tell their story with minimal interruption. • Give the gift of your full attention. Catch yourself being distracted? No worries. Just notice it, take a breath, and come back to what’s happening.
  39. 39. Let me clarify… Emotions? Environment? Relationships? After the story, a chance to ask questions
  40. 40. After a break: lenses get together, with a job to do Emotions…Emotions…Emotions…Emotions… Environment…Environment…Environment…Environment… Relationship…Relationship…Relationship…Relationship…
  41. 41. Finally we’ll all get together again. Environment! Relationship!Emotions! What did we learn?
  42. 42. What are the things that help people feel they truly belong in the city? What things are in the way? What moves us toward the feeling of true belonging? Our question
  43. 43. Tell a story about a time when a service, a system or design in the city of Pittsburgh failed to meet your needs. It might have worked for some, but not for you. The story request
  44. 44. A note of importance about the way we choose to make these spaces. Trust is fragile. When there is an imbalance of power…
  45. 45. Let’s meet our storytellers Michelle King Vanessa Braun Idasa Tariq- Wessell Ahmed Ansari
  46. 46. What are your assumptions?
  47. 47. Story time. 15 10 5 3 2 1
  48. 48. Questions? Discussion? 10 5 3 2 1
  49. 49. Break time! We start again at ____
  50. 50. Welcome back. Sit with your lens-brothers and sisters.
  51. 51. Common barriers Common helps Top three things you want to report to the room You have 15 minutes. Your job is to identify… (If it helps, notice where your assumptions need adjusting, or were just plain wrong.) 15 10 5 3 2 1
  52. 52. Key moments What showed up?
  53. 53. Inner experience What showed up?
  54. 54. Relationships What showed up?
  55. 55. Environment What showed up?
  56. 56. Storytellers What showed up?
  57. 57. What struck you?
  58. 58. Let’s talk about the method and the big picture.
  59. 59. A story
  60. 60. The gathering A “diagonal group” Diverse vertically: levels of power Diverse horizontally: many depts. and functions Diagonal groups, gathering, and sequencing participatory efforts interest you? You might like Marc Rettig’s three part series (diagonal groups are in part 2):
  61. 61. The key activity: Collective Story Harvest Mean to animals, for decades Collects animals, over-loves City official who “gets the call” Rehabilitates animals
  62. 62. The empathy map canvas:
  63. 63. Many ways to use this method Gather people from across a system to harvest deeply from many points of view. Harvest your own organization’s stories for learning, team building, group memory, informing strategy, etc. Use story harvest between different parts of the same organization that don’t really see or hear each other. Harvest stories to inform a new effort or practice. Periodic harvesting as part of a “developmental evaluation” approach—use stories to help you ask, “Are we on the right track? What adjustments should we make?”
  64. 64. What do you need to do this? You’ve listened to the system, community, organization well enough to inform an invitation that matters to the mix of people you’d like to have in the room. A little capacity to host a group of people, to make the space for listening, to let go of control and let the conversation do the work. A sense of the stories and storytellers that will open the conversation, challenge the long-repeated story, bring a dose of real life to the gathering. Be just a shade braver than a meeting planner.
  65. 65. Making this method your own Curate the stories Do your homework to bring in stories worth hearing. Use this to hear voices from the fringes, to dig into challenging questions, or to get compelling stories to be really heard by stakeholders. Customize the lenses Ask, “What do we most want to learn from these stories?” Then create your lenses accordingly. Trust the process Don’t over-coach the story tellers. They just tell their story. The listeners will catch what matters. Don’t let the conversation flinch from the hard stuff There may be challenging views or disconfirming data. Go there.
  66. 66. Thank you. Marc Rettig @mrettig Hannah du Plessis @hannahdup