An Ethical code for Applied Performance work in Organisational settings

Aligning with associates and clients with a shared set of values.

How many times have you experienced a values clash with a client or a fellow consultant when using applied performance techniques?

What you find here is a set of 7 values that had been work shopped with applied drama and applied improvisation practitioners who do work in organizational settings. Three different groups came together at three different occasions (two of them happened at our last Flying Pig sessions). We used a combination of embodied images, role play, conversation and systemic mapping to interrogate the meaning of each of these values sharing scenarios and stories to help us find the appropriate nuances. You are most welcome to comment, question and contribute to the conversation.

Playing Mantis and Associates Ethical guidelines

It is important to us that our associates and clients understand and resonate with our ethical approach and values. These can be articulated as follows:

1. Deep collaboration: We craft our work in deep collaboration with all stakeholders involved. We do not use the powerful tools of story and embodiment to ‘download’ information top down to participants. Rather, we create work that introduces ideas and then facilitate conversations to allow audience members to interrogate and make sense of those ideas for themselves. It is important to us to value the input of all stakeholders equally.

2. Sustainability of human relationships: Sustainability to us means that no process can be a fly by night affair. It requires relationship building, negotiation and development over time. We are deeply interested in the sustainability of the organisations that we support, which includes all of the human aspects of the employees and the wider stakeholder community that will inform the organisational culture.

3. Intersectional symbiosis: We support and enable leadership styles that seek to negotiate solutions between the organisation and the community, between management levels, between departments, sections and divisions, between leaders and workers, between skilled and unskilled labour so that all impacted parties benefit. This means that all parties also have to be willing to adapt and rework solutions based on intersectional input.

4. Intrinsic value and contribution: We support the notion that every individual and every social grouping has value and can contribute positively to the workings of an organisation and its health. This means that every person working in an organisation, and also the community outside the organisation that supports the individuals, have value and can contribute something unique to the organisation that the leaders may not be aware of at the outset. We work to surface and incorporate these in all the work we do.

5. Systemic awareness: We support the notion that every issue must be considered in relation to larger systemic influences and conditions. These include social, environmental, political, historical, strategic, legal and technological factors that may or may not be visible and recognised by stakeholders at the outset. We work to surface and acknowledge the effects of these in all the work we do.

6. Rigorous self reflexivity: We hold ourselves and everyone we work with accountable to honour their responsibilities and agreements they make. We train and support everyone involved in our projects to be self reflexive and able to see and consider their own perspectives and positioning in relation to those of the other stakeholders so that prejudice, egoism, nepotism, domination and corruption are never an option.

7. Responsible sharing of intellectual contributions: We value our intellectual property and yours. It is our livelihood. At the same time we want you to be able to use what you receive through interaction with our work and integrate it into your own. We also want others to find their way to the materials and use it. We therefore ask you to reference our work wherever possible in written or oral format if you use it explicitly or if your own work was adapted from ours. In all these cases please reference us as follows:

– State the nature of our influence e.g. taken from / inspired by / adapted from

– State the author or entity e.g. Playing Mantis People development Consultants / Petro Janse van Vuuren

– State the specific model/ tool /idea e.g. the SNE model / Moving Story Structure / Pig Catching process etc.

Examples:

“Inspired by Petro Janse van Vuuren’s SNE model.”

“Taken from Playing Mantis’s Moving Story Structure”

What moves you?

Star fish

I want to change the world for good – in both senses of the word: for the better and in a lasting way. To do that you and I have to be moved – moved to tears, to laughter, to action. Moved from being stuck and stressed to being present and flowing in our genius.

You know that nauseating story about the starfish?

The one about the man walking on a beach awash with thousands of starfish dying in the scorching sun? The one where he sees a little girl bending down every so often, picking up one starfish at a time and tossing it back into the waves to be saved?

I hate that story. It makes me want to vomit. Let me tell you why.

If you don’t know the story, the man goes to the little girl and asks her: “There are thousands of dying starfish. You pick up one at a time and toss it back into the water. What difference can you possibly make?” This is where the little girl picks up another creature, looks at it lovingly and, as she sends it sailing into the surf her says: “For that one, it makes a difference.” And this is where the audience goes: “Aaah” clasping their hands to their chests in waves of gooey sentimentality. Yuck! It’s where I raise my eyebrows and go: Really? If you are going to make the effort to bend down, why not scoop up a handful? Heck! Why not bring a bucket to the beach with you? And how do we know she tosses them far enough? Won’t they just wash out on the beach again tomorrow?

I am not moved by this story, sorry.

“To this one it makes a difference” indeed. If I was going to make the effort, I want to change whole groups of people, whole societies, or at least impact the one damn starfish that will impact a community of starfish around him.

Let me hand out buckets, let me bring along some bulldozers and get a bunch of drivers to shove the whole lot into the water.

Of course, this depends on whether or not the starfish want to go back, or if it is good for the environment as a whole for them to go back. And here the metaphor breaks down. We work with people, not starfish. People don’t take to being bulldozed, bamboozled or otherwise manhandled or manipulated. They want to have a say, they want to debate the benefits and risks of going back into the water. They want to make sure they stay with their friends and families and that they get to the place they choose in the water, not the one they may end up thanks to the meddling of some old fool or well-meaning philanthropist.

I spent nine years working in organisation and leadership development playing saviour to the poor starved souls on the bleak beach of office work, monotonously tapping away at their computers in their cubicles yes-ing and no-ing to the poor soul in charge. All slowly trying to make it to the front where the waves are splashing. Until one day, six years later, I discovered with a shock: There I was thinking myself to be the saviour with the bucket, the hero, the enlightened guru — only to realise with a Copernican jolt that I was just another starfish gasping for a drop of damp. My time on the beach turned me into one of them. I watched wave after wave sloshing onto the beach nourishing the lucky buggers at the front while the rest of us starved. Once the industrious little star thrower nearly squashed me under her sneaker picking up the gal next to me. Another guy was not so lucky getting stuck to the underside of her shoe, turning into mince bit by bit with every step. I needed to get away from there!

I moved.

I began to wiggle towards the water laboriously making my way a centimetre a day and just as I nearly made it, a wave picked me up and tossed me back up the bank.

When I lay gasping and scorching in the midday sun once more, delirious from the heat, I remembered something I saw as I was soaring through the sky: a small rock pool somewhere to my right. Slowly and with hardly any hope or energy left, I began moving.

Centimetre by eternal centimetre I made my way to the pool and six months later I passed out on the edge of the pool where helpful friendly arms pulled me into the cool life giving water.

This was a few years ago when I received a post-doctoral research grant from the University of the Witwatersrand. Going back to academia was a revival for me especially getting back into the field of applied performance. Applied performance is a young field that studies the methods and effects of drama, theatre and improvisation when used in contexts outside of the theatre to effect social transformation, to educate or to heal. Applied performance gave me the buckets and skills for handling the machinery that can bring about change for good: a canny integration of planning, story and action. What it did not provide was the survival skills I needed to run a business and thrive in the sun – predominantly the ability to comply to the rules of the beach. Now I live a dual life sharing the tools and skills with starfish (not people) who do know how to work the beach and thrive.

It is us starfish that must do the moving ourselves.

Four days of the week I work at Drama for Life, the applied performance department of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Here I train facilitators in the techniques and skills needed for social transformation and healing and I co-ordinate the PhD programme wherein applied performance practitioners develop their thinking and their tools.

The fifth working day I spend here on this blog sharing my research, by questions, my inventions and my thoughts on changing the world for good with those of you who are working the beaches with a higher survival rate. I have combined the ideas of planning + stories + action into a model that I called Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM, or SNE. I developed this model over the nine years when I was an applied performance practitioner working as a consultant in organisation and leadership development. All the IP I developed during that time will now become available on this blog and in books, manuals and articles that I will systematically upload here.

If you are a coach, facilitator or other kind of grow guide, you may find tools, techniques and frameworks here to help you be moved to change the world for good too.

Online Facilitation of Applied Improvisation Exercises

A black squirrel from the side

Nine things I learned from Gwen Gordon and Erica Marx

After Christian and I facilitated an online session at the Applied Improvisation Network’s conference some weeks ago, Gwen Gordon contacted us to say that she also learned a few lessons doing this work – would we like to play together. On Tue this week, Erica Marx and I joined Gwen for a session of mutual learning. Here is what I took from the session:

  1. Zoom is a great platform, especially when used on a laptop. It offers various tools to play with including white board and breakout sessions. It is essential, though, that everyone plays on a laptop, rather than a tablet because the latter’s functionality is limited. For instance: I could not change my view from speaker view to gallery view (it may just be my own ignorance or inexperience). Gallery view is essential so that all participants can see each other.
  2. It may be fun to rename participants with playful names. Gwen likes to allow people to choose alternative names for themselves and use the zoom rename function to do so. This helps with distancing. As mentioned in our blog on online embodiment work, online processes can become very intimate and make participants feel vulnerable because the screen finds you where you are in your private home or office.
  3. Games where you pass on something from person to person work really well. Examples of this kind of game are the sound/energy ball and the gift circle. Because people do not appear on each other’s screens in the same order, Gwen gives each person a number and adds it to their name when they rename themselves at the start of the session.
  4. It works well to give people numbers as a way to establish an order for each exercise. Because you cannot organise people physically, establishing a response order is crucial. Christian and I usually establish an order by simply saying who goes after who (see a previous blog on online facilitation). Gwen cleverly uses numbers. The constraint of this is that, as someone who does not see well, I am better at remembering names than at following numbers that only appear visually on the screen. Still, it is worth trying, especially, as Gwen pointed out, when you have 22 people in the Zoom room.
  5. Games that build on each other are more fun and create greater connection across virtual space. We played ‘Yes lets’ in this way. Buttons (Gwen) would suggest an action ‘let’s melt’ and as we all melt, Squirrel’ (Erica) would suggest the we begin sizzling in the pot, and then Sideways (me) suggest that we begin to pop the corn etc. For some reason, I never played the game as one that builds, but rather as one that introduces a new action every time, but the building makes much more sense.
  6. You can use the features of online rooms to spark the invention of new games. Gwen invented a game where she asks all participants except two to strike a pose. The two remaining participants then comment on the gallery of images as though they are looking at a collection of artworks. In paired rhyme form, they then comment on the exhibition taking turns. This was hilarious
  7. Online processes can feed back into face to face sessions. Erica enjoyed commenting on how she might use the experience in the class she was about to teach after our session. The interplay between off line and online processes is a growth area. The switching between the two enriches both as we see well known exercises from a fresh perspective.
  8. The strategic edge offered by the SNE (strategic narrative embodiment) model. Applied Improvisation exercises are used by Gwen, and possibly many others, mostly to shift energy or to create a certain mindset for other work. I asked about the strategic use of the exercises as a way to work with content, and this seemed like a novel idea to my fellow players. Granted, we did not have a lot of time to get into it, but I know that in my own work, I use applied improv exercises to generate ideas for the very content we are working with, not only as a mood setter. We may, for instance, use the gift circle to name the gifts we received from a give session as way to reflect on our learning. Other times I have used the props game to generate ideas around solving a specific niggly issue. This strategic element stands out as being particular to my work. Want to learn more?
  9. Applied improvisation fits into the larger story design of a session. Another particular feature of my work that interested Gwen and Erica was the narrative nature of my session designs. I asked about how exercises might build on each other twards landing particular content. Again this seemed to my fellow players to be a new perspective. I think it is my applied drama training that has influenced this way of working. I design every session, on or off line, as a story arc. Starting with participants’ current realities, through moments of transition, tests and trials and sometimes playfully coming face to face with our own nemeses to return to the now, reflecting on our learning and thinking about the elixirs we are brining home. Want to learn more?

If you are interested in the strategic narrative aspects of improvisation, you may want to take the SNE course for coaches and facilitators. Our next face to face course is now in Oct 6-7 Oct for Module 1 and 13-14 Oct for Module 2. It happens in Johannesburg.

Alternatively, join us for our next online Flying Pig Catching series starting 16 Nov in the Zoom room near you.

Many thanks to Gwen and Erica for such fruitful playing!!

Also read:

Principles for doing online facilitation and embodiment

Change how you coach and facilitate with SNE

Where does Strategic Narrative Embodiment Techniques (SNETs) come from?

The heart of Strategic Narrative Embodiment (SNE)

 

How does one use embodiment in online rooms?

Session at Applied Improvisation Network conference

(update: Literatur on Emodiment also in online rooms,  WriteUp of the session; and a video of the session – see this post)

My friend and collaborator Christian and I will be presenting a session at the Applied Improvisation Network’s annual conference next Sunday 27 August. To me it is a kind of dream come true. This will be the third time I attempt to attend the AIN conference in some way. The last two attempts failed because for various reasons I was unable to make the trip. This year, though, Christian and I solved half the problem.

We will be attending the conference from the comfort of our home offices.

He is in Austria, I am in South Africa and we will meet together online and on screen to present a conference session in California!

I say half the problem, because, while we get to present and interact for an hour, we still do not get to attend and connect with all the other wonderful contributors and players. Next time!

Our topic: How does one use embodiment in online rooms?

Over the past two years Christian and I have been offering online pig catching sessions and learned a number of important principles for doing embodied exercises online. I have colleagues who do not believe it can be done and when I challenge them, they say: “I am sure something essential gets lost.”

Well, we have found that there is a unique kind of intimacy that develops online when people play together – a kind distinctly different in quality than when you work with someone offline. Part of the reason is because you see yourself on the screen interacting and this creates a certain vulnerability that adds to the connection.

To engage the imagination through the body  requires some innovation when working online.  We found ways to use the unique feature of online rooms to access the imagination and people’s creativity in fresh and unexpected ways.

We have discovered how to contain the work when there is no physical room within which to contain activities and relationships.

We have found out how to bridge the divides between participants and build playfulness and connection in new ways.

All these insights will be shared at the conference on Sunday morning and I look forward to sharing some of the principles here in a blog or two soon.

For the curious, here is our conference abstract:

An important aspect of Applied Improvisation is using and perceiving the body: your own and those of others in the room. It therefore seems logical, that “room” is a physical construct, a place with enough space to move and also to rest.

In a connected world “rooms” in the World Wide Web are part of the reality of more and more people: 3,6 Billion people have direct access to the internet, which is about half of the world population. Especially in Europe (over 70 percent of the population) and North America (nearly 90 percent) using the Internet is a part of daily life. An important aspect in the still growing numbers of direct users is mobile access to the internet via smart devices.

Internet “rooms” are used more and more often to learn together, to plan projects and them into action step by step. Topics are not only “tech related” – they are also about facilitating, coaching, developing various kinds of people, individually and in groups. Live online tools are often used in these contexts. They enable participants to hear and see each other. Nonverbal communication is a key aspect of Applied Improvisation. It is also a key aspect of live online rooms.

In our contribution we will summarize studies on using embodiment in settings enabled  by technology. We will present different improvisation methods that can be used in online settings highlighting its effects on collaboration and interaction on one hand and  and on personal development on the other.

Facilitators

Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren, petro@playingmantis.net, Playing Mantis and Drama for Life, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Applied drama researcher and practitioner, coach and consultant.

Christian F. Freisleben, christian.freisleben@improflair.at, Halftime: St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences (Didactics in Higher Education, E-Learning); teacher, trainer, journalist in the fields of education, health care and social affairs

[1] Http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm (14. 11. 2016)

Change how you coach and facilitate with Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM

Delegates telling stories

Make your work more effective and longer lasting

Research has shown that processes that incorporate stories and embodiment work in a focused strategic manner, as is the case with SNE, are particularly effective when

  1. Working with millennials
  2. Working in intercultural contexts
  3. The content works with issues of diversity
  4. The challenges the group faces are systemic in nature
  5. The work requires innovation and new thinking.

The reasons for this are that the methods

  1. Incorporate whole brain, whole body thinking
  2. Work with head, heart and hands
  3. Externalise and neutralise power dynamics
  4. Playfully and compassionately identify dominant and habitual narratives
  5. Generates creativity and innovative thinking in the group

In short, it is exactly what South Africa and the world needs right now.

Book your place for the next SNE Essentials course by emailing Faith.Dube@wits.ac.za

Here is what some of our participants said of their experience of our pilot SNE essentials course in partnership with Wits University:

I thoroughly enjoyed the SNE course.  It was eye-opening, challenging and worth the time and effort it required. It is refreshing to look with new eyes at everyday opportunities.  I am looking forward to introducing the methodologies and concepts to clients.
– Karina Reid, Organisational Psychologist | Executive Coach & Team Performance Coach | Master Facilitator

Committed to design, facilitation and coaching practices that drive meaning and impact, I was looking for a learning process to sharpen thinking, tools and skills. The SNE course delivered! The course is a great blend of theory, techniques and practical application. Thank you Petro!
– Elusha Jansen, CEO, The Performance Hub

As presenters, we learned a great deal and are able to give the next cohort an even higher quality experience.

Book your place now, there are already 5 people booked and we expect bookings to pick up quickly now that the lines are open.

The course consists of 2 modules of 2 days each completed with a reflective assessment essay based on a practical application in the workplace. Delegates will be awarded a certificate of competence!

As organisers we take care to design an experience that is rich in diversity, crosses boundaries and lets you experience the value of the methods in their totality.

Course Dates:
Module 1: Fri 6 – Sat 7 Oct
Module 2:.  Fri 13 – Sat 14 Oct.
More detail here:http://www.playingmantis.net/about-us/workshops/playingmantis-essentials-in-coaching-and-facilitation/

Individuals with basic coaching and facilitation training are eligible to apply. Please email your motivation letter with a comprehensive CV to Faith Dube at Faith.Dube@wits.ac.za  copying Petro Jansen van Vuuren at petro@playingmantis.net.
For enquiries call 011 717 4764

Cost R11 800

CLOSING DATE: 15th September 2017, 12H00

For applicants who have completed the 3 day essentials course with Playing Mantis:
You may register for a one day touch up plus assessment and receive the Wits certificate.
Cost: R2850
Date Friday 6 October.
Read more on the course here: http://www.playingmantis.net/about-us/workshops/playingmantis-essentials-in-coaching-and-facilitation/

How do I find time for meaningful focused work in the midst of living and surviving?

You are invited to catch flying pigs with us

Face to face Pig Catching in Johannesburg
TOPIC: Doing focused work amidst the business of living
DATES:  Part 1 Fri 25 Aug
Part 2 Fri 1 Dec.
TIME:  8:30-11:30 – experience (Please come on time for coffee or tea, we start at 8:30 sharp.)
11:30-12:30 reflecting on the methodology
PLACE: 19th floor University Corner Building Corner of Jan Smuts and Jorissen Braamforntein.
FACILITATOR: Petro Janse van Vuuren
COST:  R350 for Part 1 only
R500 if you book in advance for Part 1and 2
DRESS: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by  Wed 23 Aug to petro@playingmantis.net

Upcoming dates: Fri 25 Aug and Fri 1 Dec.

Online Pig Catching
TOPIC: Doing focused work amidst the business of living
DATE:TBC
TIME: 20:00-21:15 – experience
PLACE: a ZOOM room (we will send link)
FACILITATOR: Petro Janse van Vuuren
COST:  R100 oer session for 7 sessions or
R500 for the entire series of 7 sessions
Respond if you are interested and we can negotiate dates  petro@playingmantis.net

More on the topic

You may read in the place of ‘meaningful deep work’ any of the following: time for studying further, time for writing, for painting or designing a new process, or just remembering what gives you courage and significance.  Perhaps you are making a career change and you need time to strategise and execute new ideas.

quil and writingFor the past 10 years my husband, Gerhi, have been figuring out how to write the elusive novel and this year he is cracking the mystery. During the same time I have produced a PhD and published a number of research papers. Through all this we have raised our children and worked either on our own businesses or on teaching. We have tried and failed in so many ways; we have also found ways to succeed. What the course shares with you are the narrative heuristics that will allow you to improvise your own strategies for accomplishing your meaningful work.

The pig catching experiments will become part of my own journey towards writing the online course and perhaps a book on the subject. For now I call the process: ‘The success story spiral’ and I would love you to come and experiment with me while at the same time focusing on your own meaningful work.

Note: This process will take two Pig Catching sessions. This one is Part 1 and the second one will be on 1 December. Book for both face to face sessions and pay only R500, or book for one at a time for R350 each. I would like your permission to audio record  all the sessions. I would also like to use the material to populate the course and the book – keeping your identity confidential, of course.

Book now to secure your place by sending me an email petro@playingmantis.net

Note on the online course:
The online process will take 7 sessions instead of the usual 3, so it is a commitment. I have not yet set the dates of the online course. Drop me a mail if you are interested, so I know what the level of curiosity is. Watch this space for details.

About Pig Catching

Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.
Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Coaches, facilitators, game changers, thought leaders like you who can accept the following:

  1. This is not a showcase or sales event geared to impress or win you over. If you come, you already believe that metaphor, embodiment, improvisation and imagination are powerful, fun ways to bring about transformation and you want to know more about using them in coaching and facilitation.
  2. Experimentation and mistakes are part of the process.  You must be willing to play with ideas that may not work or may be a bit uncomfortable, but that could lead to new heights of freedom and insight.

Join our group on Facebook:

Upcoming dates: Fri 25 Aug and Fri 1 Dec.

WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO BEING INSPIRED BY YOU. OINK!

Exercise: Short walk to freedom.

This exercise is gaining in popularity. I designed it in a moment of need in the middle of a presentation skills workshop for managers in Mozambique. The guy just could not understand the difference between how he usually is around the workplace and how he should show up when he is required to speak in front of others. The idea of walking himself free from the constraints of an everyday work self into a performative, yet authentic confident self worked like magic. And of course, we all want to identify wit  the wonderfully present  Nelson Mandela and his Long Walk to Freedom –  but without the struggle.

Possible outcomes:

  • Presence and awareness
  • Personal control
  • Building confidence and connection
  • Emotional intelligence

Overview:

Participants walk from one end of the room to the other starting in a state of non-presence and ending in a state of total confidence and present awareness.

Time: 3-7 min
Number of participants: Limited only by the size of the room.

Game flow:

Delegates line up on one side of the room. Facilitator asks them to think of a moment where they felt utterly out of place, intimidated or nervous to enter a room. Facilitator explains: This is your point of entry, where you will be starting from psychologically. (As facilitator you may also use how they are feeling about the session or any other emergent feeling that you may want to work with in this way.) Facilitator continues:

Show how you feel in your body: your spine, your hands, your knees, your breathing, the cast of your eyes, your shoulders, your face, the tilt of your head etc. As you walk to the other side of the room, discard each of these physical attributes one by one and with them the feelings: lift your head, smile, deepen your breathing, straiten your spine, relax your hands, lift your eyes, open your shoulders etc.

Repeat the exercise adding a sound or words starting with something like ‘oooh’ and ending with ‘wha’ or starting with the word ‘no’ and ending with a ‘yes’. Or just let them be creative.

Repeat with different scenarios in mind.

Debrief questions:

  • How was that for you?
  • What was interesting?
  • What was difficult / easy?
  • How does it relate to the ideas of presence, or courage or confidence?
  • How does it relate to the workplace?
  • Where can you use it?
  • Why is it called the short walk to freedom?

How to reflect on 2016 in a fun and meaningful way

Grueling, exhausting and a never ending seesaw is how the 12 participants of the week long writing retreat I facilitated at the beginning of this month describe 2016. “Please help us find a way to reflect on the year, make sense of it somehow and find a way to focus on our writing” they asked.

What was your year like? Do you want a fun and meaningful way to make sense of it for you?

On the Wednesday morning before breakfast I offered to facilitate an embodied reflection process with reflecting on and making sense of 2016 as strategic intent SNE style. Here I will share with you what we did and give you a way to do it yourself at home. You may also like to try it with a group. Finally I will offer you a version of the same exercise using drawing, rather than embodiment for people who prefer this medium or do not have the luxury of space just now.

Setting up a spacekufunda

Find a room or section of garden where you will be left alone for the next 30 min or so. A place with a variety of pieces of furniture or rocks and benches and grass is ideal. This space will represent the landscape of 2016 for you. We used a large round thatched roof hut designated as workshop space at Kufunda Village outside Harare, Zimbabwe, where the writing retreat was held. The neat circle of chairs you see now in the picture were grouped arbitrarily around the space, e.g. one on the platform in front, others turned on their sides or standing seat to seat and covered with a blanket. The idea was to create a variety of structures to work with.

Kufunda Village is a learning community 13km from Harare Zimbabwe. It is a self sustaining collective where they farm organic grains. They also run participative leadership workshops, a Waldorf primary school and are open to visitors for workshops and conferences when they are not running their own courses. I was there facilitating a writing workshop for 4 days with 11 members of the SLOW Art network – SLOW is for ‘The Social Life of Waste’.

Transitioning into play

Four participants came for the session and I invited them to move around the space getting used to its new configurations.

“Imagine that the whole space is immersed in a mist – a mist that has settled on your memories of 2016. Let’s whoosh the mist away and out of all the little spaces and hollows.”

We used our arms and voices to whoosh the mist away, Large and loud whooshing for open spaces and small delegate whooshes for blowing it out of narrower spaces, moving our bodies and hands low on the ground or high in the air. The process helped us explore the space as well as warm up our bodies. It also switched on our imaginations and engaged our play muscles.

Into the open experimentation phase

I explained that I will name different kinds of moments that they may have experienced during the year. For each moment I would invite them to find an appropriate spot in the room and place their bodies in a position that expresses that moment for them. There would be 5 such moments and we would place them one by one on the 2016 landscape that is the room.

Typical SNE style, I designed these moments with the mythic structure of story in mind. However, I am mindful of the fact that these moments may not follow one after the other for each individual.

The moments I chose were as follows:

  1. A moment of being called to a higher purpose, where you experienced an inner tug (relating to a call to adventure in the hero’s journey).
  2. A moment of conflict, doubt or confusion (relating to the uncertainty and doubt on the threshold as you cross into the world of adventure in the mythic structure).
  3. A moment of complete ordinariness, even slog (relating to the tedium of the journey and the continuous small trials and tests).
  4. A moment of unexpected joy, surprise or reward (relating to the reward that follows the ordeal).
  5. A moment of utter despair, loss or defeat (relating to the moment of death and sacrifice present).

Note: I did not mention in the workshop that these moments relate to the mythic structure of stories. It is just mentioned here for those of you who are interested in the design aspects of workshop processes in general and in the lens of Strategic Narrative Embodiment (SNE) in particular.

Why these moments? Why five?

I picked moments that were diverse in energy and spread across the mythic journey landscape. I chose five because I find that is the maximum amount of moments a brain can hold without getting muddled and needing a script of some kind as reminder. As it is, people might still get muddled, so you can let them mark their spots in the room with sticky notes. You can use them yourself in a private version of this too.

Here is how I facilitated the process

You can follow along:

1. Plotting the moments

Find moment one: being called to a higher purpose – an inner tug. Then breathe into it three times. With each in breath you imagine that your body is a mould and you are pouring soft plaster-of-paris or cement into the mould. With each out breath it hardens allowing you to cast this moment in time. Once you have done three breaths, climb out of the sculpture and look back on it. Climb back in to see if you can find the position again and then climb out and begin walking through the space once more.

Repeat with moments two and three: (a moment of conflict, doubt or confusion and one of complete ordinariness or slog).

I did this with the first two moments and then we were joined by two more participants. I told them what we were doing and named the third moment, letting them come in at this point. Now we went back and rehearsed the first three moments up till now. I would have done this even if we did not have new arrivals, but as it happened this gave them a chance to catch up.

Go back to each of the three moments and pause in each one by one. As you do, order the moments chronologically in time as they happened during the year. Repeat the sequence and find a flowing movement from one to the other to the next.

One participant asked: “What if the moments slide into each other and reoccur more than once in the year?” I answered that they are free to repeat moments or find a way to move through the sliding.

Play with it.

Once you had established the pattern of chronology you want, introduce moment 4: A moment of unexpected joy, surprise or reward. Breathe into it as before and then slot it into the flow of time. Finally add the fifth moment (one of utter despair, loss or defeat) in the same way.

2. Playing with the journey

For the next few minutes I invite you to move through your sequence experimenting with different kinds of energy: high, light energy; slow, deliberate, heavy energy and any other kind you fancy to try. Continue with this until you run out of steam.

Finally, pick one last energy texture to play with, but instead of stopping at the fifth moment, move through the final moment in your sequence to the moment that might lay beyond it. This is where you rest and come to a stop. Repeat one more time.

3. Reflection

If you are doing this process on your own, take a journal or paper and pen and write about the experience and what it was like for you, Set a timer and write nonstop for 5 to 10 minutes.

In the larger group, I waited until all had come to rest. Then I asked them to pair up and walk each other through their journeys. I explained that they can share as much or as little as they are comfortable with.

4. Integration

The process of moving beyond the final moment into what might lie beyond is already an integration move on the part of the design. However, complete the process in your own reflective writing: give this moment some thought and write a concluding sentence capturing the meaning of this moment for you.

In the group I invited participants to share in the large group what that moment was like and what it meant to them.

Here are some of the participants’ responses:

Louis: “It was rather insightful to me that my final moment was not what you might expect. My fifth moment was the moment of being defeated and instead of the sixth moment being one of breaking free, it was instead a moment of acknowledging that breaking out was not an option at the moment. Rather I should find a place of stillness amidst it all. I just stayed right here in a space of being.”

Johan: “Mine was no moment of acceptance or resolution. I still feel rather tired and caught in it all, though that might just be the hangover talking. I did find the courage to look up and consider new possibilities or perspectives.”

Other comments:

Ingrid: “I found it very emotional to revisit some of those moments, but in the end I found a way to let it go and move on from there. I don’t need to dwell in it anymore.
Ricardo: It was more than just a reflection, it was rather transformative.”

Zima: “I thought my year was just hard and difficult, but I discovered moments of joy that I had forgotten.
Karel: This practice of being aware of where I am and considering what it might lead to is something I would like to try and do more of. I usually just let myself be in the moment without considering the bigger picture. I probably won’t use the body movement thing though.”

The same reflection as a drawing

If you feel like Karel did, you can happily replace the body movement with drawing. Take a piece of black paper as your landscape of 2016. Draw a feature of the landscape for each of the five. A mountain top for the moment of calling, a waterfall for confusion, a cave for defeat, etc. Now you can draw a path linking them chronologically. This represents the path you had walked this year. Take a pen and trace your steps as you walked this journey. Follow the pattern a few times, pausing at each moment and imagining yourself in that place on the landscape.

Finally move your pen to a sixth spot and draw what you think you may find there on the landscape: a tree? A spring?

Again, reflect by writing for 5 to 10 minutes.

Let me know what comes up for you as you do this exercise.

Petro

Let’s solve South Africa’s problems in 3 hours flat!

Final Pig Catching session of 2016

You are invited.

Will we solve the problem of free, decolonised education for all SA’s students?

When pigs fly!

Will we manage to bring our corrupt leadership to justice?

When pigs fly!

Or put apartheid in its place once and for all?

Or reduce violence against women and children?

Or improve service delivery?

Or fix the economy?

Or at least get rich ourselves?

When pigs fly!!

Let’s make them fly!

We will use applied improvisation and Strategic narrative embodiment to explore our deepest desires and our wildest dreams building the SA that we want to live in.

Nothing is impossible when we make believe and when we do, unexpected insights and action steps show themselves. If this does not happen in the session, at least you will have had a lot of fun.

So, come play with me and the other pig catchers when we pull out our magic wands and say abracadabra!

Details:

Date:     9 Dec 2016

Time:    9 to 12 am

NOTE: We will start at 9:00 sharp to make the most of our time.

Facilitator: Petro Janse van Vuuren

Cost: R250

Venue: TBC – I am trying for the flying saucer on the 21st floor of the University Corner building in Braamfontein (it used to be a revolving restaurant)

Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in

Coffee, tea, muffins and fruit on arrival.

RSVP: by  Wed 7 Dec

Join our group on Facebook:

Subscribe to our Muse-letter

Bring your curiosity, your open minds and your questions.

About Pig Catching:

Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.

Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Coaches, facilitators, game changers, thought leaders like you who can accept the following

1        This is not a showcase or sales event geared to impress or win you over. If you come, you already believe that metaphor, embodiment, improvisation and imagination are powerful, fun ways to bring about transformation and you want to know more about using them in coaching and facilitation.

2        Experimentation and mistakes are part of the process.  You must be willing to play with ideas that may not work or may be a bit uncomfortable, but that could lead to new heights of freedom and insight.

WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO BEING INSPIRED BY YOU. OINK!

Book by sending me an email

Let’s catch some flying pigs!

Flying Pig

An online experience for coaches and facilitators

“When pigs fly” is a figure of speech that says something is completely impossible, even unthinkable. For example: “Can people really change for good?” “Yes, when pigs fly.”

For us a flying pig is the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients, students, participants…

Join us in our quest.

We will not only look for flying pigs, we will also research ways to catch them, integrate them in our work and our lives with the help of methods and inspirations from the fields of Applied Improvisation and Strategic Narrative Embodiment.

In this online Pig Catching adventure you will be accompanied by Petro Janse van Vuuren from south Africa  and Christian F. Freisleben from Austria. We will invite you to take a close look at your pig catchers’ wardrobe, i.e. your strengths as coach, facilitator, trainer  and teacher. We will meet three times online, talking, sharing, working and also moving together. The sessions foster insights and inspiration, ideas and dreams, concepts for your work in, changing the world for good.

For more details see this prezi presentation and/or listen to this podcast (Soundcloud / Youtube).

Join us for:

A taster session, where you can learn more about flying pigs and the methods we use

Monday 18th of July, 8pm

A longer journey of learning, laughing and transforming:

Thursday 22nd of August, 29th of August, 5th of September – on all days from 8 to 9:15pm, Johannesburg time.

Before and between these dates you will have time to take a closer look at flying pigs!

Cost?

In return for our preparation and facilitation of the journey we ask you to pay us whatever amount of money you think it is worth for you and your work.

Facilitators:

Petro Janse van Vuuren & Christian F. Freisleben

If you want to join this journey please send us an E-Mail to: connect@playingmantis.net