Let’s play with our racism

Five people in a tableaux showing various responses to the workshop: Four with open arms, many open palms and one person on the floor her head threaded through someone's leg.

An open space session I facilitated at the G I I symposium on Friday morning 17 May.

How I introduced the session:

I am a racist. Not because I intentionally discriminate or harm people outside my own race, but because I was brought up in a racialised system. Because of this, I may behave and speak in a discriminatory and hurtful manner without noticing. Some call it “unconscious bias“. I think it is time we take responsibility and become conscious.

To experiment with new and unfamiliar behaviour, we need a safe space to fail. What better way to create such a space and to experiment with new behaviours then through improvisation?

So, five of us got together and played with our racism. This is the session design, but it does not contain people’s stories. These remain confidential.

Session design

This session was designed using one of the techniques from the Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM suite. We call it the ‘Pig catching signature move’ – it is designed around the archetype of the flying pig, but for this session, we used it to play with racism – an equily illusive concept. The structure is great for working with any number of abstract ideas. For a full description and facilitator guide for the technique, contact petro@playingmantis.net

Note: All sessions are designed according to the SNE STORI-model (What is STORI?)

SNE = Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM (What is SNE?)

S – Strategic intent

The strategic intent is set at the start and ‘parked’ outside the space to define it, but not drive it.

Facilitator note: Setting up the strategic frame is the most important part of holding the facilitation when working with applied performance. It is the contract that helps us know which possibilities to choose and work with. These possibilities arise each time an individual interacts with the story in the room. The disruption itself is welcome and part of the point and it is framed and made sense of through the lens of the strategic frame. This strategic frame along with the ‘rules’ of the various exercises hold the safety and structure of the work where there is hardly any particular content or ‘script’.  Also, when working with something as complex and potentially triggering as racism, these structures and safety measures are important.

We were clear about our frame as we set up the open space session: To play with racism so we can better make sense of our own relationship to it.

We further refined these intentions by sharing stories of racism where we ourselves were either a perpetrator, witness or victi of racism. These stories clarified to us our individual stance for the session.

Four people in a tableaux: One person on the floor looking up hlding something on her lap, the others standing. Two with open arms, one with hand on his chest.
What we got from this session

T – Transition

Facilitator note: When we work with the arts in OD processes, it is really important that people transition from their minds only to include body and emotions, from past and future to the present and from individual mindset into collective mindset. Also, people need to practise following the ‘rules’ of the game. These ‘rules’ keep them safe when we let go of our scripts and experiment with new ways of thinking and doing.

 

Walking exercises are great for this.

Examples:

http://www.playingmantis.net/walking-exercise/

http://www.playingmantis.net/exercise-walking-with-enlarged-body-parts/

O – Open experimentation

Pig Catching Signature move:

  • The facilitator asks people to work in pairs. They should try to work with someone they are curious about.
  • Each person thinks about the character of racism in their own story. They will represent this form of racism as a character with body, movement and voice..
  • Flow is as follows:
    1. Person A uses movement and sound to show their racism character to person B.
    2. Person B mirrors the character back as accurately as they can.
    3. Person A looks to see if it expresses what they want it to and offers an adjustment, or simply enlarges what is already there.
    4. Person B mirrors this adjustment or enlargement.
    5. Person A again adjusts and enlarges.
    6. Person B again mirrors.

Note: Sometimes it is useful to allow participants to interrupt the mirroring for a short clarifying conversation, especially if B battles to express the essence of the racism character as A sees it. However, the showing and moving is always more important than the talking.

  • A and B swop roles working with person B’s racism character.
  • Facilitator asks participants what this is like for them and gets a few responses.

Note: Participants who do this for the first time may need to talk about its awkwardness, or how impactful/difficult/funny it is. Debriefing these feelings is important to help them engage with the next step which takes them deeper.

  • Facilitator now asks participants to show each other how they usually react to their racism character – or how they reacted that day when the story happened.
    1. Person A: ‘When my racism character goes [show character as refined through previous round] then I go [show their own response through sound and movement].
    2. Person B: ‘When your racism character goes [mirror character] then you go [mirror movement and sound].
    3. A adjusts or enlarges only their own sound and movement, not racism character too.
    4. B mirrors
    5. This happens three times as before and then they swop. Again a short conversation in between may be useful, but keep it short.
  • Now each pair will work with one story at a time as follows: Person A play themselves while B play their racism character. The racism character begins with the sound and move assigned to him. Person A reacts as rehearsed but now they let the scene play out. The pig reacts again and Person A responds until it runs its course. Run the scene again but Person A chooses a different reaction – again the scene runs it’s course. Repeat three or four times until A is satisfied that the scene has been transformed.
  • Repeat with B’s story.

Note: The partner plays the character so that the person whose story it is can try out alternative ways they could behave.

R – Reflection

Have a conversation with each other about what this experience was like and what it means for you in relation to the intent you set for the session.

What gift did you receive from your partner in the interaction?

What shift can you see occurring in relation to your real life situation?

What else we got from this session

I – Integration

Talk about possible changes in attitude or action you can make as a result of the interaction between you and your racism character.

In our session, we used images to express 1. What this session gave us. And 2. What we want to say to others about racism, We also had three people join us at the end who witnessed the final conversation and also provided their embodied responses to what they heard.

 Facilitation note: People can end up sharing very deeply with their partners and a round of appreciation is essential to allow people’s gratitude to be expressed.  On another note: ot ALL the integration necessarily happens in the space of the workshop, or session. It is worthwhile drawing participants’ attention to this.

Tired of coaching courses that cost an arm and a leg?

Photo of young man enjoying learning online

Re-frame how you coach and facilitate forever with Strategic Narrative Embodiment – Trans formative facilitation for organisations

Now available online and the first component is free!

Powered by Drama for Life, Wits University School of Arts.

Everything is changing so fast, but people struggle to adapt. This course will re-frame your reality and change how you help people shift. With models and tools from narrative strategy and applied improvisation, you can throw away old scripts and hone the skills that unlock your genius and the genius of your clients.

The steps are easy:

  1. Try the free online modules first,
  2. If it works for you, sign up for the live training sessions, online or in person.
  3. Practise and hone the tools in class and in your work
  4. Get certified

Then:

  1. Change the world for good!

More details about the course here

The SNE course is a home grown, truly South African product – designed for our context Made with our people and for our future.
The course is accredited with the University of the Witwatersrand as a short course and you will receive your Wits certificate of competence

Sneak peek:

Send me an email right now to sign up.

What happened to the SNE Essentials course for coaches and facilitators?

It has undergone a metamorphosis.

Instead of being a regular face to face course sign up for and pitch in person at some venue you spend hours looking for. This course is being turned into an online experience consisting of four components, the first of which is free of charge. Here are the components:

  • Component 1: Introduction to Strategic Narrative Embodiment – self paced online component that is free of charge – 6 Modules, 3 weeks.
  • Component 2:  STORI Strategy –  1 self paced online module plus three 90 min live online sessions where you learn and practice the the STORI design model for change – R 3 000 ($300 for non-Africans)
  • Component 3:  Applied Improvisation –  1 self paced online module plus three 90 min live online sessions where you learn and practice applied improvisation exercises for learning to be innovative and agile – R 3 000 ($300 for non-Africans)
  • Component 4: 1 final 90 min online session plus assignment and assessment for certification, also R 3 000.($300 for non-Africans)

The free self paced component will go live in April and the fee baring line online components will happen in September and October. You will have a choice of Wednesdays 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm or the repeat on Saturdays 9:30 am to 11:00 am. a minimum of 6 people must sign up for any of these times for it to be a viable group.

The first 12 people to complete the self paced module will receive R 1 500 ($150) discount on the rest of the course = R 7 500 instead of the full R 9 000 PLUS an extra R 500 ($50) as a bonus.

Send me an interest email now, and you will be the firs to get notified when it goes live!

You will receive a Wits University certificate of competence on completion of the course.

How to catch a flying pig at IDIERI 2018

A paper and a workshop at The International Drama in Education Research Institute

Christian and I (Petro)  presented a paper and a workshop at The International Drama in Education Research Institute (IDIERI) 2018 in Auckland New-Zeeland this past weekend. The theme was The Tyranny of Distance. IDIERI is the premier drama education/applied theatre research institute held triennially around the globe. IDIERI focuses on developing and expanding research in the community of drama education/applied theatre and aims to engage rigorous academic discourse within the field. Read more on the conference theme and programme.

Our own response to the theme was to look at how online rooms can be used to over come distance and its tyranny by connecting PhD students across Africa with each other through embodiment processes.

Below are some resources you might like to access if you are interested in this theme:

If you were there, you can download our presentation slides here: Paper slides – Embodiment in online rooms

and our workshop slides here: Workshop slides IDiERI

You may also be interested in some of the applied Improv games we played with their online adaptations:

Sound ball

Gifts

Here are two articles you may like to read:

This one is an overview of the principles we shared at IDIERI and

This one is about principles I learned from interacting with other applied I,prov facilitators who use online processes.

You may also like to buy the complete facilitator guide for The Flying Pig Signature Move (for $7,50) for face to face and online rooms here. It comes with a case example of how it worked in the life of one particular participant.

For more context, this was our abstract

An important aspect of Applied Improvisation and drama is using and perceiving the body: your own and those of others in the room. What happens when this room is virtual? Can adaptations be made to do embodied work online without jeopardising impact? Is this a flying pig? At Drama for Life, Wits University, Johannesburg, students of the PhD cohort are scattered across the African continent able only to travel through virtual space to engage with peers. This paper focuses on adaptations and inventions two academics had made to engage these and other participants in online embodiment processes over the past two years. While much is written about e-learning processes, or about incorporating online technologies in face-to-face drama work, little is said about embodiment work in online rooms. This study aims to address this gap making recommendations for online facilitation of embodiment work. While the study identifies a number of challenges including access to wifi and reliable electricity sources on one hand and the loss of physical touch and three dimensional engagement on the other, it highlights the value of online engagement using the body for PhD students that are isolated and struggling to maintain focus on their studies.

 

Key words: Applied improvisation, applied drama, online facilitation, embodiment

 

Trends in leadership development and implications for their implementation

Everyone wants to know what the global trends are for this thing or the next so that they can know if they measure up. Am I on par? As innovator in the space of leadership development, I am usually more interested in whether I am ahead or have an edge that makes me different from all the rest, but, I acknowledge the value of looking at the patterns evident in large scale social behaviour, if only to see what not to do. Was I pleasantly surprised! What the trends indicate we ought to do, is not what we see prominent leaders doing worldwide.

By following the trends, we may be doing something truly radical.

So, here you will find an analysis of six different sources dealing with the global trends in leadership development. I did this analysis to understand how a leadership coach and consultant should think about her own work in response to these trends. I also thought it would be valuable for organisations to see if their own leadership development strategies are on par with world trends and how they should judge the value of various leadership development options. In the top row I identify the source from which the information was drawn. They have been organised from the most predominant trend to the least prevalent trend. Once you have taken the time to go through the analysis, you may read my interpretation for implementation afterwards.

Read the rest here…

What is applied performance?

What is applied performance?

Applied performance is a cross disciplinary field that uses performance process and practice, be it acting, music, dance or other forms of art, backed up by socio-political theory to address social and political issues. The purpose is to make a change and bring about sustainable transformation.

At Playing Mantis we have developed applied performance processes specifically suited to organisational change and development. Its rootedness in the arts ensures a holistic learning process that is experiential and that can bring about systemic change.

Delegates telling stories

Its use of narrative strategy and story telling also allows organisations to reframe their own narratives and reimagine their strategic objectives and ultimately their future. Applied performance is particularly valuable for culture change processes and is essential for organisations that are serious about transformation towards gender and racial equality.

Our applied performance model is called strategic narrative embodiment. The art forms that it most depends on is theatre, story-telling and improvisation sometimes inviting elements of visual art, dance and music. It functions on the levels of design and technique to help change makers create processes that really works. Read more.

Strategic Narrative Embodiment (SNE) in a nutshell

little-red-riding-hood-1130258_960_720

SNE is inspired by the three elements of a story

Every story, fictional or real, consists of three elements:

  1. Someone who wants something
  2. Obstacles in their way
  3. An attempt to get what they want in spite of the obstacles.

Everybody wants something. It is what motivates them. Tapping into this motivation is important for every coach-facilitator. It is the key to engaging people in the work of sustainable change that is for the better (change for good). Every time you, as a coach or facilitator, enter into a relationship with a client, you start by clarifying what the client wants: their strategic intent. This is often informed by existing documents like value statements or strategic objectives. Once your mandate is clear, and you begin to work with the designated group or individual, you once again have to create a picture of the intent with the people in the room – including you as enabler of that intent. It sets the context for the work. Of paramount importance here is that this intent must be owned and influenced, or made sense of, by all stakeholders not only by the paying client. Everyone needs to be invested in the process.

From this point on, you embark on a journey together, led by the narrative design. You are attempting to get what you want together. You are living through a story, artfully shaped, but not controlled by you, the coach-facilitator. Along the way you and the delegates are going to encounter obstacles. However, because you are using embodied participation as your mode of enquiry, you are allowing an interaction between the narrative design and the embodied participation that mirrors reality. As delegates overcome the obstacles, they are practising for the times they will overcome them when they are back in the real world after the process is over.

Because you are working with a narrative design through embodied participation, you are also inviting into the space the stories about all the other times delegates have tried and failed to get what they want. In this way they are able to identify and reflect upon dominant and habitual narratives that may no longer be useful or practical. These are things that people believe or do in relation to the strategic intent that are not producing desired results but that they continue doing out of habit or conviction. The process is non-threatening and playful and allows delegates to experiment with alternative possibilities and solutions.

The SNE model

The diagram above shows the relationship between the narrative design of the workshop (represented by the horizontal process line) and a participant’s interaction with it through embodiment techniques (the vertical process line). The entire dynamic is contained by the original strategic intent of the workshop (the circle in the diagram). The centrifugal arrows indicate the new possibilities that are released when the unofficial, dominant or habitual narratives are fractured by the interaction between narrative design and embodied participation. The dotted and curved arrow indicates an emergent new narrative that arises as the more effective one in closing the gap between what delegates want (strategic intent) and what they have (embodied reality).

The strategic intent of SNE

SNE is designed for Shift, yet it believes that Shift is only possible in a particular way and because of how people open up to new ideas. It is informed by a particular learning philosophy and a certain understanding of how the brain works. For now, let us explain it by distinguishing SNE from other kinds of theatre-based learning systems like industrial theatre and storytelling skills or presentation skills

Usually when people hear we use drama or theatre processes in organisations, they immediately assume we do industrial theatre. We emphatically do not. Industrial theatre is like presentation skills, voice training and storytelling skills. All of them help people improve top-down communication from management to teams. SNE is designed to have multilevel, multi-stakeholder conversations in complex systems where leaders feel the need to hear from and listen to team members, where teams need to work together across functions and need to break down silos, and where collaboration, innovation and new direction is sought.

SNE is good for strategic planning, relationship selling, customer service, vision and values alignment and leadership development. It is great for organisation development and innovation, team development and facilitator training, but only in forward-thinking organisations where employee engagement, collaboration and a flattening of hierarchy are important themes. SNE addresses systemic problems and works on the level of relationships. It can address embodied reality, behaviour and action and move beyond words, ideas and dreams.

SNE is designed to close the gap between what we want and what we have, what we say and what we do.

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)

 

Let’s solve the world’s problems in 90 minutes flat!

IODA Flourish conference 2017

What happens when we change the rules for how we interact with each other?

Industrial psychologist, Burgert Kirsten, and I will be hosting a workshop at the International Organisation Development Association (IODA)) conference in Cape Town this coming week.

The theme of the conference

THRIVING THROUGH DIVERSITY

The role and form of OD in embracing diversity in organisational, systemic and social change

We are planning a high energy action orientated, playful investigation of the systemic powers that perpetuate inequality, othering and injustice.

Our topic is:

Solving the world’s problems in 90 minutes flat – Applied improvisation for Social innovation

Objectives:

  • Creating a climate for risk taking
  • Making it safe to differ.
  • Playing with unusual roles, identities and actions.
  • Taking diversity challenges head on.
  • Moving from conversation that control to conversations that connect.
  • Addressing the systemic forces that perpetuate othering.

Here is a short video to a predecessor of the work we will present at the IODA/Flourish! conference.

The outline of our proposed session is as follows:

S – Setting the strategic intention

What are the problems in the world we want to solve and why are they so hard to address?

Improv rules are used to change how we are together so that we can change default behaviours and become aware of our interaction choices.

T – Transitional exercises’

Applied improv games that push the boundaries of race, gender class etc. in a fun and playful way allowing reflection on our boundaries and how they function.

Choosing the problems (2 or 3) we will take on today. (processes that identify the system of interactions that govern these problems.

O – Open experimentation

Using Strategic Narrative Embodiment techniques based on Boal’s image theatre and systems thinking to build models of the problem systems. Activating them to see how they function and playing with alternatives to try and change them.

R – Reflection

We reflect on the meaning of the experiments for each of us and for our work and other communities.

I – integration

We choose and ‘rehearse’ alternative actions that we can take to change our stories and our systems relating to the problems we see in the world.

Practical information/skills/tools participants will gain from this session

  • How to change the rules of an encounter.
  • Exercises that create conversation about barriers and boundaries between people.
  • A system awareness of power relationships.
  • An introduction to frameworks and techniques that address these barioiurs and boundaries.
  • Tools for moving beyond talking, towards taking action.

We are indeed privileged to present at this conference and looking forward to the collaboration and connection with other OD practitioners.

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/