Tag Archives: dialogue process

Dialogue process guidelines, short list

The Dialogue Process centers around listening—to yourself as well as others. Shared and personal meaning emerges within a group through listening to what is said from a standpoint of inquiry and reflection (Isaacs 1999).  The list to follow presents guidelines briefly with a view to bringing newcomers into the process without lengthy explanation. Continue reading

Cultivating collaborators, revisited

This post assembles a short-list of measures that enhance the building of a trust-full, generative group interested in personal, professional, and institutional change.  It feeds back into face-to-face group meetings items from an earlier post “on integrating face-to-face dynamics into the structure and expectations of online platforms.” Continue reading

Towards moderately open online collaborative learning

After listening to a voicethread conversation that a colleague initiated as a participant in a Coursera MOOC on “E-learning and Digital Cultures,” I made a few observations to her:
1. I like the continuous (and thus real-time) aspect of the dialogue hours we have been hosting.
2. But I experience how difficult it is to get people to clear a regular time slot and come regularly.
3. But joining a regular paid-for class provides a motivation for people to attend.
4. Yet being part of a Massive MOOC reduces that incentive.
5. Thus, with the stimulus of your participation in the EDCMOOC, I’m thinking about a moderately open online collaborative learning (moocl, pronounced mookal).
6. And that would work best (i.e., keep moderately motivated people motivated to do the moocl work) if small groups of people met in the same group for, say, 4 sessions, in which case one could set up synchronous sessions (for which google hangout would seem to be fine).
7.  But #5 & 6 opens into addressing the problems of keeping people doing the quite-limited amount of inquiry and reporting back that a 4-session Collaborative Exploration asks for.

8. Your voicethread dialogue might have developed differently if the visual everyone had in front of them were a defined question.
9. Instead, most (but not all) of the comments were about the tool, voicethread, and the varieties of ways designers of online courses try to recreate what is lost when there is no synchronous classroom.
10. Indeed, the group reminded me of what was the case for another colleague in his first few years of twittering etc. in the e-health area, where the adopters of social media etc. were those who liked to learn about new social media.  Their discussions were not so much about providing or receiving health care.
11.  But those discussions led to new connections that wouldn’t have arisen through face-to-face modes and this edcmooc seems to have that effect of bringing potential colleagues into a forum where they can meet each other.
12. Which leads me to think about how to shape a MOOC that gets people interested in moocls (especially moocls about science in a changing world).
13.  Finally, my thinking about moocls reflects my gut feeling that the importance of education, including online education, including MOOCs is how much people become self-directed learners, which includes creating collaborations in which they learn.
(13a. Without that emphasis, MOOCs for “education” [as against finding one’s community] are like a textbook (see OpEd) — and what a MOOC gains by linking to resources on the web, a textbook gains by leading students systematically through steps in development of understanding with accompanying homework exercises.)

Turn-taking in dialogue process

The Dialogue Process centers around listening—to yourself as well as others.   The Process requires structured turn-taking.   The protocol I have developed is as follows:

The overriding idea is to keep focused on listening well. You won’t listen well if you are thinking about whether you will get to talk next or are holding on tight to what you want to say.
Take a numbered card when you feel that you would like a turn, but keep listening. When your turn comes, show your card, and pause. See if you have something to follow what is being said, even if it is not the thought you had wanted to say. You can pass.
Try to make turn-taking administer itself so the facilitator can listen well and participate without distraction. When you finish speaking (or if you decide to pass), put your card on the stack of used cards so the person with the next card knows that they can begin.

Yesterday, with a group of 17 people in a cramped classroom, we successfully used an alternative:

Everyone was given a card.  One person volunteered to keep the list of who had asked for a turn and announce who was next when the previous person finished.  Instructions: “When you feel that you want a turn, pick up your card and direct it to face the list-keeper, who nods to acknowledge that the request has been noted.  When your turn comes, show your card, and pause. See if you have something to follow what is being said, even if it is not the thought you had wanted to say. You can pass.  When you finish speaking (or if you decide to pass), put your card back down (or say I’m finished) so the list-keeper knows that they can ask for the next speaker.”

disConferencing, a five-and-a-third-hour model: Session 4 & Closing

Break, 10 minutes

Organizers recreate the inner circle of 12 chairs with gaps for easy entry and exit of sitters, but otherwise as close as possible.  Organizers ask for help to move the rest of the chairs surrounding that circle.  Seats in the circle are then occupied by organizers (except the Session 4 Coordinator), the guest author, and volunteers if any seats remain.  Pens are distributed to any participant who doesn’t have one.
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Support circles: An invitation template


I am writing to invite you into an infrastructure-building experiment: forming and participating in small “support circles.”  The specifics of what I would ask of people in my support circle are included at the end.  First, because part of joining a person’s support circle is to commit to forming your own, I present the rationale and mechanics, which you could transmit to those you would invite if you get involved in the experiment.


The overall ethic is that people in support circles find ways to support others to do the best work they can given the circumstances (which are often constrained).  The more people who live that ethic the better for us all.  If you are collaborating on a range of projects with a range of people you might choose to form a support circle from these immediate collaborators.  Yet a support circle need not be linked to any given project(s).  You could create a circle to provide space in which supporters appreciatively help you reflect and clarify your own path ahead—where that path includes how and when to collaborate in various projects.  Interactions in such a space would be freed of any expectation that supporters had to chip in on or otherwise share the weight of your problems.  It would be enough—indeed, a rare and longed-for gift—for a supporter to give you attention and think well with you when you consult them.  In fact, you might be more ready to ask for support if you see the support circle as a “container” outside of which there is no reference to what is said and no implied expectations of further support.

Support circles could have a special role in this age of internet-mediated interactions, namely, providing closer, more personal relations that keep us grounded in the face of the possibility of a very wide or distributed reach.  Support circles could influence peer-to-peer networks and crowd-source processes by

  • modeling appreciative feedback and evolving standards or guidelines for these networks and processes;
  • helping you get clear about where you want to put concerted effort into engaging others with your ideas (as against passively expecting your ideas to get published and picked up that way) ;
  • contributing to concatenating support circles that make transparency in feedback safer for you.


  • Support circles arise when you take the initiative to recruit over the course of a year 5-6 people for a one-year, renewable relationship of mutual support, in which these people also agree to establish their own support circles over the course of a year (and so on). (If you have 5 people in your circle there is space for you to be invited into the circle of someone else.)
  • Ideally, you bring into your circle some people who will be more like mentors and others who will be more like advisees—at least at the start of the relationship.
  • The format and frequency of interactions with members of a support circle is proposed by you as you recruit others to your circle, fine-tuned with the invitees before they join, and adjusted by mutual agreement as needs evolve.  You might draw on your supporters in different ways, sometimes collectively or sometimes one-on-one.
  • You can call on your support circle at any time, whether for regular check-ins or when in crisis.  To make such on-call support sustainable, no person has more than 6 support circle relationships and each person in your circle has 4-5 other support circle relationships of their own to help if any one relationship becomes especially challenging or draining.
  • A support circle relationship can be discontinued by either party at any time on a “no-fault” basis.  Preferably, however, the transition occurs at the close of a year and is accompanied by a “plus-delta” evaluation of the experience.
  • In addition to plus-delta evaluations, which can take place after any interaction, support circle relationships use tools and processes such as clearness committee, dialogue hours, supportive listening, and believing and doubting feedback.  Picking up on this last process, one guideline is that criticism and doubting never precedes or overshadows appreciation and amplification of what has been achieved.  (Recall that overall ethic is that people in support circles find ways to support others to do the best work they can given the circumstances.)
  • Google plus might be well suited to sending messages to your support circle and relaying messages, when appropriate, received from members of your circle.
  • When establishing a support circle for the first time, arrange for the first relationship to be up for renewal in 12 months, the second 2 months earlier, and so on unless you get to a point where the renewal date would be less than 2 months away. For that last relationship and from then on any new or renewed relationship is for 12 months. This staggered scheduling should ensure that no more than 2 months goes by without your taking stock of at least one relationship and perhaps your circle as a whole.

Date that circle is initiated =                         [call this X]

Date for 1st renewal or replacement X + 1 year X + 10 months X + 8 months X + 6 months X + 4 months
Date for 2nd renewal or replacement One year after above One year after above One year after above One year after above One year after above One year after above
Supporter’s name            




Support circles: A design sketch

If we steer clear of fantasies of going viral or starting something like wikipedia, how do we envisage contributing to new infrastructures that further our work and lives?  This sketch of support circles arose from two recent discussions with colleagues—one face to face; the other via skype—the face to face one addressing crowd sourcing of review of writing for publications; the skype one addressing group process in situations such as Occupy meetings.
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