Vertical-unity—Relationship between the 4Rs and Probe-Connect-Create Change-Reflect II

Continuing a series of posts on the development of the Collaborative for Exploration of Scientific and Political Change within the framework of Ben Schwendener’s Seminar on Creativity.


8 June ’11
Relationship between the 4Rs and Probe-Connect-Create Change-Reflect (continued)

Does the following parallel work?

Probe Connect Create change Reflect
Respect Risk Revelation Re-engagement

Could they all be about bridging gaps that always arise given the unruliness of complexity?

Q: Why would you take a risk? Why would you probe?
(These questions are asked in the spirit that change (which includes actions) flows readily once the vertical-unity is in place.)
Answer 1: Because there are necessarily gaps to bridge.
A2: Because once you have respect and connections you can risk and probe—you don’t need to continue along previous lines.
A3: You don’t have to take a risk or probe. Indeed, we can expect that you won’t all the time—the support will be insufficient. However, when you are ready to do so the 4Rs will help—or the 4Rs will help you get ready.

Q: Why would you Probe-Connect-Create Change-Reflect?

If you invoke the factor in the left column, we ask why and then categorise the reasons given in the other 5 columns

Activist Intellectual Pedagogical Institutional not clear
Broaden access to the production of science knowledge & technology Social commitment Interest in promoting lifelong learning
Social commitment ?
Interest in promoting lifelong learning Disposition for LLL (esp. for P-C-CC-R);
Bridge reality’s gappiness
As part of re-engagement flowing from 3Rs
Disposition for LLL ?
Bridge reality’s gappiness Unruly complexity makes this unavoidable Juggling the 6 aspects of the mandala makes this do-able
Why seek re-engagement flowing from 3Rs Enhances disposition for LLL; Enhances bridging of gappiness of reality
As part of participating in the Collaborative Attracted by the explicit mission of the Collaborative
Attractiveness of the explicit mission of the Collaborative Broaden access.. Further problem-based learning
Further problem-based learning To promote lifelong learning; To add tool in teaching repertoire As part of initiatives and experiments
Add tool in teaching repertoire ?
initiatives and experiments
Further problem-based learning; As part of promoting open spaces
Promote open spaces Enhancesre-engagement flowing from 3Rs

Vertical-unity—a listing of possible elements

Continuing a series of posts on the development of the Collaborative for Exploration of Scientific and Political Change within the framework of Ben Schwendener’s Seminar on Creativity.


6 June ’11
Angles and themes
1. Mutual aid and free association
2. Critical thinking and reflective practice.

  • CT involves holding ideas and practices in tension with alternatives [vs. accepting what is taken for granted]. From
  • Critical thinking at this level should not depend on students rejecting conventional accounts, but they do have to move through uncertainty. Their knowledge is, at least for a time, destabilized; what has been established cannot be taken for granted. Students can no longer expect that if they just wait long enough the teacher will provide complete and tidy conclusions; instead they have to take a great deal of responsibility for their own learning. Anxieties inevitably arise for students when they have to respond to new situations knowing that the teacher will not act as the final arbiter of their success. A high level of critical thinking is possible when students explore such anxieties and gain the confidence to face uncertainty and ambiguity.

3. Engagement with unruly complexity

  • situations that involve heterogeneous components, develop over time, and are embedded in wider dynamics

4. Flexible engagement
5. Open spaces (between activism and academic research)

  • practicing with tools and processes and building connections and, on this basis, making contributions to the topic

6. Respect -> Risk -> Revelation -> Re-engagement
7. Opening up access to the production of scientific knowledge and technologies.
8. Facilitator in #4, 5,6 is also a learner.

  • That is consistent with #1.

9. Vertical unity versus horizontal-change
10. “Mandala” = 5 aspects of Making space for taking initiative in and through relationships = “negotiate power/standards,” “horizontal community,” “develop autonomy,” “acknowledge afftect,” and “be here now” plus “Embrace diversity”
11. Heterogeneity (e.g., of elements in vertical-unity, in the Rs of the CCT experience, in conditions for a successful workshop)
12. We know more than we are, at first, able to acknowledge,, especially a-j on teaching & facilitating critical thinking
13. Sense-making contextualization

  • a) The essence of the project is…
  • b) The reason(s) I took this road is (are)…
  • c) The best of what I have achieved is…
  • d) What has been particularly helpful to me in this project has been…
  • e) What has hindered me has been…
  • f) What I am struggling with is…
  • g) What would help me now is…

14. Reevaluation of emotions at the root of a response so as to better take initiative

Why do participants become more invested in a facilitated process and the outcomes when their voice is heard?

During a workshop on “Open Spaces for Changing Science and Society,” I came across a proto-blog entry of mine from 9 years ago:

5 May 02
Facilitation training teaches one that participants become more invested in the process and the outcomes when insights emerge from themselves, when their voice is heard. (One of the outcomes, is an interest in participating in further group process.) I extend this principle about group process to reflection processes, such as freewriting, that allow a person to bring to the surface insights that they were not, at first, prepared to acknowledge. (See

Q1: What is it about being a person that makes this the case?

This question might make more sense if we ask another question, Q2: why can’t a person become just as invested in a well-thought out plan that others with more experience and knowledge had produced?

One answer to Q2 is that there is often a backlash against innovations and change, a backlash that reveals people’s fear.

Q3: What leads to people having fear that gets in the way of their intelligence?

One answer to Q3 depends on noting that people have a backlog of fear that they haven’t processed from previous experiences (see Weissglass, “Constructivist Listening,” 1990) and are constantly operating on top of this, keeping it suppressed. If anything starts to open that Pandora’s box, it is scary and it feels safer to close it again.

One kind of answer to Q1 then is that in well-facilitated participation the person is getting more in touch with their intelligence, seeing how a web of support can be built, and noticing what that feels like before fear has a chance to get in the way.

Q4: What kind of group process could we invent that would build a support structure for each individual as they try to make changes (that is, not only when they participate in group processes such as participatory planning)?

One answer is the circle of elders in which say 6 people listen to a person’s problem of the moment and then the person listens to the responses, which are not supposed to take the form of direct advice. (Does anyone have a source for this?)

Others? Or adaptations of this?


Weissglass, J. (1990). “Constructivist listening for empowerment and change.” The Educational Forum 54(4): 351-370

Open spaces teaching

Tools and processes; Connections; Contribution to the Topic: Could these aspects of Open Spaces workshop form the basis of teaching as well?   The stumbling block would seem to be the idea that students—learners—could contribute to the topic of the course.  A slight rethinking of the topic of a course is needed:

Constructivist learning aims to provide students with experiences that guide them to build an understanding for themselves instead of being handed a pre-packaged understanding produced by others.  Conceptual change learning extends this further by noting that students come to a learning situation with existing understandings, however rudimentary and incomplete, and these “private universes” need to be exposed and mobilized in order for appropriate constructivist learning to be fashioned for them.  The net result of constructivist, conceptual-change learning can be seen as contributing to the topic if the topic is not simply the ostensible subject of the course, but the challenge of generating conceptual change for persons X, Y, and Z related to the subject.

This perspective suggests that Connections might refer not only to connections among participants of the course that stimulate and support contributions, but also to connections among the elements of the subject matter (within and beyond the course proper).

Connections are enhanced by Tools & Processes.  Following the model of daily writing in recent workshops (see recent posts), these tools and processes might well begin with daily writing where students are asked to write about the topic, that is, about the subject and how it is understood by them, from the start, thus instituting active learning from the outset.

Why are Open Spaces workshops appealing and necessary?

The answer to the title question is that Open Spaces Workshops should not be necessary.  (Continuing the daily writing after the workshop “Open Spaces for Changing Science and Society.”)  They are appealing because the processes foster the interactions and insights that we hope for in other realms, namely, that of the academy or of activism and public engagement.  Ideally then, we would be employing those processes in the other realms and open spaces would not be needed.

At first sight, this leads to the question: In what ways are the open spaces processes closed off or closed down in the other realms?  This is a subject for investigation.  I notice, however, that I’m personally more inclined to create an open spaces workshop (or allied processes) away from the customary work, with its closed down processes, than I am to study and open up the closed processes from the inside.

Admitting this leads me to a second question: In what ways can open spaces experiences be mobilized to bring about shifts in the conventional academic or activist realms?  One answer is through activities that promote a little the Respect aspect of the “4Rs,” which make it more likely for little Risks in which participants in the activities stretch beyond the customary and for little Revelations to affirm these Risks.  The steady experience of these Revelations or insights leads to Re-engagement in the realms of our customary work.

The schema of open spaces workshops, extended

In brief, the schema of open spaces workshops consists of three contrasts or movements: Here & now vs. Subsequently; Tangible outcomes versus Experiential; and Process as Product (Tools & Processes and Connections) versus conventional Products.



The idea of flexible engagement is that people’s experience of engagement prepares them to seek out and pursue other engagements in a similar manner.  In the same spirit, people’s experience of contributing to the topic, such as, creative thinking in epidemiology or any of the themes of the NewSSC workshops, could prepare them to support others to contribute to the topic.  Indeed, the same schema could apply to projects and endeavors other than workshops.  Where contributions to the topic in the schema for workshops refer to insights about new directions for participants’ research, writing, teaching, outreach, we might also consider policy-making, activist-campaigns, media-production, etc.  The same idea that the experiential dimensions make it more likely that the here & now (during the workshop) continues on to the subsequently (after the workshop) apply.

Distinction between open spaces workshops and open source projects

Adopting and adapting tools and processes to conduct an open-space workshop is to be expected, as is equivalent borrowing by participants afterwards (see schema below). At first sight then, the only reason that a process-oriented person in an  would not be in favor of the open source process of adopting and adapting is if someone privatized the common resources.  We could add nuance to this view if we had a more general analysis of the trajectories of open source projects from the ideal to the less-than-ideal outcomes.  Suggestions welcome!

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