Hi Graeme. This is great learning, well done! I feel there is so much potential when facilitating groups of young students. They may well be more open to different styles of conversations than the adults who haven't been used to this!
RE: on the role of adults. I don't have direct experience in this kind of dynamics. I can only think that Ursula's point is very relevant: adults who are in teaching roles may try to dominate, even unknowingly. It takes a great deal of courage to step out of their "teachers" roles and step into the co-learner role.
A couple of thoughts: one would be to brief them beforehand and be very clear on their role during the workshop. A nice idea for changing roles - this was applied by transition towns in a meeting in London, UK. Invite them as "key listeners". No "key speaker today", only some VIP listeners. And they will only listen : )
All the best,
Hi Alice, Tami and Marco
Sorry I've missed your responses and haven't replied.
Alice, I think the advantage of keeping the discussion short was that it created quite a sense of energy and participants didn't get bored! The down side is that the discussion didn't go as deep as it might have. Dee (one of my colleagues) and I are both ex youth workers, have short attention spans and like a fast pace. So we quite often have fairly short discussions with frequent movement. We like the pace and think it encourages people to bounce ideas around, but recognise that some people would find it too. I should add that at times we do spend much longer and will give people 20 to 30 minutes so they can go deeper. I guess as with so many of these things it depends on you purpose and audience. I find that people can often have quite interesting discussion in a short time, but the danger is it becomes more like a brainstorm.
Sometimes we move small groups around every 5-7 minutes as a group. All tables have the same question and they move 4 or 5 times to a new sheet and get some input from previous groups. I find that it starts a bit like a brainstorm and then they start looking at the comments made by other people on the flip chart and start connecting ideas and thinking in more depth. This has been working quite well in some workshops we have been doing with a national organisation that is adopting a greater focus on Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). We have been asking them to think about the implications of ABCD for their work and by moving fairly often, we they don't get bogged down in potential negativity and they seem to start thinking of a range of ways they can implement ABCD. We then follow it up with a longer period of discussion on specific ideas using open space.
Tami, we did have youth involved in planning - but mainly over 18s. I think it could work well with younger students too. Dee recently did an open space session with students who attended an ABCD conference in Newcastle. Apparently it went very well. I do think these processes are great with youth. It would be interesting to hear more about your work in NYC (which I presume is New York City?)
Marco, I like the idea of key listeners. Our original plan was that another adult was going to meet with the teachers during the forum and engage them in some meaningful conversation. Unfortunately, he was sick and we didn't organise for somebody else to do it. I suspect the VIP listeners idea could have worked better.