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AOH Training for Practitioners of Social Innovation Labs: a tentative Proposal

Well as the last blog post seems to date back to 2016 I thought I'd add my little piece here too...if only to keep thing current!

I've been researching and networking within the social innovations lab scene and I've found that they tend to rather insular and poor at sharing 'best practice' (i.e. stuff that they have found works) between each other. There are several possible solutions to this but such as developing a stronger sharing culture within and between communities of practice - or an explicit triple-loop harvest which focuses less on context specific outcomes but on what patterns might be ubiquitous in other contexts. 

Social Innovation Labs are highly creative places in which the outcome is unknown - in order the ground and centre this innovation work there is I feel a strong need to ground it in processes for nurturing positive inter-relations, open communications, feedback that is grounded in conversations that matter and a meta process that involves the group stepping back and evaluating and reflecting on the quality of their communication and relationship.

Social Lab Teams are typically smaller that a the kind of 'whole systems a room' events AOH tend to favour - however social labs always have the need to engage with a wider community of organisational stakeholders  - often from very diverse backgrounds: ultimately success of failure depends on the ability to inspire, empower and enable the agency of stakeholders to believe in themselves and ultimately take ownership of the initiative if is is to have a lasting impact.

During my research and networking I found that the same issues came up time and time again - issues that as AOH practitioners we may have something to offer: There's an appetite for training in dialogic processes: some of the issues that came up up include:

  • inviting and convening he people who need to be involved (diversity/cross-sector);
  • how to help people show up with their whole selves and be present;
  • creating a safe space where people can express be vulnerability;
  • holding open the divergent stage without rushing to a solution;
  • how to better engage stakeholders so they feel ownership;
  • managing energy (cadence) through the groan zone;
  • storytelling skills, telling the truth without blame of judgement;
  • listening with open heart, open mind and open will to what has heart and meaning;
  • handling difficult conversations;
  • creative problem solving, working around obstacles.
  • co-creating experiment and prototypes; (although I think the actual solution prototyping might be out of scope);
  • getting people into the mindset that repeated failure is an essential prerequisite for success;
  • better understating of systems thinking and working within Emergent and disruptive change in Complex Adaptive Human Systems (cynfin, HSD etc);
  • strategies and tactics for approaching wicked problems and the 'infinite game';
  • negotiating the tension between strategic commitment coupled with radical tactical flexibility - What can we learn from Agile?”;
  • how to leverage improvisation, spontaneity and authenticity;
  • facilitating participatory decision making processes;
  • creating a legacy of deep long lasting change.

Phew that's quite a list: far more that could be covered int a standard 3.5 day training. Maybe we'll just choose those things AOH is strongest - or who knows maybe we'll do a series and bring in other wise souls with deep experience in some of the more liminal areas.

I've purposefully left out action inquiry experimentation and prototyping which is at the heart of many social labs methodologies as well as triangulating multiple disciplines and perspectives.

The focus in my opinion should be on the the "we space", on radical collaboration through facilitated dialogue - the way the lab members can use process, rituals, ceremonies and agreed working practices to anchor their work in consistent collaborative way of working that will provide a foundation for their for their innovation work.

Many social labs practitioners are poorly paid, many are volunteers, many are part-time. So costs would have to be subsidised. I will be approaching various social lab networks and foundations with my proposal and supporting evidence. 

In the meantime if anyone feel inspired to contribute in any way to this initiative please shout - especially if anyone has ideas for funding!! Seriously anyone thats done at least on AOH 'basic' training is more than welcome to express an interest in contributing in anyway they feel able

Of course social innovation labs dot the globe - I don't know where physically we would convene it yet - depends where the demand is - probably somewhere in Europe or possibly the UK. 

Your feedback gratefully received. 

Felipe (aka Phil)

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