While the process design work will be finalized much closer to the conference, we know now that it will involve primarily a process known as Open Space, which is self-organized by all of us participants on site, in real time, with no pre-established workshops or keynotes (see http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-Openspace.html). We have chosen to use Open Space as our overall process because it encourages the emergence of unexpected breakthroughs.
Given the creative mix of people present, we know that story telling (of course!), music, movement, video, poetry, and art will be present. The conference opening will involve some mix of setting a shared context, storytelling, and connecting us all more deeply with ourselves, each other, and the whole that we form. In this work we will likely use World Café — which involves small cafe-like conversations, with occasional mixing of participants (see http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-worldcafe.html). There will naturally be lots of talking circles within and around both the Open Space and the World Cafe. During the evenings we expect many of us participants will socialize and share videos, performances, and stories that take us deeper, open our hearts to joy and sorrow, and inspire much co-creative juicy-ness.
We have a result in mind: We want this event to further the story field’s shift and, more importantly, to trigger a cascade of similar events and activities that involve more and more people — ultimately evolving into a whole-system CAPACITY that society as a whole uses to change its story field consciously, whenever it needs to. The path we take to achieve this shared goal will emerge from our work together.
CREATING A GENERATIVE SPACE
What will that work be like? Given the profound complexity of our society and of our current evolutionary situation, the story-shift we want cannot be approached as a linear task for which we can lay out an established plan or agenda. Nor do we want our conference to provide simply a sharing and learning space for all the people who are involved with aspects of this story-work. The hour is late, the evolutionary field is super-saturated, and we need breakthroughs — radical, unforeseen, powerful new channels for the special passion and competence of all of us participants and others like us out in the world.
So we seek to create a hospitable gathering space in which there is enough time and freedom for all our gifts and passions (a) to become visible to each other and the whole and (b) to creatively INTERACT in ways that allow for the inspirations, possibilities, and disturbances of one day to simmer and compost overnight and then emerge to evolve further the next day — day after day — for five full days and nights. In other words, we need an iterative feedback kind of process — unpredictable, emergent, intense — which is open to both frustration and magic, because frustration is so often a sign that something truly new and magical is trying to emerge. In short, we want a space where anything that needs to be born can be born among us rather than being squeezed out by a crowded agenda.
There is a risk, when we let go and open up like this, that things will not unfold with the power that we seek. But true transformation — moving into the unknown, open to what wants to emerge — seldom happens without risk and letting go. Our job as conveners and hosts — a job shared by all participants — is to invoke the personal passion, courage, and shared intention of those who come, as these factors are the primary organizing energies of Open Space. When they are alive in a group, they are profoundly generative.
So expect to be called into what YOU most care about. And expect surprises.
I’ve been brainstorming some possible kinds of sessions some of us might convene at our conference — according to our individual passions. This is just a brainstorm from my own imagination, to stir the pot. Although
2. Expert sharing and exploration of the facts, trends, and underlying principles related to a topic (money, community, war, technology, whatever), to enhance storytellers’ understanding of key realities and dynamics involved in the topic and the challenges faced by people working on it or with it. Hopefully this would leap-frog the research storytellers would need to do for their future stories.
3. Scenario-building and exploring sessions among scenario workers, experts, and storytellers interested in a how a particular topic (money, community, war, technology, whatever) might play out in various forms or future circumstances. I imagine this would be more or less systematic exploration of “if-then” alternative possibilities to flex our futuristic imaginations.
4. Exploring choices around topics, issues, worldviews — This could include deliberation about trade-offs involved with various options, values clarification exercises around moral choices, other forms of choice-work to clarify significant points of dynamic tension / struggle / bifurcation that could be articulated and worked over in stories.
5. Plotline and theme development – Shared exploration and development of specific plot or thematic ideas that individual storytellers or collaborations are eager to pursue or might find juicy to work with. I’d particularly enjoy seeing diverse storytellers collaborating to create multiple plot-lines under the umbrella of one complex futuristic vision.
6. Characterization exploration – what roles, personality types, struggles, subcultures, etc. are particularly relevant in stories intended to influence the story field in positive directions? (e.g., new heros, the role of collectives, generation gaps, challenges faced by ordinary people, evolutionary agentry, roles that readers/viewers can actually live into, etc.) These sessions would expand storytellers’ sense of how to have impact through how they choose, combine, and handle their characters.
7. Case studies and specific possibilities – especially demonstrating unique approaches to storytelling — examples of the kinds of effective story work that people are doing or envisioning — in terms of stories told, media used, imagineering work, unusual storytelling situations or contexts, program designs, etc.
8. Media how-to sessions – how to do different forms of story-telling — verbal, documentaries, journalism, PR, etc. Introductory nuts and bolts, or in-depth shop talk by pros for pros (or both, in fishbowl format, perhaps).
9. Multi-modality – Exploring ways to synergize diverse story, artistic, and/or promotional media and modalities, or how to build more effective multi-modal story-centered programs.
10. Using stories as an organizing tool – How to engage people in social change and evolutionary activity using stories created, stories shared, stories broadcast, etc. Here we’re looking specifically at what citizens / ordinary people / professionals / etc. are DOING because of or through their engagement with stories. I like to imagine, for example, networks of ordinary people generating story material for professional storytellers, or sharing ideas about how to mine existing networks, forums, and data sources for such material. It would include activist storytelling. It would feature people changing their lives because of sharing, reading, viewing, telling stories (including living into imagineering stories individually or together) — and how to organize to enable that to happen more over the long-term.
11. Resource, incentive and support approaches – I’m not thinking here about individual stories having an impact. I’m thinking: “How do we empower the story field movement?” What resources or conditions might increase the likelihood that creative story-related activities would be powerful enough to actually impact the story field? How would these be designed and used for optimum effect, for both the short term and the long-term. This could include issues around money, subculture, technology and tools, references, gatherings, ongoing network activities, support groups, market creation, public policy, new institutions, etc. Engaging the gifts of philanthropists, venture capitalists, geeks, agents and producers, organizers, network-builders, facilitators, psychologists, politicians, etc.
12. Collaborations – Planning actual story work together, based on any, many, or all of the above. Who is called to work with whom on what? Who else should be brought in?
13. Celebration and delight. Sharing our gifts and stories for the pure fun of it.
14. What could a story field movement ALSO be?