“Who Shall Survive?” Can we survive? Maybe.

War and climate change crisis are on my mind. I am cynical and despairing most of the time with respect to these issues, but I want to share thoughts that give me some hope! Maybe they will inspire you and us as a community.

How a small group can impact a large community!

Small groups, well facilitated have a level of insights to truth that is quite unlike what is common in community meetings or in parliaments and so on. Whatever mode of facilitation is used in a group, however the group is seated, whatever methods are used, small groups can access human depth. Often this is for personal development or training. There is always an important step that happens before a group meets. The group’s statement of purpose and scope is created. Who can attend the group. What its bounds of privacy are. What are the expected outcomes? This aspect of group design is vital!

The importance of the broad frame, and how innovative we can be in its creation came home to me through my interested in Wisdom Councils. These were developed by Jim Rough, who uses a method called Dynamic Facilitation. The purpose and frame of these groups is radically different from groups I am used to. The inner working of the group is familiar, but its context is profoundly different. He adds or emphasises some important dimensions that may not have been developed in the Morenian sphere of influence.

1. Microcosm and macrocosm

1. A group can be designed to be a microcosm of a larger community. Random selection from the larger group may be one way to achieve this. Note this is not representation, people are in small groups in their own right, authentically themselves. A small group, working for a longer time, in depth is working for the whole community. Not because the community has chosen them, or even know about them, but because of the principle of isomorphism between the part and the whole.

The small group carries the diversity of the whole within it. Resolutions in the small group are likely to be acceptable to the whole.

2. Purpose related to larger organisation.

The purpose of the group may be to present wisdom or insights to the larger community. The group may have a topic, in the pure Wisdom Council the topics arise from the group, when the group has a specific topic “Creative Insight Council” or CIC is used. Just how to relate the group to the larger community is part of the design of the group, and it would be clear in the purpose statement.

3. Planning the group in its context

Preparation of the larger community and its connection to the group is part of the design. Jim Rough has advocated that a Wisdom council be enshrined in the constitution, as a voice for “We the People”, and they can also be on a much smaller scale. A group could be formed by randomly selecting 12 willing participants from an organisation of 200 people. The group could have a specific topic for example: “How to best use available assets.” How to promote such an event, fund it, and host it is all part of the preparation and plan.

4. Presentation of the findings.

This needs to be clear from the start, so that privacy concerns are addressed and not breached. What is the plan for publication of groups breakthrough statements, if there are any? Follow up meetings where the group presents its insights? Web presence, during and after the event, is there a blog? Who can post? Twitter? Media involvement? Video, podcasts and movies?

Through my sociometric * eye it occurs to me that the whole of Jim’s work fits within the sociometric frame work. I am exited to think that all these matters are highly sociometric, and the Wisdom Council and CIC approach could well be a way in which the original sociometry as a form of scientific social investigation of working with society at large can be furthered. The ability to do create such a group for a larger whole needs to be part of a sociometrists ability.

The key understanding I have from this reflection on the relationship between Wisdom Councils and the groups we are used to in psychodramatic circles is that we can consciously identify the larger organisation as a group that is being served by a small intensive microcosm of itself. It is a group within a group. The small group’s work is to the larger community, as is the work of a protagonist in the small group. Isomorphy within systems is leveraged to work at great depth with groups that would otherwise have no voice.

Members of a wisdom council work authentically on their own concerns, they are not representatives, they need only present their own thoughts and feelings and act only in accordance with the dictates of their own heart. Systemic resonance between wholes and parts are already part of the sociometric systemic understandings we have and heightening that awareness and finding ways to make use of that would be a great step. Fits well with the theme of “Who Shall Survive?”

I am interested in how you see this as a form of sociometric work. Have you had experiences that bear on these ideas? How might we take this further in the community and in our own organisation?

From the ANZPA Training and Standards Manual:

A sociometrist intervenes in social systems and organisations from a basis of research data provided by informal or formal sociometric surveys of groups. The interventions are usually directly related to organisational structure. The sociometrist makes use of abilities in research, negotiation, consultation and strategic planning, to relate to group structures in clinical, educational, community, industrial, commercial, political, economic, religious and international affairs. The purpose is to facilitate group task effectiveness and membership satisfaction.

Related Links:
Moreno’s “Who Shall Survive?”
Sociometry on Wikipedia
Wisdom Councils
Dynamic Facilitation
Diana Jones’ Sociometry page
Anne Hale’s Sociometry site

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