This is the online stream for sharing conversations that happened throughout the Greater Bay Area from March through June 2012 around the question:

How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone?

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Skillful Design

Thanks to everyone who came to our soft kick-off last Thursday! We’re in the process of putting up notes, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a few thoughts from a meeting designer point-of-view.

One of the things I love about working with this community is that everyone is so skillful in thinking about how to create great learning environments. Some of the things I do at meetings can feel foreign and scary for some of my clients who are more accustomed to staid, theater-style lectures. With this group, design is a generative process, and I’ve already learned a lot from all of you. It’s one of the reasons I feel so confident in trusting the group to design its own conversations and to see what emerges.

Here are five examples of design-on-the-fly that happened last Thursday, where members of the Design Team really took ownership of the process:

1, When we did the timeline exercise in the morning, Louise Music suggested that we add a See-Think-Wonder reflection with the group, which comes straight out of the Teaching for Understanding framework. It required some shuffling of the schedule on the fly to fit it in, but I’m so glad we did it. The discussion was rich, and it allowed us to model a framework that is already integral to this community.

2. Rica Anderson invited Melanie De More to do a musical improv exercise to help kick-off the morning. A few minutes before we got started, I approached Melanie and asked her what she planned on doing with us. She smiled, and said, “I don’t know yet. It’ll come to me.” Boy, did it ever.

The exercise completely shifted the energy of the group. It got us smiling and laughing, and it also created a visceral sense of oneness.

3. We decided to integrate our visioning exercise with the quilting exercise that is part of Arts IS Education month. However, because of time constraints, we had to modify the exercise some. Fortunately, Violet Juno, who’s been leading these exercises for Arts IS Education month, was at the meeting. We literally spoke for about five minutes before the exercise, which led to a slight redesign. Violet also led the exercise for us, and she did it so smoothly, integrating it with some of the changes we wanted to make.

4. At the end of the quilting exercise, Rachel Osajima suggested that we take a group picture while everyone was already up. It may seem like a minor thing, but group pictures are one of the most powerful artifacts from events, and they are also one of the biggest pains to coordinate, which is why many groups often eschew them.

5. I was going to end the meeting with one-word checkouts, but Rica Anderson had a better suggestion, again courtesy of Melanie De More:

All of these are great examples not just of participants taking ownership of the design, but doing so skillfully. I hope to see a lot more of this in the ensuing months as people bring these conversations into their own meetings.