As a graphic recorder or facilitator, how do you “Listen for Diversity”? Many of us are working in specialized fields and it’s not one size fits all. Now for the first time, you can read expert advice from over 20 visual practitioners.
I wanted the workshop to include as many voices as possible – including people who aren’t able to make this year’s conference, and to amplify what’s working for practitioners. So before the workshop, I reached out to the graphic recording community for insights.
The responses are grouped by five themes:
self-reflection and diversity
diversity of perspectives
graphic recording as a participatory process.
Diversity comes in infinite forms — race, gender, cultures, age, and abilities to just name a few. As visual practitioners, it’s a great time to start a conversation.
Images were scribed/graphic recorded by participants of the Listening for Diversity workshop session unless otherwise noted.
As many graphic recorders noted, listening for diversity isn’t just about the people in the room, it’s about what we bring to the room – that is, we need to question our own biases and assumptions, and even how we conceive of our role. As Anthony queries, is it just about creating a visual record of events or about intervening? Having our peers record our work could also enable us to step back and look at our facilitation through someone else’s eyes. Only through critical self-reflection, will we be better equipped to listen for diversity.
In order to represent diversity in ways that advance it, create change, equity & inclusion, we ourselves need to be able to see what we are not seeing… We must question our assumptions and seek to understand what things mean to others, what made them so, and what is really their impact as visual practitioners … We all know that it’s hard to understand what we can’t see and our gift is to help folks see. – Claudia Lopez
When I worked with communities in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side on a potential redevelopment of the Woodward’s Building (which was then occupied by squatters), we engaged with many people marginalized by homelessness, poverty, addictions, and/or mental illness. In facilitation, we sought to respect their passions, their own vision for a better future, and to meet them where they were (literally and \). Checking my own preconceptions, attitudes and biases was vital for me to be open and credible- they had to trust me enough to share their (often very private) aspirations so that I could capture their ideas visually. – Drew Ferrari
Is there a better way for everyone to be heard? I think it’s a really good idea for us to have our own conversations drawn by someone else. – Aaron Johannes
As an Indigenous, mixed race facilitator (with many other identities) I notice how often marginalized groups are described by those who don’t belong to the group… What words do they use to describe themselves? [I also] notice my own tone of voice, body language, [and] who I direct my comments to. Make an effort to scan the room, make eye contact with various contributors. – Tiare Jung, with Drawing Change
How we present images on a page says everything about who WE are, how we see the world, and how we instantiate the biases, dominant points of view, and commonly-held reference points in our work. It’s a subjective business–and our subjectivity is both our Achilles heel as well as our calling card. It all depends on how we interrogate it, play with it, and use it to help groups and teams see their conversation. My suggestions are not prescriptive, but rather, borne out of inquiry. Do we have a role in “signal boosting” voices that are not usually heard? Do we have a role in saying directly to groups: “These are the voices I’m hearing…but what other voices need to be heard here?” What might we offer by embracing the role of “artist” and see the world differently, in contrast to the time-honored tradition of “capturing” only what is heard? – Anthony Weeks
2. Visualizing diversity
One of the surprising outcomes of the survey, was the number of excellent and thoughtful techniques about how to visualize or draw diversity! Given the nature of our work, it makes sense that we are also translators or interpreters – we put on paper what we hear. So, it’s important to consider how we put diversity to paper.
Drawing diversity is a prickly, tricky subject for some recorders…I try to go for a light touch. It’s entirely possible to draw diverse people by making slight changes in the shapes of faces, noses, eyes and clothing. I try to avoid drawing “costumes” if that’s not what people wear in everyday life. I’ve also done a trick where I draw the country flag or country flag colors in the body of the person to show German or Chinese or French people. I think it’s good to be conscious of your visual biases when you draw.– Deb Aoki
When dealing with diversity issues, sometimes it’s best to put the pen into the group’s hands. Let them reflect on issues through facilitated exercises, drawing exercises, templates, etc. We’re only one person in the room. Sometimes it’s more powerful to let someone else draw. – Sophia Liang
To visualize diversity in a meeting, I ask participants to describe attributes of a successfully diverse team that they have served on or participated in. I draw a group of diverse people on a flip chart and add the words they offer up. I refer to this diversity chart throughout the course of the meeting. – Heather Martinez
We always introduce ourselves as visual practitioners and tell people it is very important to us that we get the images and words correct, then we show them our ‘delete key’ or ‘chart Band-Aids (large silver backed labels) so we can change anything on the chart, so please tell us if we have got anything wrong so we can correct it! – Rob Benn
I ask the participants to come to me during the breaks and tell me what they feel should be added. I also do couple of speech bubbles to note down different points of view. I note down also fun moments/random comments – this works amazingly well for the participants to feel connected to the recording. I also try to create a complex picture that makes sense as a whole (e.g. road to somewhere, a scene, a street in the city with different buildings around), but it always has to be connected with what is being spoken about. – Bea Broskova
I want to reflect the people in the room, so I try to look at the actual people present, and draw who I see. It has also helped me to study photos online of different ethnic groups, to practice learning ways to draw different types of people quickly, but in a manner that is (I hope) respectful. When I introduce myself, I let people know anything I write or draw can be changed. I encourage people to let me know if they feel mis-heard or mis-represented by anything on the chart, and to tell me in the moment or on a break and I will change it. – Emily Shepard
One big AHA moment I’ve had is to acknowledge the “white space”…the space where people didn’t have ideas, or realized more thought was needed. One particular event comes to mind. At the end of one session, there was the dreaded “vacuum of white space” that I didn’t know how to fill. The truth was that the group didn’t have as many ideas of HOW to execute their vision as they did on WHAT was their vision. So I put dashed lines around it, and labelled it “more discussion needed on how to build the archive”. It was actually really effective, especially when compared to other graphics of the day, which were full of diverse ideas and concepts. – Yolanda Liman
Let’s spread and integrate new terms in our visual vocabulary: symbols for different ways of reduced mobility, gender, colour… – KSt
I’m hosting a session called Listening for Diversity at the 2017 International Forum of Visual Practitioners conference this June. I’m excited to hear from as many graphic recorders and graphic facilitators as possible about this topic – so if you are not headed to IFVP 2017 I also want to hear your tips.
You’re invited to participate in three ways:
Spend 5 – 10 minutes on this survey (click the link)
Be interviewed in a short video (1-2 minutes – click the link to sign up)
Participate in a 10-12 person fishbowl discussion about diversity during the workshop, or NOMINATE someone (click the link to sign up)
I’ll compile everyone’s contributions and share them back to the field afterwards. You’ll get to hear what other practitioners are doing, and what is the learning edge for what is coming next. Answers will be edited for length.
Not ready to click to the survey yet? need to know more?
Picture an iceberg – what we draw is only what’s on the surface. We can support diversity in our drawings, and there’s also an opportunity to go even deeper.
I’m curious about questions/ideas such as:
– “When I find myself in an unfamiliar context, I get ready and find resources to help me by…”
– “I didn’t know how to draw xyz, and I learned that drawing xyz this way is important because …”
– “The power of the pen is also about what is unsaid – and I listen for … ”
– “I am a member of this ______ group, and I wish other practitioners would draw ME as ….”
– “I mentor someone with lived experience to co-graphic record with me in specific communities. Has anyone else done this, and what did you notice?”
What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Will it help someone else? Share it here:
Sophia Liang from Graphic Footprints and I are also teaching a pre-conference class called “Towards Mastery” at this year’s IFVP conference, for participants with at least 3+ years experience. Spots are filling up and you can sign up here: http://2017.ifvp.org/agenda/. See you there!
And, there’s a fantastic list of professional development opportunities during the pre-conference – including lettering, building 3-D displays, becoming a FUNdamental facilitator, and more. Hard to pick just one!
Graphic Facilitation Workshop Description: Towards Mastery
This workshop is focused on emerging visual practitioners with 3-5 years experience to advance their core visual skills and deepen their business development knowledge. Our accelerated workshop (evening + 1 day session) is tailored to meet participant’s goals and is set in a highly participatory, peer-based learning environment. Passionate about continuous improvement and learning, Sophia and Sam will bring different facilitation techniques, a balance of theory and practice, and new tools to take your career to the next level.
A prequalifying survey is required to determine eligibility for the workshop. If you’re just starting out, we’d recommend the IFVP signature workshop GR 101 (Graphic Recording 101) instead.
When: June 19th – 5:00 pm to 9:00 pmand June 20th – 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (we’re having dinner the night before, together)
Where: Decatur/ Atlanta, Georgia USA
Why: annual IFVP conference is a don’t miss-event!
Sometimes I’ll get a call from a client who says: “I don’t know what you do, but I’m told that I need you.” And it’s true. You might not know that you need graphic facilitation, just like you didn’t know you were hungry until you had a snack.
But those same clients will stand next to my images during the meeting and say – “yes, that’s exactly what I meant.”
Graphic recorders and facilitators listen deeply, and record what is said using text and pictures. Drawing out ideas live helps groups break through their existing paradigms and see connections. We create images that help groups learn together, connect, and lead.
Marketing what we do
Marketing graphic facilitation is often really easy: a picture is worth a thousand words. We have challenges in our marketing, too. We get asked: “Are you an artist? Will you come draw my wedding?” or “Do you doodle for a living?” No, not really. We’re not artists inventing images or doodling without purpose – we are skilled consultants where every mark is meaningful. We’re there to help groups tap into their hidden wisdom, by making it visible. And that’s a tricky thing to market.
On the plus side, it’s easy to share images on social media (when not confidential) and add to a conversation in real-time online. I market my graphic facilitation and graphic recording services by having great meetings. Participants experience the impact that visuals make in meetings of two people to 900 plus.
Graphic facilitation makes a difference for groups because it:
Synthesizes large amounts of information clearly
Helps with memory retention during the meeting
Is a tool for reflection at strategic points
Starts conversation at breaks and on social media
Keeps the conversation going afterwards, because there’s an engaging summary to share.
Displaying them in gathering spaces for everyone to enjoy.
Marketing joint services
Graphic facilitators and non-visual facilitators can be great partners. Together, you can provide better value for the client than either partner could do alone. Personally, I’m interested in using graphic facilitation to help groups think through problems. Here are some ways to pair up with a graphic facilitator or graphic recorder.
Do you need to facilitate a company vision? Bring in a graphic recorder to help the group think differently. What if the room was surrounded by brightly coloured visuals that inspired participants to see what was possible?
Do you need to engage the public at an open house, and you’re deeply bored of post-it note exercises? What if your team had a graphic facilitator, to ask questions of the passerby and draw out ideas, so people could see they had been heard?
Do you have a 200-page report of the new strategic plan you facilitated for three months? You need an eye-catching graphic that summarizes the report on one page.
Are you working with vulnerable communities? Graphic facilitation can map out someone’s personal story (such as experiences with homelessness), and it can recognize and validate their experiences. Graphic facilitation can synthesise a lot of information, but it can also help us lead with our hearts and tap into something deeper.
Finding a great fit
Graphic facilitators and graphic recorders are often asked to recommend a great facilitator and vice versa. Both parties want a good fit, and it’s not always about location. Clarify roles and approaches.
When hiring graphic facilitators to work with you, does the group need someone with “outside ears” to listen for plain language and clarity, or is it better to have a subject matter expert who will understand the nuances? Our professional association is IFVP.org and there you can find practitioners worldwide using the handy map directory.
Different approaches to marketing in the visual field
Like non-visual facilitators, there are practitioners in many places. Most are solo practitioners or consultants, and some are facilitators with full-time jobs who also use graphic facilitation tools in their jobs.
Some practitioners rely on word-of-mouth, some people bid on RFPs and some lead with facilitation and then bring in visuals in many aspects of their practice (pre-drawing timelines, using templates for group work, Visual Explorer Cards, etc).
I love that feeling when I leave a great meeting. People are fired up from the inside out. They feel heard, and they’re truly communicating. Bring visuals – and snacks! – to your meeting to make this happen.
* * * * * * * *
Thanks to Monique Walsh at the IAF and The Global Flipchart who reached out to me. The Global Flipchart is IAF’s quarterly magazine about the power of facilitation – made by members, for members. Contact the editorial team by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post by emerging graphic recorder Tiaré Jung. Tiaré has been working on fantastic projects with Drawing Change this year. Enjoy these insights into graphic recording as a tool for change! – Sam
In 2016, I was thrilled to begin working with Drawing Change as a graphic recorder, with Sam Bradd as my mentor. I have worked as a facilitator and graphic artist for 7+ years and it is exciting to combine these skills to offer a dynamic tool.
In this guest post, I will share a few samples about how I use graphic recording: I make images that draw connections between people and ideas. I’ve noticed that reflecting group processes, right in front of people, enables individuals to better build off the group energy and feel excited about the impact of their work. I also like to work with clients to create images for their meetings. Instead of drawing live with graphic recording, I work in my studio to create posters. This gives the client an engaging framework and also helps them meet their goals.
A sample of highlights from 2016 include capturing a panel discussion for CBC Radio 1, engaging community members at a City of Edmonton’s open house consultation, and preparing a poster for the Elizabeth Fry Society to orient staff.
Panel Discussion with CBC Radio: live graphic recording
CBC Radio 1 recently hosted their 30th annual food bank drive. Since 2008, food bank use in British Columbia has risen by 30%. CBC Radio hosted a panel discussion with a government representative, community members, and professionals who work in food banks, food security, and poverty reduction. The panel addressed, “how does such a wealthy province come to have 99 food banks,” and what changes would end poverty and increase quality of life for all British Columbians.
My role was to reflect a variety of perspectives from the panelists. The moderator asked a question, I listened to the panelists respond and organized their ideas on my 7 foot by 4 foot poster. I created a visual map that follows the non-linear conversation to create transparency and understanding of a complex issue. The CBC featured my work online and in this video.
Public Consultation with City of Edmonton
The Coliseum in Edmonton is the former home of hockey championship games, rich with the nostalgia of the Edmonton Oilers and their victories. With a new hockey arena in Rogers Place, the Coliseum is open for repurposing. The City hosted a consultation to explore diverse community needs and desires.
After participants visited different stations prompting them to imagine what the new Coliseum could be used for, they arrive at my canvas. Myself and a collaborator from the City of Edmonton asked, what is your vision for the Coliseum? We prompted community members to imagine the possibilities, and grouped their responses with other sets of common values. The graphic recording summarizes how they might use the space. When participants view the entire canvas, they can resonate with others’ ideas, or see different interests. The image is a mural of ideas and a summary of visioning and next steps.
Elizabeth Fry Society: Training Poster, drawn in studio
The Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver (EFry) provides support for socially excluded women and girls faced with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. To meet a gap of resources, EFry is designing a site in Surrey that will include shelters, housing, and health care services. I created this poster to interface between the women and children being served and the health care providers training to support them. The women were invited to participate in a consultation. Using the feedback they provided in the consultation, I created a poster to train and orient healthcare staff to the experiences, needs, and desires of their clients. Health care professionals have the opportunity to learn about their clients and approach their work with context and cultural sensitivity. I featured women with brown skin and a variety of radicalized features based on the knowledge that over 1/3 of the clients are Aboriginal. The poster is a platform for those whose voices are marginalized to share stories, while protecting their confidentiality and vulnerability.
I’m excited about 2017, and what new graphic recording projects are ahead! Do you think images could help your event or project? Get in touch with Drawing Change at drawingchange.com.
I was recently asked a great question by !Kona: “When you think of all the conversations where you are present as a graphic recording witness, do you have any current large scale thoughts about human nature, communication, or wants and desires?” As graphic recorders and graphic facilitators, we’re privileged to work in fascinating sessions, but it’s often behind closed doors.
So, I asked a dozen of my visual practitioner colleagues for their insights:
What did you notice about human nature or communication in 2016?
We agree that we’re headed into a VUCA world – characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Responses to VUCA can include authenticity, anxiety and change, clarity, and being good to each other. Here’s 12 insights into what we noticed.
Credit: Innah Wulandari, Flickr
“I recently worked with a struggling board intent on setting new cultural norms to be more effective. Several members were new, and the board chair was hoping to build a more “leader full” organization, in preparation for succession. One thing was clear:
this group needed to have honest conversations.
Through a couple of walking talks in alternating groups of three, members were asked to discuss “What expectations do team members have of each other – what is important?” and then “What do you think we should be able to count on from one another?” We walked in one direction with the first question and walked back with the second. We debriefed both conversations in our session space with members highlighting themes and epiphanies. Success for this team came back to being seen, to building trust, and to naming and committing to certain actions and expectations – raising the standard, so to speak. They were empowered by these authentic conversations with each other, and now each feel seen and heard in a new way.”
VUCA as a FRAMEWORK to UNDERSTAND ANXIETY and CHANGE
“Clearly the patterns are out in the wider world. In your invitation to answer, you hit on the two biggest themes in my work this year:
1. There is no doubt now we are in a VUCA world.
2. We strive to feel we have a voice and we seek connection and understanding.
I have heard the term VUCA come up explicitly as a framework to understand the anxiety and change we’re all navigating. In other events, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity were certainly described, if not named. When the concept of VUCA is shared, I sense the relief in the room of “Oh, I’m not alone in feeling anxious.”
While a VUCA world may feel abstract and insurmountable and abstract, participants are describing the antidote: having a voice, listening and connecting with each other. The individual, human scale of life and how we use our own voice, empower others to find and use their voice and listen to each other.”
“Themes I’ve noticed around communication are (1) the need to understand people on a deeper level… to identify our needs/talents/perspectives and how it all interconnects into the bigger picture; and (2) that this understanding needs to be genuine. These are themes I heard echoed across the board at meetings – from rural community planning to large tech conferences.
Being able to better understand each other means communicating clearly and precisely. Corporate and government “speak” is being trimmed away for real conversations. Where it was once considered professional to use formal corporate language or meeting design, there’s a realization that such language and approaches only serves the small few who work with it. It’s no less professional or serious to communicate in a way that is clear, precise, and most of all, engaging.
Visual communication is gradually replacing text-based communication because it’s more effective at clearly and precisely communicating an idea and connecting with the viewer on a genuine level. We’re seeing it in everything from emoticons in texting, to organizations placing greater value on infographics, graphic recording, animations, etc. Visuals explain ideas more quickly, and most importantly, the emotion behind the idea. It’s a human way of communicating.
Meetings are also evolving — there’s a recognition that integrating new ways of hosting a meeting, such as integrating play, humour, and the environment of the meeting (windows! fresh air!), are all incredibly valuable to initiating deeper conversations and connections. These things are often seen as “fluff” and “childish” but, similar to the shift to using visuals and less corporate speak, this is how we can understand and connect to one another on a deeper level. The “soft stuff” is the real catalyst for change.”
“Like Anthony, I’ve also noticed a focus on “how do we prepare for a future we can’t predict?” in the conversations I’ve graphically recorded this year. We never could predict the future, but it’s become almost impossible to predict what will happen next week, let alone in two, or ten years. A VUCA world indeed, filled with disruptive forces – technological, political, social – that change the game at every turn. While I hear a lot of anxiety about the first half of VUCA (Volatility and Uncertainty), there is less understanding of how to deal with the second half – Complexity and Ambiguity – because we tend to focus on “solving problems” rather than address messy systems. We need to spend more time on C and A, in order to navigate the V and U.
For instance, I have been thinking a lot about the need for clarity in our complex, ambiguous, and often highly abstract world. We’ve all been in meetings where people talk enthusiastically about things like leadership, sustainability, accountability, innovation, engagement, and so on. But what do they mean? My idea of leadership might be radically different from yours; while a government official’s idea of engagement might be at odds with that of a disability activist.
We operate daily, at a level of abstraction that goes unquestioned, because we don’t see how subjective these terms are, and how open they are to different interpretations.
This lack of clarity leads to confusion and makes us ineffective. If we don’t have a shared understanding of sustainability, for example, how will we ever get there? At a more sinister level, lack of clarity can be downright dangerous. The American public just elected a president who ran on the biggest abstraction of all: “Make America Great Again” – a phrase that probably means something different to different people. What happens when someone who translates it as “Make America White Again” comes into contact with someone who envisions a “great” America as welcoming diversity and inclusion? We’re already seeing the fallout from that.
So I’m making it my mission as a graphic facilitator to put myself in service of clarity. I will be pushing people, at meetings I work in, to go beyond their abstractions. I will ask questions like: What does that concept look like on the ground? How does it play out in action? How would you describe it to someone outside this room? In this small way, we can help bring fuzzy thinking into clearer focus, thereby helping those with good intentions to be more effective in their actions – and reducing the power of those with questionable intentions by exposing them for what they are.”
“In 2016 I’ve been drawing mostly in three different environments – with people with disabilities on how leadership works for them in their lives, groups and communities, teaching in Douglas College’s Disability and Community Studies faculty, and supporting non-profits in organizational development. Much of this has been with my colleague, Liz Etmanski.
The “big thought” that seems to connect these events is the clarity of invitation that we support.
Someone is saying: I want you to be here, I want to know what you think, I want to know what matters to you, and so do we all. Really.
Drawing people’s conversations “speaks” this as an action (it’s too easy to just say it, and people have heard it to death). With Liz as a co-graphic facilitator, it’s as if those groups and spaces have been waiting for someone like her to enter those rooms: I do want you to be here, I do want to know what you think, I do want to know what matters to you… and so do we all. Often she is the only person with a disability in the room, playing a facilitative role they have not witnessed a person with a disability playing before. I try to explain what I’m thinking about this to Liz and she listens as carefully as she always does and says, “Well, we already knew that.” “What did we know?” “That.” She goes back to drawing. One day I will know what she means. Then, later that day as we draw someone comes up, obviously surprised at her presence, and asks, “Do you have Down Syndrome?” I tense up, defensive on her behalf, but she just leans in and gently says, “A lot of people say that to me, but I prefer the term ‘artist.’” She beams. They beam. We continue on course, drawing, coming together to fill each other with light. That’s what she means.”
It seems to me that virtually every dialogue leads back to some very basic human needs/wants. Human nature doesn’t change so much as the context within which we live does. It’s said that we live in a VUCA world, a “post truth era”, a time when communication is instant, constant, and social. The internet serves as a representation of, or a window into our collective intelligence/consciousness. It’s now easy to witness on the web how the context within which we live is changing our beliefs and behaviors. For example, an academic in my meeting last week cited a recent study of young adults, the majority of which responded that democracy is “not that important to my life.”
Last week, I also mapped a dialogue with 7 street people who talked about how they had benefited from certain programs. This was perhaps the most beautiful conversation I’ve ever mapped because the truths they surfaced are so simple.
Human nature leads us back to the same desires. We all:
Need a sense of safety
Need a sense of belonging, hope and connection
Want to have dignity and be treated with respect
Want to feel special, valued, unique
Want to have a voice
Depend on each other for love, kindness and compassion
Regardless of where the world is now, or where it goes, regardless of whether you express it on the internet, in Arabic, or in braille, we all possess one great power – that’s the ability to be good to each other in recognition of our interconnectedness.
When I think of the work and the conversations I’ve been a part of this year, many have focused on future thinking and forecasting. Part of thinking about the future is “looking back to look forward.” How does history inform our view of the future? Are we attentive listeners to the past? Are we willing to learn from history in order to shape more humane and collaborative futures? What do artifacts and relics tell us about the futures we might shape?
I took this photo of a rusted-out, abandoned pay phone when I was in the rural Midwest in August 2016. I wasn’t particularly nostalgic for pay phones. However, the image did make me think about technology and the notion of “progress.” We shape technology, but our technologies also shape us.
In an “always on, always connected” world where we are ostensibly never lost, never offline, and never lacking in tools that enable us to connect anytime anywhere, what have we forgotten about a time when a roadside pay phone was our only portal to connectivity? What do we miss?
I miss the intentionality of finding a pay phone to make a call, of asking myself “who do I NEED to call right now?” I miss the preparedness that comes with remembering actual phone numbers and carrying enough change. I miss the resourcefulness we needed when our options weren’t as plentiful and when we were required to rely on amenities in physical space.
It’s easy to celebrate technology as a godsend. It’s easy to remember times as the “bad old days” when we didn’t have modern technologies. I’m more interested in remembering how we managed without such wondrous and advanced technologies. Nostalgia is useful when we are humble about “progress” and realize that limitations often forced us to make thoughtful choices.
If you had a pocketful of change and one pay phone in the middle of nowhere, who would you call? That’s when you become keenly aware of who and what is important.
– Anthony Weeks, email@example.com
image by Kelvy Bird
“We have a longing to belong and know our place in the seeming order of things. Whether to exist in the context of family or tribe, find meaning in our work, or be at one in the natural world – our species seem at a loss when upended, uprooted. Survival instinct kicks in as the reactionary limbic system comes online, and thoughtful exchange seems harder to access, even though connection is one of the most basic human instincts. We open and close, like morning glories on a vine, with light and dark.
Our challenge now, in these unsteady times, is to find new muscles of resiliency to greet others, ourselves, and the planet with the kind of welcome embrace we, ourselves, would want.
“I’ve been stewing today on a comment Tom Friedman made during an interview about his new book, Thank You For Being Late, that relates to your observation.
He said because of the increasing isolation that’s ironically created by everyone being digitally connected and the pace of acceleration, there will be a growth of jobs in the future that are all about creating community and togetherness. He gave the example of paint by numbers parties for groups that are happening (is this just in San Francisco?) where people get together and drink wine and paint a preprinted canvas. A little bit silly, but the point was that people are hungry and will become more hungry for opportunities to be together and in community face to face.
I certainly feel this hunger with the groups I work with – the hunger to anchor to one conversation, to be together, to be allowed to connect. As things speed up, people need to slow down and be given space and permission to do that.”
“I hear and see uncertainty and also a collective longing for certainty, even if it’s simply a collective agreement that there is none. I see deep organizational inquiry, with a focus on individuals and relationships, and on the psychology of belonging, the value of culture, and the importance of building, nurturing and sustaining the systems that enable people to work with and for one another on a day-to-day basis. There’s also an awareness of the tenuousness of our lives, and that the ground beneath our feet might give way at any moment. People are looking around, and in most instances, really seeing (or at least trying to) the people in their organizations and their communities as extensions of themselves. There is a shadow here. The opposite is happening as well – and this tension is visible on a national scale in countries all over the world.
There has been more emphasis on the value of Trust this year than in the past. How do we gain it, hold it, and sustain it? Responsibility has also come up – responsibility to and for each other, our communities, our organizations – as well as, the critical need for increased experimentation. These things all feel deeply interwoven.
I continue to see a shift in the way people understand both themselves and their teams/organizations – increasingly thinking in terms of elastic and dynamic ecosystems. On the shadow side, I see people grasping at old structures and supports, out of misplaced hope and/or desperation. Some still believe that the boat we rode in on will weather the storm.”
“What I noticed about communication and human nature is…
1. People meet more and more to talk with each other, not at each other. They appreciate seeing what emerges from the whole and the potential for others to do good.
2. People ask for help to make concepts simple enough to understand and help others notice where to start taking action.
3. People are being told to innovate, and the people doing the telling often resist using their own power to change the structures and systems that hold the current ways in place.
4. People need freedom to express themselves, be seen, and contribute. They acknowledge that others do, too, and they are motivated by anger, injustice, and exclusion to to change things so others feel a sense of belonging to community and are empowered to contribute.
5. People also feel afraid to look at or change their own behaviour, beliefs, assumptions, and language to bring about the changes they seek for society. See #3 above.
Essentially, what I noticed is people value freedom, community, and contribution for themselves and others. They are getting smarter at seeing, understanding, and communicating big picture context and concepts and where work needs to be done. Where they need a little help is in the everyday acts of human nature, embracing the courage and will to bring about the changes they seek.
If I stop noticing here, I may reinforce the very thing I’m pointing at, perhaps with a little judgment thrown in, too. If what I am noticing in meetings reflects a global request for others to change, then it is also an invitation to witness my Self and lead with heart from here.”
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that whether it is an international meeting, a government meeting, or a grassroots gathering, people are looking for three things: community, increased capacity, and better communication. As a graphic recorder and facilitator, I try to tune my listening into those things. And recently I’ve noticed that there is a deeper, spiritual level: it is also about belonging, and our connection or disconnection to the land.
Understanding the values belonging and the land can help us make decisions, and inform how we treat each other. When I get stuck, or need guidance, I can ask myself: is this a step towards more belonging? Is this a step towards healing the land?
Land and belonging shows up everywhere. The One Health model in international public health makes these connections and conflicts clear – humans, animals and the environment are interdependent. Land and belonging were also key themes at an Indigenous youth life promotion (suicide prevention) international gathering. Youth named that their healing came from being reconnected to culture, and being with elders out on the land learning traditional ways. At a session in a big city, social service agencies were struggling to support isolated, frail seniors who have worse health outcomes. We can treat it as a health problem – or a community problem: how do soaring housing costs impact lower income seniors to move out, or to not feel welcome in their own, changing neighbourhoods? And belonging and land collide where I live on the unceded Indigneous territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh: What types of resource extraction projects can happen here underneath the unceded city and who decides? Who are your leaders and whose voices do you privilege? On whose land are you working?
The work that I do helps me see how all our issues are deeply connected. What will help is when we strive towards belonging, and also healing – ourselves and the land.
“I agree wholeheartedly with Lisa’s points, particularly on people wanting to feel respected and heard. What I’ve noticed across meetings is that often people talk around these core human values, without explicitly saying “Let’s treat each other with more respect. How can we do that…?”. Or they overcomplicate things by talking about how processes, policies, or technology could improve the situation.
I’ll share a story that I heard last week.
It was an all-day meeting with a group of government bureaucrats. The theme of the day was how new technologies, particularly, big data was essential to adapting to the future. The presenter was an external expert; young, tech-saavy, hipster-type. He described a problem an insurance company was having with customer complaints. Their claims costs were skyrocketing because of a steady increase of claimants lawyering up, thus increasing the cost of the claims. They wanted to know what was going on, why were claimants lawyering up? Under what circumstances were they not? So they took a huge data set of phone recordings and analyzed them with an algorithm to identify the factors that caused claimants to lawyer up. The conclusion: service agents who treated claimants on the first phone call nicely, with respect, and shared concern for their situation tended NOT to lawyer up.
At this point, my take-home thought was, “Wow, this is a great conclusion, but kind of a no brainer”. The presenter’s take-home message was “This is the power of big data! Big data can help us understand what kind of employee we should be hiring to speak to claimants”.
So sometimes I see people overcomplicate things. They overthink things with their head, and overlook the importance of thinking with your heart – which is really what makes the difference between technology and humans. Robotics and AI and big data can all do things faster, better, bigger than us, but if it’s to improve human happiness/success/satisfaction, considerations of the heart are vital.”
In 2016, I saw the power of graphic recording and graphic facilitation around the world first-hand. Visuals help people connect, find belonging, and work on urgent problems. And visuals are now a global approach.
And it was a good thing I learned a lot about rabies and One Health, because the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) invited me for graphic recording in Bangkok, Thailand for a conference on veterinarian education:
The visuals at the conference, with 180 delegates from 90 countries, were a huge hit on social media and online afterwards. Thailand was stunning (and delicious):
We wanted these graphic recording posters to stand out from the June session, so I created a different icon for each session:
Not the usual weather for me at Christmas!
It’s a true privilege to be able to go where I’m needed. I also spent a lot of time this year working closely with Indigenous organizations across Turtle Island. From Tl’etinqox territories to Fort William First Nation, I heard and visualized stories of resilience, wellness, economic development, and reconciliation in the justice system.
And speaking of our new book – it’s out in the world now! We’ve shipped it to all sorts of far-flung places, which is exciting, and it’s started many conversations which is even more exciting. With 27 chapters and 25 contributors, it was a great opportunity to gather with colleagues online and in person, advance the graphic facilitation field, and spread visual thinking even further.
Visuals help people tap into their creativity, too. People email me photos of the first time they drew during a work meeting from halfway around the world, and also share their students’ projects (thank you twitter). I love seeing what inspires you.
Can’t wait to see what 2017 brings for our visual practitioner community!
If you’re interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in education – there was something at the DisruptED conference for you. Organizers called DisruptED, “a mashing together of technology and education that shed new light on a vibrant, exciting emerging industry.”
DisruptED used graphic recording to showcase new STEM ideas. And here’s my “aha” moment: I heard how STEM is becoming STEAM – where the “A” means Art. Why connect STEM to art? Because it’s a fun way to explain technology and science. Art could mean building a videogame to learn coding, or building models to learn engineering, or writing music based on math equations. I encourage students of all ages to use drawing skills to help them think through STEM problems. Drawing sketchnotes to study, making or reviewing graphic recordings is a perfect way to explain STEM and make it STEAM.
Here’s a sample of the keynotes:
My personal highlights included Sidneyeve Matrix (Queen’s School of Business Exec Ed Program) talking about trends in post secondary, and panelists sharing tools for Indigenous digital empowerment (including UMan’s famous ENGAP program).
Here are some positive visuals to support gender-affirming health care. The first is a new visual strategic plan for Trans Care BC. These three small drawings tell a bigger story, and are the foundation to the infographic (designed by Karianne Blank).
Established in 2015 as a program of the Provincial Health Services Authority, Trans Care BC puts BC on the map as the first and only province in Canada to create a system to support transgender health. Trans Care BC provides important services and care to transgender and gender-diverse people across the province. These services are client-centered, ensure access to gender-affirming health care for all ages, and support community-building that ensures access to accurate information. They do this through implementation of international standards of care, use of evidence-based research, and sharing best practices. This model of care includes respecting the needs and perspectives of different cultures such as Two-Spirit people.
In my illustrations, I focused on creating cheerfulness, and minimized the medical feelings as much as possible. In the first panel, I imagined a parent and teacher talking about how happy the student is to come to school, knowing they belong. In the second drawing, I wanted to create a positive encounter with a health care provider (who may also be part of the trans community, if the short haircut isn’t a good enough clue!). In this scene, there’s a trusted person taking notes for the patient, because allies are important. I wanted the focus to be the trans* woman talking, and not the doctor because trans women and two-spirit people are going to be the most affected by the compounding effects of poor health care. In the third drawing, the patient has successfully undergone a desired surgical intervention and is giving the thumbs-up sign: Trans Care BC is here to help navigate the medical system.
Zena asked me to illustrate five case studies – truly unique examples of tools and resources that promote gender affirming care. There’s the Q Card program, Vancouver’s own Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, a deck of affirmation cards, and more. Here’s a peek at the illustrations.
The Remedy is highly recommended for all the health practitioners in your life, and can be purchased at the following sites.
“To remedy means to heal, to cure, to set right, to make reparations.The Remedy invites writers and readers to imagine what we need to create healthy, resilient, and thriving LGBTQ communities.”
There’s still a long way to go for trans people to close the gaps in health equity, live as long as non-trans people, and be recognized and celebrated. Hearing the stories in The Remedy, and knowing Trans Care BC is here to navigate the health system – gives me much hope for a better future.
I was honoured to work at the We Belong forum from November 17-19, 2016 with Sam. The forum delved into the very serious question of how to address Indigenous suicide on an international and local scale. The forum was extraordinary as it brought together voices from all over the world, including, but not limited to, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and South America. There was also an Indigenous youth panel and many talented and passionate Indigenous speakers and presenters.
Sam and I at We Belong, November 2016.
My role as a graphic recorder at the event was to draw posters for the breakout sessions, capture the group reports, the youth panel presentation and Ryan McMahon’s keynote speech. I worked closely during the event with Sam (literally side by side) as he has been mentoring me this year to learn graphic facilitation techniques. This was my first experience drawing in front of an audience of approximately 300 people, yet with Sam’s guidance and coaching prior to the event I felt prepared and as they say in my home community, I was able to get ‘er done. As with any skill, the best way to prepare is to practice and then practice some more, while pulling inspiration from various styles of art that appeal to you.
I want to share a little about my background and my thoughts surrounding the importance of this event. My hometown is Smithers, BC and I am an Indigenous woman from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. I share this because my family and many others in my home and urban communities have experienced the hardships of losing someone to suicide. Thus, I want to emphasize the importance of the people that are working towards promoting life and ending suicide in Indigenous communities. I also want to highlight the importance of graphic recording at events like ‘We Belong’ because graphic recorders not only capture key messages, but record emotions that were shared during the day as well as sentiments that may not be fully recognized in a final written report.
The images that were created by Sam and I can be shared widely with organizations, communities, and most importantly, with youth. The dissemination of information, presented in various ways is the key to making a message known. Finally, I believe that the ‘We Belong’ forum shows movement towards the call for reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and Canadian society. The partnerships that brought this event together and the relationships that were formed during this event show the true resilience of Indigenous communities and our willingness to be honest about the issues that affect us all. I truly was inspired during these three days and look forward to continuing along this journey in graphic facilitation.
Here is a sample of some of the images from We Belong that we made together: