In April, Sam Bradd (Vancouver) and Tanya Gadsby (Victoria) co-hosted an social evening for graphic facilitators and visual practitioners. Thank you to everyone who came – from 6+ cities and by car, ferries and even a plane – to network and talk shop.
You know you’re in the right space for a visual practitioners meetup when someone else has already drawn on the walls. We rented CityStudio, a creative collaboration space for urban planning: there’s a giant blackboard wall, picnic tables, and an affinity map of post-it notes connecting City challenges with students eager to solve them.
We all felt right at home! (Need a similar venue? Try using the “Airbnb of space rentals”, ThisOpenSpace.com.)
The Vancouver community hosts quarterly meetups, and we usually alternate between something social and a skillshare. This was our first Vancouver/Victoria collaboration – it was great to build more bridges with colleagues in other cities. And of course thanks to Neuland for the ambassador gifts – they were a huge hit!
Tips for other hosts:
⁃Keep it simple, and don’t over program the night. Let people move around and meet each other. We had a 15-minute introduction activity, including drawing and “what’s your superpower?”
⁃Alternate socials with more hands-on demos/ topics to attract different people
⁃Host at a roomy, public venue (not someone’s house) once in a while so new folks will feel welcome / safe attending
⁃Keep in touch: use a social media platform or email list so people can RSVP or plan for the next one
⁃ A light potluck on a work night is always a hit, it feels like we all know not to bring chips for dinner by now.
Regional meetups are great to connect practitioners for sharing skills, opportunities, and building a supportive community in between IFVP conferences, and to attract people to join the IFVP for an even stronger network.
It’s not even over yet, but I can say that March was amazing. My time was shared between group facilitation and graphic facilitation which felt like a great balance. Here’s three dynamic projects this month — on three continents!
Nepal: Facilitation for Oxfam Canada
Recently, I had the privilege of facilitating for Oxfam Canada in Nepal. The Creating Spaces project is a 5-year initiative about ending violence against women and girls, and the meeting brought together over 30 activists and programmers from Oxfam and partners in all six countries. Any other organization could have settled for reading powerpoints to each other for a few days – but not Oxfam!
Together, we built a facilitation plan for 5 days that featured simple shifts for more participation, and was an engaging and meaningful event. It included:
Presentations at a strict 10 minutes or less, to enable maximum time for questions; share detailed powerpoints after
Graphic recording to help summarize and synthesize key parts of the week
Varied Q+A formats: we used post-it notes, pair-and-share before plenary questions, panel format for group questions, and more
Carving out time for relationships, such as a group dinner and outing – in our case, a 7am event for International Women’s Day
Share leadership and facilitation energy among all the participants and convening team – many people can lead energizers, songs, and host mini-skill shares
The event’s purpose was to “review preliminary results of our mid-project learning review, discuss research and …brainstorm campaign and advocacy initiatives and ways to amplify our results over the remaining two years of the project.” Here’s to the continued success of Creating Spaces!
Geneva: Graphic Facilitation for World Health Organization
After some giant travel hiccups leaving Nepal, I went to Geneva to support the World Health Organization’s event Vaccines2030 Vision, working with facilitator Chris Colaco and for WHO lead Kate O’Brien. The meeting was the Global Vaccines & Immunization Post 2020 Initiative’s Consultation Meeting, in Switzerland.
I’ve loved my long-standing relationship with WHO focussing on emerging and infectious diseases, and as a result I’m pretty passionate about life-saving vaccines and immunization. Here are some cel phone/ twitter snaps of work in progress.
#Vaccines2030Vision had a session on value propositions and key stakeholders. Big themes included new data, linking health to other sectors, and I personally liked this one: advocacy is a two way street. it’s win-win when you can strengthen other’s sectors that mutually benefit yours.
One interesting thing emerged, that I also hear in other sessions: a tiny list of words of things to include/not include gave me great hope. Equity made it to the top 5, and jargon like “vaccine hesitancy” and “last mile” may be on their way out. Also, the room had a good reminder for work of any kinds: people need to see themselves reflected in any document, and importantly, in the process that builds it. It’s not “build a document then socialize it”, it’s build a process to socialize a document.
Allies in Aging – North Vancouver
And closer to home, Allies in Aging was an extraordinary event in North Vancouver also in March. “Nearly 250 seniors, service providers and community leaders gathered for our Allies in Aging in Action Conference on Feb. 28. The Pinnacle at the Pier ballroom buzzed with conversation and laughter as we connected around our collective work.”
Here’s live graphic recording images from that day, featuring a very moving keynote by Vickie Cammack of Tamarack Institute. You might wonder, why bring visuals into a meeting with scientists, policy makers, or anyone? To help surround you with your ideas. To have a dedicated listener and rapporteur. To invite a type of creativity that can hold emotion and momentum in a different way than flip charts can alone.
Meanwhile, the team at Drawing Change was travelling with their markers for a wide range of projects. Most of the work was confidential, but we’ll have photos from the team’s public-facing projects soon! Here’s Michelle Buchholz graphic recording at the CreativeCityStrategy for the City of Vancouver, along with Yolanda Liman and Tiaré Jung:
Session 3: Securing Local Arts + Culture Spaces, the forever problem of Vancouver. Thinking today beyond affordability to decolonization, and the spaces that can and should exist for racialized communities. #CreativeCityStrategypic.twitter.com/DF8BfOGtd1
Six weeks into 2019, and lots going on at Drawing Change. Here’s a few exciting highlights and resources:
Graphic Facilitation Training – in the Arctic
This Southerner spent two weeks in the far North. I taught a graphic facilitation workshop in the Arctic Circle in beautiful Cambridge Bay, Nunavut where it was minus 58 degrees Celcius. (Someone skied to my 2-day training workshop!) The demand for new, visual ways of working is always growing – my hunch is we’ll soon see a new network of visual practitioners in the far North – building on a rich history of artistic practices – who will transform graphic facilitation skills with a Northern worldview. Being up North changes your perspective. This is a must-read blog post about Qallunaat.
Thanks to Aurora College for inviting me to Yellowknife to give a keynote about the role of visual practice for adult educators, and to facilitate part of the in-service. It was a chance to share my ideas around using graphic facilitation to bring us closer together – for a sense of meaningful belonging, and to transform learning. It was an honour to share a stage with Drs Angela James and Suzanne Robinson.
Next public speaking engagement is in Vancouver for the Graphic Designers of Canada-BC Chapter AGM on Feb 20th. I’ll be sharing part of how I came to this unusual career, and how creative practitioners can also use graphic facilitation skills – even if you don’t think you can draw (…yet! The secret to our field is that fancy drawing skills are not always required). Thanks to the #Neuland Ambassador network for the fun swag for these workshops – if the talk has boring moments, at least you can ask me questions about fun markers, right?
Graphic Recording for Public Engagement and Strategic Planning
The team was busy – in January, the team supported a dozen events about public engagement and strategic planning. Highlights included UBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week where Tiaré Jung was graphic recording at this Decolonizing Consent workshop with Dr. Sarah Hunt and Dr Natalie Clark at the UBC Longhouse:
Yolanda Liman provided graphic recording at a strategic planning session in Las Vegas for a client who’s transforming their industry to be even more ethical – we’re always happy to work for US-based clients who want to make the world a better place. And, Michelle Buchholz teamed up with the amazing folks at Alderhill Consulting to support Indigenous-led strategic planning.
Generative Scribing and Experiments in Systems Thinking
I went to NYC for an advanced workshop in generative scribing with Kelvy Bird (who I co-edited a book with) and Alfredo Carlo – a chance to experiment and go deeper into my own practice and systems thinking. Here’s a great new resource by Jessica Rhiel about systems thinking.
Generative scribing gives us more choices to listen and connect to what is happening in the room. How I work always depends on the context – some groups will need the visuals to distill complex information into knowledge translation tools, and other groups will benefit from visuals that show a possibility that is being generated and is yet emerging. My purpose is to honour the lifetimes of experiences of participants both in the process, and in the visuals that are created.
Practitioners shouldn’t be tied to one way of working – because this creative, intellectual and intuitive work is more than “just show up and draw”. I don’t believe that practitioners should be interchangeable, or that we should approach each session identically. From the practitioner perspective, with training, mentors, communities of practice and experience – we can all deepen our work from our wisest source. And when we ask ourselves to work from this place, we can also help the room work from this place, with intention and purpose.
the 300 Rule – a great business tip for emerging graphic recorders
For newer graphic recorders wondering “what to do when nobody notices this great piece of work I just shared?” – I really enjoyed this article about the 300 rule from Alex Mathers. . I’ll be at this year’s IFVP.org 2019 conference on the business panel, so I’m collecting wisdom from people smarter than me in the meantime!
And, Registration is OPEN for this year’s graphic facilitation workshops, too.
I want you to have meetings with more belonging and connection – and visual facilitation is a way to do that. There’s no shortage of information anymore. Even when we have all the data and people in the room, it doesn’t always add up to a great meeting. What’s missing are people who can help groups make sense of information and tools to help people feel heard. This is the moment where graphic recording and graphic facilitation have impact. Invest in your meeting skills with this two-day foundational course in Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation. In 2018, workshop participants came from the UK, Japan, the US and across Canada – join us in 2019!
When we see visual process work in action, our eyes, ears, mind and heart begin to make connections. We listen more deeply. The seeds of action start to take root. When we see our words and thoughts expressed in front of us – live – we are rooted into what is happening in the room.
Graphic recorders and graphic facilitators use listening and drawing skills to help groups reach a deeper understanding, engage with each other, and solve problems. With this 2-day foundational workshop, you can make meaning and affect change at your next meeting.
Graphic recording workshop with Fostering Change BC and Amanda Fenton | photo courtesy of Yumi and Vancouver Foundation team, 2017
It’s time for a Frequently Asked Questions! Summer roundup of questions I’ve been asked from folks new to the field lately:
I’m new. How do get started as a graphic recorder?
I love this question. Welcome, fellow visual thinker! Six opinionated ideas and highly subjective advice:
Start. I want you to START drawing! I am not a believer in just “following your passion”. I think you should be inspired to be creative, yes, and make sure you put the work in to get good at things. Don’t leap into your passion and then give up too soon, especially when it gets hard. I don’t wait for creativity to land in my lap. I have to make stuff, and see where it goes. And then, once you make something you have to share it. How will people know what you want to do, otherwise?
Your first projects should personally interest you. Be proud to share them. Deliberately choose to work for trusted people for a few low-stakes projects. Build your confidence.
Find a mentor. This field enables people to bring their professional experience (coaching, facilitating, leading) and apply it to visual work. Like many creative professions with a majority of sole practitioners, the foundation based on apprenticeships, networks, and learning from peers. It’s rapidly growing and I think mentors help us see how collectively as practitioners we can help organizations, clients, individuals.
What’s are most important skills a graphic facilitator needs to have?
We are doing more than drawing – we are facilitating and leading, and helping others see their own thoughts. This month I might say: Listening and decision-making about what marks to make; awareness and skills to work on bias; empathy and a strong sense of personal leadership.
Last year I might have said patience, an ability to be reflective, a curiosity about learning (you can’t just draw what you think is happening). This is one of those “one finger pointing out, three fingers pointing back” types of questions.
What you notice or appreciate in others is also something you’re noticing in yourself, of course.
How is this a job? Why haven’t I heard about it?
RIGHT? Pretty amazing job! Graphic facilitators are becoming more popular – so you may see them more now. But the field began in the 1970s, so it also has a long history, practices, and its own methods. Some folks work inside organizations, and some practitioners are consultants.
Do you pre-plan your layouts?
No, and yes. I start with a blank page for graphic recording and most facilitation now. When I’m doing live work I am deciding as we go: I am matching the type of structure to the format of the meeting. Open plenary dialogue looks different than rapid-fire report outs, or a strategic plan deciding “three action steps”. These are emergent and not planned ahead of time, because facilitation and scribing is (or can be) emergent.
And when I facilitate meetings, I do pre-plan things in templates – when the group needs to see the structure in a specific way. If we need to do a “what are three next steps” for strategic planning meetings, or using a metaphor to help the group orient themselves over time – structure helps.
New graphic recorders should definitely practice planning sketches and layouts for live graphic recording and beyond. Have a mini sketchbook of layouts that you can turn to when you’re under drawing pressure – I have to mix it up, otherwise all panel presentations look the same (yawn).
You travel a lot. What’s the best place you’ve been?
This is a fun question, because in North America a lot of graphic facilitators are consultants who travel widely – it’s not required, but I love it. (I also follow the rules – I have a visa to work in the US and Canada.) All countries and projects have their unique joys. It’s more about the people than a particular location. I’d rather be with kind people in northern BC than a fancy hotel where no one is using what I’m contributing. But since you asked, there was a project in Tanzania where I was working in a tent in the tropical heat …with a security guard whose job it was to prevent the baboons from climbing on the tables! Work has brought me to 10 countries and remote locations, and I’m noticing more and more – globally and locally we are all working on such similar problems: communication, belonging/connection, displacement, and climate. The world definitely needs more ways of communicating with other in empathetic ways – and I think visuals are one way to do that.
Do I need to be a good artist to learn to do what you do?
I think about graphic recording/facilitation like writing. Mostly, we don’t take a 2-day course and then suddenly create the Pulitzer Prize winning novel (and if you did, congratulations and then that novel was in you the whole time, no matter who your teacher was!).
I believe writing is a practice, a craft, and maybe also a calling; we all need writing skills even if we don’t become novelists. It’s the same as drawing – if you’re using drawing to communicate, or to help people think through ideas – it doesn’t need to be so fancy. It just needs to get onto the page.
This way, graphic facilitation and graphic recording are part of your toolbox.
… What other questions do you have, fellow visual thinker? Post your other favourite questions in the comments and I’ll do a Round 2 later on.
2018 workshop with early bird pricing until September 1:
*update in August: thanks for the amazing interest and the 2018 spots are full. Stay in touch for early notification for 2019 opportunities!*
We have 2 spaces open to support people working in community, grassroots, and social justice movements. So many professional development are expensive, and assume that participants are being sponsored by well-funded organizations. Instead, Drawing Change wants to spread the skills widely and with an equity lens. Priority will be given to self-identified Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour under 30(ish). To apply, email email@example.com and tell us why you’re interested, a brief note about your facilitation experience, examples of your drawing skills, what organization/movement you’re a part of, and what your plans are to share these skills afterwards.
Cost: $200 as a deposit (versus $1500 regular rate) + GST