Their mission was to create a community where all youth are healthy, sage, engaged, have meaningful opportunities, and feel like they belong. The project’s aim was to help reduce stigma around mental health and substance use issues, and shows that young people are capable of being active participants in decision-making and contributing to the success of community members.
The Drawing Change team collaborated with the folks at VYPER on a number of projects:
live graphic recordings performed at the VYPERence conference so we could validate and capture youth voices in their own words;
focus group program evaluations with graphic recording so we could gather input from service providers in a visually useful way,
Dozens of quick illustrations that we made into a printed flip-book,
then the same illustrations turned into videos with the help of Daniel Ugsang at VYPER.
Sam’s Graphic Recording
A sample of Tiare’s Graphic Recordings
These live recordings show how VYPER focus on empowering youth through meaningful collaboration and consultation. For more on the final outcome of the project, see the resilience report here.
Here’s the flipbook! Tiaré Lani Kela Jung made these iconic images to make “adult youth partnerships” look as awesome as they really are.
If you’ve seen a graphic recorder in action, you might be curious how we listen and draw at the same time. And it’s a good question, because listening is more important than drawing in this job. At a recent event, I found myself listening with confidence in a new way — so I thought I’d share three listening tips I used. These graphic recordings aren’t the fanciest images – because I’m more excited to show you behind the scenes!
I was invited to scribe the Enhanced Recovery Collaborative Outcomes Congress in January. This day was the conclusion of a program run across British Columbia to improve surgery outcomes for patients. Each local group reported back on their challenges, successes, and where they were heading next.
Graphic recording for the healthcare sector— usually with researchers and clinicians — can often mean swimming in a sea of PowerPoint. Sessions can often be a full day of 15-minute presentations each with 20 – 40 slides. (If you’re curious, the all-time record I’ve seen is 70 slides.) For a graphic recorder, it’s a firehose of information.
Listening trick #1: Listening for the setup
In the health sector the takeaway is always the last slide. It’s possibly the academic influence, but I’ve learned this is part of the health-listening pattern. So while I’m recording I’m listening for the setup. Whenever possible, it’s great to get key information from speakers ahead of time – but we all know this isn’t always possible. And speakers, you can help the visual practitioner by telling them before you step on stage what is your main findings or key takeaway, even if you don’t reveal it to the audience until the end.
Listening trick #2: Listening for images
At this event, for the first 30 seconds to first minute of each talk I didn’t draw, instead I just listened for a metaphor or shape. I used this to structure a streamlined version of the content. These weren’t images found in the powerpoint at all, and this can be a breakthrough.
I heard various images; Sometimes it was descriptive, like “overlapping roles.” Sometimes it was jargon, or a common phrase like “roadmap to success.” Others were a challenge — I heard concentric rings, a path, a mountain.
Sometimes a speaker will choose a metaphor for their opening slide – but before you commit the beautiful picture to the page, listen to discover if the speaker will use this throughout the talk.
Listening trick #3: Listening for difference
I deliberately chose to not draw the ERAS collaborative program itself, as we had covered that in other visuals. This engagement was celebrating each local program’s success, so I was listening for what made them unique. This “Listening for difference” is an example of how graphic recorders can ask our clients for the purpose of our listening. Together, you and your client can identify themes to guide your listening. Is it themes of innovation? Communication? Or in this case, what is unique.
What helped: Building familiarity
I’d been working with this team for about 6 months, so I had absorbed the acronyms and program arc. I was familiar with the alphabet soup. Specifically, in a separate studio project (set of digital posters, a sample below), I had interviewed each individual team about their work so I also had a preview of what topics would come up. We created a customized, digital poster for each work site, and then made a summary poster to wrap up the major themes. Teams saw their work reflected in unique, custom images.
This digital poster from the interview series went on to win an award in the storyboard category at the Quality Forum held by the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council.
A final element that supported listening and reflection: we created an interactive area (often called a knowledge wall) to show that the organization “was listening”, too.
So the next time you are listening and drawing a session with a ‘firehose of information’, remember the different ways you can listen (with your ears and other senses, too!). Even under challenging conditions, as practitioners we can encourage ourselves to stay focussed and bring our best listening to each moment – for a better result for the images, and also the process.
I could say that 18 months ago, I quit my day job. But saying “I quit my day job” to be an illustrator/ graphic recorder/ artist in this economy is pretty dramatic.
Looking back, it wasn’t a big leap.
Instead, I said ‘yes’ to a series of small steps.
First, I said ‘yes’ to something new. Something nobody in my family had tried.
Then I said yes to learning more. This was humbling.
I said yes to uncertainty. Financial and emotional.
I said yes to trust. I had to trust my creative skills even though I was unproven.
I said yes to my capacity. I couldn’t yet make what I pictured in my head- but I knew I would get better, faster, the more work I tried.
It was hard to say ‘yes’ to working in collaboration. But I said yes to partnership, even though it’s less scary to work alone. It opened doors and gave me feedback right away. This most of all made me take on fantastic, unusual projects.
And I said yes to focus. This is the unglamorous part like working late or keeping deadlines or getting paperwork in order from the very beginning.
It was an unusual decision for me to leave stability. It was a great job: a full-time position at a fantastic non-profit organization. My coworkers were great (hi folks!). The position was challenging. The cause was personally important to me. I had been working towards a job exactly like this for a very long time.
But I found that more and more, I was spending more time on art-related projects. Weekends and vacations working for clients. I asked for a reduced work week. I found a happy outlet managing freelance work, I was proud of the results and at the same time – it felt selfish to be drawing. I could be reading another report for work, or researching granting guidelines.
So before I made the shift – I had to say ‘yes’ to one more thing.
Yes, creativity matters. Creativity helps solve problems. It’s a skill that shows up in communicating, sharing messages, and building teams. Creativity is foundational to work that helps build a better world. It’s not unique to artists – it’s everywhere. It helps non-profits do as much as they do with as little money as they have. And it helps me get up and make a drawing or tell a story when I didn’t have an idea to start with.
Creativity is the magic glue. It’s the change catalyst. Creativity is how ideas + audience + social and environmental problems + compassion = change.
So 18 months ago, and 12 months ago, and 6 months ago, and yesterday – I took a leap. I found another way to be part of the change. It turned out to be another way to say ‘yes’.
I’m often asked if it’s possible to integrate small group work and graphic recording during the session. It is possible – and in fact it’s very successful. I can work with facilitators ahead of time to integrate small group work, and sometimes it happens on the fly.
One of my favorite parts of being graphic recorder is working with facilitators. We’re two parts of building a successful group experience. The facilitator uses timing, activities, their words and tone – and I create visuals – to support groups to do their best work.
Here are two ways I’ve integrated small group work and graphic recording (or graphic facilitation).
1) Breakout Groups – Harvest report back
A large room may break out into smaller tables or groups. Smaller groups build trust faster and encourage participation.
While they are working, I walk around with my notepad of post-it notes. I’m listening for emerging themes. If the tables are all working on the same 1-2 topics, I’m also listening for similarities. I take notes on post-its and bring them back to the wall chart where I’m working. I’m unobtrusive, don’t hover and spread my attention around the room.
With this format, small groups report back to the larger group at the end. They’re building towards this ‘harvest’, often getting to the heart of the presentation in the last few minutes before they present back. The facilitator structures the report-back to minimize duplications and keep things on time. Groups often will report-back on 1-3 main points. This is my chance to hear the important themes. I’m anticipating much of the content based on my post-it note research, and then I draw it all together.
2) Small Group Work – World Cafe Style
World Cafe is a specific discussion format that invites participants to move around the room to different tables, and build on previous contributions. Each table has a different topic, and ‘host’ who stays at that table for the duration of the full activity. In the first step, participants discuss their topic, and often take notes on big pieces of flip chart paper. In the second step, participants move to the next table, and the ‘host’ stays. When the next group arrives at the table, and the ‘host’ fills them in about the work done so far and they proceed together.
I walk around the room too. I’m listening deeply for themes and taking notes on my post-its. I can read unobtrusively the flip chart paper the groups are building, which helps fill me in.
Variation A) Once everyone has circulated to every table, the facilitator invites people to return to the table/topic that spoke to them most. The group and host summarize the work, and report-back to the group in a Harvest session. This opportunity to reflect one last time can have a powerful affect. I recently worked in a room of high-level decision makers who phrased their report-back statements with a visionary, clear call to action.
Variation B) I once worked with group of 80 youth who did the report back more kinesthetically. In this case, as they came to consensus on their ideas, they wrote them down on their own stack of post-its and literally ran them over to me where I was drawing. I grouped and synthesized their ideas as we went along. Each table still had a host and a note-taker. This was a fun variation and kept the energy high – a little bit of competition!
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Considering using graphic recording at your event, and have questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch. With more than a decade of experience in facilitating groups, I can provide input into agendas, timing, and planning that supports your goals.