Wise Crowds LSDAO
The (Regen) Web3 Liberating Structures (LS) User Group
Everything crisis on planet earth be like:
Which is to say that folks have a lot of anxiety about the prospect of the fundamental transformation of human culture that is needed, to say nothing of the lack of (visible) progress.
There seems to be two camps about change. They often argue even if they recognize that they need one another.
Large scale systems Transformation
With personal transformation the offer and attraction is that it is more or less universally available. These changes in perspective and values, can increase personal agency and lead to different choices, which is a great invitation to new possibilities. So there has been a very meaningful increase in the spread of coaching/therapy, somatic and esthetic work. Unfortunately, these pockets of change can have quite different expressions and are tricky to connect. While at the same time the industry of advertisement is exceptionally skilled at co-opting these values and their esthetics, further fueling criticism from all directions as well as cynicism. How does personal transformation swell into large scale transformation when it is so easily divided?
And then there are the top down thinkers who rightly recognize that if they can get close enough to the center of the systems that govern our world they can have a large scale influence on the whole of society. So they pursue power and resources through government, industry and technology. Unfortunately even seeking this route has extraordinarily strong framing effects on the thinking of those walking it. Large scale systems are blunt tools that create more unforeseen consequences than intended effects. To play the game of influence is to adapt to it's values.
This site, the project and people associated with it would like to offer a third way, of the middle system at the inter-personal scale. We believe that Micro Structures like Liberating Structures are a particularly good place for most people to start (but aren’t mad if you find other ways). The offer is that the middle is immediately connected to BOTH the personal AND large system scale. In addition, at the interpersonal scale it is easy for one or two people to influence the vibes of an entire group. Liberating Structures have an area of effect upgrade on personal communication skills. Micro-Structures are also modular and infinitely recomposable, so their influence can adapt to the particular needs of specific contexts and swell to the large system scale.
The challenges though are cultural, in that group norms and imaginaries seem and feel deeply ingrained. It feels weird and risky to invite them to change. Plus, some people that benefit from those norms will certainly stand to lose, if influence is distributed by LS. At the large scale as well, there are challenges with scapegoating. Organizations have cultures that might choose to exclude differences rather than integrate them. Failing to do so these organizations and the individuals might become very aggressive as they realize their evolutionary niche leads to extinction. Not everyone will want to cross the valley after all.
So what are Liberating Structures anyway? The simple answer is that they are instructions for how to have different types of conversations that decentralize group discussions.
In order to unpack what makes them important, let’s point at what they are competing against, the conversation forms you likely don’t even recognize you’re trapped in.
First we need to make a distinction between the informal and the formal. Many conversations happen in the informal, you’re at a bbq or after the church service or in the lunch break of a conference, what do you see? Likely any number of small-group conversations, pairs, trios, foursomes, and maybe even larger circles of 6 that soon divide up into smaller groups. Now contrast that to the conference itself, the church service or the meeting at the office. This thing that happens has one big pattern that expresses itself in 5 ways:
Centralization through 1-TO-MANY-COMMUNICATION: one person talks, everyone else listens AKA Broadcast mode
Now sometimes this is proper, but rarely, and yet nearly all formal conversations take this format in five different ways
5 Stone Age Tools
Stand there and lose contact with 50-80% of people, but take solace in the 20% that seem to hang on every word. Those who are privileged to speak are often at the top of the hierarchy.
Like a micro presentation, where everyone takes a turn boring one another with information that is 20%- 30% relevant. We often do this to please an authority figure who finds the information of all parties relevant.
Someone asks questions that others answer. This inverts the hierarchy because the one who asks is often in the authority role.
Throw spaghetti against the wall and argue about which one sticks and what we should do
Unstructured group discussion/Goat rodeo
The tyranny of structurelessness is real. Those who assert dominance speak up, those who know better stay silent.
So what though? What makes these patterns so significant when it comes to getting things done and regenerating the human spirit?
That has to do with bandwidth, throughput and latency
So if those are the standard options, then Liberating Structures are an alternative. They’ll enable you to lean into the following principles
What is noteworthy about these principles is that they were observed from practice. This means that if these sound like good things you want to have in your life then learning, practicing and using Liberating Structures is all you need to get them.
3 types of LS
So there are 33 specific instructions for different types of conversations. They fall into 3 basic types.
These are the easiest to learn and use to solve that “one person talks, everyone else is stuck listening” problem. They enable even formal conversations to use the more organic informal pattern of smaller sub-groups. Each of these patterns increases participation to 100%. In a small group, this is a big deal. In a large group, it is transformative. They require nearly no-skill to use and since they are so much more effective, it is near impossible to screw things up with them. Unless you were one of the 1% that is happy with “one person talks, everyone listens,” then these things are your worst nightmare.
This type of instruction emphasizes the design elements of
- how participation is distributed everywhere,
- how smaller groups are formed and
- what the set of steps and time there are in the conversation
Now I know invitations are usually something that you find in your inbox, but think about what they do. They open up a specific possibility, they even include a choice with them. Game design calls these “offers.” Now if you imagine these invitations as opening literal doorways to possibilities, different doors take you in different places or better yet, directions.
Invitations are the questions or prompts that can send an interaction into a direction. Just like navigation, there is some skill required to get to where you want to go with them. You need some sense of where you are, where you’re going and what the path might be. We can imagine that in the very near future there will be some form of navigation software that might automate this.
These structures emphasize the design elements of the
- question or prompt that sparks a conversation.
Making Using Artifacts
Human culture is remarkable. We can create maps of our journeys and can also leave behind markers along the landscape for others to follow. Compasses, bridges, roads, turn by turn instructions, each of these artifacts enable us to more effectively move through space. Thought-space works much the same. The larger the group, the higher the stakes or the more precise the need to be at-a-place+at-a-time, the more important it is to use and create these tools or artifacts of culture.
These structures emphasize the design element of
- how space is organized and how materials are used.
I know this is all may be a bit abstract but let’s try another metaphor and see if that makes more or less sense.
Interaction patterns are like the dance steps, that instruct us how to move together.
Invitations are like the music that brings the dance to life.
Artifacts are the instruments or turntables, mixer, speakers and lights, that enable us to swell the number of people interacting together.
An LS is a set of instructions for a different type of conversation. Each LS consists of instructions for 5 design elements:
- how participation is distributed (everywhere)
- how (small) groups are formed
- what are the set of steps and (narrow)timeboxes the conversations follow.
- how space and materials are setup and used
Process: The LSLearning Journey
So how do we learn and teach these things? Everything revolves around the User Group and the way the User Group designs, organizes and creates opportunities for others to learn and practice. The Liberating Structures Learning Journey is designed to get you up to speed in 3 months by:
- 1. Learning in chunks
- 2. Practicing what is learned
- 3. Keeping track of progress of learning and practice
- 4. Organizing events to help others learn
- 5. Forming a user groups to organize those events
- 6. Doing some p2p knowledge sharing
We have packaged these recommendations into an offering we call…
The next season for all offers begins October 2023
Liberating Structures Learning Journey
Every two weeks, so six sessions spread out over 3 months, we host a 2 hour masterclass where we will offer a step by step process that is an example of how you can use this facilitation toolkit to bring a community to life.
The Learning Journey will be a live exercise where we will be organizing a live virtual event together.
For anyone who wants to learn, activate community and grow their portfolio of finished projects, this is going to be the highest quality biologically active fertile soil we can cultivate for you.
We will have a limit of just 12 participants, so that the 3 mentors can support everyone to apply their learning in their local context.
Liberating Structures Crews
If the LSLJ is the most high commitment high support route there are of course a other ways.
There is a mostly Do It Yourself without the masterclass but with some support. In the style of Micro-Solidarity, we can help you form a closed User-Group that self-organizes to meet a few times and may or may not organize a public practice session. If you have some experience and want to learn through and with peer-to-peer support, this is your best choice.
If you already have a good deal of experience and are looking for answers to the trickiest questions, then consider the Advanced Journey. We will not be covering the basics here, but will be focusing on applying LS to practical challenges and using the less known structures such as those still “in development.” This group will be stewarded by Nadia, Ewen and Jeremy for six months with both monthly group sessions as well as more frequent crew calls.
Of course if these is a high and a medium commit/support options there is a low one as well. In the Parking Lot you’ll find a bunch of links to the publicly available resources from the Open Source Liberating Structures Community, go fuck around and find out! I know this sounds funny, but don’t be dismissive, this is a perfectly venerable way. In fact this is the classic/OG way that grew the community to what it is today.
Wise Crowds LS Design Call
We also host a space for p2p support and knowledge share on most Mondays
# Register for the Wise Crowds Liberating Structures Design Call.
Tag you’re it.
Silvia de la Torre
Legacy of LS Super Users
Charles Travis Rogers
Parking Lot: Public LS Resources
- LS Slack Community: A place to give-and-get help with a global community of practitioners, share stories, and coordinate various experiments. If you are new to Slack, once you sign up, click on the 'Channels' button to see the different kinds of conversations people are having. It's a great place to frequently get immediate help on something.
- The Liberatingstructures.eu website has links to many resources in different languages
- Calendar of upcoming Liberating Structures related or infused events
- Many people share LS related things on Twitter using the #liberatingstructures hashtag.
- There is also a LinkedIn group, though it's not as active as Twitter & Slack.
- Since there is no central LS organization or business, many of the things that happen are self-organized and distributed. There are some attempts to begin rectifying this fragmentation, though all of them remain a work-in-progress. Some of the more promising things that you might find useful now and over-time:
- Board tracking all of the new LS being developed <-- If you want to know about something that doesn't have a description yet, ask on Slack. Someone will be able to help you
- Other LS in development are being described here: liberatingstructures.com/ls-in-developm…
- Shared GDrive <-- This has slides, storyboards, and who-knows-what-else. Wade into it at your own risk. If Liberating Structures (Public Access) you are looking for something specific, just ask on Slack. We can probably help you track down something quickly
- Document starting to outline and collect a library of different invitations for a variety of LS
- The LS Newsletter goes out every 6-10 weeks. There are usually interesting stories from around the world focused on a particular topic. You can find the archive here and add yourself to the list if you want to receive it
- There are LS User Groups spread across the globe. Many are on Meetup, too. The www.liberatingstructures.eu site has the most updated list of European User Groups.
- Generally, you have to pick-and-choose your way through the website. Certain tabs have hidden benefits. Like the User Resources one where there's a global map and other easy-to-overlook gems
- The free Liberating Structures app (developed by Holisticon) is available in the Google Play and Apple App Stores.
- The most recent version of the DIY LS cards are available here thanks to Fred Vandaele. You can also find them posted to the #tools channel in Slack
- For cards developed by Holisticon please contact Johannes Schartauor order via the German Amazon store
- Other cards can be found from The Liberators
- For the LS Learning Journal and Fun Things To Try Journal downloads developed by Anja Ebers, please visit this link
- An album of Liberating Structures related visual outputs (and other ephemera
- Liberating Strategy 2018
- Strategy 2022 1 Strategy 2022 2 Strategy 2022 3
- LS Rabbit Hole (YouTube playlist)
- The Liberators
Got thoughts, feels and sensations about this site?