I’m just coming out of an intense session with 70 or so members of the KM4Dev community, mapping out the networks that members of the community have with each other. It was intense because of the size of the group (we worked in sub-groups) but also because we experimented with the format and came up with some steps that left the room buzzing with emotions.
Normally I have either drawn network maps about individuals in one-to-one interviews or, when working with groups, we mapped out networks of organisations and groups (Ministry of Agric is linked to Ministry of Health etc.) So in the first case, you have a protected space, because you are just sharing your map with the one person facilitating the process. So when you are mapping out your interactions at the workplace for example, you can be rather open about conflicts and individual roles, because the map is basically just for you. If you have a group session but you are just mapping out organisations, again, the individuals are sheltered, because they are just part of organisations but not put on the map explicitly.
So, in today’s experiment (having groups map out individual linkages) I think one reason for tension was a feeling of being exposed and maybe being judged. What does it mean, if some group members have many links and others have few? How can we get to a discussion that acknowledges that there are many different roles in a network and that more links aren’t necessary always better?
Even more controversial than the connectedness however was that I asked people to rate network members as to how strongly they drive the community in terms of content and in terms of process. Some participants commented that they felt like being graded in school and both, those with high driver-values and those with low ones could feel uncomfortable for being singled out. Some sub-groups decided not to rate the actors at all but just color-code them; add dots of different color for those who focus more on driving content and those who focus more on driving processes.
For me as a facilitator this was an interesting day, because after the mapping of 8 different networks, the room buzzed with all kinds of experiences and emotions and I wondered, how will we be able to let this energy settle and will make sure people leave the room with a good (or at least ok) feeling, once we are done.
What helped a lot in digesting the process and reflecting on the learning experiences was to mix up the groups in World Café style. After the mapping was done, one host per map would stay at the table, while everyone else would move to different tables to spend 15 minutes with the hosts, discussing the experience. Afterwards, there were still participants who found the exercise more and others who found it less helpful. However, even though it is difficult to put my finger on it, something about the feel in the room had shifted and it felt – at least for me as a facilitator – as if some of the stirred up seas had settled again. I’m curious about feedback from my colleagues and I believe there will be plenty, given that this is a meeting of facilitators of all different flavors.