Thought piece

Liberating Structures: Rooted in Complexity Science

This post is by Leva Lee and was originally published October 23, 2018 on BCcampus.ca

Since learning about Liberating Structures (LS) in 2013, a team of us at BCcampus have become avid practitioners and facilitators of these powerful group engagement techniques. In the past four years, we have supported its spread in B.C. post-secondary through offering immersion workshops and supporting campus-based user groups and communities of practice.

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey on LS use in B.C. post-secondary, giving us a snapshot of how these techniques were being used and what practitioners’ perceptions were of their impact. Since then, we have been working to further deepen our understanding of Liberating Structures. To better understand Liberating Structures, we need to understand the basics of Complexity Science: What is it? How does it relate to Liberating Structures, and why should we care? How might this help us in our work?

What is Complexity Science?

There is a myriad of information about Complexity Science and differing views on its exact definition. Essentially, Complexity Science is the study of complex systems: systems that are non-linear, unpredictable, and multi-dimensional, consisting of interconnected parts and relationships. Examples of complex systems are ones found in nature such as climate or ecosystems. Other examples are human-made systems such as the internet, healthcare, or financial systems. Complexity Science posits a holistic view of the world where ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. It studies how parts, or individual agents, interact with one another—their relationships— and how parts behave and adapt, influencing the whole. It is the study of emergence, or how synergy leads to innovation. As an interdisciplinary field of study, Complexity Science draws its concepts, frameworks, and theories from mathematics, physics, chemistry, and the social sciences.

So What?

Understanding how Liberating Structures are rooted in Complexity Science enables us to better understand the design behind these microstructures for group interaction and innovation and how they work to “unleash and include everyone” (Lipmanowicz and McCandless, 2013).

As a useful set of tools for facilitating and leading learning, Liberating Structures disrupts what has become our regular habits or patterns of interacting, conversing, and problem-solving. They help to change things up, tap into our tacit knowledge, and create safe spaces for self-discovery, joyful learning, and seeing what is possible in making progress together. In a world that is increasingly more complex, challenging, and unpredictable, Liberating Structures have the potential to help us focus better on our purpose, to move forward and create more space for innovation.

Now What?

So what does this all mean to us as individuals, educators, instructors, group facilitators, and leaders of learning? We invite you to take action now in the following way:

  • Be curious and explore. Take a look at some of the great resources and readings on Complexity Science as a paradigm and consider it as a lens through which we might view our challenges in teaching and learning. What makes sense in terms of your practice? Discover and try tools like Liberating Structures.
  • Reach out. Network with those who have similar interests, as well as with those with different experiences and expertise (e.g. in a different academic discipline). Create some synergy for things you want to do.
  • Stop and notice things. Observe and watch for patterns. What do you see working and not working in our classrooms, online courses, webinars, lectures, committee meetings, etc.?
  • Be clear on purpose. Are we asking the right questions? Are we doing the right things? Clarify the purpose when beginning to apply something like Liberating Structures and be open to feedback from others on questions and activities.
  • Believe and do, iteratively. When trying something new, venture forth with courage and confidence. Reflect on what is learned. Get feedback. Adjust. Repeat.
  • Try small changes. This may sound trite, but small changes can lead to big impact. Don’t feel you need to revamp an entire course, workshop, or meeting agenda to start. Try one small change and go from there.

References & Resources

Holladay, Royce J., & Eoyang, Glenda H. (2013). Adaptive Action: Leveraging Uncertainty in Your Organization. Stanford University Press.

Kimball, Lisa (2009). Liberating Structures: A New Pattern Language for Engagement. Available at: https://thesystemsthinker.com/liberating-structures-a-new-pattern-language-for-engagement/ [Accessed January 13, 2018]

Lipmanowicz, Henri, & McCandless, Keith (2013). The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash a Culture of Innovation. Seattle, WA: Liberating Structures Press.

Plexus Institute. Complexity Primer.

Retrieved from https://plexusinstitute.org/digital-resources/complexity-primer/

University of Victoria. Core Public Health Research Initiatives. (2011-12). Complexity Science in Brief. Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/research/groups/cphfri/projects/currentprojects/complexity/index.php

Westley, F., Patton, M. Q., & Zimmerman, B. (2006). Getting to maybe: How the world is changed. Toronto: Random House Canada.

Learn more:

Updates

A few gems from the LS Meetup at the 2018 Festival of Learning

Contributed by Leva Lee, BCcampus

Just a quick note to share a few gems we learned from the Liberating Structures Meetup held in Vancouver at the Festival of Learning, May 2018.

Using 1,2,4, All, we asked participants: “How can LS User groups help you with your practice?”   Here’s a few of the responses. LS User groups can help us…

  • Practice together in a safe space; Encourage experimentation
  • Learn what can go wrong when using LS; Close the loop for how things went as a facilitator
  • Find opportunities to debrief use of LS with others
  • Distribute and share LS artefacts, tools, templates and lesson plans, case studies, blog posts, etc.
  • Explore LS strategies applied in an online context and encourage playing with technology e.g. use of breakout rooms for LS e.g., which web tools work well and which don’t work with LS microstructures or approaches.
  • Design more engagement strategies for participants in synchronous or asynchronous context.

In the coming year, the Vancouver and Victoria User groups will keep these things top of mind. Stay tuned for an LS Meetup coming to a campus near you!

Events

Come to our ‘mega’ meetup at the Festival of Learning!

The Liberating Structures User Groups of Vancouver and Victoria will be meeting at the 2018 Festival of Learning! Liberating Structures are facilitation technique designed to engage and include everyone and  this meetup is free and open to all who are interested in learning and practicing them with us.

The Vancouver Liberating Structures User Group (co-facilitated by Barish and Leva) will host the meet up and lead participants through trying out some of the most popular and “go to” LS structures. The Victoria Liberating Structures User Group (co-facilitated by Tracy and Beth) will also join in the fun.

Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Time: 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Location:  Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront  1133 West Hastings, Ballroom 1

Please RSVP by Friday, May 25 by completing this brief form.

Purpose

  • Learn and experience a few of the most popular Liberating Structures.
  • For newcomers: Introduce Liberating Structures as a way of engaging your students, colleagues, employees and team members in productive, purposeful, inclusive ways.
  • For experienced Liberating Structures facilitators: Explore ways to enhance your skills by continuing to practice and hone your skills through coaching others.
  • Hear about the activities of the Vancouver and Victoria User Groups; how you can participate with our groups and/or create your own local practice group.

What are Liberating Structures?

“Liberating Structures (LS) are a growing collection of group processes and methods that make it easy and quick for members of any group to radically change how they interact and work together. Their purpose is to liberate energy, tap into collective intelligence, stimulate creativity, and get surprisingly better results by engaging people and unleashing the power of self-organization.”

Quoted from: Kimball, Lisa. (2009). Liberating Structures: A New Pattern language for Engagement. Available at: https://thesystemsthinker.com/liberating-structures-a-new-pattern-language-for-engagement/ [Accessed January 13, 2018]

Events

Workshop Announcement at Douglas College New Westminster

Hello Everyone,

We are pleased to be able to offer a Liberating Structures mini-workshop and practice session at Douglas College New Westminster campus this month. Everyone is welcome! Here’s the details:

Meeting: “Liberating Structures: Patterns of Engagement to Include Everyone”

Facilitators: Barish Golland, Learning Ecosystem Support and Solutions Manager at UBC Sauder School of Business; Leva Lee, Manager, Learning & Teaching at BCcampus

Date: Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Location:

Douglas College New Westminster Campus
Collaboration Room S0620
700 Royal Ave
New Westminster, BC V3M 5Z5
Canada

Please RSVP by Monday, April 23rd, 12 Noon by completing this brief form.

Purpose

Come learn and experience Liberating Structures:

  • For newcomers: Introduce Liberating Structures as a way of engaging your students, colleagues, employees and team members in productive, purposeful, inclusive ways.
  • For experienced Liberating Structures facilitators: Explore ways to enhance your repertoire by learning new LS techniques and consider joining the Vancouver LS user group that meets frequently.

What are Liberating Structures?

“Liberating Structures (LS) are a growing collection of group processes and methods that make it easy and quick for members of any group to radically change how they interact and work together. Their purpose is to liberate energy, tap into collective intelligence, stimulate creativity, and get surprisingly better results by engaging people and unleashing the power of self-organization.”

Quoted from: Kimball, Lisa. (2009). Liberating Structures: A New Pattern language for Engagement. Available at: https://thesystemsthinker.com/liberating-structures-a-new-pattern-language-for-engagement/ [Accessed January 13, 2018]

Resources, Updates

Liberating Structures in B.C. post-secondary: How are they spreading?

This post was originally published March 1, 2018  on BCcampus.ca.

After organizing and supporting a number of Liberating Structures initiatives for the past two years, we at BCcampus wanted to learn more about:

  • How (and where) are people using Liberating Structures? How are they spreading?
  • Are people finding Liberating Structures to be useful in their practice?
  • What do people want next? If we are to continue to support Liberating Structures in B.C. PSE, what kind of supports are needed?

Post by Leva Lee and Tracy Kelly, Learning & Teaching, BCcampus

To do so, we surveyed the participants of our Liberating Structures workshops and events. We are pleased to share with you what we learned in this report.

Upcoming Liberating Structures Sessions:

Learn more:

 

Events

Workshop Announcement at VCC Broadway March 14th, 12:00 pm -1:30 pm

Hello Everyone,

We are pleased to be able to offer a workshop at Vancouver Community College Broadway campus this month Everyone is welcome! Here’s the details:

Meeting: “Liberating Structures: Patterns of Engagement to Include Everyone”

Facilitators: Barish Golland, Learning Ecosystem Support and Solutions Manager at UBC Sauder School of Business; Leva Lee, Manager, Learning & Teaching at BCcampus, Brett Griffiths, VCC and VCC colleagues.

Date: Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Location: Vancouver Community College Broadway, 1155 E Broadway Room B2206

Please RSVP by Tuesday, March 13th, 12 Noon by completing this brief form.

Purpose

Come learn and experience Liberating Structures:

  • For newcomers: Introduce Liberating Structures as a way of engaging your students, colleagues, employees and team members in productive, purposeful, inclusive ways.
  • For experienced Liberating Structures facilitators: Explore ways to enhance your repertoire by learning new LS techniques and consider joining the Vancouver LS user group that meets frequently.

What are Liberating Structures?

“Liberating Structures (LS) are a growing collection of group processes and methods that make it easy and quick for members of any group to radically change how they interact and work together. Their purpose is to liberate energy, tap into collective intelligence, stimulate creativity, and get surprisingly better results by engaging people and unleashing the power of self-organization.”

Quoted from: Kimball, Lisa. (2009). Liberating Structures: A New Pattern language for Engagement. Available at: https://thesystemsthinker.com/liberating-structures-a-new-pattern-language-for-engagement/ [Accessed January 13, 2018]

Events, Resources

Followup on February 22nd Meetup at BCIT Burnaby

What a great meetup we had on February 22nd at BCIT Burnaby. There was good showing of a dozen participants! We did Impromptu Networking, 1-2-4-All, then TRIZ, 25/10 Crowdsourcing and W3. Meeting for 90 minutes allowed us a bit more time to practice and discussion, but it was still a very briskly paced meetup. Time flew! We had fun!

Here are some resources from our meetup  you can download or view online:

Our 2018 schedule for the Vancouver LS User Group is posted here at various locations throughout Vancouver. We will add more locations as they are arranged.  Subscribe to this blog to get our updates.

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