people at liberating structures workshop

Attendees at the Liberating Structures immersion workshop in February put on by BCcampus.

It was back in February this year that some of us, while gathered at the Liberating Structures immersion workshop in Vancouver, began talking about starting a Victoria-based user group to continue to deepen our practice in using Liberating Structures. Tracy Kelly from BCcampus and I came home from that workshop and got down to work planning how to get started. We created a Facebook group and held the first meeting of the user group the evening of March 23 in the picturesque Blue Heron House at Royal Roads University. Since March we’ve had three other meetings and more are planned.

To back up a little bit, if you have not yet been exposed to Liberating Structures they are a set of 33 processes that can be used by facilitators or meeting planners with groups of any size. In even simpler terms, they are activities that you can beg, borrow and steal (no, seriously, they are absolutely free) to enliven your own group meetings. The beauty of Liberating Structures is that they allow us to include everyone in the room – even in very big groups. They are very engaging!

User groups are meant to be places where people can come and learn about Liberating Structures by trying them out in safe place. It’s been so fantastic to watch people learn more about the structures this year through this user group and to take the time to continue to practice them myself.

Our meetings are generally 1.5 hours long and follow the same format, in 30 minute segments:

  • Networking and Sharing – for meeting each other
  • Giving and Getting Help – for helping each other with facilitation “problems” that might be solved by using Liberating Structures
  • Learning Something New Together – for allowing users to practice facilitating Liberating Structures new to them

Of course we use Liberating Structures all the way through!

While Tracy and I, as initial stewards of the group (we committed to do this for the first year, then see what happens) have sometimes been the ones to facilitate structures, we have been thrilled when others have also stepped up to try some out. Just this year we have practiced the following structures:

  • Impromptu Networking
  • Helping Heuristics
  • Drawing Together
  • Purpose to Practice
  • 9 Whys
  • Min Specs
  • Conversation Cafe
  • Mad Tea (an “emerging structure” that’s not technically part of the 33)
  • 25/10 CrowdSourcing

And I’m sure we’ve done a 1-2-4-All in there somewhere as well! (Hint: All of these structures and their instructions can be explored via the Menu in the LS website linked above.)

Our next meeting is happening November 22. We invite any facilitators, trainers, meeting planners or people who just “stand up in front of groups” – no matter what you’re called! – to come explore Liberating Structures with us. (We are very friendly.) Visit the Facebook group above and drop in to a meeting. We’re happy to have anyone wishing to expand and grow their facilitation practice in our midst.

P.S. Liberating Structures now has a new app! Look for it wherever you download apps for your devices.

(Featured image credit: BCcampus, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial)