Workshop format

A face-to-face Sense Weaver workshop is usually facilitated in the following way (there can be variations according to the context, number of participants, logistic constraints, and so on).

Since the workshop has been run in loose contexts, as outdoor and noisy festivals, ideally the duration of it should not exceed two hours, with a maximum of about 20 participants.

Introduction (20 mins). 

Welcoming participants and workshop introduction.

Ice-breaking activity (20 mins). 

The format opens with an ice-breaking activity on the question “what do you have in common?”, where we start to trigger the participants to interact with each other and to reflect on the word “common” in unusual ways. The aim of this first activity is not only to put the participants at ease but above all to provoke them to think out-of-the-box about theoretical definitions that they could already have of the commons.

Exploratory trip (20 mins).

We invite participants in groups of 2-3 people to leave the workshop area and to go for a short exploratory trip in the surroundings. The trip consists of finding what, in each participant’s point of view, represents a common. It can be a situation, a thing, a metaphor, a symbol, and so on. Once a participant finds a scenery meaningful for her, she takes a photo of it with her smartphone and sends it to the facilitators. The photos are taken individually by the participants, yet doing the trip in groups triggers discussions in an informal setting about the choices of the images taken. As we receive the photos, we print them on a card-format (2.1×3.4” – 5.4×8.6cm). When the participants come back to the workshop area, they find a deck of cards ready to use, with their photos printed on them.

Storytelling (40 mins). 

Once the participants are back, we shuffle the photo-cards and each participant randomly picks 2 or 3 photo-cards from the deck. In pairs, participants have 5 minutes to look at the cards they picked and think about a short story, taking the photo-cards as mandatory narrative elements (characters, situations, etc.). In turn, they have 5 minutes each to share their story, also explaining why these images represent commons (or a unique common) in their story. The number of cards to pick for each story may vary depending on the number of participants. The rest of the participants actively listen: each participant writes, on post-its, up to two keywords that, in her opinion, represent the key common-related aspects of the story. We collect the post-its on one poster for each story. Finally, the storyteller(s) give(s) a title to the story, that is then written on the poster. We propose storytelling as a challenge to derive a meaning of commons that has continuity in the story: this challenge is given by constrained creativity. The constraints are given by telling the story through a temporal dimension: the three photo-cards are disposed of as three consequential events: antecedent, fact, consequences.

Synthesis (20 mins).

At the end of the storytelling activity, we move to the final part of the SW, developing definitions of commons. We work on a practical level, aiming at creating concrete definitions bounded to personal experience, rather than to theoretical and abstract reasoning. In this stage, participants form groups of four. Each group works on two posters and the related stories(not created by group members). The group has to agree on three concepts per poster that connect some of the keywords in the poster to their experience in relation to common (nothing magic in number three, the point is to avoid a “one concept per group member” dynamic). Inspired by the six concepts identified, the group has to complete the sentence “A common is when…” (or another similar sentence focusing on an experiential and non-theoretical usage of the term ‘common’), that they write down on a sheet of paper.

We use an overall approach to the negotiation of meanings. The activities are conducted mainly in small groups, with no facilitator listening. The negotiation of meanings happens on two levels: 1) with yourself: in choosing the subjects of your photos; 2) in pairs: in making up a story giving new meanings to photos that others produced with their own meanings in mind; 3) with the group: in telling the story, the others write down keywords based on their own understanding of your narrative, that can be different from what you mean. In this way, the authorship is loose but still present, weaved with the other authorships.