Tag Archives: Graphic Facilitation

A visual explosion of a global gathering.

The International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP) Annual Conference 2015, Austin, Texas

In July I travelled to Austin, Texas to join the 20th Annual conference of the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP) where around 150 people from across the world from twenty-one different countries involved in the various forms of visual practice came together aiming to explore the potentials of the work. Visual practice includes people involved in graphic facilitation, graphic recording, sketch noting and graphic coaching to name a few of the strands.

I have been a member of the IFVP for the last three years and felt very honoured to receive one of the six scholarships that the IFVP gives to members each year. Here I hope to share a few of the key highlights and learning gained from travelling so far to join in. I arrived at Austin’s Bergstrom airport on Monday evening to a wave of Texan heat, an array of very different bird song (mostly the Great Tailed Grackle I was told) and strong American accents surrounding me. I caught a bus to the conference hotel as I was in no rush and let my eyes explore as I travelled the short journey into the city of Austin.

Early the following morning, I went to seek out Lynn Carruthers, the then President of the IFVP and the person leading the organisation of the conference and also the person coordinating the six scholarships. Now you might expect the lead organiser of a global conference for 150 delegates to be looking strained at every seam on the final morning of preparations but this couldn’t be further from the truth. A very fresh looking and cheerful Lynn greeted me warmly and within minutes had assigned me my first task. Over the entire conference, I watched as she zipped this way and that, cheerfully delegating, solving issues as they arose and working through her carefully planned checklists. This event had been planned to an amazing degree (well I guess it is an event for facilitators). The team of people who were beside Lynn in the event organisation were equally upbeat and focused with can do expressions, this leadership and teamwork style reverberated over the days and I heard numerous times if someone could do this or that and would here the same styled reply ‘If Lynn or one of the team is asking me to do something then, of course, no problem’. I have been involved in many, many events and I watch other skilled and thorough organisers perform their magic and this is one of their notable talents they share; to be able to enjoy the process, to plan well ahead and delegate clearly and to ooze a lightness of touch, together these are returned by an atmosphere of positivity.

As both a delegate and a scholar I was there to roll up my sleeves and to get stuck in where needed. My key task over the next few days was to assist the photographer, Steve Weinstock, by uploading the files of photos he captured onto two different platforms. Whilst my brain rebalanced in the first day after a long flight this was easier said than done but gradually I adjusted and got into the swing of the task and took memory stick after memory stick from Steve who relentlessly pursued the busy agenda capturing the golden people moments along with the numerous graphic records being created. For every session held, there were one or more people capturing a graphic record. At the end of the conference the main conference area, the hallways and the breakout rooms were all covered with amazing visuals of the content of the days in all sorts of styles.

When each session began there was a hilarious synchronised bowing of heads by the audience as each person was pulled to their own sketch pad to capture their own sketch notes. In so many other events/workshops there may be one or two people, or maybe even a handful that would be doing this, so to be surrounded by an entire conference gathering of other obsessive intentional doodlers and visual thinkers was an unusual but welcoming experience. It occurred to me even by early on in the preparation day, that I had already met a host of people and was chatting easily and feeling collegiate with an at home feeling I could have only hoped for. An opening welcome evening on Tuesday for all the delegation kicked off with a reception and short addresses from some of the key organisers.

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The following morning the conference got into full swing. Now for those that don’t know the field of visual practice really took off in the 70’s and 80’s and one of the pioneers of that time, David Sibbet, has always been a great supporter of the IFVP. And whilst David Sibbet and many other leaders in the field were at the conference one of the truly special things about this community was the genuine non-hierarchical attitude and atmosphere of everyone. Whilst I had awestruck moments and acknowledgements of people’s legacy and expertise there was an equality and humanness that could not easily be explained by any one person’s action or behaviour. It was fascinating to hear David Sibbet describe the journey of visual practice emerging from 1970’s and whilst this is a journey I am familiar with there is nothing better than receiving water from the source. David described how there wasn’t a field in the 1970’s, then through noticing how architects worked together using diagrams to try to solve problems together a catalyst began. In 1979 David Sibbet began The Grove and wrote a first book ‘I see what you mean! An introduction to graphic language recording and facilitation. Meanwhile, a group of graphic recorders had started meeting and David came and joined them. David described this group as ‘this is a group who practice radical acceptance’, my reflection approximately 30 years later in Austin, Texas was that this is still the case.

David Sibbet

Over the next few days, I went on to speak to many people both those that had been in the field for a brief few days or weeks to those that extended back to the origins of the practice. And by speaking I don’t just mean a casual introduction, the conversations were rich and exploring constantly the how do we create our visuals to methods and approaches to the practice and process of facilitation. I spoke to people in the various workshops, I had conversations with different people at breakfast, lunch and dinner, there were discussions with people when gazing at graphic records and pondering over the book store and of course we also escaped the conference hotel on a few occasions (even if it was lovely) and ventured into Austin where the conversations even then orbited around the practice of facilitating processes. Another thing was apparent in these conversations and that was whilst it was clear people knew some people previously in different ways wherever you physically landed at any given time so spontaneously you became part of that conversation.

Of particular impression to many was a session on The Aesthetics and Ethics of Visual Storytelling by Kelvy Bird, Anthony Weeks and Lisa Sorsa. The three introduced their own approaches and took questions from the audience as they compared and contrasted thoughts about how what and why they did what they did. As graphic recorders of stories and narratives, they explored how we focus on active listening and listening in the broadest sense of the word, listening to the content, tone, body language, room dynamics and meanings and our role is to distil and capture the flow and create a reflection of all that we hear. They explored how when we are graphic recording we are not empty vessels but that we aim to purposefully be aware of our own content, that we knowingly and actively apply filters and it is our role to check these filters to ensure they are the right fit for the nature of the activity in hand. A key learning here was to grasp that graphic recordings capture a story but that each story has no absolute end or beginning and as one ends so begins another. The metaphor of an iceberg was used to help visualise this message and how if you look at an iceberg from the side, seeing the tip above the water and the mass below the water, you have one perspective. If you flip your view to look at the iceberg from above, another perspective reveals itself, of rings expanding outward (similar to rings of a trees ages) and that each progression moves into the next. Kelvy Bird explores this dynamic further and how it applies to facilitation on her website http://www.kelvybird.com/storytelling

Storytelling

The IFVP aims to stretch frontiers of the work of visual practice and a very notable moment was while the Visual Story telling session was happening an amazing nine different recorders were simultaneously recording the same session but each in a different language. This tremendous achievement was fascinating to witness. The reflections from the recorders at the end of the session indicated a common theme from those recording, that to listen in one language and to flip into translation in another and then back to listening repeatedly was far more difficult than anticipated. People described almost feeling the mechanisms and effort in their brains as they jumped between the language listen and the translate and record modes. Fair play to them all they did a marvellous job and another great potential opens up for the community. Below is a photo of the graphic records all gathered together following the session (these can be seen individually on Flickr).

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One session explored the process for a graphic recorder of live graphic recording, the session ‘inside the graphic recorders head’ (also available online to watch. http://www.ifvp.org/content/getting-into-the-head-of-graphic-recorder ) The idea was to use the same short TED talk and watch as each person graphic recorded the same talk one after another to further explore the process and different methods and styles of graphic recording. This was a particularly generous give by the recorders as the reality is in an 8minute TED talk there is only going to be so much time to capture and certainly limited time to polish and finish (the bits that we often do in the pauses and the breaks). This was an incredibly revealing and useful session illuminating the individuality of the process whilst also sharing the listening for key anchors and content within any talk or content.

inside the head

There were so many other memorable sessions and stellar presenters that would fill much more pages but I guess I need to stop somewhere.Toward the end of the conference OGSystems http://www.ogsystems.com illuminated the interconnections between us all session using the metaphor of orbiting and planets, this was a creative and enjoyable session with great visual templates for people to participate in across the room and with great potential for using in many areas.

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From meaningful, reflective, creative and interactive sessions there was also time for many lighter moments. On one occasion we were indulged with by the uplifting and observational humour of Julie Gieseke who parodied the experience of a graphic recorder in a merciless way sending the audience reeling with knowing laughter and wincing in recognition. 

On the final afternoon Dan Roam, the author of the international bestseller, “The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures,” spent some time describing the strengths within really basic and simplistic drawings to convey complex ideas with the great potential to help people ‘see’ what you’re talking about.

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A few final things to mention; the IFVP is an entirely volunteer led organisation, all of the Board members and those involved in the organising volunteer their time. This is particularly astounding given the sheer amount of time it takes to organise any conference, let alone a global conference, add to this the on going communication and activity throughout the year I really do take my hat off to them all and thank them all sincerely for their hard work and bringing together this unique opportunity and learning experience. The IFVP now has a new President following the Annual General Meeting and welcomes Jenny Trautman to the role.

To end, I have come away with so many new inspirations and the ideas are percolating fiercely. I met and made connections with people from far and wide and I know there were still many I did not get the chance to connect with but there is always our online networking that bridge the time and distance between these rare opportunities. Those people attending from Europe had a discussion on one of the mornings about developing the networking within Europe so look out for developments about this. From all of this I hope to bring back to my own practice and that of Engage Visually a whole new blast of energy, methods and techniques to support people and organisations in their thinking, planning and actions. I leave you with a list of links below if you would like to explore more of the content from the conference and if you have any questions you would like to explore from my reflections please do ask. I look forward to the conversations and possibilities of where visual thinking, visual practice and graphic facilitation will go from here.

There is much more content, photos and videos from the conference please do explore through any of the following;

#IFVP2015 OR www.ifvp.org

or follow any of these signposts

IFVP Social Media Visual

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N.b Sketchnotes by Debbie Roberts at Engage Visually, all other images are by various creative hands at the conference.

It’s not just/always a pretty picture.

Graphic Facilitation can be a great tool for consultations and focus groups when discovering people’s views is the reason you are bringing people together. When people come into the room there is usually some feelings about the subject about to be explored and sometimes a not unhealthy scepticism about the process you are about to take them through. People are brought together for consultations and focus groups for anything from restructuring within organisations, changing community resources, to researching peoples experience of any number of services. When approaching the task using Graphic Facilitation a whole new set of potentials can be added. The session can be interactive with facilitation post-it’s, graffiti walls, idea walls and other ways to get people involved and exploring the topic together. Sessions may also use discussion as the key tool whereby the roles would be to facilitate the discussion and capture a graphic record live of the words people are actually saying and not an interpretation of what they are saying. This live visual recording is incredibly empowering where relationships may have unequal power or at least perceived unequal power.

When approaching the task using Graphic Facilitation a whole new set of potentials can be added. The session can be interactive with facilitation post-it’s, graffiti walls, idea walls and other ways to get people involved and exploring the topic together. Sessions may also use discussion as the key tool whereby the roles would be to facilitate the discussion and capture a graphic record live of the words people are actually saying and not an interpretation of what they are saying. This live visual recording is incredibly empowering where relationships may have unequal power or at least perceived unequal power.

The graphic record (part of if) displayed here was from a three-hour session with around twelve people. The subject was a very difficult one; people who had themselves experienced being physically restrained under the Mental Health Act. Here the subject was a very personal experience and unfortunately a largely negative experience too. Once I had described the purpose of the session, how it would be run (with a strong focus on ‘On your own terms’ and ensuring support was available should anyone feel distressed by the experience) and we had all introduced ourselves the discussion got under way. Within a few minutes people were seeing their words recording in a way they recognised, there was no researcher mystery, no notebook just the wall and the words. It should be noted people had also given consent for an audio record alongside the visual notes to enable cross checking should it be needed in the write-up.

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At the end of the focus-group, the whole group reflected how transparent it had felt, how their guards were relaxed and how included it had made them feel. Now whilst this was a delicate subject I have had the same or similar reactions when it is theoretically about less emotionally evoking content, about organisational and community changes for example. I think many of us possibly have a little anxiety and suspicion about what the person is recording in the notebook we cannot see, so by creating notes in a way that can be seen and is accessible is a  strong positive.

You’ll notice that unlike graphic recording at conferences and events that often have a lot of imagery within them this graphic record is almost entirely words. This is intentional, the time was short and the time available was given to capturing the many fragments of experience and insight from the people in the room and so this was the priority on this occasion. Each occasion is different; who the people are, the topic being explored, how long you have together and the purpose of being there. But one thing appears to remain constant, it is not just or always a pretty picture, in fact, sometimes it is not even a picture. there may be no or few images but the graphic record is created live in a visually accessible way in front of the people whose views and words are needed.

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Purposes of a Graphic Record – Health Education North West (HENW) NHS

Graphic Recording (Visual Notes) are increasingly being used across different sectors and different organisations large and small. This in no accident. In an age of complexity of information, there has never been a greater need for ensuring strong and focused conversations. There are many needs for these conversations including; sharing information, developing innovation, building time to think, time to analyse solutions and much more. Graphic recording in a meeting or event has a number of purposes and roles in supporting these conversations and offer a range of benefits.

Health Ed North West for EVwebsite

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graphic facilitation. Graphic recording

Recently Health Education North West (HENW) brought together people involved in developing and training some core roles within the NHS workforce. HENW were keen to maximise the potential of the day and commissioned a live graphic record, the record below, it was created live during the event and follows the flow of the content and conversations of the day. This graphic record is a great example of some of the purposes and benefits they can add to meetings or events.The focus of the event was to look at how learning environments were needing to transform to reflect the real and changing world and how services and the networks of practitioners need to collaborate creatively to face these challenges and changes. The first intention or purpose for this graphic record was to bring the stream of conversations together from throughout the day to support people to literally see connections across the day; to help create a visual record and summary of the day that was visible to everyone.

Equally the graphic record acted to create a great focal point during the day where many conversations ensued in the breaks instigated when colleagues came together to browse the emerging record. When the event was over the graphic record was then available in a second life to remind people of what was covered and to keep the learning and conversations alive.

The reach of the graphic record was then extended to many people who weren’t at the event. The graphic record is a condensed and accessible way to communicate a synopsis of the day to those not there. In this way, the graphic record now acts as a conversation starter and encourages a wider inclusion of people to continue and enter the dialogues started at the event.

Whilst a graphic record is intended to be eye catching the absolute focus and intention is to create a visual record that can reach these purposes (and others). So eye catching yes, but always with this clarity of purposes; to convey and distil content, to enable sharing of the content and to encourage people to take the content and take it further… to the next conversations, the next events and maybe to the next graphic record.

Curiosity blog raises curious conundrum

Here’s my latest conundrum, a conundrum that emerged as I creating this recent graphic recording…. I was left pondering as I came to the end of the piece what do I refer to it as? In reality, this is the same pondering thought that surrounds how people refer to graphic recording and graphic facilitation more generally.

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This word and semantic conundrum came into focus when presented with a series of leadership blogs by Amanda Reynolds of Blend Associates (http://amandareynolds.org). Amanda wanted an image, a graphic, a graphic narrative that graphically records her leadership blog. Amanda wanted her readers to be able to a large extent to access the essence of the blog through a stand alone graphic or to read the graphic in a complementary way alongside the blog. Fortuitously Amanda’s latest blog on leadership was all about curiosity (https://blendassociates.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/can-you-be-a-great-leader-try-curiosity/). And with good curiosity I began to explore the language people are using for graphic facilitation and graphic recording, within a relatively short while I had come across this not insubstantial list;

  • Archi-toons
  • Architecturally oriented visual explanation
  • Artifacts
  • ‪Artwork
  • Big Map
  • Captures
  • Charts
  • Drawings
  • Graphic Facilitation
  • Graphic recording
  • Graphic harvest
  • Illustration
  • Infoharvest
  • Flow
  • Mindmap
  • Mapping
  • Maps
  • Model
  • ‪Murals
  • Notes
  • Pictures
  • Rich Pictures
  • Sketch notes (not usually large scale but created live)
  • Storyboards of their day
  • The big paper
  • The recording
  • Visuals,
  • visual documentations
  • Visual harvest
  • Visual maps
  • Visual minutes
  • Visual notes
  • Visual reporting
  • Visual storytelling
  • Visual summaries
  • Visual templates
  • Visuals

So having gathered this ever growing list my curiosity leads me to recognise I need to continue to listen and explore the language and words people use and the contexts they are using them in and see where this leads me. And whilst I recognise how words and semantics can be all powerful what ultimately is being done in the work is to use visual communication tools to support people in their various endeavours. Therefore if these visual communication tools are supporting peoples processes and capturing and conveying meaning then they achieve their purpose whatever you call it.

If you’d like to tell me what you would call this piece on curiosity I’d love to hear your views.

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You can find the Leadership blogs by Amanda Reynolds of Blend Associates at; http://amandareynolds.org and Amanda’s Leadership blog on Curiosity can be found at; https://blendassociates.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/can-you-be-a-great-leader-try-curiosity/

Drawing out ‘What is it you do?’

The work of a graphic facilitator is not always easy to explain because there are so many potential ways of working. The landscape is populated with almost endless possibilities, many of which are waiting for the next conundrum that needs solving.

A recent piece of work shows one of these potentials, a graphic record was developed live over a number of different events, a section at a time and then compiled creating a 7.5m graphic record that colourfully captured many conversations centred on a pivotal consultation.

The Education and Training Foundation (The Foundation) was entering an important consultation because they had recently been gifted The Professional Membership Service for those working in the Further Education Sector. In receiving this gift and legacy they needed to look forward, talk and listen to existing and potential members and shape the future of the Membership Service they would be offering and supporting. At Engage Visually we went to a number of sector based events with The Foundation to host conversations and to work on the consultation about the service. As we listened we captured key concepts, ideas and issues and added these to the graphic recordings. At each event, a fresh picture emerged and as the picture emerged it would create a focal point of interest. The graphic records would draw people in and they would come across to ‘see’ what was happening; in turn, they would often become involved in the discussions themselves. A number of The Foundation’s staff were involved alongside the graphic facilitator, talking, listening and shaping the graphic recording. The lead for the consultation work at The Foundation, Claire Mitchell, Head of New Business-Programmes and Services, shaped the visual metaphor of the process of a river running through the landscape with different tributaries flowing in and out.

Graphic facilitation was one method The Foundation used in the overall consultation, with the aim of engaging people in a dynamic conversation and at the same time creating material that would support further engagement as the process unfolded.

This work with The Foundation was a customised service and whilst there a number of ‘off the peg’ services that will fit many people’s needs we also know that some organisations’ needs will start with a conversation. The conversation will then create and build solutions, solutions that will always be doable, exciting and most importantly, useful.

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A sketch note is good for the soul and mind

So the virtues of visual methods to engage people meaningfully and creatively are being endorsed more and more. This includes graphic facilitation, graphic recording, visual notes, scribing to name a few. All of which is great for the revolution of visual thinking and engaging people effectively. But where did and does it all begin? For me, quite simply, like for many, it began in many meetings where for my own sake I was trying to make sense of what I was hearing and aiming to capture key points to help my memory process and retain the nuggets of information.

I soon found the notes were becoming not only purposeful and useful but a great freedom and creativity within what was often an otherwise constrained environment. Many years on I still find myself totally absorbed by the content and fully connected with the pen when I sketch note purely. This sketch note was a response to a short animation from Matt Greenwood’s 50sec animation-24 design elements

 

Graphic Facilitation of Equalities Pop-Up Tour

A short update to the post below to say the graphic is now complete 🙂 The graphic record is designed to describe the Equalities Consultation, Pop up tour and live debates which explored equality and diversity in continuing adult education.

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What a different and creative way to use Graphic Recording. Not so long ago I was approached by the driving force behind an innovative consultation about equalities in adult education, Catina Barrett, Programme Manager, National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE). She described how they had talked to people the length and breadth of England, popping up literally in a camper van to meet and talk to people! They also held debates that were streamed live for wider audiences. The request was to have the methods and findings of their work translated and distilled down into an engaging Graphic Recording. The process was very interactive with the researchers working with the facilitator and the content placing, shaping, replacing information until the picture emerged that reflected the work. The image is almost complete and they plan to use it to convey the work and the findings. They hope to use it to create and hold attention to the areas people have highlighted and the actions that are recommended as a result.

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Green Britain Centre – Water and Energy

Last week was the first event in a series Anglian Water are delivering to have innovation conversations. The first focused on Energy and Water and below is the live Graphic Recording from this event. It is going to be interesting to being part of the events unfold and to create the Graphic Records that aim to build the memory and a connectivity across the events. The Graphic captures will support the stream of consciousness and the ideas that stem from the conversations, watch this space for the developing picture 🙂

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The Value of Graphic Facilitation

“The value of graphic facilitation – or doodling, or graphic recording, or even organizing thoughts on sticky notes – is not necessarily in the perceived quality or beauty of the visual artifact. Rather, the value comes from the process behind the product: the graphic facilitator’s ability to listen to the conversation, see the bigger picture and how the group feels about that bigger picture, distill all that information down into its core content, and mirror that back to the group in real time while the conversation continues to unfold.

It provides clarity and insight in-the-moment during difficult conversations. It keeps teams on track and moving toward their desired outcomes. It allows ideas to be shared in memorable and effective ways. And it allows team members to see themselves as part of that bigger picture…which means they feel more vested in the outcome. Ultimately, that allows teams to achieve massive results in less time. Results like completing over 90% of the organization’s annual plan in just seven months. Or moving up the timetable for corporate expansion by four years. Or being able to simply draw out your business idea on the back of a napkin for a prospective investor and land those much-needed startup funds.

There is power behind these seemingly simple processes.”
Jeannel King, April 2012
President, International Forum of Visual Practitioners www.ifvp.org
Graphic Facilitator and Stick Figure Strategist, Big Picture Solutions www.jeannelking.com

New website

Welcome to Engage Visually’s new website where we will discuss all things graphic facilitation and graphic recording. We will bring you latest news and creative comings and goings. We are also very much interested in the science behind the drawings and the evidence about graphic facilitation and graphic recording as effective and powerful tools for your work.