Convening unMonastery Group identity?

Peeragogy Handbook V1.0/Convening

Peeragogy Handbook V1.0

Authors: Gigi Johnson and Joe Corneli

So we want to try peer learning? Maybe we’ve already found a few people who will support you in this effort. Congratulations! It’s time now to focus your thinking. How will you convene others to form a suitable group? How will you design a learner experience which will make your project thrive? In this chapter, we suggest a variety of questions that will help you to make your project more concrete for potential new members. There are no good or bad answers - it depends on the nature of your project and the context. Trying to answer the questions is not something you do just once. At various stages of the project, even after it’s over, some or all of those questions will aquire new meanings - and probably new answers.

Fabrizio Terzi: “There is a force of attraction that allows aggregation into groups based on the degree of personal interest; the ability to enhance and improve the share of each participant; the expectation of success and potential benefit.”

Group identity

Note that there are many groups that may not need to be “convened", since they already exist. There is a good story from A. T. Ariyaratne in his collected works in which he does “convene" a natural group (namely, a village) - but in any case, keep in mind at the outset that the degree of group-consciousness that is necessary for peer learning to take place is not fixed. In this section, we suppose you are just at the point of kicking off a project. What steps should you take? We suggest you take a moment to ponder the following questions first - and revisit them afterward, as a way to identify best practices for the next effort.

There will be a quiz

Those taking the initiative should ask themselves the traditional Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. (Simon Sinek suggests to begin with Why, and we touched on Who, above!). In doing so, preliminary assumptions for design and structure are established. However, in peer learning it is particularly important to maintain a healthy degree of openness, so that future group members can also form their answers on those questions. In particular, this suggests that the design and structure of the project (and the group) may change over time. Here, we riff on the traditional 5W’s+H with six clusters of questions to help you focus your thinking about the project and amplify its positive outcomes.

Expectations for participants

1. Roles and flux

  • What are some of the roles that people are likely to fall into (e.g. Newcomer, Wrapper, Lurker, Aggregator, etc.)?
  • How likely is it that participants will stick with the project? If you expect many participants to leave, how will this effect the group and the outcome?
  • Do you envision new people joining the group as time goes by? If so, what features are you designing that will support their integration into an existing flow?
  • Will the project work if people dip in and out? If so, what features support that? If not, how will people stay focused?

2. Nature of the project

  • What skills are required? What skills are you trying to build?
  • What kinds of change will participants undergo? Will they be heading into new ground? Changing their minds about something? Learning about learning?
  • What social objective, or "product" if any, is the project aiming to achieve?
  • What's the 'hook?' Unless you are working with an existing group, or re-using an existing modality, consistent participation may not be a given.

3. Time management

  • What do you expect the group to do, from the moment it convenes, to the end of its life-span, to create the specific outcome that will exist at the conclusion of its last meeting? (C. Gersick.) Note that what people ACTUALLY do may be different from what you envision at the outset, so you may want to revisit this question (and your answer) again as the project progresses.
  • Keeping in mind that at least one period of is inertia is very likely (C. Gersick), what event(s) do you anticipate happening in the group that will bring things back together, set a new direction, or generally get things on track? More generally, what kinds of contingencies does your group face? How does it interface to the "outside world"?
  • What pre-existing narratives or workflows could you copy in your group?
  • How much of a time commitment do you expect from participants? Is this kind of commitment realistic for members of your group?
  • What, if anything, can you do to make participation "easy" in the sense that it happens in the natural flow of life for group members?
  • Does everyone need to participate equally? How might non-equal participation play out for participants down the line?

4. Back to the future

  • What structures will support participants in their journey to the end result(s) you (or they) have envisioned? What content can you use to flesh out this structure?
  • Where can the structure "flex" to accommodate unknown developments or needs as participants learn, discover, and progress?

5. Tool/platform choice

  • What tools are particularly suited to this group? Consider such features as learning styles and experiences, geographical diversity, the need for centralization (or de-centralization), cultural expectations related to group work, sharing, and emerging leadership.
  • Is there an inherent draw to this project for a given population, or are you as facilitator going to have to work at keeping people involved? How might your answer influence your choice of tools? Is the reward for completion the learning itself, or something more tangible?
  • In choosing tools, how do you prioritize such values and objectives as easy entry, diverse uses, and high ceilings for sophisticated expansion?

6. Linearity vs Messiness

  • How will your group manage feedback in a constructive way?
  • Why might participants feel motivated to give feedback?
  • How firm and extensive are the social contracts for this group? Do they apply to everyone equally, or do they vary with participation level?
  • What do people need to know at the start? What can you work out as you go along? Who decides?
  • How welcome are "meta-discussions"? What kinds of discussions are not likely to be welcome? Do you have facilities in place for "breakout groups" or other peer-to-peer interactions? (Alternatively, if the project is mostly distributed, do you have any facilities in place for coming together as a group?)

Cycles of group development

The above questions remain important thoughout the life of the project. People may come and go, particpants may propose fundamentally new approaches, people may evolve from lurkers to major content creators or vice-versa. The questions we suggest can be most effective if your group discusses them over time, as part of its workflow, using synchronous online meetings (e.g., Big Blue Button, [Connect], Blackboard Collaborate), forums, Google docs, wikis, and/or email lists. Regular meetings are one way to establish a “heartbeat” for the group.

In thinking about other ways of structuring things, note that the “body” of the Peeragogy Handbook follows a Tuckman-like outline (Convening a Group is our “forming”, Organizing a Learning Context is our “storming and norming”, Co-working/Facilitation is our “performing”, and Assessment is our “adjourning”). But we agree with Gersick (and Engeström) that groups do not always follow a linear or cyclical pattern with their activities!

Nevertheless, there may be some specific stages or phases that you want your group to go through. Do you need some “milestones,” for example? How will you know when you’ve achieved “success?”

Dealing with chaos or conflict

In closing, it is worth reminding you that it is natural for groups to experience conflict, especially as they grow or cross other threshold points or milestones - or perhaps more likely, when they don’t cross important milestones in a timely fashion (ah, so you remember those milestones from the previous section!). Nevertheless, there are some strategies can be used to make this conflict productive, rather than merely destructive (see Ozturk and Simsek).

Copy/paste is not cool

[Bergamo-Hub], I recommend you do not to copy/paste third party content into Edgeryders posts. This is not the way we do things here. Let me try to explain why.

You see, we are trying to build a community. Why? Because we think a strong community is a valuable multipurpose tool that each member can use to forward her purposes. By community we did Mission: Baltic, the unMonastery and other good things.

In a community, you need to put some of your own skin in the game whenever you engage. We want to hear from YOU. We have access to the Internet too, and each of us has her own pet resources: it is great that you think Peeragogy is an important concept and you want to share it with us, but copy/paste does not signal your enthusiasm. Anyone, even a spambot, can do copy/paste. If you want to tell us you like Peeragogy, take the time to write what it is you like about it (and, by all means, include a link): you will make a much greater impression. The more careful and readable your writing, the more impressed everyone will be. By your effort, you are signaling Peeragogy quality: it is so good you are willing to use your own time to share it with us.

It may seem long and difficult. It is. Edgeryders was never meant to be easy. It was meant to be for real, to forge a diffused squad of doers that can help each other doing difficult, scary, ambitious things in a world thrown off-balance. But consider this: every bit of effort you put in talking to us will save everyone else effort. In the long run, if we stick to each other as a community, we will be super-efficient, because each person will take back 100-folds in reading carefully edited content what she has to put in writing it!

Asking questions is more cool than having the answer.

Thanks for the recommendation Alberto.

I’m fabrizio Terzi and contributor of the page, so I don’t consider acopy/paste third party, but instead an attempt to answer some questions with you that might be useful to introduce newcamers into the project.   We we might solve  “The caos of partecipation” by empower Wrapper member position who describes the new state of the project preparing weekly (or daily) reports about activities, new post & ideas  and than filtering and organizing  new contents for all members instead of receiving redundant content and massive flows of information.

Most organizations (even community) publish a set of rules to guide how they want their people to act inside the organization. More often than not, most of these rules tell us what not to do.Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t use the copy machine after 8pm. Don’t use company resources for personal use. I think offering a set of rules is a good thing - they help maintain order inside an organziation. Understanding the value of such guidance, I recently issued a set of rules to my team. But there’s a catch. In our organization, there will be no rules to tell us what not to do.

Rules that tell us what not to do hold people back. Instead the rules should help push people forward. In our project, the rules consist of a list of the things that are allowed.

It’s called “The Allowed List by Simon Sinek”, and this is what it says.

You are allowed to:

  1. Make the decision you think is the right decision to make
  2. Start something that needs to be started to help advance the cause
  3. Ask for help whenever you want it
  4. Help others whenever you can (even if they don’t ask for it)
  5. Take time off to do something that inspires, excites and energizes you

For  me, that oen meant summing up the high points that we saw over a given period of time because when we are closed to ideas, what we get is criticism, when we are open to ideas, what we get is advice.

How can I candidate Bergamo hub project to Edgerider Community?