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Within the New Path to InclUsion Network we used the Theory-U developed by Otto Scharmer and the presencing institute (www.presencing.com) as a framework to guide our learning and activities. 

The dialogue walk is another tool which is proposed by the presencing institute during the Sensing phase and the movement down the U. The practice of dialogue walks can also be used at other stages e.g. the crystallising after the presencing and prior to the prototype creation phase as to explore emerging possibilities and to reaffirm ones vision and intention. In the New Paths to InclUsion project dialogue walks have been one of the most frequently used tools, to which most of the participants regularly where looking forward too. In many cases people have retold how going on a dialogue walk, seems such an easy to use and efficient tool to clarify ones thoughts with new insights and new ideas being a regular “side effect”.

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Within the New Path to InclUsion Network we used the Theory-U developed by Otto Scharmer and the presencing institute (www.presencing.com) as a framework to guide our learning and activities. 

The dialogue walk is another tool which is proposed by the presencing institute during the Sensing phase and the movement down the U. The practice of dialogue walks can also be used at other stages e.g. the crystallising after the presencing and prior to the prototype creation phase as to explore emerging possibilities and to reaffirm ones vision and intention. In the New Paths to InclUsion project dialogue walks have been one of the most frequently used tools, to which most of the participants regularly where looking forward too. In many cases people have retold how going on a dialogue walk, seems such an easy to use and efficient tool to clarify ones thoughts with new insights and new ideas being a regular “side effect”.

Intention:

The process itself is intended to take participants to a more attentive level of listening and to raise awareness and understanding from another perspective. The role of the listener is to focus completely on the words of their partner without making any interruption and to observe one`s own listening: am I paying attention, when do I notice thoughts coming, when do I feel the need to make a comment. As in every other form of mindfulness practice such reactions are seen as just a normal way of how we pay attention. The role in this exercise is to try to notice them without judgement, immediately letting them go and to redirect the full attention to the person speaking. Sometimes we have found it useful here to make the sole exception on this rule for comments to encourage the speaker to elaborate deeper on what is being said – but again this is actually an exception and can only be recommended for groups who have practised dialogue walks before. The role of the speaker is to become completely immersed within their own thoughts and to actually verbalise ones thinking in progress, so as reach a deeper understanding. If you are using dialogue walks within a corporate setting we can recommend that the dialogue partners represent different perspectives within the organisation.

Process:

A Dialogue-walk approximately takes 45-60 minutes. We do not recommend to cut short on that time. Sometimes participants consider this to be too long, for an activity that is mainly composed of walking, listening and talking. We have made the experience that it is helpful to frame the intention of this exercise clearly, and to explain that sufficient time is needed to move together beyond just providing information in order to reach a deeper point of reflection. Also consider time for a group debrief of the exercise. When a group is introduced to this activity for the first time we can also recommend giving a short introduction into the four levels of listening. Here we have made the experience that is more effective to do that after the dialogue walk and group-debrief – as it allows people then to directly relate concrete experiences they have made.

As a facilitator you introduce the intention and the different roles of the person who is listening and the one who is talking. Pairs are intended to take turns. Meaning that each person has a time of about 15-20 minutes (depending on the time budget that you allocate – we recommend the same amount of time for each person plus a debrief/dialogue between the two walking partners) in which he/she just listens or just talks, while the other person does the opposite. Before the partners change roles advise them to just keep on walking together for 2-3 minutes of silence until the second person starts to talk. This moment of stillness is a very critical element that also should not be left out. Another “rule” of the exercise is to advise the pairs to go for a walk – hence dialogue walk – and to the largest extent possible refrain from looking at each other. This is usually one of the strangest elements of this exercise form people, as it breaks so much with our habitual patterns of showing respect through looking in each others eyes. The intention behind this rule is twofold – for the listener not to be distracted my other non-verbal communication signals that the talker is offering (remember Watzlawick`s famous saying: “We can not not communicate”) and to focus solely on what he/she hears. For the person who is talking this rule should create a safer space to really offer one`s thoughts as unfiltered as possible thus allowing for a more open form of communication often leading to deeper insights. When both partners have taken both roles, you can advise to have a free dialogue about whatever emerges for them in that particular moment – thus really entering into a shared dialogue.

As a facilitator you can (re-)frame the questions to be addresses in the dialogue walk in order to fit the overall intention of the workshop of process. The questions should encourage people to share personal stories. Depending on the context it might be advisable to make a comment on both confidentiality of what is being heard and to affirm every participants firm right not to share any information that he/she feels does not belong to that particular setting – thus framing the exercise – like all other U-Tools – as an open invitation.

The questions of the dialogue may, can and will vary but should be designed to enable the persons story to develop and unfold in a natural progression, to reflect on the working situation and the desire for achievement. Ideally the 3-4 questions reflect a Mini-U, and guide the talker to a process of reflecting on one`s past, present, and future ambitions, observations, intentions, etc.

Three questions used in the multiplication workshop have been:

  • What has brought you to this work?
  • What has changed for you since you began this work?
  • Looking at my situation Now: If I could change one particular aspect of my work in supporting people with intellectual disabilities what would that be and why?

Before starting the whole group debrief, it is advisable to offer at first a few minutes of uninterrupted space, where you invite participants on returning to write any significant insights, experiences, observations in their personal journals / and/or a sheet provided for that purpose. For the group-debrief invite, openly and without forcing anybody to share new insights, what was important to them and how the have felt in the two different roles.