Day 9: Facilitating the Group, Navigating Challenges


Week 2, Day 9

Again we started with progress reports, by this time the groups ideas were beginning to come together.  As this was the last day of week 2, and week 3 would be solely independent small group work time, we had to include a talk about challenges of working in a group.  I talked about the concepts of “community organizing” and “facilitation” – focused on cooperative communication and personal stories of success and struggle, ie. different examples of how to make decisions.  I think this was an important part of passing on the responsibility.  Most of the students took this talk very seriously, and many asked good insightful questions.

day9_org-facil – Community Organizing is about empowering each other, figuring out how to work together – trial & error, strategy, planning, learning
– Facilitation is about managing complex interpersonal relationships – step up, step back, etc
– Process over Product – challenges are inevitable, they are also great learning opportunities
– decision-making is the hardest part of collaboration. Yes, and… is important, but sometimes also we must say no, especially when it will not all fit
– conclusion: working collaboratively takes a surprising amount of grace, it is an elaborate dance of interpersonal relationships – we need to be aware of each other just as much as we are aware of issues and ideas


day9_chall2I had thought to myself, what are the top 10 challenges that group projects struggle with? according to my experience? and then I made a diagram, listing these:

attachment, tunnel vision, over-ambition, time management, drop-outs, distribution of labor, resentment, miscommunication, ideological differences, stress (in the middle of everything).

I told one story about a personal experience I had with each of these.  I think that being real with the students and telling them that this process would be really hard, and that because they were in school and they were being tested on this shit which means they have to do whatever it takes to finish by the deadline (that means 12 days), in spite of all the grand aspirations we have been talking about up to this point (damn, what a trip, eh?)… was really positive.  They got a good honest understanding of the task at hand, so that they could feel prepared for it.  I did not tell horror stories, just regular incidences of day-to-day conflict, things they had already experienced during their research phase.  Good questions followed, and we added a few things to the map based on discussion.

I felt that this was a very good experience for some students, those who already had a predilection for collaborative work were very engaged during this conversation.


So that was it, the end of the official instruction.  I let them go with the homework to finish their research / story-collecting and to finalize the medium and format of their pieces, so that we could purchase all the supplies (there was also a budget to deal with of course… more on that later), to be ready to go on Monday.


Day 10 : Workin’ it



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