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The Ticket to Higher Participation

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinctions between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working and playing.”

L.P. Jacks, Education Through Recreation.

Communities and organizations can sustain their working together efforts with this type of blurred movement between work and play. In fact, our partnership, Ready to Raise Consulting, started in the realm of fun. We (Tammy and Tracy) met at a women’s kayaking and cycling course and while dodging (or aiming for) mud puddles and navigating waves in the pouring rain, we found our combined commitment to creative group processes. After co-authoring our book Raising the Village, we quickly discovered that we were NOT the only ones on the pursuit for more creative interaction, fun and engagement in communities. The biggest request we have received since the book is for MORE ways to engage groups and more ways to facilitate creative processes that hold meaning.

When it comes to participatory methods we’ve used a slew of creative processes (and honestly, not always successfully) such as:

  • Collage or play-dough exercises to create vision statements
  • Blocks to discuss the difference between collaboration and cooperation
  • Graphic recording to keep people’s attention and open up the right side of the brain
  • Balls to signal when it is someone else’s turn to share/talk on an agenda (keeps people awake and on their toes, too)
  • Champagne toasts to create mission statements
  • Strategic plan scavenger hunts around town
  • Comedic comedy clips or cartoons to bring issues alive in an indirect way

Through every process we bring our humour and let our personality quirks shine. We certainly admit to when an activity “bombs” or doesn’t quite land which brings an authenticity that keeps things light and real (and boy does that help when dealing with complex issues)! Now creativity, fun and group process is not all about gimmicks, role plays and props, however it is also about how people approach one another and work together. It can be your ticket to higher participation, maximized engagement, expanded collective thinking and meaningful action.

“Mark Beeman, PhD, at Northwestern University, found that people have an easier time solving a puzzle after watching a short comedy clip. Having fun, perhaps by easing tension, may facilitate neuronal connections that are helpful for greater mental flexibility and creativity. In another brain imaging study, Dr. Beeman found that activation of pleasure centers in the brain predicted successful puzzle-solving. These findings suggest that well-being helps us think more creatively and could potentially help us resolve challenging situations.”

Spirituality & Health, May-June 2011 ~ Emma Seppala

The benefits of using creative group process are huge. We have seen first hand how taking a playful approach together can lead to:

  • Extraordinary fuller dialogue that captures many voices
  • Engaged WHOLE brain activity (the left and right)
  • The spirit of play – which is key to innovation
  • Increased shared experience and co-created meaning
  • Less daunting complexity and increased creative solutions
  • A spirit of celebration and “can do” or “we” type of attitude
  • Enriched relationships (and often a shared leadership/ownership)
  • Expanded and reframed challenges

Creative group process can instigate an environment of fun, but it will be different for everyone. It’s important to know your group and know your own leadership style so that you can pick the processes that will 1) work for you and 2) STRETCH but not hinder your engagement with others. A bit of discomfort and a bit of a stretch is good, but if you push too far, people may put up walls that no creative process is getting through. Meet people where they are, add a dash of fun and grab your ticket into higher participation infused with a collective smile.

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