Carolina Roman Gonzalez, Fiammetta Wegner, and Gioel Gioacchino
Scarlett Kassimatis, Carolina Roman Gonzalez and Marcela Arreaga Vela, with the support of Fiammetta Wegner
As part of a Participatory Action Research (PAR) training Recrear hosted in Barcelona (April 2019), we were asking ourselves how to exist as part of an alive and healthy system. We designed this activity to answer the research question, ‘What are my limits to co-creation?’.
We reflected that co-creating requires emotional attention and, most likely, working through some discomfort. Yet, understanding and sharing our experiences of discomfort cognitively can be very hard. For this reason, to explore our question we wanted to pull from the embodiment techniques that we had learnt during the course. We came up with this exercise to allow people to express and transform complex feelings, thoughts, and ideas through the intelligence of the body, without needing to define them first.
Through this technique we are trying to understand how the challenges that come along with co-creation are felt, experienced and overcome by individuals. The exercise invites participants to explore the challenges first individually, and then in a conversation between two people.
Introduce the exercise and explain that you will be using the body to explore the question: “what are the limits to co-creation?”
Invite the group to stand in a circle facing each other. Propose a concept to embody (e.g. a star, a pen, a tree, a flower, an ice cream) and ask everyone to turn around so that they cannot see each other. Invite them to practice interpreting the concept by making a statue with their body. Ask them then to turn in-wards to face the group and perform their statue to one another.
Leave a few seconds for everyone to observe each other’s interpretations. Repeat this for 5-8 rounds and offer a few more concepts to warm up and improve people’s confidence. Change the words you are offering from simpler concepts to ones more related to the research question. For example, you could use ‘being trapped in a box’, ‘standing by a cliff edge’, and ‘being stopped by a high wall.
Ask participants to divide in groups of 3. Explain that one person will take the role of observer/note-taker, while the other two will work together: One will be the statue (participant A) and one will be the mirror (participant b). Ask each person to take a moment to think about a real life experience that relates to the topic you are exploring. For example, think of a time you experienced the limits while co-creating in a team.
Ask participant A to physically embody that experience. Invite them to hold this pose, while connecting to the emotions associated with the experience.
The mirroring partner (B) can now take the time to explore the statue: walk around it, see it from all angles, and explore the images and feelings the statue surfaces in the observer. When partner B is ready, they should mirror this pose in front of the partner A, exactly copying their position. By experiencing the same position, they will personally sense what partner A is trying to embody.
Ask partner B to now engage with partner A by proposing slight adjustments to allow partner A to transform the tension they are experiencing and alleviate the feeling of limitation or stuckness. Both partners should be paying attention to what is happening, how they are moving/being moved and why, and what emotions they experience throughout this process. Partner B will also mirror the position so to experience it.
At this point, partner A can choose a third position to transform the initial experience of stuckness. Once this third position is found, performed by both participants, and explored through the body for a few moments, both partners should sit down and discuss the entire process.
This should include how each position shed light on the experience of limitation.
Did the movement into a new position change anything?
What were the statues showing/communicating?
Did you learn anything new during the process?
The observer/note takers should now observe each discussion, noting down any themes, points of interest or useful analysis.
The observer/notetaker can also engage in the conversation by sharing their observations.
Repeat the process with the other participant in the trio.
When everybody is done, come together with the whole group to debrief the exercise, with one facilitator taking notes. The flip-chart can now acts as your data and can be analyzed along with notes taken during the exercise.
This technique allows participants to explore complex thoughts through the body, without demanding to express complex notions eloquently. The technique also allows for empathic and collective analysis of personal experiences, without requiring participants to be confident speakers in group situations. It also invites participants to explore possibly sensitive topics in the safety of a pair.
The exercise does require some level of confidence in order to achieve the most out of both the embodied parts and the debrief. The exercise is largely accessible, though it requires the ability to move and communicate in some way. We wondered how much of the activity to explain at the outset: we concluded that it may be better to provide an overview of the entire process before beginning. There is a challenge around note-taking/observing discussions: it can be off-putting to have someone observing your discussion but not participating. This should be communicated properly. If participants find the presence of the observer hinders discussions, working in pairs without an observer remains an option.
This technique can be used to develop empathy, feel the emotions of others in your own body. It can be used to explore internal and personal limits to situations other than co-creation.
Before you facilitate this exercise with a group, we suggest you run a trial session internally with your colleagues/friends and use it to reflect on your own challenges collaborating.
This is an exercise that needs to be run slowly and ideally in silence. Tell participants to communicate only through body images and wait for instructions to debrief.
No additional resources for this technique…
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