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CES Winter School 2020. ‘Sustainable development, complexity and change: thinking and practices for the SDG and other objectives’. Descriptive and evaluation summary report.

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CES Winter School 2020. ‘Sustainable development, complexity and change: thinking and practices for the SDG and other objectives’. Descriptive and evaluation summary report.

CES Winter School 2020
“Sustainable development, complexity and change: thinking and
practices for the SDG and other objectives”
14 - 18 December 2020 (Online)
DESCRIPTIVE AND EVALUATION SUMMARY REPORT12
Rita Campos, Ana Teixeira de Melo, Leo Caves, Philip Garnett
INTRODUCTION
The CES Winter School “Sustainable development, complexity and change: thinking and practices for
the SDG and other objectives” (https://ces.uc.pt/summerwinterschools/?lang=1&id=27490) was held
online between the 14th and the 18th of December of 2020. It was originally scheduled to be held at
Casa da Esquina, a cultural association in Coimbra, in September of 2020, but had to be postponed to
December and converted to a virtual/online format due to the COVID-19 pandemics. The
coordination team was composed by Rita Campos (CES-UC), Ana Teixeira de Melo (CES-UC), Philip
Garnett (York Management School e York Cross-Disciplinary Centre for Systems Analysis, University of
York, UK), Leo Caves (Independent researcher, PT, collaborator of the Centre for the Philosophy of
Sciences of the University of Lisbon, Associate do York Cross-Disciplinary Centre for Systems Analysis,
University of York, UK). Together, they lead and integrate the central team of the project “Building
Foundations for Complex Thinking to Promote Positive Change in Complex Systems” which aims at
objectives aligned with those of the school.
The School was based in a logic of deep interdisciplinarity, oriented towards promoting productive,
collaborative, critical and creative dialogues between different disciplines and modes of thinking,
between theory and research and the practices that “in the real world” enact and realise, critique or
present alternative or complementary proposals to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
2Recommended citation: Campos. R, Melo, A. T., Caves, L. S. D. & Garnett, P. (2021). CES Winter School 2020.
‘Sustainable development, complexity and change: thinking and practices for the SDG and other objectives’.
Descriptive and evaluation summary report. Coimbra: Centro de Estudos Sociais.
1Date of the report: 24th May 2021
1
Being a part of the international political agenda since 1987, the notion of sustainable development
is considered a global mark towards the awareness of the need of a new paradigm for development,
guiding policies aimed at the respecting the interrelation between economic growth, social inclusion
and environmental protection as cornerstones for the individual and collective well-being. However,
both the concept and it’s expression, configured in the 17 SDG and their indicators, remain under
discussion, raising issues about their adequacy to places, contexts and specific problems, about the
practices that sustain the concept of sustainable development and the degree of congruence
between the thinking underlying the SDG, the complexity of the world and the actions informed by
such thinking. The question needs to be raised that an insufficient recognition of the complexity of
the problems that sustain the SDG and the realities they aim to dress, as well as of the need to
develop modes of thinking and practices congruent with such complexity, may prevent or limit the
success of this new agenda, even leading, in unpredictable ways to the configurations of new, more
or less preferred or unwanted realities.
This School aimed to stimulate the discussion around the SDG, guided by critical, alternative and
complementary views. The invitation was sent to academics, activists, intervenors, educators and
whoever more is interested in participating in the co-construction of new ways of thinking and action
that inform the pursuit of sustainable and desirable alternatives for the place of humanity. The
School also included the exhibit of four posters from doctoral and postdoctoral researchers which
were targeted by a critical re-construction process throughout the School and equally presented on
the last day.
A variety of creative techniques and mediums (described below, in the Methodology section) was
used to support rich interactions and dialogues amongst the participants and the co-evolution and
co-construction of new ideas.
To reach a wider audience interested in the themes of the School, daily reports were shared on the
School’s Facebook page
(https://www.facebook.com/CES-Winter-School-Sustainable-development-complexity-and-change-1
03094948163934).
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE SCHOOL
General structure and dynamics
The School ran from Monday to Friday, from 11am to 8pm (GMT), for a total of 35 hours of collective
work, online. Two platforms were used: Zoom and Miro.
The collective working days were organized in four main categories of sessions, designed to stimulate
the debates, thinking and emergence of novel and creative ideas in different forms. These sessions
included four types of activities: 1) lectures, 2) collective narrative work, 3) creative craftwork, and 4)
integrative discussions.
There were also two moments dedicated to poster presentation and poster reconstruction and
discussion. Between these moments, participants and facilitators were invited to comment and
contribute ideas to a reconstruction of each poster.
A graphic designer accompanied the School, capturing the main ideas and helping to facilitate the
collective debates. A dialogue between the group and the wider potential interested audience was
maintained by at least one publication per day on the School Facebook page and also by collecting
questions or commentaries on a dedicated questionnaire (in Portuguese and in English).
More details on the School program are given in the Methodology section.
Group: Participants and facilitators
The group comprised 13 participants, of whom 4 had the opportunity to share their work in more
detail in a poster format, and 12 facilitators, of whom 4 were also the organizers, and 1 graphic artist.
The participants were very diverse, such as in their nationality, stage of the career, type of work or
country from where they were participating. For example, one participant was Portuguese, attending
from Portugal, working in a NGO; 5 were Brazilian, 3 attending from Brazil and 2 from Portugal, 3
were PhD candidates, 1 was a visiting scholar and 1 is working at a University office; 2 were from the
United States of America, 1 has been living and working in China; 2 were Colombian; 1 was Spanish
and 1 Swiss. Their academic background was also diverse, such as biology, anthropology, education,
geography, forest engineering, sociology or law. They role and areas were also very diverse, from
graduate students to filmmakers, project coordinator or professor; working in areas focusing food
justice movements, indigenous and local knowledge, systems science to collaborative care, family
resilience, international cooperation, global citizenship education, youth and gender studies, ecology,
critical environmental education, non-extractive methodologies or visual anthropology. There was
also a gender balance, with 6 female participants and 7 male participants.
The facilitators were mainly from CES - Ana Teixeira de Melo (also coordinator), António Carvalho,
Beatriz Caitana, Isabel Ferreira, Luciane Lucas dos Santos, Paula Duarte Lopes, Rita Campos (also
coordinator), Sara Araújo and Teresa Cunha. From outside CES, there were Leo Caves (also
coordinator), as independent researcher, collaborator of the Centre for the Philosophy of Sciences of
the University of Lisbon, Associate do York Cross-Disciplinary Centre for Systems Analysis, University
of York, UK; Magnólia Araújo, from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil; and Philip
Garnett (also coordinator), from the York Management School e York Cross-Disciplinary Centre for
Systems Analysis, University of York, UK.
The graphic artist was Daniela Barros, from Association Cultura Curto Espaço, at Aguda Beach, and
Futilidade. Daniela was present for the entire duration of the School and created graphic registries of
its main moments - her drawings are used in this report to illustrate her work and the moments,
spaces, processes and discussions of the School.
METHODOLOGY
General notes and aims
This section provides an overview of the methodologies used to enhance participation, collaboration
and the emergence of novel and creative ideas. This overview has two main purposes: 1) to register
the processes leading to the organization and facilitation of the School, as a writing memory of the
activity, and 2) offer some guidelines for future events aiming for deep interdisciplinary discussions
and engaged, creative and productive interactions.
Additional details regarding the theoretical rationale and objectives underlying the methodology and
methods can be found in Melo and Campos (2021).
The virtual platforms: Zoom and Miro
The School took place using two platforms simultaneously: Zoom and Miro3.
Zoom provided the video interface and the audio medium for the School while Miro was used to
support all the activities and interactions, providing a visual medium and differentiated spaces for
each activity. A mock version of the School in Miro and a brief video were created and shared with
facilitators and participants a few days before the starting of the School, so that all could get
familiarized with the platform (see below). In the beginning of the first day participants also had a
brief about the tools and spaces and how to use and navigate them. The purpose of the different
Studios and spaces in Miro was explained during this moment.
Logistic, preparatory meetings and support activities
3Cf. www.miro.com
Preparatory meetings. Preliminary meetings were held with the group of participants and facilitators
to provide an introduction to the platforms to be used and the dynamics of the School and to clarify
some ground rules, namely on how to make contributions to a collective discussion or request
support during the different sessions. Video Screens were made and sent to both groups before the
School providing some instructions into how to navigate and use the available tools in the Miro
platform.
Technical support. A support person was assigned from the group of coordinators to whom
participants and facilitators could ask for technical support regarding any difficulty during the School.
Anticipating the possibility of some technical failures a WhatsApp group was also constituted to
ensure the possibility of direct communication between participants and the coordination at any
time, namely for problem-solving. Preliminary meetings were also held with one participant
regarding her anticipated difficulties and in order to build a support plan.
Support spaces: The reception and SDG’s space. Because the School was focused on a debate around
the SDG there was a space available with the SDG’s symbols each linking to the SDG official
definitions and indicators pages. The reception space gathered some support documents that
participants could access during the School, namely the program, the link for the Facebook webpage
and suggested hashtags as well as the support video screencast on how to navigate and operate the
Miro board.
The Schools’ activities and the corresponding virtual spaces in Miro
In this section, we present an overview of the major categories of activities and the different spaces
of the School, in the Miro board, that supported them. Figure 1 presents an overview of the Miro
board with its different spaces at Day 1 while Figure 2 shows the final space as it was transformed
and expanded throughout the activities. The board allowed participants to navigate and zoom in and
out of the different spaces, interacting with them and with other participants in them.
Figure 1. Artistic representation of the starting of the School, the group and an
overview of its Tools (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 2. A zoomed out overview of the “filled” and transformed space of the
Virtual School by the end of Day 5 (end of School)
Warm-up activities and the Warm-up arena
The warm-up arena was a circular space used for the initial presentations and warm-up activity. As
shown in Figure 3, it contained an “avatar” for each participant, with their names and photos as well
as thinking and speech balloons attached. Participants were asked to present themselves responding
to the questions of ‘Why?’ (to participate in the School) and ‘What for?’. Additionally, they were
asked to share something personal or a curiosity about themselves.
Figure 3. A Zoomed out snapshot of the warm-up arena
Group building and social interactions: the Common Room and the Garden as the virtual
social spaces
Two spaces - the Common Room and the Garden (Figure 4) - were deliberately designed to promote
interactions at a personal level and the sharing and disclosure of personal information and about
each other’s contexts, hence situating the experience in time and space and allowing for the
exploration of similarities and differences, for mutual appreciation and surprise. The social spaces
added an embodied dimension to a virtual interaction since participants were invited to focus on
their embodied experiences.
In the Common Room, a space with the shape of 2-tier house, participants were invited to: ‘choose’
their drinks from the cupboard, writing down which they were having or preferred; take photographs
of the ‘views from their windows’ and upload them, along with comments, sharing something about
their contexts and location; share their meals, preferably something typical of their cultures and
location in the ‘dining area’ by uploading photos and commentaries. A pinboard was available
allowing participants to share any information, such as ‘postcards’ or notes pertaining to their
‘situatedness’ and contexts as well any other personal information.
Figure 4. Zoomed out images of the Common Space and the Garden Space
The School’s Garden space had links to some videos and photos of yoga and other exercises that
could be used to prevent strains and injuries from sitting at a computer for too long. There was a
sports table where participants were invited to identify their favourite sports activities or add other
hobbies. The garden also had a link for a folder to host videos or photos of the participants ‘garden
walks’, sharing something about their activities outside the time of the School.
In these spaces participants could use the comment functions to leave comments on each other’s
posts. Many of these interactions and contributions occurred outside of the official time of the
School, both during the breaks as well as before and after the end of the working day.
A world-clock was available where the time zones of the different participants could be found.
Emergent social interactions and new spaces
Some spaces were added to the Miro board during the course of the School as the dynamics of the
interactions within the group became more diversified and the participants made suggestions. Two
additional spaces were created: the Sharing Studio and the Music studio.
The Sharing Studio was a space where participants could share documents and videos pertaining to
their own projects and activities as well as publications. The Music studio was a space where
participants could indicate playlists or youtube videos of particular songs they would like to be
played and shared collectively while everyone was doing individual work for the story-telling and the
crafts studio. These moments of individual activities (where the videos and audios continued to be
shared) were then punctuated by a common experience of listening to the same music and the
sharing of personal information through the choice of background music and songs to be played or
reactions to them.
Records of the Day Space
At the end of each day, the coordination team collected all the comments left on the Notes panel
(details below), as well as other left on each seminar room and/or the Zoom chat, and saved in a file
that was made available to all on this dedicated space.
Lectures and the Seminar Rooms
Each keynote lecture had an allocated room in Miro, to which the program referred, as shown in
Figures 5 and 6. Each virtual room was customised by each speaker. In some rooms, the speakers
made available papers or other publications as well as links to website or videos. While the speaker
could make a presentation sharing their screen using Zoom, participants had the possibility of
interacting independently with the slide presentation on Miro. A panel of sticky notes and a
whiteboard was available in each room.
As the lectures unfolded participants could take notes of comments or questions to the speakers, in
the seminar room using these tools. They could also comment on each other’s posts. The
interventions made in these spaces were more directed at the presentation. At the same time, there
were designated spaces on the Notes panel (explained below); comments left on this panel were
more reflections elicited by the talks, sometimes opening new conversations and threads of
discussion.
Figure 5. Zoomed out snapshot of a lecture room after the session.
Figure 6. A general zoomed out overview of the Seminar Rooms
Overall, there were 11 lectures organized in 7 sessions. These were more “traditional” sessions,
including a 40 minutes presentation followed by a 10 minutes questions and answers (Q&A)
moment. To complement the brief Q&A, there was a dedicated space and a dedicated comment
thread on the Notes menu for each presentation in Miro (more details are given below), where all
participants could leave comments and/or engage in a parallel discussion. All the ideas shared in
these moments and media were integrated into the other categories of sessions (collective
narratives, craftwork, and integrative discussions; see below).
Session 1 had one presentation, “Introduction to the ODS and critical visions”, by Rita Campos,
offering an overview of the formulation of the concept of sustainable development, that delimitates
the formulation of the SDG, the integration of other knowledges, experiences, ways of looking and
making sense of the reality(ies), and the importance of cooperation and dialogue. Figure 7 represent
these and other topics brought to the discussion.
Figure 7. Artist representation of the Introductory Lecture themes and discussion
(Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Session 2 had two presentations: “Systems thinking and complexity” by Phil Garnett, sharing some
insights about system mapping and the notion of systems as interactive entities forming a unit and
how system approaches can be closely related to different theories, models and worldviews; and
“Complexity, change and complex thinking” by Ana Teixeira Melo, who talked about how our ways of
thinking complexity influences the different possibilities of action and giving a relational look over
complexity and development. The main topics, as well as related ones that came up during the Q&A,
are summarized on Figures 8 and 9.
Figure 8. Artist representation of the Systems Thinking Lecture and discussion
(Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 9. Artist representation of the lecture on Complex Thinking and discussion
(Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Session 3 also had two presentations: “Ontologies and Multiverses of the Anthropocene” by António
Carvalho, talking about the relation between meditation and mindfulness with new ways of building
affect and the impact of the separation of mind and nature on the current ecological crisis and the
contribution of these practices to the connection with humans and non-humans; and “Critical views
from the Epistemologies of the South” by Sara Araújo, calling for the need to acknowledge the
existence of a line that creates invisible zones, where the most vulnerable, stigmatized and excluded
people are, and of the deconstruction of the concept of sustainable development from other
experiences, knowledge, livelihoods. Figures 10 and 11 give an overview of these lectures and
related discussions.
Figure 10. Artist representation of the lecture on Ontologies and Multiverses of
the Anthropocene and discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 11. Artist representation of the lecture on Critical views from the
Epistemologies of the South and discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Sessions 4 and 5 had one presentation each, by Paula Duarte Lopes, on the topic of “Construction of
policies and SDGs”, and Leo Caves, on “Network approaches and SDGs”, respectively. Paula spoke
about the different challenges in the implementation of the SDGs in different contexts and the
interference of monocultures in many levels, from the construction of the Agenda 2030 to local
action. She used the example of the water in the discussions around these challenges and in looking
for alternatives that embrace the diversity of points of views. Leo offered an overview about the
properties of network models and their usefulness in different situations and contexts. He further
discussed the application of these models in the analysis of the SDGs and in the identification of the
inconsistencies and flaws in their development that may cause conflicts and compromise the results
they intend to achieve. Both the topics treated during the lectures and the ones brought about
during the Q&A are depicted on Figures 12 and 13.
Figure 12. Artist representation of the lecture on Construction of policies and
SDGs and discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 13. Artist representation of the lecture on Network approaches and SDGs
and discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
In session 6, Luciane Lucas dos Santos, in her presentation titled “The debate about inequality in the
SDG: a feminist and post-colonial reflection”, shared some insights on the necessity to recognise and
create ways of overcoming the structural processes underlying inequalities, and on the need to
engage communities -people- as a visible dimension in global policies and approaches such as the
SDGs. The second presentation of this session was pre-recorded, as Teresa Cunha was unable to join
the group live. Her talk, named “Modes of living with life in its core. On the other side of the
contemporary capitalist developmentalism”, focused on the contributions from a feminist
perspective to highlighting and understanding inequalities for the construction of communities ties,
and on the economies of care as true economies, capable of sustaining life and hope. Figures 14 and
15 summarize these lectures and the follow-up discussions.
Figure 14. Artist representation of the lecture on The debate about inequality in
the SDG and discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 15. Artist representation of the lecture on Modes of living with life in its
core and discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
The last two presentations, in session 7, were given by Beatriz Caitana and Isabel Ferreira, “Modes of
living with people at the center. Co-creation experiences in inclusive urban regeneration”, and by
Magnólia Araújo, “Education for sustainability in the context of the SDG”. Beatriz and Isabel talked
about the cities as living and dynamic entities, and the right to the city, and shared some approaches
to inclusion and effective participation of citizens that live and/or work in the cities, built from a
perspective of nature-based solutions. Magnólia discussed the different dimensions of education for
sustainability, and the absences and mismatches in discourses and contents related to education for
sustainability, and on the resources that exist to its implementation. These lectures and the related
discussions are represented on Figures 16 and 17.
Figure 16. Artist representation of the lecture on Modes of living with people at
the center and discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 17. Artist representation of the lecture on Education for sustainability and
discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Stream of consciousness, live reflections and synchronous dialogues: The Notes panel
As the activities unfolded, participants were invited to use the Notes function on Miro to register
their ‘stream of consciousness’ and their live reflections. They were free to engage in synchronous
conversations with each other in these Notes. At the end of each day, these notes were compiled and
made available to the participants as a file in the Records of the Day Space. The notes panel, along
with other resources where participants could share their reflections while the activities, allowed for
each participant to manage their own attention in the most suitable way and offered a different
medium for processing information according to individual preferred styles. It also supported
different rhythms and time scales of reflection and of interaction which promoted positive conditions
for creativity and the emergence of ideas.
The discussion and reflections happening on the notes panel became also opportunities to freely
associate and explore different ideas appearing throughout the School. The coordinators contributed
to the facilitation of this space not only with their individual reflections but also by importing into the
stream of notes the contributions left on other sections of the board, for example, through sticky
notes, or on the chat of the Zoom.
The Poster Sessions and the Poster Studios
Similar to the lecture Rooms, each poster presenter had an allocated space where their poster was
exhibited (Figure 18). A ‘sticky-notes’ corner was available to receive comments or questions that
participants wrote during the poster presentation and throughout the School. Each studio had a
blank space to support the work of reconstruction of the poster on the last day.
Figure 18. A zoomed out snapshot of the poster studios by the end of the School,
showing the collective reconstruction work
Four participants presented their poster on the first day and received comments and feedback on the
allocated spaces. Figure 19 depicts the main themes presented and discussed. On the last day, the
group offered suggestions for potential reconstruction of the posters, under the light of the
contributions of the School and the work developed. New inputs and perspectives were offered and
written on the poster studios. The poster owners then offered their comments on the offerings for
the poster reconstruction.
Figure 19. Artist representation of the poster presentations and its themes and
discussion (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Creative narratives for change and the story-telling studios
Creative narratives were daily sessions of collective work called “Building narratives for
changes”. These moments allowed the participants to reflect on the topics under discussion in
the School by creating or integrating short stories that could support, enact, inspire or guide
change and that could be communicated to others. Participants were invited to build small
narratives using a combination of words and images. These sessions were usually divided in two
main moments: an individual reflective and creative moment dedicated to the building of a
narrative, from a keyword and a key image, and a collective moment for sharing and
commenting on these individual constructions, exploring patterns that connected them.
The School began with one Story-telling studio which was replicated to accommodate activities
of the different days (Figure 20). The Studio contained sections where participants were invited
to leave a word, an image and a mini-narrative.
Figure 20. Zoomed out snapshot of telling studios from first zero (top-right) to
fourth day (bottom-right)
The exercises were very productive and allowed for the construction of 52 mini narratives. On the
last day, the Relatoscope method used for the general integrative discussion (described below) was
also used to explore relations between the micro-narratives and to find emergent patterns (as shown
in Figure 21). Some of the work produced in the craft studio (see the description of the craft work
below) was also integrated in the construction of mini-narratives for change.
In the context of a collective exercise, the mini-narratives were compared and explored in relation to
what differentiated and connected them and in search for underlying themes. They were organised
by categories corresponding to the themes that connected them with some narratives belonging to
more than one category. The following categories were created: Visions and goals; Wake-up call;
Symbols; Worldviews; Inspirational cases; Practical challenges; Methodological challenges; Processes;
Processes: levels and inter-levels; Education; Practices; Practices old-new.
This reflexive and circular methodological approach created several opportunities for interaction and
integration of ideas, knowledge, practices and experiences, feeding and being fed by the discussions
held in the different sessions of the School.
Figure 21. The final relational configuration of the narratives for change clustered
by underlying themes
Creative Craftwork and the Crafts Studio
Another category of sessions for creative collective work was based on creative craftwork. The crafts
studio was a space where participants uploaded photos of their craftworks and comments (Figure
22). As with the mini-narrative work, also for the craftwork additional spaces were created during the
School to accommodate all the creative work produced on these dedicated moments.
Figure 22. Zoomed out snapshot of the craft studios
As a requirement to participate in the School, participants were requested to have a working kit with
materials such as white and colour paper, sellotape, scissor, glue, colour pen or crayons, plasticine,
pieces of cloth or journals and magazines for paper cuttings.
During the creative craftwork sessions, participants were asked to explore ideas and their resonances
and reactions to the different inputs and discussions held during previous activities and to express
their ideas creatively using some type of craft or artistic expression. The products were then
photographed and the photos were uploaded onto the Crafts Studio. The last part of the sessions
included a ‘show-and-tell’ where each participant presented their work and explained its meaning.
Different types of works were produced from drawings, collages, mobiles, paper constructions,
plasticine constructions, window painting, crochet works, photography, mixed-methods
constructions. Selected works were then transported into a Storytelling Relatoscope studio, created
for the purpose during the School in order to support a final integration exercises of the narratives
created (as described before).
The Integrative Discussions in the Relatoscope Studio
The Relatoscope studio constituted a space for the practice of relational thinking working with all the
ideas and constructions of the School, supporting integration and facilitating the emergence of new
insights and ideas through the exploration of different types of relations between the different ideas,
perspectives and constructions selected by the participants from the different ideas. The School
started with one studio, dedicated to a final integrative discussion moment (Figure 23). As the School
unfolded and the creative work led to the production of a wide number of mini-narratives, an
additional Relatoscope was added to Miro (as described above). They were used both to support the
general integration of ideas and to support the story-telling exercise.
Figure 23. The blank Relatoscope space at Day 0
Participants would bring to the discussion base selected from the previous activities or their
reflections, resonances and reactions to them. Contributions left on the questionnaires were also
added to this studio and integrated in the relational experience.
The Relatoscop method used in these moments was an adaptation of a set of proposals described
elsewhere (Melo, 2020; Melo & Caves, 2020). It is designed to facilitate emergence of ideas, namely
from interdisciplinary debates and allows to visually track the collective thinking trajectories and to
integrate and further relate their emergent outcomes. It is a method for exploring, in non-linear
ways, different types of relations between different base ideas or concepts. This dynamic is
represented in Figure 24.
Figure 24. Artist representation of the Relatoscope overall dynamics and its role
in the School (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
The Relatoscope method comprehends a protocol where participants could perform a variety of
thinking movements on the board from pinning a base idea, to intentionally exploring relations (with
or without the help of support cards), to randomly explore relations and to perform an abductive or
integrative movement. Ideas resulting from the exploration of relations between two or more base
relate are expressed in posts-it and become new base ideas to be further related with others.
As relations are related to each other, higher order ideas emerge which are marked on the board
using different shapes. The board supports a visual inspection of the relational movements which
guides the activity in supporting a check that all ideas are connected and related to each other and
that recursive movements are performed.
Figures 25 and 26 give an overview of the discussions held during these moments. Images of the final
boards showing the integration of ideas can be found in Melo and Campos (2021).
Figure 25. Artist representation of some Relatoscope sessions discussions on Day
2 (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 26. Artist representation of some Relatoscope sessions discussions on Day
3 (Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
Graphic reporting and the Artist Studio
The resident artist Daniela Barros was invited to do the graphic recording of the School. Her daily
works were exhibited and available for comments in a dedicated space - the Artist Studio - and were
presented in a final session. Daniela also helped to facilitate the last integrative discussion aimed at
the construction of a Visual Manifesto, visually representing some of the integrative ideas discussed
(Figures 27 to 30). However, this manifesto was not terminated as the group concluded it needed
more time to deepen the integration of ideas and to decide on core themes to convey in it. It was
agreed that the work produced could be continued in follow-up activities and the artists’ recording
served a visual memory of the School.
At the final session Daniela offered the group a plan for a new ‘building’ for the School (Figure 31).
Figure 27. Artist representation of exploratory final Integrative Ideas (Drawing
authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 28. Artist representation of exploratory final Integrative Ideas (Drawing
authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 29. Artist representation of exploratory final Integrative Ideas (Drawing
authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 30. Artist representation of exploratory final Integrative Ideas (Drawing
authored by Daniela Barros)
Figure 31. Artist plan for the construction of a new Building for the School
(Drawing authored by Daniela Barros)
The Decompression Chambers
The decompression chambers were spaces destined to collect participant’s thoughts, reactions,
experiences and their evaluations by the end of each day. For this, the space had emojis and speech
balloons (Figure 32). This was an optional space but was frequently used by the participants
throughout the duration of the School to leave messages of appreciation for the daily work and their
overall feelings about the School.
Figure 32. Example of a decompression chamber in the beginning of the School
EVALUATION METHODS
Data collection methods
Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected primarily through an online evaluation form
with a section responding in a Likert Scale of 5 points (1- Very unsatisfied/Not interested/Not
recommend; 5- Completely satisfied/Very much interested/Highly recommend) and a set of
open-ended questions. Both the facilitators and the participants were asked to fill the form at the
end of the School. Four facilitators and 12 participants responded to the questionnaire. Qualitative
data also included the participant’s feedback about the School and the sessions provided both in the
Notes on Miro and on the Decompression Chambers of the last two days of the School.
Data analysis
Quantitative data was treated considering the distribution and frequency of responses. The
qualitative data analysis is reported in (Melo & Campos, 2021). In this report only information
pertaining to the participants and facilitator’s suggestions to other editions of the School are
reported.
QUANTITATIVE EVALUATION RESULTS SUMMARY
This section reports the quantitative evaluation of the School that was analysed, taking the total of
16 responses given in the online evaluation form.
Images 1, 2 and 3 present the average ratings for each evaluation dimension collected from the
completed forms, organised in three categories: the overall evaluation of the School; the evaluation
of the processes of participation in the School; the evaluation of the impact of the School.
Image 1. Overall evaluation of the School
The overall structure and dynamics of the School was highly evaluated: 75% of the respondents
affirmed to be very much satisfied and 25% quite satisfied. Most of them (81.3%) also considered the
School to be very much relevant for their professional practice or research and only 18.8 %
considered it to be somehow relevant.
In terms of the general dynamics and processes, again the majority of the respondents (81.3%) were
very much satisfied, while 12.5% were quite satisfied and 6.3% were somehow satisfied. Most
respondents were also very much satisfied (81.3%), quite satisfied (12.5%) or more or less satisfied
(6.3%) with the adequacy of the theoretical concepts while most were also very much satisfied
(62.5%) or quite satisfied (37.5%) with the balance between the theoretical and the practical
components.
Regarding the adequacy and nature of the practical exercises, most respondents were very much
satisfied (75%), somehow satisfied (18.8%) or more or less satisfied (6.3%). The creative work was
met with very positive evaluations with most respondents being either very much satisfied (75%) or
quite satisfied (25%). Finally, in relation to the satisfaction with the integrative activities most
respondents were very much satisfied and (68.8%) or quite satisfied (51.3%).
Image 2. Evaluation of the participation processes throughout the School
The participation processes were all very highly rated. On average respondents were very much
satisfied with most dimensions under evaluation including: the nature and quality of the
communication and interactions with the Coordination of the School, and the support provided by it;
the logistic conditions of the School, the performance of the facilitators and their contributions as
well as the contributions to the group and the nature of the dialogues, discussions and reflections.
The quality and communication with the Coordination of the School and the support provided by
them was met with very high satisfaction from all respondents (100%).
The evaluation of the logistic conditions of the School showed some more variation, with 87.6% of
the respondents being very much satisfied, 6.3% being quite satisfied and 6.3 % more or less
satisfied.
The performance of the facilitators was, in general, evaluated with very much satisfaction (81.3%) or
quite satisfaction (18.8%). Similar results were found for the evaluation of the contributions of the
group where 87.5% showed very much satisfaction and 12.5% quite a lot of satisfaction. Similarly,
most respondents were very much (81.3%) or quite satisfied (18.8%) satisfied with the quality of the
dialogues, discussions and reflections on the School.
The satisfaction with the individual contributions was the lowest-rated dimension but nevertheless
rated at 4.5, indicating that most respondents felt at least quite satisfied: half were quite satisfied
(50%) while others were either very much satisfied (31.3%) or more or less satisfied (18.8%).
Image 3. Evaluation of the impact of the School
In relation to the impact of the School the majority of the respondents (81.3%) were very much
interested in participating in similar activities, while a few (18.8%) were quite interested. Most
respondents were also very much (75%) or quite (25%) willing to engage in follow-up projects or
collaborations. Finally all respondents would recommend a second edition of the School or other
related activities.
DISCUSSION
Overall the School was successful in achieving its aims. Both the organisation of the School and the
processes of participation were highly rated by the participants and the facilitators.
The results point to the fact that the School generated opportunities for transformative learning, for
the emergence of deep personal reflections and for collective and shared constructions of new and
emergent ideas. The methodology was clearly highlighted as a distinctive feature of the School and
associated with the unique experiences if afforded (more details on this can be found in (Melo &
Campos, 2021). The virtual mode of engagement was prepared and shaped by the methodology and
allowed for unique outcomes and experiences to emergence. The care and attention placed on the
design of the methodology and the different spaces and activities were clearly justified and fulfilled
its objectives.
Physical and face-to-face meetings present advantages. Nevertheless, it is worth highlighting how the
detailed planning of the methodology allowed for very rich, productive and complex experiences,
marked by the emergence of a unique, higher-order, collective environment, impacting on the
individuals and on their (increased) capacity to make meaningful contributions. It is also worth
highlighting the congruence between the methodology and some of the key theoretical
contributions guiding and inspiring this School, namely in relation to the role of Complex Thinking
(Melo, 2020b).
While the virtual experience has some downsides, such as increased demandingness in terms of
effort, it clearly allowed the possibility of engaging a very diverse group from all over the world,
which, otherwise, would have not participated in the School.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
A set of suggestions was collected from the participants and facilitator’s responses to a
corresponding section in the online evaluation form. Reflecting on what went well and what could
have been done differently, and also paying attention to the suggestions and reflections shared by
the participants, the Coordination team is working on a new School proposal - a second edition of
this School - that already integrates some changes in its design. Below we present the suggestions
left in the form and how they are being considered in the general planned structure and dynamics
for the second edition of the School.
Preparatory readings
As a way of addressing constraints related to the multidisciplinary nature of the group, respondents
suggest that preliminary readings on the topics be provided before the beginning of the School. For
the second edition, facilitators will be invited to share at least one recommended text related to their
interventions (that will focus on specific topics; see next suggestion).
Question driven
Following a suggestion of making the School more question-driven, namely by the participant’s
interrogations, doubts and questions and personal quests to which theoretical inputs would follow,
the second edition will have the theoretical-like sessions organized around key-challenges/themes.
This strategy will allow for more directed and focused interventions from both the facilitators and
participants, both during the sessions and the follow activities. Also, the underlying methodology for
these theoretical-like sessions is a flexible and integrative one, inviting the facilitators to adapt their
talks and reflections to the group's main questions. To do so, all facilitators are asked to attend at
least the integrative discussion previous to their intervention.
Added time for mutual knowledge
One suggestion was related to having more time allocated to activities promoting mutual knowledge.
The Coordination team acknowledges the importance of this, and a new space will be created to
allow participants to use it to share their work - papers, posters, videos, books, or any other material
they wish to share.
Personal and collective goal-setting
Participants suggest setting personal and collective goal setting at the beginning of the School. To
address this, a specific session was created on the first day of the School. This session will allow the
group to set the grounds for the School, sharing experiences, and building shared visions and
purposes.
Event in Portuguese and/or simultaneous translation
Participants suggested that events held in Portuguese, for Portuguese and Spanish speaking
participants, could be organized. Also, that simultaneous translation could be used. While the
Coordination team acknowledges that language can be a barrier to a more effective engagement and
participation, it will not be possible to incorporate these suggestions in the second edition of the
School that will again have English as the official language. We will, nevertheless, be willing to
mediate some participation in Portuguese or Spanish.
Stronger action-research and practice focus as starting point
A stronger action-research and practice focus at the start of the School was suggested. To address
that, the second edition of the School will have an extra session to set the grounds of the School and
an extra space to share participants’ work (see above). Also, the facilitation team will be expanded to
include colleagues from both a more theoretical and a more practical background. This will help to
equilibrate the theoretical and conceptual dimensions with examples of field work experiences.
Include space for sharing publications and outputs
Participants suggest including a zone in Miro for the sharing of participants’ publications and
outputs. This would allow for better mutual knowledge and enhance opportunities for future
collaborations. This space was added during the School, and is also predicted for its second edition
(see above).
School more dispersed in time
Participants suggest that the School becomes more dispersed in time, with sessions apart, even if
longer overall. The high diversity of topics covered and facilitating strategies used created a space for
immersive and intensive work. While this was highly evaluated by both participants and facilitators, it
also led to the production of many outputs that needed more time for in-depth reflection and work.
As such, the second edition will incorporate this suggestion in two ways: it will have a weekend in
between, before its ending, and will have an extra, optional, day with an open programme, to be
defined by the participants and facilitators willing to use that extra time. Also, and importantly, a
follow-up workshop was scheduled with the facilitators and participants from this School, so that the
group can meet again and decide together what outputs from the School will be further explored
and how.
More time for final integrative and collective construction activities
Allowing more time towards the end of the School for integrative and constructive work, so that
there could be more time for emergence to take place and for the group to engage in final comments
and discussions of their perceptions was suggested. This suggestion relates to the one above, and is
being addressed with the follow-up workshop and the extra day in the second edition.
Follow-up activities
There were a number of follow-up activities, some related to the continuation of their internal
collaboration (keeping shared virtual spaces to exchange information and projects), follow-up
meetings with more targeted topics eventually preceding another School suggested. Other
suggestions related to more external activities and included activities focused on the SDG’s including
leaders of social movements and traditional communities, the production of materials (e.g. podcasts,
manifesto, videos, articles) as well as dissemination of these outputs to other groups and forums.
These suggestions will be discussed in the scheduled follow-up workshop with the group.
REFERENCES
Melo, A. T. (2020a). Complex relational thinking method. A proposal for facilitating the emergence
and integration of ideas in debates, round-table discussions and dialogical meetings. [Method]
V3.EN.2020. Doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.17185.02408
Melo. A. T. & Campos, R. (2021). Online Group Facilitation guided by Complex Thinking: An
evaluation case study of an Interdisciplinary Advanced Training School. Manuscript submitted
to publication.
Melo, A. T. (2020b). Performing Complexity: Building Foundations for the Practice of Complex
Thinking. In SpringerBriefs in Complexity. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46245-1
Melo, A. T. & Caves, L. S. (2020). Relational thinking for emergence: A methodology for guided
discussions. V1.2019. Doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.30469.70881.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Method
Full-text available
This paper reports a new method to facilitate and promote the emergence and integration of new ideias in debates, round-table discussions and other dialogical and interdisciplinary meetings. This method is based on a previous proposal presented by Caves and Melo (2018) and Melo and Caves (2019) and the theoretical framework for complex thinking proposed by Melo (2020). It is an adaptation of these proposals aiming to promote complexity at the level of the thinking. It integrates and proposes new variations for the use of the tools named Relatoscope and Observatron (Melo & Caves, 2019). Applications. Facilitation of scientific debates and others, round/table discussions and other dialogical and interdisciplinary meetings.
Method
Full-text available
A relational thinking method to promote emergence in guided discussions
Book
In the face of growing challenges, we need modes of thinking that allow us to not only grasp complexity but also perform it. In this book, the author approaches complexity from the standpoint of a relational worldview. The author recasts complex thinking as a mode of coupling between an observer and the world. Further, she explores the process and outcome of that coupling, namely, meaningful information that may have transformative effects and impact the management of change in the ‘real world’. The author presents a new framework for operationalising complex thinking in a set of dimensions and properties through which it may be enacted. This framework may inform the development and coordination of new tools and strategies to support the practice and evaluation of complex thinking across a variety of domains. Intended for a wide interdisciplinary audience of academics, practitioners and policymakers alike, the book is an invitation to pursue inter- and transdisciplinary dialogues and collaborations.
Online Group Facilitation guided by Complex Thinking: An evaluation case study of an Interdisciplinary Advanced Training School
  • A T Melo
  • R Campos
Melo. A. T. & Campos, R. (2021). Online Group Facilitation guided by Complex Thinking: An evaluation case study of an Interdisciplinary Advanced Training School. Manuscript submitted to publication.