In Praise of ‘GroupWorks’ Cards


One of the most important–and often the most challenging–aspects of systems change work is convening the group conversations (meetings, conferences, other gatherings) where ideas are discussed and plans are made.

Think about the last time you were in a great group gathering: one where you felt engaged and heard; where new ideas and perspectives (including systemic ones!) were valued and considered, and participants ended up satisfied by with both process and outcomes. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have one of those experiences lately, it’s likely that whomever designed/facilitated the gathering knew a thing or two about how groups work.

There’s a collection of very group-savvy volunteers who have put together a remarkable resource in support of such powerful meetings. GroupWorks–a Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and Other Gatherings–is a set of 91 cards describing all sorts of things to pay attention to when designing and facilitating what I would characterize as ‘the kind of meetings that make a difference’. The alphabetical list of ideas cards begin with ‘Aesthetics of Space’ and ends with the oh-so important idea of ‘Yes, And…‘. (One of my favorites is the card ‘Not About You’– about the importance of facilitators not taking things personally.  That little reminder has saved my backside (and left my self-esteem intact) more than once!

So grateful to my dear colleague  Steve Byers for sharing these cards with me. I’m looking forward to referring to them for an upcoming conversation I’ll be hosting.    If anyone else has experience with them, I’d love to hear about it.


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