LS Online: Troika Bowl

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IMG_3686The plan is to share a series of posts detailing how we (BJ Eib, Beth Cougler Blom, Sylvia Riessner, me, hopefully others…) have lately been adapting and facilitating Liberating Structures online. I’m hoping we develop a consistent format that’s easy to pick up and run with, but for now I just want to start with one while it’s fresh!

Liberating Structures we did online:

People & Technology:

  • 2 facilitators – BJ Eib & Tracy Roberts
  • 8 participants from the same organization
  • Tools: PowerPoint, Blackboard Collaborate (timer, white board)
  • because of the “fishbowl” twist, we think this activity could scale up quite a bit, though maybe with 2o+ people and you’d want to re-think, skip the fishbowl aspect and just use online breakout rooms to achieve a more “traditional” Troika

Purpose of our online session:  Discussion across our organization about how we support communities of practice, and how we can understand and report on their work and impact on the higher ed sector.  We also wanted to create a space for 3 of our community stewards to seek help from colleagues on specific  challenges with 1 of the communities they support.

 Five Structural Elements – Min Specs  Notes for adapting to online (BB Collaborate)
 1. Structuring Invitation

Invite the group to explore the questions “What is your challenge?” and “What kind of help do you need?”

  • Invite 3 community leaders to choose a challenge to focus on and to participate “in a fishbowl online”.
  • Upload PowerPoint Slides to Whiteboard with instructions and prompts.
  • See below for the slide we created to support the activity once it got going
 2. How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

Any number of small groups of 3 chairs, knee-to-knee seating preferred. No table!

  • Everyone in the main online room the whole time (i.e., no breakout rooms).
  • Live text chat on/available for side chat and backchannel
  • Timer tool baked in to online environment  so it dings works great (but not required)
3. How Participation Is Distributed

  • In each round, one participant is the “client,” the others “consultants”
  • Everyone has an equal opportunity to receive and give coaching
  • Note: the big idea here is that 3 people are doing a Troika inside a fishbowl where the rest observe and can jump in (and 2 facilitators are facilitating the process).
  • In each round, one was the client, the other two were consultants AND there was a  4th “empty chair” where anyone else in the online session (outside the fishbowl) could “sit” to ask a clarifying question and/or take part in the idea generation/advice giving part
  • each of the 3 have equal opportunity to give/receive coaching. Those outside the bowl are invited to give, but not receive in this session (this worked for our smaller number of participants)
 4. How Groups Are Configured

  • Groups of 3
  • People with diverse backgrounds and perspectives are most helpful
  • 3 people identified and invited in advance to do the Troika activity “in the fishbowl”
  • Diverse perspectives and roles from our organization were represented
 5. Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation

  • Invite participants to reflect on the consulting question (the challenge and the help needed) they plan to ask when they are the clients. 1 min.
  • Groups have first client share his or her question. 1-2 min.
  • Consultants ask the client clarifying questions. 1-2 min.
  • Client turns around with his or her back facing the consultants
  • Together, the consultants generate ideas, suggestions, coaching advice. 4-5 min.
  • Client turns around and shares what was most valuable about the experience. 1-2 min.
  • Groups switch to next person and repeat steps…………………………………………………………….
  • Emailed 3 clients in advance to invite them to have this special role in the online session, and to think about the challenge questions in advance. So we skipped the 1 min up front.
  • First client share question/challenge with all. 1-3 min. Set timer for 3 min.
  • Consultants (other 2 in the fishbowl) plus anyone who takes the “empty chair” ask clarifying questions. 2-3 min.  Set timer for 3 min.
  • Client turns off mic (we considered disabling mic, but it wasn’t necessary).
  • Consultants (other 2 in the fishbowl) plus others who claim the empty chair generate ideas, suggestions, etc. 4-5 min. Set timer for 5 min.
  • Client turns mic on and shares what was most useful. 1-2 min. Set timer for 2 min.
  • Repeat with next client.
  • How to claim the empty chair:  the process of uploading ppt results in a flat image, so the original slide we uploaded just has the grey box (no names) – see image below.  Once uploaded, navigate to the slide and type names (use title tool and increase font size) of all participants except the ones already in the fishbowl. Because the names are “floating” on the whiteboard above the ppt slide image, people can treat the text like an object and click, hold and “drag” their name to the blank space above the folding chair

Here is the main slide we used to support the activity by…

  • showing the challenge prompts and process steps as reminder
  • showing who is “sitting together” in the fishbowl/triad (we could have also used photos of the people)
  • showing the “empty chair” that can be “sat in” by anyone
Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.54.30 PM

Slide to support online Troika + Fishbowl

Post-session reflections, tips, etc…

  • We pretty much stuck with the original timings (sometimes + 1 min or so) and it worked well overall. Some participants expressed a desire for more time, but they always do f2f, too.
  • 1 or more people always leave early when they realize active, organized participation will be required. I think this illustrates how low our expectations around webinars have sunk, i.e., we are surprised if we CAN’T be passive, multi-task, and just lurk and listen or half-listen.
  • Consider trying 5 chairs in the fishbowl: 2 consultants, 1 empty chair plus (this is a new idea…) 1 chair for facilitators to rotate in others, in a more structured way.
  • Tips re: instructions:
    • tell participants clarifying questions should only elicit yes, no, or few-word answers.  These are not deep how/why questions.
    • tell clients “turning their back/turning off mic” that they WILL want to turn their mic back on to add, respond, clarify, etc. But be clear they are not allowed to.  Rather, their job is to listen for any nugget that might help them. I think this is actually easier to do online than in person.
    • tell consultants to talk with each other as if the client wasn’t there, and NOT to talk to the client at all once their “back is turned”/mic is turned off

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