Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Inside Story (Milano, June 11-14)

All stories have a story, and this is my experience of a common story.

This story sounds simple, but it really is not. Some persons met online, and decided to meet F2F. These persons liked one another. They spend some wonderful days together, till they parted again, bringing in their lives vivid memories of those days. These are the mere facts (but a story is something different, right, Bev?).

Such difference lies ALL in the difference there is between a group, collection of individuals (the definition, Alice), and a community, collection of people glued together by the relationships among them (can you see it now, Pat?). Meeting with each of you changed my life because together we created relationships (and therefore shared meaning, John), and relationships change you the way a shared electron keep two atoms together (or repel them, Elisabeth).

If I try to codify the meaning of my teasing of Patricia, I can explain a joke (maybe!), I can't explain how those jokes linked Patricia and I in a relationship, what happened in that moment and why (I wish you'd find a better way to convey that, Jason!). It's not just a matter of context (Elisabeth and Bev), it's a matter of tacit knowledge. I could tell you many instances of this story, but the bottom line is, what I've felt and done is not codifiable. A mere account of it would convey what was going on, but not what happened.

What was going on is almost all there (if it weren't for John forgetting to record the conclusions -- too much wine I guess or not sparkly enough I guess), how do I convey what happened? Some of the decision I've taken, question I've asked (Alice), things I've said (Jason), I understood them only later (John), when I thought of it, making an effort to "pass" my knowledge. And even though some of you said some decisions weren't intentional (Bev, John and Patricia), I still think you were, like me, tapping into implicit, tacit, awareness of the situation. We were mirroring one another, mimicring each other's behaviour. That's listening, John. That's CoP: learning when you don't know WHAT you are learning, learning when you don't know THAT you are learning.

And this leads straight to next issue, identity. Coming from the online self-help settings, this is of very much interest to me. Patricia is the one that has it more clear, IMHO. She repeatedly addressed her needs, her doubts, her feelings. At this point, John, are you sure Etienne is right and self-help groups are CoPs, or is it the other way around? It was crystal clear how the shared sense of outsiderness related to our interests and professional choices, the relief of finding others like us, the sense of normalcy coming out of it were making us feeling better. And that's self-help! To what extent we are into CoP practice because THAT climate makes us feel better, understood, accepted, meaningful, "normal", more resolved with our insiderness/outsiderness inner tension? Remember the term: normal-smiths (see Lofland, 1969).

Who among us was the normal-smith? Is this the role for a CoP facilitator, ie addressing and "managing" the outsiderness/insiderness tension, among members and WITHIN single members? I told you, a CoP facilitator is not like any other facilitator. S/he has to be collaborative, a normal-smith, addressing feelings as their arising is a threat to the *safety* of the CoP and its members (not intellectual safety, John, calm down). Does a CoP facilitator have to be oriented on goals, like a "normal" one, or on processes, ie creating a "CoP climate", Patricia? If *stating* the goals helps the group performance as a CoP, how far can we go in lying without being unethical, Bev?

I wanted to write a story, I've mixed narrative and analysis, the way I mix practice and theory. I've written CoP material, I guess.


Blogger bev trayner said...

Rosanna ... that is a work of art! Do you come from planet earth?

7:10 pm  

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