Monday, June 02, 2008

Community Collaboration and Dialog

This afternoon, I took part in an online dialog as part of the formation of a statement for the Envision Conference in Princeton this June. The organizers used an online collaboration software Synamin. As you signed into the site you were assigned a group, once the group was formed went through a series of questions. At each stage of the collaboration you had to pick which answers of statements reflected best the work of the group and then you either were asked to expand on or edit your choice. there were three sets of questions each group worked through: What core values ground your faith? What is happening today that violate those values?What are the most important issues Christians must work together to address. it was an interesting process. At moments frustrating. The odd thing for me was that it was entirely anonymous, I wasn't even sure how many people I was collaborating and in dialog with. Also, the beginning question seemed and still seems backwards to me, But I was able to in the process turn that question on its head. What I found cool about the process was that you could select and edit work that you had not submitted. So that you could in some sense insist on just saying what you wanted to say, since you were to select what best represented the group's work you could see very quickly how the thoughts of the participants were influencing each other and how one's initial ideas or statements began to be incorporated in other statements. I became frustrated with the direction of my group in part because they seemed to remain very abstract and vague in their articulation and did not take my rout of trying to have some concrete examples in some of our answers. The collaborative aspect of the program was cool, but since one could not ask questions of the other participants or get clarification of their terms etc. it did not feel much like a dialog. Though, adding an element of discussion could get messy and more time consuming. As it was it took about two hours.
In a few moments I am taking part in a quite different and much more low tech conversation. I am going to the organizing conference of the Organization of the Northwest and North side Chicago Community activist organization. I am not sure what to expect. Pastor Monte of Immanuel Lutheran has been part of the organization for awhile. I think the main piece for tonights meeting is a plan for one of the local high schools, but I am told other things are on the agenda as well. Should all be very interesting.