The Liberators
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The Liberators

Participants of the recent Learning Gathering in Seattle (March 2019)

5 Reasons to join the Liberating Structures Learning Gathering in Hamburg, this August

On August 8 & 9, the first Liberating Structures Learning Gathering will take place in Europe (not limited to, by the way). Hosted by Holisticon, and with some help from Barry Overeem and me, we hope to welcome a large group of Liberating Structures enthusiasts. We will also be welcoming the founders, Keith McCandless, and Henri Lipmanowicz.

What and who is a Learning Gathering for?

The purpose of the Learning Gatherings is as follows:

Learning Gatherings exist to bring the community together and provide a space for deep learning and collaboration. It is a platform for new initiatives, ideas and to spread of Liberating Structures far and beyond.

Learning Gatherings are specifically aimed at experienced practitioners. If Liberating Structures are mostly new for you, or you have little hands-on experience in applying them, we strongly recommend joining an Immersion Workshop instead. A big difference between both is that Learning Gatherings rely strongly on the experience of participants to use Liberating Structures to shape the Learning Gathering itself. Immersion Workshops are well-prepared, though-out designs where participants are introduced to as many Liberating Structures as possible within two days. In general, Immersion Workshops are a better investment — in time and money — if you want to experience and learn about Liberating Structures. We have one coming up in May and November. Others are being organized throughout the world.

This video gives a good impression of a Learning Gathering. (Video by Lisanne Lentink)

Five Compelling Reasons To Join

1. Expand your Liberating Structures repertoire with riffs, variations, and wild experiments

The huge advantage of bringing together a group of experienced practitioners is that there is ample opportunity to try new Liberating Structures or riffs, variations, and mashups. It's an excellent opportunity to express the wild-yet-focused diversity that is made possible by the design elements of Liberating Structures. For example, the recent Learning Gathering in Seattle featured riffs such as ‘Impromptu Pixies’, ‘4–2–1-CLICK’ and ‘Mad Love’.

Work together, try new things (picture by Lisanne Lentink)

Because Learning Gatherings are mostly organized as Option Spaces, there is ample opportunity to get together with a group and try out a Liberating Structure that has your interest. You can also develop new structures together, or refine existing ones. In addition to that, collective ‘Integrated Tracks’ take place six times throughout the two days and feature imaginative, prepared strings of Liberating Structures facilitated by the various User Groups attending (or other collectives).

2. Co-create awesome things

Learning Gatherings are designed to create space to make awesome things together. It doesn’t happen too often that this many experienced practitioners meet in person. They are excellent environments to develop and start new initiatives, design new Liberating Structures, create drawings, videos, blog posts and other kinds of collaboration.

Learning Gatherings are designed to create space to make awesome things together.

For example, the previous Learning Gathering in Seattle gave rise to some awesome artwork, co-created by many of the participants. It also started many new initiatives, such as applying LS in education, measuring the impact of Liberating Structures and building-out the existing app created by Holisticon.

Part of a large Ecocycle, drawn by participants (picture by Lisanne Lentink)

3. Meet the founders

Learning Gatherings represents an excellent opportunity to meet Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz, the founders who started, collected and curate Liberating Structures together with the community. Although they purposefully avoid the spotlight, giving full focus to the community itself, you can be certain to meet them during multiple sessions in the Option Space. And they may even host some.

Henri in conversation with one of the participants from a previous Learning Gathering (picture by Lisanne Lentink)

4. Learn from other practitioners

One of the design principles of Learning Gatherings is that participants facilitate most of the gathering. In practice, this means that the bulk of the gathering is an Option Space where people bring their own topics and form groups to address them. We also invite attendees to form Design Teams that facilitate ‘Integrated Tracks’ (60–120 minutes). The purpose of these tracks is to integrate insights from the Option Space or set the stage for what is to come. We encourage Design Teams to try bold experiments and push the envelope on what they think is possible with Liberating Structures.

One of the design principles of Learning Gatherings is that participants facilitate most of the gathering.

For example, at the previous Learning Gathering I was fortunate to co-facilitate a complicated mashup of Ecocycle Planning, Drawing Together, Gallery Walk, Panarchy and Future~Present with Amanda Bowman, Fisher Qua, Nancy White, and Anna Jackson. For me, facilitating and experiencing all these new structures was both incredibly overwhelming and exceptionally inspiring.

Learning Gatherings are excellent opportunities for wild experimentation. Like this massive Ecocycle Planning riffed with Drawing Together, followed by a ‘Garbage Walk’ (picture by Lisanne Lentink).

5. Build powerful connections

As you may expect, bringing together a large group of experienced practitioners represents an excellent environment to build connections and grow your network. Because Liberating Structures are being applied in very diverse environments worldwide, from education to software development and from religious communities to science, you are guaranteed to meet people that pique your interest. Collaborations are easy to start.

Learning Gatherings are purposefully large, inviting participants from different backgrounds and parts of the world

For example, at the previous gathering, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating an Option Space with Julie Huffaker on team conflict. Out of that session started a collaboration that will result in a co-hosted workshop in November (and perhaps more). We also had the pleasure of connecting more strongly with Daniel Steinhöfer, Carsten Sahling and Martin Gunther from Holisticon, which led to us co-facilitating the upcoming Learning Gathering in Hamburg.

Learning Gatherings are understandably popular events, so don’t wait too long with booking your seat.

So don’t wait, join the Learning Gathering

If you use Liberating Structures and you are available in August, we’d love to see you there. Learning Gatherings are understandably popular events, so don’t wait too long with booking your seat. For Hamburg, we have space for up to 80 participants. Hope to see you there! Or, if you can’t join this August, maybe in Amsterdam on September 23 & 24, 2020 for the next opportunity.

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