Dimensions Of Process Language

How do we talk about process in precise ways?

I (TomAtlee) ran into this question when I realized that the word process can refer to a Talking Circle, or to an approach that uses Talking Circle as part of its activity (such as Conversation Cafe) or to a multi-day event like an Open Space conference or a Future Search, which has all sorts of things going on it it, or even to a "community process" that has many different activities unfolding over an extended period of time.

In theoretical conversations about process, I found that that word - process - was creating misunderstandings when one of us was talking about one level of process, while another was referring a different level. It generated some pretty strange disagreements.

I began to wonder if we could come up with useful, agreeable language with which we could make distinctions about these different levels of process.

See if the "Draft Process Glossary" below (or earlier versions that may exist in the history of this page) make sense to you. See what you might revise or add. Let's see if we can co-create a language that works for most or all of us. If we can, perhaps we can add this useful "technical jargon" [specialists' precise language] to the NCDD glossary and facilitate more productive conversations on this vital subject.


a) design element (or Process Design Element) - a question whose answers shapes the final process and event (e.g., How many people are involved? How do they talk to each other?). It is often stated as a "factor" (e.g., number of participants, conversational style) rather than a "question", but the question is then implicit.

b) design feature - a specific answer to a design element question (e.g., 200-10,000 people, 10 to a table with a facilitator)

c) group process - a set of design features that define a particular kind of conversation (e.g. people sitting in a circle taking turns that aren't in circle sequence)

d) event design - a set of design features within which the group process (conversation) unfolds (e.g. a large number of tables in one room, linked by laptops, enough for 200-10,000 people)

e) approach - a particular array of design features combined to make a particular group process event (see [g] below)

f) methodology - a somewhat standardized, usually proven approach (array of design features) with a recognized name and practitioners associated with it (e.g., America Speaks 21st Century Town Meetings). A methodology can have "variations" (altered group process or event design elements) if it remains recognizable/recognized as still a form of that methodology.

:Note: Although a methodology is a particular kind of approach, an approach can also include a set of methodologies in one event, using those methodologies as modular arrays of design features (e.g., including a world cafe immediately before or after an open space).

g) group process event - a gathering of people using an approach to converse, dialogue, deliberate or reflect together.

h) program - a set of group process events

i) multi-approach program - a set of group process events, some of which use different approaches, the combination of which consciously integrates the diverse gifts of those approaches towards a particular quality of outcome.

j) community process -- a long-term or iterative program or sequence of programs designed to produce a very large community outcome or to sustain a particular community capacity over time.

k) multi-approach community wisdom process -- a commonly-used set or sequence of approaches specifically designed to generate the capacity for community wisdom, as reflected by decisions that generate high quality of life for the community, the larger systems it is part of, and the generations that follow.


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see http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Facilitation where we are also listing similar practices

  --Michel Bauwens (Not signed in).....Sun Jan 31 00:53:33 -0800 2010

The Bohm Dialogue, especially Collective Reflection has significance for me in terms of artistic critique and dialogue.

If one wanted to connect this to Jungian thought I'd relate to that.

  --Srule Brachman (Not signed in).....Mon May 21 17:09:16 +0000 2012





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