A purpose for the next 5 years of my life

A purpose for the next 5 years of my life 150 150 markeloptah
Reading Time: 7 minutes

a. Initial framing

1. A situation of emergenc(e)(y). 

Keywords: Liminal situation. A time between worlds. Metamodernity. Anthropocene. Capitalocene. Social movements theory. Transition management.


The multilevel and multifaceted crisis we are experiencing (ecological, social, moral, imaginative…) demands a fast and deep response. There’s a profound consensus, both at the scientific and civil sphere, about that need even though global action is still lagging behind. Social commentators are still engaging in a conversation around the efficacy of actions framing the challenge under the individual agency vs. structural change lens.  

The great transition needed in order to fight back our extinction reclaims us to be able overcome some of the dichotomous thinking that lead us here in the first time. This kind of  reductive thinking coming from the failed modernist mindset unables us to build new frames to comprehend and engage in the world. We need new practices and worldviews that recognise variability, dynamic equilibrium and continuity over traditional Individualism/collectivism, Liberal/Conservative… dichotomies. Part of this effort will require:

  • a recognition of complexity and and an active search of the folds of reality
  • a deliberate movement towards orbitation and swinging between static positions
  • a development in both our personal and collective abilities to engage in deep listening and authentic conversations
  • a recognition and acknowledging of our agency as citizens in general and designers in particular that makes us and our posture as designers accountable of the worlds we enact and disclose.

    And what’s most relevant:

    New practices, structures, tools and imaginaries that help us self-organise meaningfully and impactfully. 

Climate emergency and the unprecedented speed of change needed to face it forces us to enable new ways of political participation up to the expectations of our great challenges. In so do it we need to actualise our understanding and broaden the practices of social movements. A transitional view that holds a multilevel perspective of the social transformations that are to be developed is crucial in order to navigate and make sense of the process. 

Accessing the realm of holistic social change will require a redirection of our efforts not only to the transformation of the individuals but also to the convention of a social field mature and rich enough to support them.      

2. The realm of the social: cybernetics, collective learning, social psychology and development

Keywords: Developmental psychology. Social learning. Cultural intelligence. Post-dualism. Phenomenology of change. Social presencing. Cybernetics.


One of the recurring lenses throughout we have been looking at our research in the previous months is that of complexity and systems theory. Being already familiarised to that approach in the assessment and intervention into socio-technical systems we very curious to deepen more into the socio-cultural dimensions of these systems. Much of the effort has been put into crossing knowledge domains between complexity theory, social and critical theory, transition management, social movements… 

One of the elements that took our curiosity from the beginning was to understand “systemically” how social change unfolds. I got a glimpse into diverse change theories from modernity (ex. marxism, liberal project of progress…) all along to the post-postmodern times we are living in. Meanwhile we struggled emotionally with the apparent dichotomy that many of the critical assessments of reality were based on that seemed to be limiting the research. After some thought experiments hybridating transition management and social movements theory (which later found out it’s already something)and being immersed into the work of Guattari and Deleuze we started to think of social movements and change as “machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections”. 

Historically a lot of work has been done in trying to develop an understanding of the Social phenomena as a complex organism (ex. Luhmann). Much of it tinted by a fancy positivism and covered naturalism. At the moment we are still wondering how useful those historical approaches to understanding social phenomena could be for me.  All that research helped me leap to a integrative and developmental perspective of socio-cultural change. Although I still hold some cautious teleological suspicion, this was one of the breakthroughs of the research phase.

Following a developmental view of cultural intelligence we can hypothesize that society is prepared to respond to the conditions of their realities depending on the cognitive structures and agency mechanisms socially available at that time. In order to be able to presence what’s the calling (what’s dying and what’s waiting to be born), to recognise the need for action and then to build the prefigurative paths to transformation us, both as individuals and collectives, need:

  • A fine tuned empathy and compassion being-in-the-world
  • A socio-cultural “code” that enables us to see beyond what is towards what could be or ought to be and help us overcome some of the inherent dichotomies we ebedd.
  • The social technologies and skills to self-organise organically and effectively dealing with the inherent complexity and emergence of long term system-level change.

Understanding the attainment of these requirements through a developmental lens enables us to see the challenge we are facing not only as a personal level awakening, which has been the focus of traditional awareness campaigns and social movements, but as a collective effort of social level learning process.      

3. Digital society and platforms

Keywords: Technopolitics. Participation. Consent. Deliberative processes. Transmedia participation. 


This endeavour holds many socio-technical differentiators from other whole system transformations that have already taken place in the world. The omnipresent availability of digital technology offers new possibilities of remote, low friction, asynchronous interaction and participation. Early 2000’s social movements such as 15M, Occupy, Arab Spring… and later movements such as Extinction Rebellion or Chilean dignity protests have made clear that internet has become a central tool to the diffusion, organization and setting of social transformation. After few years of experiences there’s already enough criticism to be able to iterate what and how we understand participation in a networked society.

Among others here are some of the hypothetical pitfalls of current digital governance:

  • lacking warmth both of information and of bodily interaction
  • asynchronicity can broaden participation at the price of losing quality
  • current practices perform well for polling but, do they work for consent?
  • they do not work in complex situations requiring collaborative stretching
  • lacking qualities favoring intuition and a wider perception of consent

One of the wills of this project will be to understand how different rhythms, platforms, technologies, codes… could be redesigned and enacted in order to support the collective learning-in-action process.     

4. Overcoming logocentrism and enabling alternative ways of knowing, deliberating and communicating

Keywords: Bodily ways of knowing. Somatics. Dance. Post-logocentrism. Orality. Intuition. Aesthetic experience. Catharsis. 


In the same way that the Internet allowed for a broader scale, reach and aesthetic of social movements we sense there’s a need for alternative soft technologies allowing for a different texture at the micro-experiential level of political change.

There’s some recognizable general characteristics of socio-political change processes such as its logocentric nature, the weight of orality, the existence of subtle and less recognizable power structures, their experiential and aesthetic setting… that this project aspires to put into crisis with a propositive intention.

Paradoxically, the main energy for starting this research project could be understood as a bodily perceived “structure of feeling” that’s calling us to act. If we wish to foster the great transition we need to attune our perceptual capacities for listening, negotiating consent and collectively transforming reality. A starting hypothesis of this project is that these processes would very much benefit from a more complete tool set regarding: bodily ways of sensing, movement, intuition, touch… 

One of the wills of this project it to be able to intervene at a granular level to introduce new paradigms, aesthetic values, practices and tools to improve the overall experience of this transformative social process. 

An ongoing list of old and current aesthetic values and abstractions in political participation and self-organization:

  • Weight and momentum 
  • Slowness
  • The circle
  • Invisible power
  • Value in consistency and static positions

A draft list of intended new values:  

  • A phenomenological perspective of change
  • Acknowledging bodily ways of understanding and the power of rituals and multisensorial/spiritual/bonding situations

5. Transition management, social practices and social movements theory. A theoretical framework.

Keywords: Transition management. Social movement theory. Experience design. Social practice theory. Friction.


This ambitious project that will be developed during the next years of my life is thought to combine different scales and perspectives.

Macro level – overview and stewardship //

One of our starting hypothesis is that of the importance of a bird’s eye-view for a collective stewardship of this evolutionary process. The theoretical framework of transition management can give some clues in that endeavour. Up to these moment I have detected two main opportunities in fostering that transition:

  1. facilitating the proliferation and maturation of autonomous free spaces as niche social innovations prototyping alternatives
  2. facilitating the swarming, amplifying and escalating of those spaces to become the new normals in mainstream culture

Meso level – situatedness //

The project aspires to be situated and engage in our local reality. Throughout this time a set of impact areas and/or change processes will be tackled and hosted as a medium for action research.

  • COOP housing / assisting Adrià in his PhD
  • Micro-solidarity weaving and crews

Micro level- intervention level //

As designers we feel comfortable in the domain of everyday life. We help mediate the material experiences of people. This culture and skillset has been traditionally put at the service of commercial work. At this moment of the project we are wondering how design can help improve the individual “politicization” process of people through an experiential and phenomenological point of view. 

Ongoing list of impact areas:

  • Making the process of self-organizing accessible to a majority.
  • Reducing the frictions that prevent people from engaging in medium-long term processes.
  • Re-designing tools, processes and patterns in order to overcome some of the actual pitfalls of these processes. 
  • Facilitating the dissemination of meta-learnings that contribute to a common resource.
  • Sharing and celebrating the contributions and impacts of those processes for increasing the social optimism buffer.

6. A methodological approach: speculation as prefiguration, prefiguration as world-building

Keywords: Speculative design. Rituals. Transformative experiences. Anarchism. Prefiguration. Imagination stretching. Meaningful experiences. Intimacy. 


Methodologically speaking as well as looking for concrete interventions in the realm of today we would like to approach it from an speculative lens. Much of the work to be done would increase its impact if shared paradigms, worldviews and imaginaries could be destabilized. Speculative research might help mainstream alternative imaginaries around the everydayness of a politicized self and by so doing transforming ourselves. One of the elements that inspires much of the research being done up to date is the prefigurative and direct action qualities of anarchism. We believe speculation might be a way for prefiguring an extended imaginary landscape that gives space for collective change.

By this moment it might already be clear but we think is important that the goal of this research project its not (only) the generation of knowledge or the contribution to the extension of theoretical work. This is a political project willing to have an impact in real life although using research as catalizer. We believe speculation is prefiguration and prefiguration is a world-building endeavour.   

b. Agents involved

[Ongoing Kumu agent map]

    People already engaged in this we-space from different dimensions:

  • (Traditional) Social movements and cooperatives
  • Unions
  • NGOs
  • Developmental work
  • Integralists
  • Kaos Pilots & co
  • Metamodernists
  • Decentralized organizations movement. Enspiral, Loomio, Percolab…
  • Anarchist movements. Emotional Anarchists.
  • Researchers and practitioners in technopolitics. Decidim. Marco Deseriis (Scalable Democracy). 
  • Cultural agents

c. What is already being done? What’s their value? How can we, and design, contribute to that?

  1. Micro-utopies

Exemplary value. 

// Ex: La Borda. Enspiral.

  1. Day to day transformation and conflict resolution

Extend the limits of what’s possible. Frame extension.

// Ex: PAH. Sindicat de Manters.  

  1. Code developing

Developing discourse, theoretical foundations and synthesizing pattern language.

// Ex: Richard D. Bartlett. Co-intelligence institute. Emotional anarchism. Emergence Podcast. Extinction Rebellion’s New Democracy. Peter Koenig. Conversation modalities. Liberating structures. 

  1. Converging and weaving

Sewing social fabric. Personal awakening. Trainings. Spiritual growing. Retreats

// Ex: Art of Hosting. Convergence.  

  1. Developing infrastructures, tools and technologies

// Ex: Decidim. Loomio. Democracia por Sorteo. The Circle Way.  

  1. Initial questions
  2. Intended impact: a futurization
  3. Research in action/transformation plan
  4. Calendar
  5. Solution space

Design overtables: The worlds we make

Design overtables: The worlds we make 1140 822 markeloptah
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Several decades have passed after the bold declaration from Victor Papanek of Design as a political endeavour with potential deadly consequences. It was his one of the first voices to point out our responsibility as designers in mediating the everyday life of people by giving form to tools, technologies, interfaces… Nevertheless in a historical moment that claims for new imaginations and imaginaries a big portion of design is still sustaining the structures and practices that led us here. While Papaneks’ main concerns were environmental and development based, during these past years the critique of design has included an intersectional logic including feminist, decolonising, diversity (race, abilities…) or post-capitalistic perspectives that have contributed to actualize and broaden Papanek’s vision. 

Today, Barcelona’s design ecosystem holds varied interesting visions and practices in realizing the political qualities of design. That’s why, in the context of Papanek’s exhibition in Barcelona Design Museum we were asked to organise an event to further share between collectives and individuals concrete practices, tools and approaches. This event coincides with a collective reflection we’ve been pursuing around the worlds we make. Throughout this time intentionality has been a key idea to reflect upon. As designers we contribute giving form to worlds either creating new frames or normalising/confronting already existing ones. We do so not only by the “things” we help be born but also by holding a particular worldview, sharing a particular vision for the future or orchestrating our individual and collective agencies. 

All these questions were explored in an article and synthesized in the map bellow.

Last week we had the chance to organise a new event which, by now, we are calling Design Overtables in which a long meal is served and a discussion is nurtured around different topics surrounding design today. In the first edition we were lucky enough to count with the support of Barcelona Design Museum and the participation of interesting and relevant individuals and collectives from the city.

The main frame for this conversation was around the practical ways that we integrate critical-political standpoints in our everyday life as designers. All along the meal several focal points were set around which conversations started to orbitate. Hereafter there are some possible threads to keep pulling: 

  • From production to reproduction and care logic. In HOLON we have reflected about what it means to us. Personal and professional is intertwined. Personal values, visions and ethics are developed interpersonally, so is a collective endeavour. Organizations and collectives are social technologies that serve to coordinate action towards specific visions.  Is not only what we create and how we do it (our practice) but also what’s our vision of the world and worldview, how do we understand our agency and roles in realizing them, how do we internally organize and operate and how does everything suit into our lifestyle.
  • Exploring the infinite shades of grey. Many strategies and positions are available in the context of systemic change. Escaping dogmatism is sometimes difficult. Real life and survival many times prevails. Between full collaborationism with power structures and unquestionable integrity there’s a full range of option worth exploring.
  • Who sustains and funds sustainable innovation/design? Reviewing Papanek’s work it can be understood that much of his work was funded both by education and development institutions (such as UN). Same things applies to much of the work from politically situated agents in Barcelona. Still public administrations is funding and conditioning much of the work done. Which dynamic does this bring? How other context could be possible? 
  • Everyday life as a battlefield for system change. Design can be a leverage for both defining better suited lifestyles and defining macro-level interventions (such as in the case of policy design). Following the economic theories developed by Carlota Perez’s in her work around economic cycles and breakthroughs, design could again be a leverage to a deployment period followed by new values, norms and lifestyles.

Some of the conversations that happened during the event will be materialized in a future article and open public presentation that will be held with the closing event from the exhibition.

TAZ: exploring emerging scenarios through performative fiction

TAZ: exploring emerging scenarios through performative fiction 1536 1024 markeloptah
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote about my final project process. During the past weeks I have been trying to take action and get out of the theorizing loop. This is one of the main learnings I am doing process-wise. I tend to get too hooked up into the process of  meaning making and theoretical scaffolding. Funny that one of the most repeated advice that I give to students while tutoring final projects is difficult to me to overcome. That’s why I am trying to bring into the world different actions and pre-totypes in order to explore, from different contexts and grammars, the dimensions of my research topic.

As I already summarized in a previous entry to this blog, I am exploring the possibilities of developing alternative aesthetics and politics of self-organization in social systems. Last month I found an open call from an emerging artists art congress in Vitoria-Gasteiz around the art of the future and the future of art and decided to apply. One of the hypothesis we’ve working with in the Performing Transitions research work is that inoculating bodily practices into art and design could set a richer, deeper and more meaningful arena for exploring alternative imaginaries of the future. That’s why, given the topic of the congress, decided to test the hypothesis through performative action and, incidentally, explore some of the topics of my project. 

Along the research phase I have been exploring different frameworks, tools, concepts and practices around political participation and decision making. One of the ideas that popped out couple of time was that of Sortition, or randomized democracy. Although it’s a pretty old idea (already put into practice, among others, in old Greece and also in different present experiences such as in Canada, Ireland, Iceland…) it has gained some recent momentum given the exceptional times we are living. Paradoxically the congress coincided with the opening of the COP 25, one of the living examples of the inability of political power structures to deal with the complexity of climate change by bringing forward the radical action needed to confront climate change. 

The main goal of the action was not too much to explore the pitfalls and potentialities of sortition but to explore arts as a medium to prefigure potential presents/futures. It was a pretty short action but already brought some interesting learnings around how to design this interventions (many of them informed by the prolific history of LARP movement around the world). 

The action

TAZ (Temporarily Autonomous Zone) is an action-exploration of the potentialities of embodied intelligence (mind-body-space) and performance as a support for citizen futurization practices. In a historical and social moment of «slow cancellation of the future», in which the climate and socio-economic model crises highlight our inability to socially imagine alternatives to the official future, we want to reaffirm the potential of art to foreshadow emerging futures. 

The history of art (and magic), as a third space alongside science and religion, has left us an infinite number of fictions, some of which have been politically sublimated as our current realities. It is precisely the enchantment of art that, through the suspension of disbelief, activates the narrative, political and economic machinery capable of crystallizing these fictions. Because of this, the control of the imaginative (or narcotic) force that art supposes has been a battle horse through which power has tried to sustain its self-fulfilling narratives and prophecies. The neoliberal project and its rhetoric anchored in the technoutopian and singularist myth perfectly exemplifies this force of colonization of our imaginaries. 

Today more than ever we need to reoccupy the space of art in order to confront the disfiguring processes in the making through social learning and a resituation of art in everyday life that allows us to be better equipped to imagine and prefigure worlds that are worth living. In the face of the great totalising narratives that try to turn the map into territory, we believe it necessary to explore the immense folded extensions of the map. Transit the possible eutopias. However, the reconquest of these mechanisms at the service of the common good must also imply an overcoming of logocentrism in which somatic and performative practice as well as incarnated and interpersonal forms of understanding reality are configured as new centres from which to think about ourselves. 

This intervention is part of an ongoing research led by HOLON which, since 2018, has been running an action research laboratory called Performing Transitions (PT) to explore the potential of art to participate in the much-needed socio-technical transitions we face as a civilization.

PT interweaves embodied intelligences, somatic practice, performance and play with design and art to offer a critique of the present from multiple points of view in the imagination and action of history(s), present(s) and future(s). The project aims to consolidate and produce knowledge in the complementary but often contradictory behavioural, social, technological, political and cultural developments to inspire and stimulate collective and individual agency towards preferable visions of socio-economic and cultural transitions. PT presents us with the opportunity to play in the dark and embrace the unknown. It provides us with a means to explore new frontiers of performance, collective imagination, mythology and worldviews that illuminate the transition paths to alternative and more sustainable futures.

Elements in place

  • Narrative elements: narrated contextualization of the situation through music and written text.
  • Character-role exploration: we used an adaptation of Jung’s archetype both as a playing element and a critique of the simplification that can entail a poor/bad/superficial social group representational strategy in sortition processes.
  • Video animation: representation of power structures and agency using the urban infrastructure as a visual metaphor and irony.
  • Randomness and power of the algorithm: using bingo game as a cultural icon.

Making sense of 1st final term project

Making sense of 1st final term project 3647 2532 markeloptah
Reading Time: 4 minutes

During the past weeks I have been trying hard to converge into a topic to be the focus of my final term project. During that process I synthesized a map with the different terrains that I have been exploring since I started this learning journey. 

Problem space for the project of the first term

I am very happy that after struggling a bit I have found a problem space that seems reasonable to me, motivates my learning and seems to be of common interest in the age of crisis that we are living.

Most of this first term I have been involved in understanding the fading limits between individuality and collectivity, between self and otherness, and how they entangle to each other in the process of change. Being certain about our collective need to reimagine our futures and materialising them I have been trying to understand how system level change happens. I have been exploring the adaptive dynamics of complex systems and which agencies we can exert in order to push alternative potential states. I have also been exploring the phenomenological experience of change, of learning, of imagination, of making sense… And finally I have been exploring process facilitation. How, as an interdependent individual, one can participate in the enactment of change. All in between this topics I have been surfing the potentialities of design as a culture of change trying to find questions and answer around how design can contribute to the kind of worlds that I am willing to make.

As I stated in the foundations of the open master, I want this learning process to be incarnated. Not to be uniquely involved at an practical-intellectual level but to compromise my wholeness into it. This past weeks have been emotionally very troubling and have make me question myself and my relationship to others, specially those who I love. I have been ruminating a lot around who(s) I want to be, which I want my role to be in the world, which new narrative I want to bring to myself… 

I love as much as I suffer processes like this in which I am involved right now. Anxiety and goosebumps alternate rapidly. The feeling of being lost and without direction overlays with some amazing discoveries and mental connections that emerge. Few weeks ago while reading about the narrative brain and how it affects our perception of the world I came across the work of George Monbiot and it resonated a lot with the ideas I have been involved with this past months. One of Monbiot’s recurring ideas is that we have been dealing with a lack of imagination in what he calls the restoration stories of Keynesianism and Social-democracy. In his last book “Out of the Wreckage” he calls for a new story one that builds into the politics of belonging. All this readings vibrated in a frequency familiar to me. From my teenager years learning about mutualism from the hands of Kropotkin to my newer fight against the dialectic of capitalism vs. communism from the hands of Murray Bookchin. Somehow I realized that emancipation, auto-organization, direct action, prefiguration… was something that seemed to me like essential for realizing the alternative imaginaries that I was craving for. All this reflections helped me build a first couple of frames for the project.

How might we design for alternative imaginaries around politics and aesthetics of self-organisation?

How might we prioritise soft technologies and the enchantment of the collective self?

Few weeks ago we had the chance to meet with Becoming collective with whom we would like to kickstart a collaboration. During the conversations several threads started to connect and a possible intervention was collectively sketched. While conversing we transited two ideas that were central to the identification of that opportunity:

  1. Self-organization / participatory / social movements are characterized by a mainly conversational based decision making process. Many of them based on consensus (see Seeds of Change work) and/or consent (see lazy consent by Ouishare). During last weeks I have been exploring negotiation processes and “stretch collaboration” in cases where consensus is not an option.
  2. The diversity of social movements is a necessary characteristic of  healthy democracies, although the relative disconnection between social emancipation processes leads to slower and more energy consuming processes that lead to the feeling of everytime starting all over again. We have the intuition that the social (and historic) capital of self-organization in Catalunya could be leveraged to activate a social learning process.

After this reflections, some possible interventions in the space of conversational interfaces were upheld in the context of pervasive “listening” technologies such as Alexa, Google Home….

How might we reconquer technology for common good?

How might we leverage on social learning supported by AI for invigorating emancipatory and self-organization processes?

As a result from the conversations few interventions were suggested, being the first one to be able to pitch the general conceptual frame in Decidim fest which will be held in Barcelona in October. The idea would be to present some kind of performative intervention involving some kind of diegetic prototype that may help us pitch the future scenario. This presentation could be a good starting point for setting a proto-consortium of interested parties to participate in a futurible european project. Many cities around Europe have already implemented Decidim platform into their municipalities. Some representatives of this governments will be present in the fest. We have the intuition that our intervention can click some keys.

The project/intervention suggested above is a mid-term one. Following my self-imposed rule of the materializing a project every quarter I, hereafter, develop some possible deliverables that can contribute to the general goal and are attainable during august.

  • Article/declaration of intent for the tech/ai for good
  • Fiction for a future scenario of reconquest of tech

One of the initial statements of my process was that I wanted it to be situated and involved with the community. After speaking with Adrià I think it would be a would idea to converge a little bit more the problem space to self-organization in housing space. This also has to do with benefiting from the work that has been done with the guide.

Threads to keep pulling:

  • Perception of time / Tyranny of productivity 
  • Rituals and objects
  • Other grammars for participation (constructionism, embodied intelligence…)

Design for the New: s1, s2 & s3

Design for the New: s1, s2 & s3 8001 4500 markeloptah
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Session 1

What did we do?

During the past months students have been crafting a future vision and have been informally thinking about various interventions to approach it. The goal of this first session was to share a theoretical scaffold for understanding change through the perspective of social practices. For doing so first we suggested to understand the system in which this practices are embedded. Once identified the actants of that network we tried to understand their implicit and explicit needs. Everyday life can be understood as the emergent property of people going about the activity of satisfying their needs. Many of those needs are satisfied through the enactment of routinized behaviours.

Designing interventions that deliberately modify or create conditions for mutated or new (and more desirable) practices is one of the focus of this course. For that reason we projected and deconstructed the kind of social practices that could populate our future vision and tracked which present practices relate to those. For doing so, and following the performative approach that we are trying to bring over teaching methodologies, we used an exercise based on accessing collective imaginaries.


Some guiding questions:

  • How can we materialize the future? Different approaches to future prototyping.
  • How does change happen? Socio-technical transitions
  • How can design contribute to worldbuilding? Transition design as an approach to change through design.
  • Why using everydayness as the battleground for system change? In search of an intermediate entry point to change between structuralism and individual agency. Social practice theory.
  • How we can design for the creation/mutation/diffusion of desired social practices? Intentionality in design process. Differences between design for change in the range from individual behaviours to structural change.


Goal: To experience the relevance of social practices for the diffusion of the systemic changes needed for your projects to thrive.

Agenda (2h 15min)

  • Actor-network needs mapping
  • Mapping related social practices
  • Locating your interventions/projects
  • Collective practice deconstruction
  • Homework

What did work? What could have worked better?

The general feeling about the session was really good. I think students had the chance to explore further their intervention areas and somehow frame better they projects. The deconstruction approach, by collectively building social images about social practices, worked quite well. It helped build a poetic imaginary about the practice. Event though maybe it didn’t help too much to land their work in concrete terms. The reflection was help at an abstract and poetic level that might have not helped understand the reason for working at a social practice level. This became quite evident in session 2 when we shared the results from homework. The practical part was a little tight on time so we had to cut down some parts.

Group-working wise this situation left me a little hopeless about not having the chance to to explore all the exercises I had prepare.

Session 2

What did we do?

The first part of the session was dedicated to check about the homework. While doing a feedback circle it became evident that the notion of social practice and it’s meaning for their projects were not clear enough. That’s why we dedicated extra time there. We also took one of the practices, food buying, as an example for the rest of the session. The main focus of that day was to understand how we can design transition pathways, that’s to say, an intervention plan that may lead to the transformation and/or creation of practices needed for upbringing the kind of futures that we are pursuing.

For understanding change dynamics we explored different examples and approaches. We explored the social practice of bathing, extensively documented by academics in the social practice field such as Bakker, Shove, Kuijer et al. We also explored the socio-technical transition that lead to the omnipresent car in our streets, roads and lifes. By exploring those examples we tried to understand the influence that different material (technology, infrastructure…), ideologic (images, understandings, metaphors…) and social contexts had in the diffusion of change. This idea led to various conversations around the excessive power that we concede to technology as a means for change. The kind of techno-positivist approach to “progress” that overflows Silicon Valley and other technologic hotspots.

In that context we discussed about Transition Design as an ongoing body of knowledge and practice which, contrary to traditional disciplines of design, it is not defined by the kind of devices it creates (sensory, tactile, digital, volumetric, relational…) but by the impact it seeks to bring to the world or the intention that it embodies. To illustrate that we showed an array of different design interventions to tackle each of the elements of a social practice (images, stuff and skills) and their connections.

“Transition Design as an ongoing body of knowledge and practice which, contrary to traditional disciplines of design, it is not defined by the kind of devices it creates (sensory, tactile, digital, volumetric, relational…) but by the impact it seeks to bring to the world or the intention that it embodies.”


Some guiding questions:

  • How does change and transition unfold over time?
  • Which are drivers of change?
  • Which is our agency as designers?
  • Which different kinds of interventions can we design to foster our future visions?
  • How do those interventions relate to the system they operate in?


As we needed more time for working on the deconstruction of the social practices we didn’t follow the plan we had for performing transition pathways from an embodied intelligence point of view. On the other hand we shared some time to work in class and to tutorize each of the processes.

What did work? What could have worked better?

The general feeling from this class was quite bad. Rushing and not enjoying the process. This session made quite clear to us that we did not explain well enough the deconstruction of social practices. That led to a change in the agenda. We were quite open and fast to see the need to change plans.

While explaining the transition pathway and it’s conforming interventions we made the mistake to separate each of the element of the practice. In that way we missed the importance of the links between elements. Somehow I feel like we were forcing a simplistic and linear approach to change that does not make justice to its true nature.

Session 3

What did we do?

After the troubles of last session we decided to begin the third and last session with a good framing of what we were pursuing with this course. I’m sure this helped build a collective sense of the process and helped develop a fruitful session. The session commenced with a shareback from the homework. We did that by creating groups that could discuss their learnings while we could tackle some of the doubts that were emerging.

After that initial part we proceeded to deepen in an intervention that each groups selected. We did that by suggesting an investigative rehearsal taking as an inspiration the works from Adam StJohn Lawrence, Augusto Boal and others.

“(s)he must propose a theatre that is not the negation of theatre, but a new theatre, a theatre of the possibility of the impossible; not a theatre of identification but a theatre of transformation.”

Alain Badiou’s Theatre and Philosophy

We facilitated a session that led to several iterations of a prototyped intervention through a theatrical language.



Start: Even number of groups of 3 with a selected intervention

  • Groups explore questions for exploration
  • Groups create a starting point (situation)
  • Groups create a quick story draft (storyboard)

Mid: We get into 2 groups

  • Warm-up
  • Fast round to show the situations
  • We select a starting point
  • 1st round stopping to highlight interesting stuff
  • Iterative rounds stopping so suggest alternatives
  • The group records every insight
  • Whenever we feel is enough we go for the next situation

Finish: Goes on and on until the time is over

What did work? What could have worked better?

Even though this session was the least prepared one the general feeling was very good. The last round of check-out comments revealed that a physical approach to prototyping may unveil interesting insights for students. I could detect some lacks or improvement areas in the facilitation part. It is relatively difficult to take people non related to theatre to act out. We should have taken into account this and facilitate in a more progressive way.

My takeouts

I was very moved by this whole process at many levels. It challenged me, as it is a topic and an approach to teaching that still feels tentative for me. I enjoyed a lot having and giving myself the time to explore each topic, read, research, hypothesize and test in a weekly pace. I have been teaching for a couple of years now and I had already fall into the comfortability trap. This process has taken me out of the comfort zone. That’s fine.

At a personal level and regarding the teamwork I suffered it a little bit. Coping with different working styles is always a challenge. Being them also immersed in different life moments it became a double challenge. This week we will have the chance to discuss the internal dynamics which I am really looking forward to do.

Facilitating change: a workshop

Facilitating change: a workshop 1500 1000 markeloptah
Reading Time: 5 minutes

My last weeks have been focused around two main tasks and deliverables: the course on design transitions we are facilitating in the Masters in Design for Emerging Futures and the development of a workshop around facilitating, participatory leadership and art of hosting which I conducted for inèdit.

These past weeks I have being lagging behind a bit with the registration of my learnings in these platform. I guess I need to get used to it and acquire the habit. While writing this an oppotunity comes to my mind relative to exploring behavioural science and the power of habits to apply it to my own process. The past decades of management theory have focused a lot on the individual agency and power of will to change organizations and systems. Dozens of books targeting productivity, personal habit change and self-growth can testify that.

Some of ours latest work focused on Social Practice Theory and Transition Design aknowledges the tension between structural approaches to change and those based on individual agency and proposes an integrative change theory. One that builds on routinized behaviours being collectively modeled, evolved and created by their carriers during time. This model recognizes the power of structures in setting the framework for practices to emerge or transform: material reality (ex. physical infrastructures), mental models and collective imaginaries (through propaganda, mass media, control…) or access to education. But it also gives space for niche enactments of practices to transform the status quo. This article bring some interesting points to the complementarities of socio-technical transitions and social practice theory.

One of the reason of socializing my learning process and trying to create a support comunity for bringing it forward is this. The need to approach it collectively instead of relying uniquely in my will, effort or capacities to carry this process. This week I will try to organize a kick-off meeting with all mentors so they can also meet to each other and, what’s more important, share opportunities for them to benefit from this. One of the main focus will be then to help them reflect about what they want to take from this project.

Geting back to the work that I have been doing last couple of weeks. inèdit offered me the chance to conduct a workshop around participatory leadership and facilitation for their workers. This gave me the opportunity to explore new ideas, and more importantly, reflect on passed experiences around facilitating change. I also had the chance to read couple of books that helped me frame the workshop. I will try to write a blog post this week with some of my takeouts.

«… leadership is the capacity to shift the inner place from which we operate.»

One of the most spreaded focus one spreading facilitation abilities is that that of allowing the access to tools, frameworks and methods. The underlaying hyptohesis in then that in order to collectively improve our leadership capabilities we need to find the right tools. Unlike that approach Otto Scharmer’s Theory U puts the stress on the «inner place from which we intervene» as the main focus. That idea was the starting point for the workshop: What if learning facilitation is about embodying soft technologies of self?

One of the slides used during the workshop. Based on Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.

While researching I found many approaches to change management through the recognition of organizationa as a social system. This is pretty evident in the case of the learning organization approach by Peter Senge but also present in the work from Frederic Laloux in Reinventing Organizations or in Liberating Structures. What really caught my atention from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U was its phenomenological approach to systems in contrast with my more habitutal scientifist outreach. For futher explorations I would like to get a little bit deeper into the spiritual dimensions of these approaches. A good amount of modern theories of management have a spiritual and new-agey tint that has traditionally left me a little bit skeptic. Further explorations of this may start by exploring Integral Theory by Ken Wilber, which is an inspiration for Laloux’s work.

“I would say that Theory U is something simple. It’s phenomenology applied to systems reality, not systems science. It’s the reality of our systems. That’s why sensing matters.”

Structure of the workshop

The workshop was conducted around four key soft tecnologies of the self that are crucial for a good facilitation.

  1. Hosting: creating, charging and mantaining spaces
  2. Listening: suspending judgement and extending perceptive organs
  3. Generative dialogue: the power of questions, reframing and collective creativity
  4. Improvisation: leaving space for what’s emerging

While designing the structure and dynamics of the workshop I was really aware of the need to lead from the example. That’s to say the workshop needed to be well facilitated and illustrative of the core ideas. It also needed a three fold epistemological movement between learning by experiencing the ideas, embodying the ideas by generating a generative dialogue about the contents generated and clinically analysing the dynamics of the social field that emerged and how they were treated or facilitated.

Having all these premises in mind the program which follows was designed.

Intro 10 min 9.45 – 9.55

Hosting – Crear, cargar y mantener los espacios. 90 min 9.55 – 11.15

  • Check-in. 20 min 9.55 – 10.15
  • ¿Qué significa facilitar? mental landscapes 40 min 10.15 – 10:55
  • Teoría 20 min 10:55 – 11.15

Listening: suspending judgement and extending perceptive organs.  70 min 11:15 – 12.25

  • Video 10 min 11.15 – 11.25
  • Theory 15 min 11.25 – 11.40
  • Exercise 1 15 min  11.40 – 11.55
  • Exercise 2  30 min 11.55 – 12.25

Generative dialogue: the power of questions, reframing and collective creativity. 45 min 12:25 – 13.10

  • Theory 15 min 12.25 – 12.40
  • Exercise : Frame- storming. In search of a more beautiful question. 30 min 12.40 – 13.10

Improvisation: leaving space for what’s emerging 5 min 13.10 – 13-15

CODA 5 min 13.15 – 13.20

CHECK OUT – 10 min 13.20 – 13.30

My outcomes

It was a very good chance to reflect about the experiences of the previous six years in which I have facilitated dozens of processes both long term and concrete interventions. I also had the chance to settle some concepts and ideas through the reading of some books and articles. In general I am quite happy about the result. People were engaged enough with som exceptions.

One thing that could have been better is the taking care part of the workshop. During one of the dynamics the topic of bullying emerged and then it caused some personal and emotional reactions from the participants that didn’t help. Taking care of the group is a basic task for facilitators. I was not present enough to see it coming.

I would like to keep exploring facilitation maybe during the next months I could attend to an Art of Hosting event to keep practising. I would also be a good idea to do some research (or sensing journey) to speak and observe proficient facilitators in their elements.

More resources

Here you can check the internal document which has some side coaching questions for facilitating the workshop.

Hello worlds skin folds

Hello worlds skin folds 3227 3505 markeloptah

Reading Time: < 1 minuteThis the first post of what will be my learning log during the next 12 months.