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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Can One Question Produce Change?

Posted by admin | September 5th, 2006 | Filed under Positive Change

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The creators of Dropping Knowledge think so. Dropping Knowledge describes itself as “an educational resource and online network that connects people around the globe seeking to exchange ideas and solutions to the most pressing issues of our day.â€?

What I find so refreshing is that in a world polarized by closed minds and positional thinking, they recognize that asking questions is the best way to incite true dialogue, challenge conventional thinking, discover fresh ways of seeing the world, and generate new ideas.

In the past year they’ve accumulated over 20,000 questions. On September 9th, having identified the most compelling and “openâ€? questions, they’re convening the Table of Free Voices. Seated around the world’s largest table in Berlin, 112 of the worlds most compelling thinkers, artists, writers, scientists, social entrepreneurs, philosophers and humanitarians from around the globe will respond to the selected questions. The entire gathering will be transcribed, translated into multiple languages and made freely available to all in a variety of digital formats. If that isn’t enough, they’ll also distill The Table Of Free Voices into a feature length film and re-create the event as a traveling exhibition. All of the content will continue to grow in the form of an ongoing global dialogue and living library. The entire undertaking has been described as “a mixture of Ted and Wikipedia, but not really.â€?

I think it’s a remarkable approach to social change.

2 Responses to “Can One Question Produce Change?”

  • September 12, 2006 at 8:54 am | Douglas says

    Seems like the creators of Dropping Knowledge are engaging in a massive form of the pedagogical method “Socratic seminar”. Socratic seminar (and its close cousin the Harkness table) is a tool where the facilitator presents “queries” to a group of learners who then create shared meaning through dialogue. “Dialogueâ€? comes from the Greek words dia (“to pass throughâ€?) and logos (“the wordâ€? or more broadly, “meaningâ€?). In other words, dialogue occurs when people climb out of entrenched positions (like in “debate” or “advocacy”) and participate in a flow of meaning. The conversation becomes a collective search for coherence and truth instead of a battle between hardened positions. Freed from defending points, people are free to find new possibilities, explore new ground. People listen on a deeper level. Each contribution leads to new discoveries from others, leading to more contributions from still others.

    The neat thing about Socratic seminar is that participants can take ownership of the created meaning. I imagine them taking all the fresh ways of seeing the world and all the new ideas back into their communities where it continues to germinate and grow. If that happens around the world, we’ll all have a greater sense of our common bond and interconnectness.

  • September 12, 2006 at 8:23 pm | Ian says

    Thanks Douglas for your response and insight. I too think the creators of Dropping Knopwledge are engaged in an important experiment that is grounded in a very specific pedagogical method, one that stems from the true meaning and experience of the word “dialogue.” Its my belief that the efficacy of this approach has everything to do with the underlying pattern of relationships that exist in any group of people or community. My experience with groups in expeditionary wildeness settings suggests that often groups collapse under pressure. Creating an atmosphere or setting wherein a large number of people are operating with an aligned sense of purpose gives the group the capacity to withstand pressure. When a core group of people can embrace intense pressure as they inquire into the questions, not the answers to problems, gradually more and more people can become involved. The irony is that the more aligned the group becomes, something begins to happen that’s counterintuitive. Each individual becomes more distinctive and differentiated, not more alike. Ultimately that’s because as alignment within the group deepens, the individuals are able to relax and become more authentic. The diversity of thought that emerges then enables the group to deal with more complexity and pressure. Of course the other commonly chosen option is for the group, in the face of pressure, to operate out of a fear based place which results in more homogeneous thought and a less then optimal ability to respond to their situation..

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