Liberating Structures Part 1: Tools to empower and engage

Working with a group and looking for ways to get feedback and generate ideas? Wanting new and different approaches to facilitating a meeting? Look no farther than to Liberating Structures, a tool that’s engaging and empowering people.

In 2002, Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless worked together to develop a way for organizations big and small to have more meaningful meetings and engage the participants instead of the same old boring interactions. They developed Liberating Structures.

Small changes can make big impact to a meeting or just a conversation with people. Together, Lipmanowicz and McCandless looked at the way organizations and groups organize meetings with an agenda, presentations, processes, discussions and questions. They felt there had to be a better way than the conventional way, which is boring and un-fulfilling and many times leaving people feeling like they wasted their time.

The two creative minds developed 33 Liberating Structures that move the power of control more from the leader of the meeting to the participants. These structures engage everyone attending and allow participants a voice through many avenues of interaction.

Liberating Structures help tap an organization’s collective intelligence and address opportunities and challenges together. They have developed 10 principles that emerge when Liberating Structures become part of everyday interactions in an organization:

  1. Include and unleash everyone.
  2. Practice deep respect for people and local solutions.
  3. Never start without a clear purpose.
  4. Build trust as you go.
  5. Learn by failing forward.
  6. Practice self-discovery within a group.
  7. Amplify freedom and responsibility.
  8. Emphasize possibilities: believe before you see.
  9. Invite creative destruction to make space for innovation.
  10. Engage in seriously playful curiosity.

This is the first part in a series of Michigan State University Extension articles that will explore Liberating Structures that might work for your group or organization. Read the rest of the series:

More information can be found in their book, “The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures,” or by visiting www.liberatingstructures.com.

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