For a report produced after a Face-to-face Co-Laboratory focusing on Energy Efficiency visit:

To see the work of the Civil Society Acts Beyond Borders (SCABB) working with Israelis and Palestinians visit:

To see a Face-to-Face Co-Laboratory focusing on high school dropout issues vsit:

To see an interesting e-mail discussion among a group of prationers on the meaning and interpretation of the results of colaboratories read the paragraphs below:

Hi Reynoldo and Yiannis (and all others!)

As you say Yiannis these are wonderful discussions. it is interesting that you say that even when you repeat the process with participants they seem to concur that the first "tree" adequately captures their collective understandings and also adequately offers routes to action.(I suppose this is when the first and second encounters are not too far apart in time and also when similar participants are participating?)

Yiannis, when you are facilitating the making of trees, are you offering space for people afterwards to create a narrative around the relationships and their significance? This narrative construction might be the process that is offering what Reynoldo calles peace of mind and heart to name the results "good".

I think Reynoldo you are pointing to in interesting idea also that before the workshop people can discuss the status of what they are doing and the status of what they will have at hand at the end of the workshop. Aleco stated it nicely when he said it will be an approximation to a collective understanding at a point in time - that helps to gear action. I think this could be made explicit so that people are aware that the tree is a construction that offers what Reynoldo calls "a level of harmony" about how the situation can be seen so as to allow for actions that people will feel contented to commit to.

I think Reynoldo that even though people may be aware that they are situated in a complex evolving situation, the tree that they have arrived at collectively at some point in time allows them to also recognise how the situation is evolving and therefore how they may need to modify their actions. This does not necessary mean that they all have to come together again. It means that each person can think for themselves how to work in the evolving situation as they see it now (after the collective results that were created earlier).

So people can still be guided by the earlier "results' and can make judgements about how to deal with the evolving situation. I think in any case any plans are always open to revision. As long as people feel accountable to other people when they create revisions of plans and operate out of a sense of accountability, then their actions can still be regarded as in keeping with the spirit of the group dialogue.

Does this make any sense to you?

I am leaving today for Cape town to help our UNISA students with M and D projects - so the next time I may see email may be Friday.

Love to you from me


On Sat, Sep 1, 2012 at 1:27 PM, Yiannis Laouris <> wrote:
These are wonderful discussions and I am honored to be able to read them during my vacations.

I would like to share with you my personal view point.

From the many SDDPs that I have organized and facilitated (summarized at

I have a few very strong observations to make fro the arena's point of view:

1. Whenever I tried to shortener the Clarifications phase, I paid a "penalty" of time during the Clustering Phase

2. Whenever i tried to shorten the Clustering phase, I paid a penalty of time during the Structuring phase

3. Whenever I tried to shorten the Structuring phase (partly by changing the 3/4 to 2/3 supermajority vote) I paid a penalty with respect to the degree to which participants recognized the end product as completely their own.


PS, I came to realize that any deviation from the current rules distorts the quality of the dialogue and compromises the chances for follow up action.

On Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 6:59 PM, Reynaldo Treviño <> wrote:
Dear Norma:

Yes, that is one of my points. I find that supermajority of votes may help but it will not be conclusive at all. At the end of the construction of a map, there could still be differences in the appreciation of the internal relationships displayed, and many people perceive this in practice.
And I still lack a sense around "the logic implied", because I would like to ask: How can non invariant observations regarding not only ideas but also relationships between them help in the construction of a "plan", or much better a "strategy" for solving a complex evolving situation. If everything is changing through space and time, how can we guarantee that our strategy is better than no strategy at all, or than a partial strategy going on trying to solve problems as if they were isolated?
I have always liked Heraclitus philosophy, but I need to remind you that Parmenides also had an interpretation about reality, when he realized that in every change we must first fix an identity that is recognized from the beginning to the end of that change, otherwise we could not even realize that a change has gone on. There is an identical sustratus suffering a change... It is participating of the "ontological difference between Being and being" (Ser y ente en español), that is: "there is an identity that does not destroy the difference between beings, and there is a difference that does not destroy the identity". And they are there at the same time.
Just referring ourselves to Heraclitus or Aristoteles or Parmenides does not solve our questionings or interrogations. We need to advance a thought on how maps should be interpreted by stakeholders who are planning to act together to solve a complete "problematique". What should they do? How could an advance in the process of evolution be recognized and treated? What changes should be made in a strategy after it becomes applied, after looking at colateral changes going on? We need to make sense from the beginning of a workshop around what we will have at hand at the end of that workshop. I still have no answer to that. Is it questioning not only our thinking, but also our wanting and our acting and feeling? Does that remind us that we need "peace of mind and heart" after we achieve some results that we can name "good results"? Can the achievement of "a different and higher level of harmony" be measured?
Please, help!!!
De: Norma Romm <>
Enviado: Viernes, 31 de agosto, 2012 2:06:35
Asunto: Perhaps the supermajority is best to create 'significance" - and a simple majority would need more justification

Hi dear Aleco

Having seen your message re the supermajority I see that this is a method of creating 'strength' of perceived relationships .... Perhaps the simple majority case should be used only when there is some justification for it - and also this should be coupled with a later discussion on the "resutls" so that appropriate actions can be formulated arising from them.

I think Reynolod's point is that sometimes the logic does not do justice to how people are feeling - hence the need for later review of the decisions whether supermajority or simple majority? Is that one of your points, Reynoldo?

Love from me

On Fri, Aug 31, 2012 at 9:01 AM, <> wrote:
Thanks Tom from drawing an important distinction between the science and the arena.

From Crete with love,

In a message dated 8/30/2012 4:45:51 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
Peter, Thank you for your argument. Yet while I appreciate the logic of what you are saying, I feel that as a science we need to rely on the data collected by those who have tested the alternative vote and avoid the temptation to surrender to logic alone. Out science will be stronger for this. If Reynaldo has been using a different voting approach, then he is closest to the data. Everything you say rings as consistent with my small window of experience, yet my window is small.

Let us ask how we might go about devising a test to establish when different voting appropriates might be appropriate. Perhaps if we look to "action" as a outcome, we might come to agree that supermajority voting is more emotive. This is a hypothesis. Does this sound like something that we might seek to do in the name of the science of dialogic design?


In a message dated 8/30/2012 11:34:20 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
Norma – While the voting process for affirming a relationship between entities is not fixed by canon, I have learned by working with Tom, and subsequently in my teaching the methodology at OCADU that the supermajority vote is a significant best practice.

The problem that occurs when accepting a simple majority vote is that when people do not sufficiently understand a complexity relationship, that the votes may split closely. When people equivocate and split votes close to 50-50, and an influence is identified, it leads to multiple representations that different participants fail to accept. If there is to be consensus on meaning relationships, a strong warrant or claim needs to be made, in my opinion. The more that power relationships are involved, the more critical it is to require the burden of supermajority vote (66%) so that slight shifts in vote pattern do not become systematic.


From:Norma Romm []
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2012 11:11 AM
Subject: Re: my paper is in press with SPAR


Thanks Aleco for sharing my paper ! Just to mention that this paper is at the moment in press - it has just been accepted for publication by the journal called Systemic Practice and Action Research (SOAR). So if anyone wishes to quote it please mention that it as SPAR (in press).

It is about trying to envisage (in terms of visionary anticipation and in terrms of reading the potential of human beings) social relations not based on hierarchical group structures.

Reynoldo, meanwhile I read with interest your way of responding to Ken's email. I think I missed the original email but I agreed with your way of responding and your suggestions re interpreting the results of any voting - so that the interpretation also becomes part of the process. (This is how I understood your suggestion that the voting need not be taken as final but that people can still participate in storying around it. I recall that when we did the Obama vision, Tom made an interesting narrative trying to account for the results of the voting and some of us engaged with that narrative. In the process I think new intepretations also arose - so this would be an example of treating the results of voting as an invitation for further dialoguing.)

Re what levels of affirmation in terms of "majority" voting should be accepted in the group, that is as Tom notes also something that is not cast in stone - and perhaps could be negotiated in different encounters ... .

with love from me now in Tshwane (not in Margate anymore),


On Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 11:30 AM, <//> wrote:
As a follow-up to Tom's comments, I would like to remind all colleagues of the important distinction made by Warfield in conceptualizing and articulating the Domain of Science Model (DFOSM), namely the distinction between to corpus and the Arena (see below):


Lack of appreciation of this distinction is dangerous for the evolution of a science. The evolution of the science is independent of the AGORAS but dependent on the experience gathered in the Arena of practice.

I would also like to take this opportunity to share with colleagues a paper by Professor Norma Romm which discusses Retroductive Logic as presented in one of the axioms of the science of dialogic design, namely:

The Logic Axiom: Appreciation of distinctions and complementarities among inductive, deductive and retroductive logics is essential for a futures-creative understanding of the human being. Retroductive logic makes provision for leaps of imagination as part of value-and emotion-laden inquiries by a variety of stakeholders (Norma Romm and Maria Kakoulaki).

Recently Maria Kakoulaki has founded the language to translate Retroductive logig in Greek: "Oniroforo Prosthokia," which means Visionary Anticipation. It is indeed very beautiful in Greek because the word Oniro means seeing a vision.

Maybe Reynaldo can do the same in Spanish.

From Crete with love,

Alexander N. Christakis**, PhD
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In a message dated 8/29/2012 1:44:52 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, //
              • Brother Reynaldo,

As always you raise deeply insightful points.

My hope with the monograph series is that as a community we can report and share differences in the practices such as you note, and that we can include in the monograph short contributions where others reflect on any reported project from our differing approaches. In this way, I hope that we can preserve a sense of canonic form of IM while at the same time not enslaving ourselves to that canon. For example, I have always used the supermajority rule for recording recognition of strong influence in ISM maps. In groups, this supermajority moves the group away from the quibble zone of close calls ... and adds both the strength of strong individual perception of "significant" influence with a strong collective identification of that significant influence. Together these strong individual and strong collective views reinforce the strength of agreement on a perception of influence. I don't know that things must always be this way, and if you have found that they do indeed not need to always be this way, I learn from you. This could raise an interesting question for research ... which level of affirmation from a group is most appropriate for which types of situations, and how can we apply scientific methods for establishing such distinctions.

I feel that we must remain true to your practice in your report, Reynaldo. It is my pleasure to do so. There will be room for friends to comment on differences among practices as we add "peer" commentary to the monograph. The goal is never to diminish the contributed case study, but rather to enhance the collective understanding of the practice.

The monograph replaces something which we no longer have ... which is the catalog of industry reports such as CWA has generated over the years for its clients. The AGORAS monographs are an attempt to sustain this tradition as a matter of collective learning using the type of work that we do within the public sphere. In spirit of collective research, it might be helpful to include data appropriate for cumulative validation of the erroneous priorities effect -- if this is possible.

Ken, I hope that my comments are helpful here. You are the lead on this activity, of course.



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In a message dated 8/29/2012 11:28:53 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, //
Dear brother Ken:

Thanks so much for this re-writing of the section on page 17.

Nevertheless, I do have some questions before you apply the changes.

I certainly accept that results of the process of mapping can change derived from the different composition of participants in a workshop. In fact, I have confirmed that in many occasions. However, I wonder if the principle of requisite variety should be applied with a precise meaning in regard to abduction processes, and I am accustomed to use a 51% majority vote to decide if some observation goes into a specific transitive relationship with another observation in a map, while you are stating that a 75% majority is needed. Has this been recently changed in SDD workshops to assure a "somewhat better" result?

In my practice of SDD I have always respected the principle of requisite variety during the processes of recollection of observations when responding to a triggering question, because I know that a "question for intelligence" might and should receive many different answers, not only because there are a minimum of twelve participants in a workshop, but also because each participant might and can have more than one answer to the same question.

I believe that another different principle than requisite variety should be discovered and applied to abduction processes which involve "questions for reflection", instead of "questions for intelligence". I believe that if the arguments for responding to a question for reflection are not recorded, but anyway results are stated through voting, is because we all assume that differences could multiply to the infinite depending on the life experiences of each participant. The voting there responds more to "feeling contents" than to "understanding processes of deduction or induction". That is why we name them "hunches". Thus, a different principle than requisite variety should be applied. It is more a matter of how we can develop a "collective intelligence" of a complex situation that affects us.

Because of this standpoint, it is that I always recommend at the end of a mapping process to review the map in common, and look for a re-accomodation of at least some of the relationships found. I have looked with great interest at the remarks that Peter just made to his latest experience with an SDD workshop and its results. The cognitive burden lies there during the voting in a way that should make us reflect why some of the participants do not agree with the mapping results coming from the software use in isolation.

Is this the place in SDD where participants feelings mingle with their intelligence in such a way that sometimes feelings are stronger than simple logical deductive or inductive relationships? What is there really embedded?

If it happens that some of you have found responses to these doubts, I would certainly like to know about your findings.

From Mexico with love,


De:Ken Bausch <//>

Reynaldo and Bethania,

First, please change the background color of the graphics to a light blue. Two please resend me the latest copy of the mss. as I am working with the earlier version. Three, I would like to rewrite a section on page 17 (copy attached)


Kenneth C. Bausch, PhD
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                Institute for 21st Century Agoras 2010 small

Yiannis Laouris MD, PhD (Neurophysiology), MS (systems Engineering)
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