“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”71JR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings. – Bilbo Baggins –
In the interests of clarity, it is important to distinguish between ‘process’ (the architecture of the journey, including the framing of the inquiry), ‘inquiry’ (the purpose of the journey), and ‘journey’ (the specific trajectory taken by the inquiry). For example, the purpose of the first Collective Alchemy journey was to inquire into “What is Collective Alchemy and how can it serve in these times?” It was from this journey that the process and practices described in this practice guide emerged.
The present part covers the process. Insights from the first journey and potential future inquiries are treated in Part V.
The overall process is fractal in nature, following a particular form at all levels of scale: the entire inquiry journey itself, each phase of the journey and each encounter, with the hosting team and with the plenary group. The overall shape of the process is known as the Diamond of Participation72Kaner, S. with Lind, L. et al. (2007). Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, p. 20., which has 3 phases:
• the divergent phase — the direction is given by a question evocative of clear shared purpose. This phase enables the group to diverge from what is familiar and move beyond the known;
• the emergent phase — has the quality of timeless suspension, like the pause between the in-breath and the out-breath. Here we abandon all pretence at knowing what to do and simply allow the new understandings and insights to emerge;
• the convergent phase — is where we make sense of what has emerged and articulate the new understandings and insights in a way that can support action.
The process is also fractal in other ways, with each step of the journey initiated by the core team, then moving into the plenary group. Following the Diamond of Participation, encounters typically start with a diverging check-in question, followed by a core focus question for the emergent phase and a converging check-out question to close. There is a move from individual to collective and back to individual: each person brings in their perspective during check-in, then the group weaves the individual threads in a collective sourcing process during the emergent phase, then the individuals distil what has particular meaning for them going forward
The formats used are circle, triads (used both in and between plenary calls), 1-to-1, and harvesting. In circle,73Link there is much more opportunity to listen and sense than there is to speak. The triad allows more intense participation between individuals.74See Appendix II for a detailed triad protocol. The 1-to-1s are soul navigation sessions for deepening individual process.75In the first Collective Alchemy journey, these were hosted by Sarah Whiteley Link Harvesting gathers and cultivate the fruits of the inquiry throughout the journey.76See Appendix II for more on harvesting.
Each inquiry will need to source its own questions. As an example, the overarching question for the first Collective Alchemy journey was “What happens when we enact alchemy on a collective level?” Each subsequent guiding question will emerge just in time for the step it is to serve.