River of Life: learning together from the past to improve the present and envision the futureSep 26th, 2011 | By Simone Staiger | Category: Knowledge Management, Tools & Methods
Today was day 0 of the Share Fair at IFAD, a day to explore tools and methods for sharing knowledge, learn and get inspired to try out new ideas for group work in teams, events or any other agricultural research for development processes.
I invited to a session on “River of life”, a method that we have used several times now at CIAT. The KS toolkit tells us that River of life “is a visual narrative method that helps people tell stories of the last, present and future. Individuals can use this method to introduce themselves in a fun and descriptive way; a group can use it to understand and reflect on the past and imagine the future of a project; and it can be used to build a shared view compiled of different and perhaps differing perspectives. River of Life focuses on drawing rather than text, making it useful in groups that do not share a language. When used in a group, it is an active method, good for engaging people.”
In the today’s workshop I introduced the method asking participants to draw their personal river of life and share their story with the group. Some used only drawings, some used images and words, some immediately interpreted the river with a timeline, others draw a “as-I-see-myself-now-image”. Then, I asked them to set the scene for a bigger exercise. Participants scotched 6 flipchart papers on the wall to create the drawing area and together created a landscape that represented the river, from 2001 to 2011. I asked them to paint birds and fishes as a metaphor for respectively professional highlights and difficult moments. Also, we used the sunshine to write down one keyword that could stand for a motivation for the future.
A discussion started on whether to use River of life for future planning. Some do, I haven’t done it (beyond the sunshine part). I feel it being such a great method to help a group finding common ground, remind the past, and evocate shared moments, that I prefer seeing it as a way to learn from the past, improve the present and get ready for planning the future based on the lessons learnt.
Some pictures will follow tomorrow.