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Life Mapping Exercise -- 2011

Life Mapping Exercise -- 2011

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Published by Mitch Chanin

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Published by: Mitch Chanin on Oct 10, 2011
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Life-Mapping Exercise
The life-mapping exercise can serve as useful opening activity in a multi-part dialogue seriesor an extended event like a weekend retreat. It gives participants an opportunity to sharestories about their backgrounds and experiences in a creative and engaging way. Participantscreate sketches that depict experiences, people, places, or relationships that have led them toto take part in the dialogue. They then share their drawings with one another.You may want to use this exercise in the first or second session of a series. We recommendthat you establish the purposes of the dialogue program, set up communication agreements,and give participants a chance to introduce themselves briefly and to share their hopes for theprogram before leading a life-mapping activity.
Time:
45 minutes to 2 hours
Group Size:
The exercise works best with small groups.
Supplies Needed:
artists sketch paper (sketchpads that measure 11” x 14” or 14” x 17” work well)
color pens, pencils, or fine-tip markers (make sure you have enough so that eachparticipant has access to several different colors)
Purposes:
Life-mapping can help to establish a strong foundation for dialogue by enablingparticipants to share stories about their backgrounds and experiences with one another at length.
Participants who are not fully comfortable speaking about their experiences sometimesbenefit from having an alternative way of expressing themselves. This exerciseenables them to share feelings and thoughts that they may not be able to communicatewith words.
The exercise provides participants with an opportunity to reflect more deeply on their experiences and feelings than they might if they simply shared their stories verbally,and it supports them in organizing their thoughts. The process of brainstorming andselecting experiences to present, considering how to represent them visually, andfinding ways to illustrate the connections between them can bring forth new insights.
The exercise encourages participants to be creative and flexible, and it helps to createa lively and engaging atmosphere.
Instructions:
1.Give each person a piece of sketch paper and distribute pens, pencils, and/or markers.(You may want to distribute them in a way that encourages participants to share themduring the exercise.)2.Explain the goals for the exercise and lay out the steps that are involved. The exercisewill give them an opportunity to share their stories with each other in a creative way.
 
 
3.Say something like: “You will have 8 to 15 minutes to make a drawing that representssome of the most important experiences, people, places, relationships, interactions,etc. that have led to your being here today, participating in this group. You can draw just a few items or lots of items – however many you want. Many people choose todraw somewhere around 5 or 7 images, but any number is ok. You can use arrows or lines to show the sequence in which these experiences happened or to illustrate therelationships between the different images. You're welcome to write words on thepaper as well, if that's helpful to you. After everyone has had some time to draw, you'lleach present your drawing to the group.”4.Invite the participants to spread out in the room to create their drawings.5.Once the time you've allocated for drawing is up, or once the participants are ready tocontinue, take a short break, and then bring the participants together in a circle. Invitethe participants to present their drawings to the group one at a time, explaining themand elaborating on them in any way they'd like. Give each person five or six minutes toshare their drawing.
Optional activities
6.After all of the participants have presented their drawings, you may want to invite themto ask questions of each other: “Is there a story that you'd like to understand better?Are you curious to learn more about some aspect of another person's background or experience?” Be sure to remind the participants that they are welcome to pass if theydon't want to answer a question.You may want to go around the circle in order, inviting participants to ask a question of each group member in turn: “Does someone have a question for Adam?”, “Doessomeone have a question for Rebecca?”, etc.Alternatively, you can invite participants to pose questions in any order they wish. If you choose that option, take note of which participants are receiving the mostquestions. As the process unfolds, if some participants receive many more questionsthan others, share that observation with the group and invite them to ask questions of the participants who have received fewer.7.Invite participants to reflect on what the exercise was like for them: “What did youappreciate? What did you learn? What surprised you about other people's stories?What resonated with you? Did you gain any new insights about your own experience?”
 

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