This is not so much an activity or technique as a policy. But, it has implications for facilitation and for participants' actions.

At the outset of a course or workshop, as part of my self-introduction, I explain that there is one general rule that is very important to me, that is that everyone should feel free. (This is constantly evolving as I learn more about what feeling free can mean.)

The spiel:

People should feel free to be comfortable:

  • to stand up if they need to stand up,
  • to leave the room if they need to leave the room,
  • to sleep if they need to sleep,
  • to make a phone call if they need to make a phone call, etc.
  • to ask questions, challenge ideas,
  • to suggest changes to the agenda, etc.
  • Being comfortable implies mutual respect, everyone should feel free, so making a phone call in the middle of the workshop is no good if it is disruptive (feel free to go outside), smoking is only okay in places were others feel it is okay, etc. Feel free also means free to make the place and situation work for you, to improve and accomodate.

People should also feel free to be uncomfortable:

  • to be confused,
  • to be nervous about speaking, to be shy,
  • to be unhappy,
  • to be embarrassed,
  • to forget,
  • to not know, to make mistakes, etc.
  • Learning is often awkward and uncomfortable, so we should let it be. People should also feel free to be in conflict, within the parameters of the event. So being uncomfortable, even in conflict, also requires mutual respect. At a deeper level, feel free to be inconforme, to be a misfit, to misfit, to be out of sync, even to be insubordinate.

Finally feel free means to feel beloved, to feel cared for, to be recognized and valued, to adhere and to give all as much, to find the best in those closest as Whitman said.

You can see how the idea can be extended or adapted (feel free to do so).

I have found that this not only comes as a relief to participants at the beginning of a course, but also strikes them as a provocative idea, making them comfortable and uncomfortable at once. It also helps me as a facilitator deal with changes and rival interpretations of what we are doing -- for example, if someone thinks an activity should be done in a different way, I can clarify why I came up with my way, but also allow them to try doing it differently -- "feel free." Feel Free helps me keep in mind my responsibility which is not to force people to stay with the agenda, but to force them to follow their own paths, whether they lead in the same direction or not, and to negotiate the path we make together with the other participants.

An interesting problem here is that, following Jacotot/Ranciere, the "freedom" I am emphasizing, is the freedom of the participant as a person with equal intelligence to all the others in the room. However, the teacher/facilitator/joker retains the power to control the activity, sets the goals and rules (of course participants always bring their own goals and may change the rules). The teaching situation is one of subordination of the will of the participants to the will of the teacher/facilitator. This is true even in simple games. So, there is a tension here between the feel free command as it applies to the participants as people of equal intelligence, and the limits and conditions the teacher/facilitator/joker imposes on them in creating a learning situation. Feel free and here are the rules. This is a productive tension, I think.

notes; Feel free:
comfortable (equal, entitled, free to come and go, free to choose, protagonist, actor, not just doer...)
uncomfortable (awkward, wrong, out of place, misfit, inconforme, dissatisfied, insurgeant...)
priya (beloved, valued, recognized, adhesion, amitié, trusted...)