A social technology of collective awareness and systems change
Performance recorded at Vale Del Bravo, Mexico. 2018 (by La Vaca Independiente & Presencing Institute)
Social Presencing Theater (SPT) is a social technology developed to enable, and facilitate systems change. It has been developed through a collaboration of MIT Professor Otto Scharmer, and Arawana Hayashi, as a part of the Presencing Institute.
“A new social art form I call Social Presencing Theater that stages media events and productions to connect different communities and their transformational stories by blending social action research, theater, contemplative practices, intentional silence, generative dialogue, and open space.”
Theory U: Leading From the Future as it Emerges,
by C. Otto Scharmer, pp 452
SPT is one arm of the Presencing Institute (PI). It is an emerging art form that explores the creative potential of Theory U and presencing. The word theater comes from the Greek thea, which means “the act of seeing.” The word, theater, can be defined as a “place of enactment of significant events or actions.” SPT emerges from the community to enable that community to collectively see itself and enact its emerging future.
How do we transform our social systems to generate wellbeing for all? Whether it is an organization, a community, a network, or a team, Social Presencing Theater (SPT) allows change-makers to gain actionable insights into their current situation, seeing potential opportunities for change and stepping into this potential collectively. When applied as a systems transformation process, SPT helps shift the collective awareness and mobilize key stakeholders towards a sustainable future.
Video credits: Aaron Lemle | Content & interviews: Arawana Hayashi, Ricardo Dutra, Adam Yukelson | Special thanks to: Valerie Janssens
Otto Scharmer says in a letter dated Dec 22, 2008, “The question comes up how to communicate the essence of these projects in a way that transforms and heightens the quality of collective awareness and action, which is why we have started to experiment with a new synthesis between theater, embodied presence, dialogue, stillness and presencing. It’s called Social Presencing Theater.
See Arawana and Otto Scharmer speak on the origins of Social Presencing Theater on the videos.
To sense into the social field, in order to cultivate our relationships and our creativity to their true potential.
Learn how SPT can be practice in presence or online.
A mindfulness of body practice. This will help you develop the ability to notice when your mind has become lost in thought, and when you notice that, to bring it back to the present moment.
This is the main technique of Social Presencing Theater. It is a process by which one experiences going through the whole U journey by moving from Sculpture 1 (current reality) to Sculpture 2 (emerging future).
SPT in the field of education, it is a art-based method for principals, teachers and students to access sensations and learn through embodied practices. It fosters a “different kind of knowing”, that doesn’t focus on the mental processes but a physically integrated and collective understanding. Bringing mindfulness and art into the school system is now more critical than ever. The video documentary below illustrates how SPT has been applied in several different high schools, in India, the USA and Norway and helped to solve social tensions and student disengagement through exploring collaborative trust, self-expression and collective systems awareness.
SPT can be introduced in the field of business for both systemic and personal growth work. In the article below, Otto Scharmer and Arawana describe how to develop your management skills through physical awareness. You can read the article by Editor-in-Chief Art Kleiner or watch the video about Eileen Fisher's Case Study.
SPT can be introduced in the field of social justice and in this specific example it was applied to groups of people with special developmental needs, their families, and support workers.
SPT arts-based method was used as a vehicle to include the voices of people with disabilities in a way that would deepen the collective sense of current reality for the people who work in this field. This created a reflective and creative space for fresh ideas and meaningful conversations to emerge, resulting in powerful changes for individual people, for their organizations and for the system in which they are working.
As an example, SPT was used as a method for decolonizing political movement building practices and strengthen the bonds between Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the United States and in South Africa. SPT was used to bring together diverse perspectives to generate fresh strategies for direct action, that are creative and healing for all.
Here's as well the example of SPT being applied to the largest midwives’ association in Uruguay. Click on the button bellow to read the case study.
4D mapping makes visible the current reality in a social system, such as a school system, health care system, or government. 4D Mapping is used with groups who are looking to gain new insights about their own system, and with clients who have a case they want to explore using this method.
It explores how the highest aspiration in a system might come forward. We assume there is an underlying wisdom – in spite of the diverse values or goals of stakeholders in a system
– that could come to the surface and be visible, applying mindfulness of the body and awareness of the surrounding space. Here's an example of an SPT performance about environmental sustainability.
SPT can be applied in any group work, independently of the topic, using embodiment to get a sense of what is possible in a system.
SPT was part of a five-year Transformation in Performance initiative called Preparing the Personal Physician for Practice.
As part of the final reflection and evaluation process, the facilitators, and a small group of doctors, interns, and administrative staff created a short performance about their experience working on this innovative approach to physician training and learning.
This video shows the performance that was shared with an audience to initiate community conversations.
SPT and 4D mapping are one of the most important and effective methods developed by the Presencing Institute (PI), and has been used effectively for over ten years in business, government, and civil society settings, in places including Brazil, Indonesia, China, Europe and the United States. Reach out to us and learn more about how SPT can be practiced at the individual, group, organization, and larger social systems level, and how contributes for creating profound change.
"Social Presencing Theater: The Art of Making a True Move" is a journey into the origins, principles, and practices of an innovative social art form co-created by Arawana Hayashi and colleagues at the Presencing Institute. This embodiment practice deepens reflection and supports individual, team, organizational, and social transformation. This highly accessible book offers an introduction to newcomers and provides a deeper understanding of the work for experienced practitioners who wish to create powerful spaces for heart-based learning and action. The book contains practice instructions and stories highlighting the uses of Social Presencing Theater in companies, schools, and social projects.
Documenting the diverse influences, roots, and underlying principles of Social Presencing Theater (SPT), the book offers a wealth of stories, reflections, and hands-on guidance to SPT practices. In addition, it provides an insight into the underlying principles of Arawana's teachings and her approach to this body of work.
The SPT Aesthetic Language Cards enables us to gain deeper insight into how we create a social fabric of relationships by the choices we make. To describe our more subtle experiences, we need fresh language. This card deck offers 36 cards to guide conversations that deepen collective sense-making and support the application of embodied learning insights into everyday work and life situations.
Developed by Arawana Hayashi and Ricardo Dutra.
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