Generative Scribing in the Thar Desert

While it indeed feels like the planet is performing continuous somersaults right now, I hope that you are all safe wherever you are right now. The idea of home officing is not so new to me, though I have never been so successful at the practice. Traveling has been one of the most consistent elements of my (work) life, so I’m practicing coming to peace with staying at the same place for a while. 

Photo: Jannus Jaska

I want to spend a little time sharing my most recent work experience. I was invited to join the RoundGlass Learning Summit ( in Jaisalmer, India some weeks ago. 125 people from the global educational field were coming together to explore Holistic Wellbeing. A topic that 3 weeks ago felt important and vital, now urgent. 

It quickly became an opportunity to dive deeper into being aware of the place where the session is. Something that we, in the Generative Scribing community with Kelvy Bird, have explored quite a bit together. This practice has become increasingly important to me, since I travel so much with my work and work many different places around the world. Being sensitive to the context is key to me. While the awareness itself has been a bit abstract to me, this time I had lots of time at the venue to sense the place before we started, actually I had two full days. I ended up Integrating place, by using homemade chalk ink, stones and flowers from the Thar desert around us. Using the elements from the desert created a flexibility according how the process unfolds, as I was using elements that can be moved. The ink could also be removed, if needed.

Since the canvas in the agora setup was not a wall, but on the actual ground, I needed to put more thought into the overall design before I started my scribing. Normally I would start more intuitively, in the center or bottom left of the paper and have lots of white paper to work with. This time the participants would place themselves from all sides of the black board floor and I decided to put the concept of Holistic Wellbeing in the center of the canvas and harvesting what I heard from the group around that, so that you could explore the concept from all angles, 360 degrees.  In the overall design of the canvas, I integrated the shapes that occur a lot in nature (e.g branches, river systems or the shape that appears in the desert from above – as I observed when we were arriving). 

We had 3 days together and not all scribing was done live. Some scribing happened live during the harvesting sessions in the afternoon, and during the rest of the day I was a bumble bee moving in between the sessions to catch the essence and meta perspectives of the work that was happening. The detailed capture of the work happened in the teams during the days, and therefore I could keep my attention to the bigger picture and what wanted to emerge. 

It was a very new experience for me to scribe on the floor. It provided so many different perspectives (looking down at the “wall”, walking around the canvas, walking on it, laying on it, sitting on it…) At times it even felt as if the canvas was much larger than the 5×5 meters, as if the board extended all the way into the desert, which was both a reminder of how small we are and a bit overwhelming. My perspective changed by being in the center of the group during the harvesting session, which created quite a shift in the way that I was holding space for the group. Normally I find myself on the side of the group work, this time I was supporting the anchoring of the work from the center.

There are lots to take out from this experience, as so many elements of the process were new to me. One thing that I’m still reflecting on, is how to make it actually readable for the people around the canvas. Since the sun reflected the black board, it was really hard to read at a distance. You could only sense the overall design. I did get the opportunity to share my reflections of the scribing to the group and quite a lot of people reflected back to me that they enjoyed having someone listening so deeply to their process, that it mattered less what words were written down. Pre and post session people got the opportunity to walk around the board, to dive deeper into the elements that I captured. 

I absolutely loved the experimental approach that my client(s) have had to this summit, all credits for the idea of the black board canvas in the agora goes to Elevation Barn, who were designing the venue and the experiences. All credits for allowing me to do an experimental, generative scribing and feed that back to the participants goes to the facilitators from The Weaving Lab (, who I have been privileged to work with several times in various places around the world. The Weaving Lab is incubated by Ashoka, who is now an official partner.

Photo: RoundGlass

These are times where creative outlets are crucial, so I can only encourage everyone to find a medium that works for them, be it drawing, writing, singing, dancing, cooking, lino cuts or whatever works for you. There are many subtleties that we can process while not only depending on conversations. Conversations are important, and so are the creative outlets. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, if you want support in this. 

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