Double Festival 2008

Finding New Ways to Better the Human Condition — Improving your tools for helping others, and for helping yourself

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Project Renaissance’s 16th Annual Conference on Creative Problem-Solving and Enhanced / Accelerated Learning
May 19-29, 2008
Image courtesy of Elan Sun Star

This was the sixteenth year that many lively and thoughtful leaders, colleagues and participants, in Project Renaissance and in related technologies and programs, gathered for this series of extraordinary events — events which Project Renaissance hosts each year in the Washington DC area.

Really high-calibre people come together from all over the country and from countries overseas, human beings with whom it’s a delight to share space and ideas and perceptions.

Highest-quality presenters are drawn to this Conference because, as with the original Socratics and Stoics, high-quality feedback from a quality audience helps them further develop their own perceptions and understandings, in the fields which most galvanize them and are most vital to them.

Finding New Ways to Better the Human Condition

Improving your tools for helping others, and
for helping yourself

This May 23-25 weekend, the 16th annual Double Festival conference of Project Renaissance meets in Pasadena, Maryland, and marks a new milestone in our pursuit of the art and science of formatting and hosting extraordinarily effective conferences, colloquia and symposia.

All our Double Festivals have been attended by a rich admixture of professionals and laymen, and provided rich benefits to both. This year it goes even further. We are beginning an effort to have representatives of the various health-related and helping professions meet together in a format which has them not only learn from each other despite the barriers posed by their specializations, but together to reach for and discover new syntheses and new insights as to how to better the human condition.

Different programs, disciplines and sciences have various methods for healing and helping, but many of them have been too specialist, too tied up in in-group/out-group issues and behaviors, and/or simply too unwilling to learn from each other.

For example, forty years ago, when Win Wenger was writing his dissertation, and his method for that study was to examine what hundreds of different specialties in and out of the sciences had to say on his chosen topic, he discovered that over half of them, sciences and non-sciences alike, had essentially the same theory and model, but had no idea that anyone else was working with the same theory and model, in this instance human development. Each program thought it was unique; no program had bothered to look beyond its own boundaries when to do so would have strengthened its perspective and practice in its own field.

No program gained anything from staying isolated within its own narrow boundaries, and the people they were supposed to be serving were helped less or not at all as a result of that isolation.

Hey, it’s ONE Universe we are in, with one set of natural laws. Whatever name we call the specialty we are studying, it obeys the same basic set of rules. We can learn from one another.

Project Renaissance has pioneered new methods for finding consensus and higher synergy where before there was split and disagreement. We can now find synthesis and isomorphism where previously were only fragmented expertises historically isolated from each other. In this year’s unique annual Double Festival of Project Renaissance, we are making a start on new and better ways for the various fields and disciplines to inform themselves and each other.

And, because of our decades of pioneering work in methods for teaching, learning, solving problems, creating new understandings, and our history of Double Festivals which practiced these methods to ensure all participants well understood even the most elevated presentations, we can ensure that while the professionals of various helping fields are learning from each other, the rest of us are also — easily, comfortably, meaningfully. In fact, the resulting thoughtful and perceptive contributions to topics by the laymen attending the conference will be an important part of the proceedings which the presenting professionals will each find most helpful to their own cause.

How can a mere layman possibly turn up anything worth saying and considering in high-order professional and scientific matters?

  1. Check your history of science and technology. Many, some say most, of the main, important contributions in each field have come from outside of that field, usually from amateurs and laymen.
  2. Jerome S. Bruner, arguably the leading cognitive psychologist of our time, challenged us with his statement that “any concept can be taught in intellectually respectable form to any child at any stage of development, provided that you put it to him in his own cognitive vocabulary” (The Process of Education, 1960). So far as we’ve found, his statement has never been controverted, only conveniently overlooked.
  3. “To know a subject, teach it” is an adage familiar to you; the Principle of Description (“the more you describe something in detail to a listener — or reader — while you are examining it, the more you discover about it”) states some of that adage more formally while indicating some of the most useful strategies for learning more. Another element of that strategy is to keep returning to perception and to basic perception for the fundamentals of whatever topic you are pursuing-and-describing. See our discussion in the article, Idea Generator for Scientists, which represents a technique for problem-solving and discovery-making — “Method A:  Explaining advanced concepts to a child.”

It all comes together

  • Project Renaissance methods for arriving at new understandings, whether methods of learning and teaching or methods of problem-solving or methods of discovery and invention, are reflected in our methods for formatting and conducting innovative conferences (please see the articles, A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships and The Art and Science of Hosting Conferences, as well as our still newer methods for finding consensus and higher synthesis.
  • Every field and specialty in and out of the sciences, to the extent that in some way relates to the common reality of our universe. Each specialty, with or without the help of this Double Festival and the future events which will be building on it, CAN learn readily and productively and tremendously from each other.
  • A vast array of human needs and opportunities.

Forty years ago this upsurge began when Project Renaissance’s founder, Win Wenger, proposed that if one had a good method for solving problems, one of the best problems to work it upon is on the problem of….how to create better methods of solving problems. The best use for those, in turn, is on the problem of how to create even better such methods…..

Even your own particular version of “the Scientific Method” — is that good enough to find or create even better methods? And if it isn’t, shouldn’t you maybe be looking for another method that IS good enough to do that?

So we have two interwoven strands, one for Professionals and one for Laymen

We are hosting presentations from various disciplines and professions, not merely showcasing our own methods and program. Our presenters are strongly encouraged to sit in on and participate in each other’s presentations, under groundrules which will greatly encourage consensus and higher synthesis.

Example of the search for a higher synthesis:  How many different programs have non-drug methods for allaying and eliminating physical and/or emotional pain? (Please see note below about “Beyond the Therapeutic Model.”) Is it conceivable that there is something to be learned from each and that, if there were, stronger, better methods, treatments and understandings would result?

If your profession has to deal with people’s pain, wouldn’t you like to learn how to better do so?

If your profession has methods and a rationale for treating pain, wouldn’t you like to see more people helped by it? Wouldn’t you like to see better methods emerge which could help so many more people in so major a way?

So the Double Festivals are structured in such a way that professionals from a wide range of scientific specialties, programs and disciplines, including some outside of the sciences, can by participating learn as much as they impart, and help trace out those features in all our various maps which relate to a common reality and universe behind those maps.

All the while laymen, from all other walks of life, also attend these sessions, readily understand their content and contribute to their issues, and learn important things about how to help themselves and improve their own well-being and that of the people they care about — and recognize what may best be left to professional handling. (Some things indeed are, even though it usually helps even there to know something of what’s going on, and to help align your mind/brain/body system with what it needs to do.)

A good example, in our own work at Project Renaissance, of a simple way to advance your own physical and mental well-being is found in the Winsights articles on “Breathing as a Way of Life”, Part 1 and Part 2. The same simple methods can, in fact, be used to reinforce and improve the results of almost any other procedure, used in any other specialty or discipline, whether for aiding physical and mental well-being or other human functions and performance and the quality of life. These methods are so simple and easy to work that you can easily test their effects for yourself, evaluating how that might be adapted to help you in what you are doing in your profession or specialty, and as an example of how there might actually be something to be learned from a sister discipline or specialty. Or how they might help you. Period.

Common thread in all of this

Whether you are a layman, or whether you are a practitioner or researcher in one of the helping professions and disciplines, there is one common thread for both:  we enable ourselves and each other to create positive lasting change, in ourselves and in each other.

Our focus is what our various participating disciplines and professions can provide each other and learn from each other, while building new insights and while a wider audience also learns how to create positive lasting change. Even so, Project Renaissance itself brings, besides its special tools for formatting conferences, some important and useful elements to the table:

  1. Modern Socratic Method, wherein EVERYONE is engaged and learning and discovering instead of just one or two in the group. By truly drawing out one another, you already start helping others tap into their deeper resources, and reinforce them to take more notice of their own observations. Within those fresh perceptions are already the bases for the best insights and answers to just about every situation.
  2. The Toolbuilder Technique, the original suggestion made by Wenger 40 years ago, that one of the best uses for a good problem-solving method is on the problem of how to create better methods of solving problems. Pursuing that idea has led Project Renaissance into discovery of many tools and perceptions.

We have identified four main areas in our own work, each of which constitutes bases for possible major human therapies. We would like to convey these resources to responsible professionals and clinicians in other disciplines who are already set up to provide therapeutic services in their own work, for review and for possible further scientific development.

We hope to make the kinds of contacts with professionals in other programs which will make this possible. However, this Double Festival 2008 focused more on the interdisciplinary opportunities of other programs and disciplines, rather than being just a showcase for Project Renaissance methods and resources.

Beyond the Therapy Model

The present-day practitioners and creators of Project Renaissance methods have no desire or intention to practice therapy. Yet there is much to suggest that some of these methods have enormous potential for saving lives and improving human well-being. What does have our interest, in Project Renaissance, is not the practice of patching people up toward o.k. but in exploring qualities of experience and performance well above o.k. (One of Win’s earliest books centered on this concept, titled Beyond O.K.) Nevertheless, there is an immense and undeniable need to repair many human beings and their lives. Best interests of all concerned will be well served if responsible professionals who are now in clinical service will explore with us how to review and possibly develop for therapeutic use these special tools from beyond their particular specialty.

Meanwhile, and for the rest of us:  as good as things are, they can still get a lot better. There is always plenty of room for further improvement, and most of our focus, even at this 2008 Double Festival, involving various professionals and therapists, was to further explore qualities of experience and performance which are well, well above o.k.

Your own, direct, personal role in this experience

You have seen things which no one else has seen, whether or not you noticed them enough to pay them conscious heed. You have thought thoughts which no one else has thought. You have a unique perspective which, if you allow that to engage with the topics and discussions and interactions brought before you with this Double Festival, will result in unique and valuable contributions which will aid even our most expert presenters in further development of what they are about, even as their inputs make major contributions to your own well-being.

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