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What was your path to becoming a Visual Practitioner?
A circuitous one! I was a graphic designer for many years, went back to school, and landed a series of jobs that led me to an interest in dialogue. That in turn led me to the World Café and Nancy Margulies’ great graphics, and then to the Canadian Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation where I first saw graphic recording in action. A few weeks later someone asked me to map a community dialogue in Vancouver, and I was like, “Who, me??” because I’d never done it myself! But then I thought, “Well, why not?” – and the facilitator liked my work well enough to hire me again, and to recommend me to others. By the time I’d been doing it a few months I realized I had finally found the career I’d been looking for all my life: one that brought together all my scattered talents and interests, and where I was always learning something new. I was also really fortunate in being strongly encouraged from the outset by giants like Nancy M. and Christine Valenza, and in getting stellar training from Christina Merkley. The generosity of people in this field never ceases to amaze and delight me!
have you been in practice?
I did my first ‘gig’ in April 2006.
What is your greatest strength as Visual
I think my most important strength is that I’m a really good listener, with a talent for distilling the key ideas from big blobs of undigested information. Also – having a background in art and design has given me a flair for creating attractive charts that people like to put on their walls. And I have great handwriting – or so I’m continually told! I’m pretty sure my epitaph is going to read: “Avril Orloff. 19xx – 20xx. She had lovely handwriting.” (To be read in a dry, ironic voice.) Oh yeah, and I’m fun to work with.
What makes your style unique?
I don’t know – is my style unique? I know my charts tend to be very bright and colourful, and I’m told that they have a good balance between images and words. I like playing with different types of lettering. Um… I wear funny socks…
us about one of your favorite projects.
I was really privileged to work on the Connecting for Change (C4C) dialogue recently, which brought together 120 innovators from the business, social and philanthropic sectors in a 3-day dialogue about connecting across sectors for sustained social change. It was a thrill to be part of C4C, not least because it was part of the Vancouver Peace Summit, which brought the Dalai Lama back to Vancouver and gave us the opportunity to be in his presence for the better part of a day. (We even got to shake his hand!) It was also an amazing confluence of Big Thinkers – people whose books I read over and over – so there was a lot of inspiration in the air.
But what I enjoyed most was that I got to co-map the whole event with Mariah Howard (who I adore), and we created all the charts together. It was like being in a visual dialogue with each other at the same time as we were capturing what others were saying – I loved the teamwork, and the dance-like quality of the whole experience. .
And…I even got to sing, because my choir was invited to open the first day of the dialogue!
What do you see in the future for yourself
as a visual practitioner?
One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how to bring this work into schools and teach it to kids as another form of literacy. I know some folks in our IFVP community have started doing this, and I’d love to hear their stories and learn from them. There are people in my local school district who will snap this up as soon as I say “Ready!” I also want to find a way to bring my skills to peace and reconciliation work, as that’s something I care about with all my heart and I think visual facilitation could play a powerful role. And I’d love to team up with artists in other fields – music, theatre, dance – to bring a full spectrum of creative practice (and fun!) to meetings. gatherings and planning.
the Visual Practitioner community?
Well, there’s the obvious expansion of technology into the field, which I’m sure will expand our practice in ways we can’t even imagine yet. I’m excited about extending the reach of our work with creative uses of technology. I also see more and more people “getting” the value of engaging the right side of the brain, so I think visual literacy will become ever more important in all areas. I think it will become an integral part of kids’ education. And I dream of a day when visual practitioners are regarded as an indispensable addition to all meetings and automatically included in the planning – and the budget!
Who are you inspired by?
I’m inspired by the peacemakers of the world, who continue to believe in, promote and practice non-violence and refuse to give in to hate despite all the pain they’ve experienced.
What books are you currently reading?
- Community: The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block. Possibly the single best book on the subject today.
- The Art of Possibility, by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander. I’m on my third reading of this book, and can’t recommend it highly enough.
- To Make the Earth Whole, by Marc Gopin – one of the peacemakers I referred to above.
Share with us two of your favorite websites.
Not counting Facebook, right? Can I share three?
http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org (for encounters with some of the most interesting, thoughtful people on the planet)
www.marcgopin.com (see above re: peacemakers)
www.ted.com (if you’ve watched any TED talks, it needs no explanation – if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?)
What is one best practice you would like to share?
Practice, practice, practice! (I would also like to take my own advice more often in that regard…)
Who would you most like to meet whether the past or today?
Oh my goodness, there are so many people I would like to meet. I would give a lot to hang out with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu for a day. Or see Ben Zander in action (see books, above). But the person I most would’ve loved to go out for a drink with is the late, great Molly Ivins – the hell-raisin’, rabble-rousin’ journalist from Texas who reminded us to “keep fightin’ for freedom and justice…but don’t forget to have fun doin’ it!” Amen!
Any final thoughts?
Just Say Yes.!!
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