PIG: Patterning a Language of Collective Practice

Team Member Names:
Laure X Cast
Sonya Green

Patterning a Language of Collective Practice

Our work concerns creating conditions for the collective practice of belonging. Belonging itself requires a fair amount of triangulation to define, but ultimately is a state both tied to individual and societal health and to a personal sense of mattering through responsibility.

Most groups fail without a necessary investment in trust-building. Co-practice is an effective way to build trust when protocols are followed. Clear norms and protocols make it possible to have transitive trust, in which co-membership is enough of a proxy for trustworthiness to allow for scale beyond personal connection.

Collective practice permits people with very different backgrounds and beliefs to feel a sense of connection with the space, the practice, and one another without necessarily being in direct relationship, though relationships can also emerge without breaking the cohesion of the space. These collective practice conditions are patterned, with protocols that emerge again and again, both by lineage and through something seemingly inherent in our evolutionary wiring.

In this project, we will be creating a kind of Pattern Language for collective practice, documenting the protocols that make these spaces function, and proposing how these patterns can inform collective practice architecture and process (especially online) .

  • What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance? Eg: hand-washing, traffic system, connector standards, carbon trading.

Loosely, the protocol would be ‘engaging in collective practice.’ Social dynamics involve many interdependencies, so our work to share collective practice protocols will offer patterns that lead to conditions for cohesion and resilience. .

  • What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

We have gathered and continue to develop insights into what elements are necessary for collective practice to happen at scales beyond a small group in which each individual has a relationship with one another. Trust is fundamentally about feeling as though you matter to someone. We have seen that online collectives often fail to create the conditions for trust to emerge. Access to protocols from functional collectives can help online collectives develop sustainability.

  • What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol? Eg: field observation, expert interviews, historical data analysis, failure event analysis

  • Reviewing texts and protocols of successful collective practice networks (Quakerism, 12-Step recovery programs, meditation groups, etc)

  • Reviewing meta-literature on practice and process

  • Hosting online practice and testing documented protocols

  • [Field observation of groups to observe patterns, antipatterns and gaps]

  • 20+ years of participating in practice in person and online

  • Conversations with others who are developing or participating in online practice (see list of communities where we participate in the personal statement)

  • In what form will you prototype your improvement idea? Eg: Code, reference design implementation, draft proposal shared with experts for feedback, A/B test of ideas with a test audience, prototype hardware, etc.

We will build a digital resource library (ala A Pattern Language) to share with one or more online practice collectives. Eventually software to support collective practice, ideally within an ecosystem of technologies.

  • How will you field-test your improvement idea? Eg: run a restricted pilot at an event, simulation, workshop, etc.

One way we will share our developing work with those who are active creators/cocreators of collective practice, to test how the framework is understandable, readable, applicable and customizable into their own pattern language (as the framework intends).

As ‘practice’ is by definition ongoing, we will also field test by using protocols in the Belonging Builders collective, which we host. We may invite other collectives to try out protocols. Note: we recognise the limitations to short-term testing as well as out-of-context evaluation. Social dynamics are deeply complex. When we do tests of ideas that have social components, we need to be careful not to make assumptions based on the kind of testing possible in a discrete scenario.

  • *Who will be able to judge the quality of your output? Ideally name a few suitable judges.

The most important judges will be people who participate in the practice – we will use both observational and survey-based feedback to assess results. Second will be practitioners who actually use the language library. Also these people perhaps: Nathan Schneider, Zach Anderson (Coordinape), Douglas Rushkoff, adrienne maree brown, Deepti Doshi, Madelynn Martiniere, Rick Bradley, Peter Limberg, Val Elefante

  • How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea? Eg: Submit proposal to a standards body, publish open-source code, produce and release a software development kit etc.

Our pattern language framework will probably be best represented in a gallery database or networked document alongside stories from practitioners.

  • What is the success vision for your idea?

The grandiose vision is that we seed more spaces with the conditions observed as necessary to foster belonging and cultivate trust. The short-term vision is to offer a library of patterns and to encourage people to incorporate these protocols in their own groups. Laure is also prototyping technology informed by these patterns.

As a way of understanding the direction we’re going with this, this list reflects ‘kinds of pattens’ that are common to A Pattern Language and Collective Practice patterns:

  • Size and sizing
  • Activities
  • Built environments
  • Network architecture
  • Aspects of groups
  • Types of interactions
  • Spectrums of public and private
  • Different cycles & seasons
  • In-between places
  • Accommodation of different modes of engagement
  • Economic activity and relationships
  • Positionality (within and beyond groups)
  • Thresholds and boundaries
  • Norms
  • Information channels


love Christopher Alexanders work & we definitelly need more/better resource libraries!!!


o many of these propositions are co-related:) There are ways that our proposals dove tail and there are so many I would love to share a week long exploring and building around many of these ideas.:slight_smile:


Yes, I am happy to provide feedback and give perspective on output.

Interested in learning more about the thematic parameters of what “collective practice networks” you’ll be reviewing.

Interested in what frameworks/perspectives will this project be operating on (U Theory, CoP, praxeology, etc)

Interested in what specific protocols would be, that could apply to all collective practices e.g. protocol for opening a meeting.

Overall, sounds fun.

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Yes! As in A Pattern Language it would be less like “here’s a way to open a meeting” and more like “Setting the Space” is a concept with elements of what’s important about doing that (for example, “Sharing Group Norms”) And within that you might also find examples of norms that themselves are patterns.


So grateful You are investing Your energy & care into creating sustainable/suitable models for collective ‘ritual’/trust building. If You’ve not already, I suggest checking out Parliament (a social choreography created by Michael Klien, introduced to me by zeer0wan). 3 E’s, formerly known as SenseLab (out of Montreal), would be another interesting group to check into - as they are often experimenting with how to generate value from the relational.


Yes! I think there are many overlaps in the ‘vibespace’ we’re in here. Happy to volunteer to help coordinate some over-the-summer practice sessions of our own SoP practitioners. :heart_eyes: