The Agency: Avatars

My pocket vibrated as I shuffled down Falcon Road wielding 5 Asda bags filled with grapes, cookies and all other essential brain snacks. It was a message from Deanna to me and Roisin…

“I’ve got masks!”

She did indeed.

As the Agents gradually piled into Providence house we finished allocating the 6 Avatars to the different masks:

  1. Sherlock Holmes – The Questionner
  2. Alex Ferguson – Collaborator (Debatable!)
  3. Madonna – Realiser
  4. Einstein – Trailblazer
  5. The Queen –  Practical (I mean she does dress very practically for the job you know)
  6. Where’s Wally Wally – The Optimist! (He is always smiling!)

These 6 ‘avatars’ are roles we all possess to greater or lesser extents. As the session unfolded we all assumed different roles, playing around with enlarging and diminishing our different selves; establishing our weaknesses and strengths and through performance inhabiting different aspects of our multi-faceted natures.

After a high-powered zip zap boing, we played the evolution walk game. D was on top form energising the slow-starters and getting them interacting by virtue of walking like they were excited, angry, irritated, happy (each emotional state she’d build up with beautiful descriptions of what may have happened to cue this). Then everyone was walking round the room plugged into their favourite song, walking on cloud 9 to the soundtrack of their choice, letting the imaginary sonic accompaniment alter the way they moved. This slowly transformed into a stand-off, where two lines faced each other and at full volume tried to convince the person opposite them of how good their track was! This was absolutely amazing to watch. Sydney was all: ‘The bass! The lyrics! You don’t even know!’ gesticulating wildly with mad swagger. Everyone went in.

Following this the masks got brought out. High impact. We talked through what different things avatar might mean, the Agents collectively providing a nuanced definition of the term. We then assigned Faustini’s avatars to the 6 masks, which were in turn donned by the different Agents and facilitators in roll plays:

  1. A group of people waiting for the bus and all late – (stand-out performance from Mohammed who got everyone practically marching towards the future.
  2. A complaint about a clothing item at a clothes shop – Teddy (the collaborator) came in and sorted everyone out in a flash
  3. A roll play in a chicken shop where someone got 3 chicken nuggets and a piece of rat’s tail! I had to mediate between a super positive Roisin and a ratchet Deanna (the three of us were dining together) and the floor assistant J-Dog, who had mainly rhetorical questions in response to our demands.
  4. The last was probably the best. Mohammed (Optimist) had had his bike stolen, not that he seemed to mind that much especially as he was getting some practical help from Alaska. Einstein the Trailblazer came in offering the solution! He had in his hand the blueprint for a moonlight powered bicycle that could be built if only he had the resources! In the end it didn’t quite materialise but it forced the collaborator (Charlene) to excel in her attempts to find a solution.

The role plays really helped people ground the different avatars in examples and get a better feel for which roles they found easy or challenging.

We proceeded to mind map around the masks, adding words to describe the pros and cons of each, what jobs they might have and who they might work well with. Then each Agent went round with their learning journals and wrote down which one they most associated with and which they found most challenging. They then formed groups of threes and had to come up with a quick flash Monster idea before stepping up to the plate and presenting their ideas as the Avatar they found most difficult – Kayon was a Questionner, Alaska, Renee, Arnold and Mohammed all practical, Zack a collaborator and Teddy, Sydney and Charlene all Questionners as well.

This in itself was fascinating and threw up things none of us would have predicted. For example, Kayon playing the questioner, her most feared avatar, made her groups presentation incredibly strong as it created a dialogue in the presentation where her questions (voicing the queries the audience or judges might have) were answered by Mohammed’s practical responses and Zack, who as collaborator, explained to the audience how they could get involved with the project that provided sports, dance and film activities in different locations.

After lunch we made a scattergraph of the different Agents’ self-identified strengths and weaknesses. it was quite amazing. on the x-axis there was a line that went from 0-10. 0 was ‘no confidence in role’ and 10 was ‘total confidence in role’. The y-axis had the 6 avatars. Each agent then had a different colour to plot a mark that showed the correlation between the varying confidence in playing each role. We could then see clearly for what purpose people might want others in the group to collaborate with and what skills and avatars they might want to develop in themselves. The scattergraph provided a really useful referral point when talking to Agents individually about why they shouldn’t worry about the attributes they felt needed development, as there were others with the same worries and they had clear skills in other areas.

The group then had 5 minutes to write up where there ideas were now, what they might want or contribute to a monster idea, what avatars they had and what they needed. This led into a 3-minute speed dating session where the group networked internally and saw how they might either Monster up and collaborate wholly (it looks like we might have a 7 people merger on our hands!) or in the cases where they already had particularly strong ideas, how they might also help other peoples projects by making films for them or being active in research or support roles. It was incredible to witness them at work pitching and networking. The strength of Sydney’s idea when she pitched it to me (I was speed-dating too) actually blew me away. Her presentation and passion were so impressive. She couldn’t have made a stronger case for her idea if she’d pre-written it. It was so articulate and so clear. One to watch. (She’s also hiring me as collaborator so…I’m pretty chuffed).

We then 5-carded, as a group with invigorated light-bulbs in our brains. J-Dog, D and I packed up put things back in their boxes and marvelled at the full-power awesomeness of the Agents and their avatars.

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