The IFVP Institute is the broader educational arm of IFVP (International Forum of Visual Practitioners), a membership organization focused on the businesses and learning opportunities for visual practitioner members. The mission of the Institute is to advance the development and application of visual thinking and practices overall and, to amplify the collective impact of visual practices on education and social issues.
IFVP Institute has created a compendium of Competencies, which is meant to set a standard that defines advanced Visual Practitioner skills and talents. The purpose is to offer a path to learning and growth for aspiring practitioners, which, at the end of a curriculum, can lead to certification, for those who want or need it.
This robust compendium of Visual Practitioner Competencies represents years of work. In 1995, when the IFVP was born, several people gave a lot of thought to what might be included in a guide for aspiring practitioners, but those thoughts never took off or materialized. Many attempts were made along the way after that to define what we do and what it takes, but each time, it was beyond our ability to undertake what was required to carry that out. Our field is complex and rich and grows with each experience and we realized, it was going to take a real concentrated effort to focus in on what we actually had.
Fast forward to around 2017 when the effort was picked up in earnest. This time, the traction was there. Many people contributed over the next 4 years to this bottom up, grassroots project, including studying 17 documented models. To define the IFVP’s competencies for a visual practitioner, we didn’t begin with a blank canvas.
We kicked off with an Open Space discussion in New Jersey at IFVP 2019. Then, a handful of interested volunteers formed a working group*. The working group was a diverse group of individuals that represented the many roles and backgrounds of our industry, from academia and business, independent contractors, small firms, and large companies, and graphic recorders and visual facilitators.
The working group followed a method of developing competencies originally designed by Bob Eichinger and Michael Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership. Their method has been used to create thousands of competency models for businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.
We looked carefully at the work of many leaders and thinkers in our industry who defined what it takes to be a visual practitioner in their own way, including David Sibbet, Brandy Agerbeck, Kelvy Bird, Ole Sorensen, Susan Kelly and the competencies used by a few visual practitioners agencies in the U.S. This gave us a library of about 300 competencies.
We narrowed down the list by identifying synonymous and near-synonymous competencies (like “listening” and “hearing”) and keeping the word that appeared most often (in this case, “listening”), and the tools, abilities, skills, practices and uniqueness of this field. Then, as individuals, we asked ourselves: which of these are the most important competencies for a visual practitioner to have? We each defined “important” in our own way to maintain a diversity of perspectives. We ranked them in order of importance, and were surprised to find how much we agreed with each other, despite our different views and interests. The compilation of our individual results became the final list of 12 and then distilled to 7 core competencies encompassing common elements that define the work of a professional visual practitioner.
We shared the list with both IFVP and IFVP Institute’s board of directors and with a few leaders in our industry for their initial feedback. They had some great questions and great ideas, and they all agreed with the final list.
We’re happy to share the IFVP Institute competencies with you now!
“I'm so excited to see these competencies come together, and thanks to the IFVP Institute for championing this work! Defining what it means to be a visual practitioner allows us to better articulate our work to clients, orient new people to the field, and provides a framework for all of us to deepen our skills. I'll be using these competencies as a guideline for improving my work, and to help grow the skillset of my team members.”
“Models, such as the work in progress by the IFVP Institute, provide an exciting opportunity to further distinguish our profession and, moreover, bring us ways to clearly articulate how we grow in our purpose, our calling.
Such prospects excite me for our field. This enthusiasm led me to jump in, without hesitation, when receiving the invitation to contribute for a short time in the efforts of imagining how visual practice unfolds uniquely and collectively in our discipline.
My wish for the future of this work is that we all might see ourselves, and unique developmental pursuits, in service of growing in our purpose, and as a community of practitioners.
Congratulations to the IFVP Institute on arriving at this moment. Onward and upward.”
"As a former IFVP Institute Board member and volunteer with IFVP over the years, I’ve participated in the conversation and process about naming some general core competencies with interest. To me, the process of reflecting upon and refining some competencies for our field is meaningful, because the roles of our work as visual practitioners is ever evolving and changing. When I was with the core working group, we wanted to explore many threads from many diverse people and perspectives. For me this is what it means: when I am a visual practitioner doing my best possible work what am I asked to embody, sense, create and feel, now and and stretching into the unknown future?
Personally, I think reflecting on what each of us consider “core competencies” and a process of developmental evaluation can help our field with these conversations. And it’s not about setting a bar to keep people out, or to keep people in. It’s also not about making everyone the same, but instead about having frameworks/language that can hold multiplicities of experiences that each of us bring into this work/practice. It’s about engaging in the conversation of what makes the magic of our practice more visible at multiple levels: to ourselves as practitioners, with all the people and relationships in the room, with our field and colleagues, and even to the broader impact we ripple into systems and the world.
Engaging in the conversation about core competencies helps give us a framework to start from - not end with. For me it’s not a checklist, it’s the beginning of engaging in many reflective conversations I hope to have for as long as I am doing this work.”
"In my previous career, I helped to facilitate the design and adoption of countless competency models for organizations and government agencies. More than any other model I’ve seen, the IFVP Institute’s competency model was designed with the intent of assisting the individual practitioner in growing their skills, sharpening their craft, and sharing the value of what they do."
o So, is this permanent? It can’t be changed?
• Not at all. The competency model will receive iterations from time to time. For now, this is the one and no changes will be made at this point.
• All feedback and comments are welcome, they will be considered when the time to update the model comes, though. When will it be? After this model is tested in the field, we can identify gaps and/or the need for changes, and at what level really helps self-development and assessment.
o Why do we need competencies?
• The competency model was developed to be used as a self-evaluation tool, to better understand opportunities of professional development, to assess your team members or even new hires. It is the starting point/guide for a new practitioner that enters the field and has no idea where to start from, or what it takes to be a visual practitioner.
o How does it work??
• Again, all details will be released at the launch.
• We will do a soft launch, piloting the project (meaning running an initial small-scale implementation), evaluate performance and assess the process, review time and cost, and iterate if needed. Then it will be a phased launching. We will have a waiting list to receive information and/or apply for it, if you are interested or have any questions please send an email to email@example.com.
o Isn’t the certification going to box people in?
• We believe that the certification is one’s personal choice and it does not affect the practice. No judgment, it is one of the pathways a professional chooses to follow.
o What is INIFAC?
• INIFAC stands for International Institute for Facilitation. It was created in 2003 when five facilitators came together to develop a certification program at the master’s level. One of its founders and board members is Michael Wilkinson, founder of Leadership Strategies, an American company that offers training in facilitation, soft skills, leadership development and team building.
o How do you certify all different kinds of work?
• Well, in the application form one will have the opportunity to describe the work that one does, submit samples etc. So, the process is being designed to take into consideration the different types of work visual practitioners do.
o Why do we need a collaboration with INIFAC?
• We don’t have the know-how and expertise that they have regarding certification. We have been learning a lot and still have so much to learn about this project, and to do it right we need the support of a solid process that’s been used for years and years and works well.
Dr Phil Bakelaar at Workshop - 2018 Global Conference at Rungstergard, Denmark - photo credit Orest Tabaka
Workshop - 2019 Global Conference at Montclair State University - photo credit Steve Weinstock
Click on the button below to access the online bibliography about visual practice. Here we are gathering articles, publications and research related to our field.
In 2019, she completed a book, which is based on what she has learned over the years as the best areas to focus on to create healthy, thriving organizations (and communities). In a nutshell, that would be a combination of People Intelligence, Process Intelligence and Visual Intelligence. The book is entitled The Big Picture: Breathing Life into Our Organizations.
It can be viewed free in its entirety at this link.
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