Evoking meaningful dialogue among stakeholders and helping to shape the future as it emerges
Convening diverse stakeholders to engage in collaborative learning and creative problem solving presents many challenges, given that every single initiative is dynamically, socially, and generatively complex, all at once.
What do we do when the solutions to problems are not known?
Where do we begin when the rules and the questions are constantly changing?
How do we work with problems that are evolving before we understand them?
Who do we involve when the stakeholders are not known, or worse, in violent conflict?
How do we navigate our way in the midst of so many uncertainties?
Since obstacles and problems are as unique as the individuals involved, flexibility and adaptability are central to every facilitation. I am skilled in a broad range of approaches that allows me to meet people and issues exactly where they are. I do not apply a rigid or set method. Instead, I collaborate with stakeholders to design our sessions so that we collectively advance the initiative, given its unique stage and the questions being asked at the time.
The methods I draw upon include "U" Process, systems thinking, design thinking, prototyping, participatory dialogue, stakeholder interviews, scenario planning, narrative research, collaborative inquiry, participatory action research, and expressive arts inquiry. I have found these methods help to reveal, account for, and manage the many interrelated forces that exist within and among people, organizations, and societies. It's important for all of us to recognize that understanding the "parts" alone does not explain the collective behavior of the "whole".
Of course, every facilitation is situated within a larger context where cause and effect are interdependent, shaped by time, space, behavior, and interpretation. It is never just about the interactions among people at the table on a single day. Moreover, the challenges that lie beneath disputes and relational conflicts cannot successfully be addressed piece by piece, but only by seeing the system as a whole and through the lenses of its various stakeholders. An intervention is most successful and durable when informed and shaped by the stakeholders themselves.
Given that facilitation may be a new experience for some, it will be important that they are empowered by and personally committed to the process, especially because they are directly involved. In my experience this is accomplished with the most ease when the parties themselves are given a voice in the co-creation of the methods that will serve them.
My goal for every facilitation is a fresh quality of awareness that helps to generate both fresh ideas about what comes next and fresh energies for putting those ideas into action.
I have noticed that when stakeholders gather for collaborative processes, there is often a prevailing belief that if only “others” would change what they are thinking and doing, the problem would be solved. Of course, a problem is not simply the fault or responsibility of others. This is why a very real shift occurs once stakeholders begin to reflect on how they might need to change what they themselves are thinking and doing. In other words, collaborative processes call upon us, as participants. to approach complex challenges with a curiosity for how we might recreate the system and how we might also recreate ourselves. It is this relationship among “doing,” “being,” and "becoming" as moderated by our "viewing,” that informs my approach to resolving conflict, developing consensus, and building the leadership capacity to implement change.