Donnerstag, 16. April 2009

Procedural Politics: The Example Of Organized Dialogue

I haven't posted any blog entry for a long time because I worked on the final few pages of my dissertation on "Procedural Politics: The Example Of Organized Dialogue", a piece of work that integrates seven years of my thinking and action learning as a facilitator, engaging people for change as an organizer of dialogues. Here is, until further explication, an outline of my argument.

The Fundamental Question: How To Proceed
"How to proceed?" This fundamental question of any political practitioner is the central question for my argument. It is the opening question to any attempt to shape change processes through action, and it stands at the core of any re-organization or reform of the political world from government to governance.

The Fundamental Answer: The Example Of Facilitators Of Participative Procedures
The How-Question is also a question which is answered every single day by facilitators of participative procedures. These facilitators proceed on two levels: on an individual level as actors proceeding with their own action amongst other actors, and on a collective level in shaping the interaction procedures between other actors, the participants. In their work, they creatively interweave their individual action process with that of the collective interaction process.

Therefore, facilitators are the central figures of my argument, and participative procedures are the prime example to discuss the re-formation of political procedures. I reconstruct what I call the "procedural competence" of facilitators, that is, their (creative) ability to act as leaders of successful collective transformation processes (which is what I define politics to be at its base). Basically, procedural competence integrates strategic, methodological, and operative competence. For practical reasons, I focus on strategy and methodology. In a nutshell, a method is a goals-means-operation, while a strategy is a purpose-goals-means-context-calculation.

To understand the implications of this distinction, it's important to not accept context at the face value of a (complex) situation, but to understand context as (dynamic) process. I really honor the good intentions of situationists, because they're paying attention to inner dispositions and context of a specific actor and action. But what situationists see as elements of a given situation, proceduralists see as factors of a process. Situationists fail to understand that any situation is itself situated in time, and subject to change.

The Purpose Of My Argument
The overarching purpose of my argument is to systematically ground relevant practical answers to the fundamental political question of How to proceed. I translate the task into three complementary goals:
  1. demonstrate the scope of the problem: show why and how procedure is a central political challenge, with references to the status of participative procedures and its relation to the How-Question in two discourses: the discourse on civil society, and the discourse on governance for sustainable development. In other words: demonstrate (Participative) Procedure(s) As Political Challenge.
  2. reflect your problem resolution procedure: show how (political) science can produce (what kind of) knowledge that is actually relevant to the (procedural) competence of (professional) actors, an epistemological argument with references to practical philosophy, pragmatism as creative action theory, schema theory, and theories of professionalism and competence. In other words: reflect and answer The Procedural Challenge To The Social Sciences.
  3. propose an agenda of problem resolution: re-construct pragmatistically central mental schemes and scripts of facilitators of participative procedures, such as "Organized Dialogue" as a basic model of any participative procedure; complexity and dynamics; situation, process and procedure; procedure as method; procedure as strategy; and, as an overarching mental model: "Procedural Politics". In other words: establish Procedural Politics.
(Participative) Procedure(s) As Political Challenge
(more to come)

The Procedural Challenge To The Social Sciences
To answer the How-Question is, of course, not a five-rules, or ten-steps-to-success affair. In fact, it requires the social sciences to fundamentally change the way they produce knowledge. Knowledge, or even know-how or knowing-how, is simply not the same as competence. Science and research is primarily concerned with the production of knowledge, while social practitioners don't really need scientific knowledge - the need to be able to shape change successfully. And many times, theoretical knowledge is simply not a relevant factor for this, and not because practitioners disdain, or have no time for science, but because science produces a kind of knowledge that is inherently useless for big parts of social or political practice.

That is because the social and political world are a world full of specifics, and detail and particular circumstance do matter to a great extent. Science, for the most part, is concerned with getting rid of particular circumstances to get a grip on what always is behind, on that which can be proven to be true in any average situation. And that's good to know, not only for scientists, but also for actors - but it's not sufficient for successful action.

It's the same kind of problem that any discipline and corresponding profession are facing. What professors know about medicine is not equivalent to what doctors actually do, and what other professors know about law is not wholly what wins the case for lawyers. Now, this problem maginifies when the subject of knowledge, or competence, are procedures. Procedures are, by definition, dynamic creatures winding their way through complex and unknown territory. Timing, instruments, context, and the intent of such procedures are highly contingent, and whoever leads, guides, or shapes such procedures needs to undergo a self-reflective learning process in regard to all of the relevant factors. The analysis of averages and its generalization in theoretical models is a nice way to produce knowlege about procedures, but not competence in procedures. So it's no wonder that so far, what the social sciences have said about deliberative or participative procedures has seldomly had any practical relevance for practitioners.

Leaders or guides of social processes can not plan interactions the way plant managers can design a production line. While the latter can make decisions based on knowledge of certainties, the former has got to deal successfully with the uncertainty of dynamic interactions in regard to complex fields of action. That requires attention to specifics, the ability to read and decipher processes in temporal shapes (temp-shapes), an understanding of relevant factors and their interplay, an interest in the dynamics of change, self-reflectice capacities, dealing with ambiguity and the multi-dimensional attribution of sense, and creativity.

Any science that wants to help practioners doing things better needs to re-shape its own production of knowledge, with the purpose of producing a kind of knowledge that is relevant to professional competence. That's the procedural challenge to the social sciences, and I propose a pragmatistic solution for that, namely, to focus on the production of certain mental schematas and scripts, instead of producing overarching theories. My argument here is based on pragmatistic "creative action theory", fashioned after Hans Joas, and I think it solves a very basic problem in several aspects:
  • it's buildt on the difference between knowlege and competence
  • it identifies a kind of knowledge that is relevant for competence
  • it shows how the social sciences can produce a certain type of knowledge for competence.

Procedural Politics
(more to come)

Sonntag, 1. März 2009

DiaYou: Holger Nauheimer On Change Management

DiaYou is about You, the professional facilitator! The aim is to to bring together all kinds of real life different perspectives on participative procedures.

My third interview features Holger Nauheimer, one of the leading German authorities on Change Management and Facilitation. I met Holger through Procedere, where he contributes his experience, contacts, and the very fact that he is a great source of inspiration and self-reflection to anyone in our field. I think the interview demonstrates this.

Holger Nauheimer has more than twenty years of professional experience as a consultant, trainer and coach for private business, the public sector and non-governmental organizations. An author of many publications, he is particularly known as the creator of the Change Management Toolbook, the leading web resource on the subject, and the author of the Change Management Blog. Holger Nauheimer has worked in more than 50 countries of Europe, North, Central and South America, Africa and Asia, and specializes in the facilitation of personal, team and organizational transformation. He is also the founder of the international Change Facilitation Associates Network and the CEO of Change Facilitation, A Global Partner Who Makes Change Happen in Complex Environments. Holger has become an expert on web-based social network technologies as tools for change facilitation and combines this with face-to-face interventions. I'll have to get back to him about that aspect in the future.

Holger, What I frame as "organizing a dialogue", you describe as "Change Management". What do you mean by that, and what is a practical example?
I must confess that I use the term "Change Management" reluctantly and only as a marketing term. I prefer the term "Change Facilitation" because I deeply believe that transformation of organizations cannot be managed but only facilitated. The aspects of a change process that can actually be managed (e.g., organization of communication campaigns, events, etc.) I would call project management. The complexity of many change processes calls for an approach that respects the emergent character of change. Coming back to your original question, a lot of what we do is actually creating room for dialogue in an attempt to – as Patricia Shaw has coined it – “changing conversations in organizations”. We do that by asking questions and by creating space for people to express their passion and consequently take responsibility for what they care for.
Let me give you a practical example. A large European organization called us in to “train people in Change Management”. The situation was the following: the largest department of the organization was in the process of implementing a new analytical software which would deeply change the way people work. Management felt a strong resistance to the project and they thought that a change management training would change attitudes of their staff. We went in and conducted a round of discussions with different stakeholders and we found out that at the heart of the problem was not the software but the relationship between the staff of that department with other departments of the organization. Simply speaking, people felt not valued. So, the goal of our project shifted towards uplifting the self-esteem and pride of the people in their craft.
We organized a series of workshops based on Appreciative Inquiry and World Café in which went deep down the rabbit hole. People dialogued about what it means to do a good job; they created visions of their future organization etc. All the material that was produced was processed in further workshops, leading to concrete activity plans. At the end, the software had become what it always should have been – a tool to do a better work.

What is the relevance of "process" to your work?
We are generally process oriented (if clients let us be...), i.e. we go into a new assignment suspending our assumptions. Every organization is like a blank page to us. We try to be humble listeners, respecting the experiences and also the emotions of the members of the organization. Once we have gathered enough information for a first hypothesis, we present our ideas to management and listen to their feedback. There is a lot of co-creation at this stage. Based on our hypothesis usually an intervention into the system emerges, such as the workshop approach in the mentioned example. But every process has a goal and we mustn’t loose sight of this!

What is your idea of social or political change, and (how) does it relate to your work?
Let us take a turn in this discussion because my ideas of social and political change have been significantly stirred up in the last two years, after I started to learn more about what is now called social media (i.e. the web based tools and processes often summarized as Web 2.0). What I have observed is that technological change is now much quicker than social change. Web 2.0 offers us to go to scale with change. While the classical “Large System Interventions” such as Open Space Technology, World Café etc. have a physical limit of probably 3-5000 participants (at least at a time), web facilitated change can soon reach half of the entire world population. And if we count mobile web technology in, we will soon be able to interact with the remotest village population. I have learned however, that many change facilitators have not yet fully comprehended the potential of these social media (while the next technological revolution, the semantic web is already knocking at our doors). I am using these technologies to facilitate and sustain change processes in organizations and institutions.
On a more conceptual level, as a system thinker I believe that all political and social change happens – as Bernard Mohr has coined it – “at the speed of imagination”, i.e. if we can anticipate change it is already there. I hope that the work of Otto Scharmer and his Presencing Institute will give us new tools that will help us to see the future as it emerges.
There is more to it. Social and political change has a strong spiritual connotation to me. As Robert Dilts has expressed it in an unprecedented and not repeated way more than 10 years ago, it is about “Creating a World to Which People Want to Belong”. This is exactly the reason why I do my job, and I hope that all I do contributes to Robert’s vision.

What is your definition of an unprofessional facilitator?
I have never thought about that before. What a question! I don’t think that I am the one to answer this question because I observe myself again and again facilitating unprofessionally. Thinking deeper, I remember what I learned from Max Schupbach about non-stationary roles in groups. The role of a facilitator is such a non-stationary role, i.e. it changes during a process. Different people assume the facilitator’s role, unconsciously, for a minute, or an hour, and then it shifts again. Facilitation is more a part of our life and we all have natural facilitation skills. So, you better ask me, what a professional facilitator is, that I know: a professional facilitator is present in a given situation and he uses his presence to bring out the best of individuals, groups and organizations.

What's the relevance of your work to interest and power-based Realpolitik?
Well, I am waiting for the first government to be declared ousted of power by the citizens of a country or a region who instead install their own government. And this is all done by participatory processes facilitated by web-based social networks. The first virtual coup-d’etat so to say. I don’t really believe that the current party based demography will survive the 21st century. Administrations will understand that in future, political processes have to be facilitated.

What's a question you would like to answer on my blog (and what`s the answer)? The question: What’s your short history of everything? How can we as change facilitators understand and change the world? What about us personally, as human beings in change?
The answer: Thanks for asking. Actually, I don’t know; I am still searching (and I will continue). I am happy that the assumption of modernism about the end of history hasn’t really proven right (has it?). For me, it is all about embracing the future (and at the same time conserving all what we love and enjoy). It is about being positive, even in the midst of pain. If we stop being positive, we share the responsibility for the misery of the world. Isn’t it fascinating that cultural pessimism (“früher war alles besser” – “it was all better before”) repeats itself in every generation? I believe we have more control of our lives than any generation before us. Let us trust that our own kids have the same or a higher level of maturity that we assume for ourselves.
So, that’s my philosophy for personal change: Enjoy the change, ride the waves, protect your loved ones but don’t be overprotective, do good to yourself and to the world. Enjoy traditions that survive because they make sense to people. Appreciate that some people are conservative – they take care of good things not being lost. Appreciate that other people are progressive; they bring new ideas to the world. Trust that the person working next to you (whether it is your boss or your report) wants to do a good work as much you want. Use your natural facilitation skills; help your teams to be more productive. Believe in solutions for urgent problems can only be co-created. Learn, not because somebody talks about the need for live long learning but because you enjoy to stretch your mind. Tomorrow will be different, for sure. Assume that 95% of people are good, and the other 5% cannot rule the world if you don’t let them. Be an agent of change.

For a follow-up on his thoughts here, please check out Holger's further reflections on whether we'll still talk about "Change Management" in 10 years.

Donnerstag, 26. Februar 2009

DiaHow: A List Of HOW-Books

The world is reorganizing itself because it's the sustainable thing to do so. That requires changes in HOW we realize things - with our minds, hearts, and hands. In other words, it requires changes in regard to HOW people view themselves, HOW they are relating to one another, HOW they relate to the world, and HOW people collaborate to change the world and get things done.

Just HOW is the most important question, and I'll capitalize any HOW in this blog from now on. HOW is the fundamental question of the procedural approach. But it's not only a group of German practitioners that is concerned with that question, it's a central question to a great many books and essays that I want to reference here as HOW-Books:

  • General Carl von Clauswitz, On War - not a likely first choice for a blog devoted to organized dialogue, isn't it? Well, Clausewitz gets "process", though he only uses the word itself seven times throughout the whole book, and his book is the most thorough piece of applied process thinking I know of. What do we know in the face of the dynamics of war? - Not any formal theory, therefore Clausewitz puts forth a hermeneutic process of thinking about the nature of war, and successful action therein. HOW, then, do we act in the face of the dynamic, non-linear, and unpredictable nature of the world? - Well, we act strategically.
  • Dietrich Doerner: The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations. Written by a German professor, and nevertheless highly readable, it's actually about dynamic situations that Doerner writes most about. It's a pop science bestseller in Germany, and rightly so. Doerner is a psychologist interested in how people structure their action in complex and dynamic settings, the mental models they apply, and what's wrong with them. He conducts experiments that make you chuckle at first until you realize HOW many times you've made the mistakes he uncovers. His advice: learn to act strategically. My advice: go read this book!
  • Malcom Gladwell, The Tipping Point. Also a pop science bestseller. Where Germans (Doerner) focus on the the "Logic of Failure", Americans (Gladwell) uncover the secrets of contagious processes and "HOW Little Things Can Make A Big Difference" so that yes, you can make a big difference yourself. Not a perfect book in terms of consistent theory, nevertheless highly illuminating. Like any good book, it trains your mental images to see the world, and their processes, a little differently.
  • Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, the essential book to understand HOW to organize collective and collaborative action. Alinsky is the father of Community Organizing, and it was illuminating for me to see the approaches of the Obama campaign through this book. By all means, read it to understand the power of engaging people for change!
  • Gene Sharp, From dictatorship to democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation - a great book with a smart list of non-violent methods of action, credited with an important role in bringing down Milosevic and a whole host of sucking dictators in the Ukraine, and other post-Soviet states - kudos to Gene Sharp for the service to mankind! And we need a lot more of such collective action method books. Of course, Gene Sharp gets not only methods, but strategy as well. I love the theme of liberation, and the emancipatory power of this little pamphlet (ridicously overpriced on the US market, it seems - 62 Dollars, as opposed to not even 10 Euros in Germany).
  • David Bornstein: How to Change The World. Social Entrepreneurs And The Power Of New Ideas. Great book on great creative entrepreneurs who reorganize social processes and practices to solve social problems on a large scale. It's no coincidence that Bill Drayton, the founding father of Ashoka, the mother movement organization of all social entrepreneurs, has a particular knack for HOW-questions, as Bornstein explains. If you need inspiration that yes, we can change the world, read this book!
  • David Allen, Getting Things Done. I kid you not. Yes, it's a productivity book, and why is it so popular? Because it tells us HOW to get a grip on the operational dimension of everyday life. It's a great, great process book. David Allen knows what it means to be on the go - and be relaxed at the same time. If you engage people for change, it means organizing, organzing, organizing. You better be good and relaxed at it, getting things done so you can focus on the art of our profession: empathy, communication, direction, procedure. GTD is about "perspective" and "focus", absolute essentials to navigating a complex and dynamic world.
  • The writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson are infused with process thinking; though it's not only about the creative process which I'm concerned with, but also about the metaphysical aspects of process (which I believe in as a private man from another vantage point than Emerson), the relaxation of someone who trusts that all things are in flux is appearent and inspiring.
I'll add plenty more books to this list in the future. Any recommendations by you?

Mittwoch, 25. Februar 2009

DiaQuote: Tocqueville On Knowledge Of How To Combine

My favourite political thinker is Alexis de Tocqueville, and I just came across one of his great quotations from "Democracy in America", 1835 again. I used to have it hang on a poster in my room:

"In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others."

It's true for knowledge, and it's true for people and processes. And it's about HOW - can't get much better in my book!

BTW, it's from Book II, Chapter 5 about Public Associations in Civil Life.

I saw that Marshall Ganz, a long time organizer and Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor, is supposed to have translated this to the Obama campaign, in a perspective that mirrors my own take on people in relationships to one another who begin to relate themselves to a common purposes and a common goal:

"We may be finally be coming to understand what De Tocqueville saw - the promise of democratic politics is in people's ability to enter into relationships with one another to articulate common purposes and act on them. Organizing to bring people back into politics is not a cost, but it is an investment - an investment in rebuilding the infrastructure of our public life that has been under assault for far too many years."

Oh, and please do check out the Practicing Democracy Network at Harvard KSG. Their "mission is to develop leaders committed to practicing democracy - engaging fellow citizens in collective action." I'll have to go and look for fellow Germans to set up such a network over here!

Samstag, 14. Februar 2009

A Case For A Comprehensive Collaboration Model

I've noted the special value of "collaboration", as opposed to mere "deliberation" in consultations before. Deliberation as a process of assembling or arguing from different perspectives in order to establish common sense recommendations is clearly different from engaging people for change in a collaborative process that produces action. Now I found a good thought over at the on how "Collaboration Has Become the Building Block for Productivity and Growth in Government". The connectedrepublic people are a community that discusses aspects of a basic question: "How can creators and users of public services gain from our increasingly connected world?" A lot of it is about digital options, about Government 2.0 and the like.

Collaboration as a basic need and form of interaction in the 21st century
What contributor gcharles at gcharles basically says is this:
  • we live in an increasingly more dynamic and diversified, yet interconnected and interactive world
  • to serve the needs of this world, those of us who work in the public sector (or, for that matter, the citizen sector, if I might add) should develop a new (digital) collaboration model which converges process, technology, and our 21st century culture
  • the collaboration model signifies the "convergence of all forms of communications into experiences that accelerate productivity and decision making at any time, in any place, on any device."
In other words: we should lower the cost of collaboration because collaboration is a basic need and form of public interaction in the 21st century.

Gcharles quotes a certain Gartner Group's prediction "that by 2015, workers will spend more than 80 percent of their time working collaboratively, and only a small portion of collaborative work will be done at the same time in the same place." A comprehensive collaboration model would "empower not just today's mobile workforce but also our connected devices and our citizens" - who, yet another important insight, are themselves "moving beyond self-service to become participatory designers and deliverers of the very services they and their neighbors need."

The fundamental political challenge of collaboration
To gcharles, that idea is so obviously in high demand and beneficial that it's also a clearcut business case. I agree. But while gcharles is focussing in on the generation, exchange, and delivery of social services, I think the challenge of a collaboration model goes beyond: collaboration is an essential political matter. It is a mode of informal politics that we need to adopt to complement the old formal, and sometimes failing, procedures of politics.

How to make (social) collaboration an easy, every day activity is, I think, a fundamental question. Wouldn't it be great if collaboration procedures were as easy and accessible to everyone as calling a friend is today?

Donnerstag, 12. Februar 2009

DiaYou: Jouwert van Geene on Multi-Stakeholder Processes

DiaYou is about You, the professional facilitator! The aim is to to bring together all kinds of real life different perspectives on participative procedures.

I'm proud to present my second interview with Jouwert van Geene, here on the left. Coincidentally, Jouwert is also friends with Alisa Oyler, my first DiaYou-Interviewee. They have worked together in Zimbabwe.

I met Jouwert when I wanted to know who was behind the great resource website on Multi- Stakeholder Processes. Well, it's Jouwert and his colleagues at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, among them Prof. dr L. J. (Lynn) Frewer, co-author of "Typology of Public Engagement Mechanisms", and others. - For a great non-digital introduction to Multi Stakeholder Processes, a must read for anyone interested in organized dialogue, please read Multi-Stakeholder Processes for Governance and Sustainability: Beyond Deadlock and Conflict by Minu Hemmati, who also cooperates with the Wageningen people.

Jouwert van Geene is an international facilitator. After six years in Africa, he is now working as advisor and trainer at Wageningen International University. Jouwert is particularly interested in how participatory methods are used in institutional change processes to address complex problems. He recommends keeping an eye on, a new initiative that promotes learning between high-level multi-stakeholder processes.

Jouwert, what I frame as "Organized Dialogue", you and your colleagues call a Multi- Stakeholder Process. What do you mean by that, and what is an example?
A Multi-Stakeholder Process (MSP) is an engagement of a group of different actors from various sectors (public, private, civil society) and different levels. They collaborate over a certain space and time to address a problem or to achieve a common goal that none of the actors could address alone. Central to MSPs is social or societal learning: the changes in knowledge, skills, attitudes, perceptions, values that is a result of the interaction between stakeholders. Social learning can lead to the institutional innovation that MSPs aim at.

What is the relevance of "process" to your work?
Process is key at different levels and scales. A MSP is a process that can take very long and can typically go through different stages such as initiating, adaptive planning, collaborative action and reflective monitoring. Within multi-stakeholder meetings often generic facilitation processes such as setting a context, divergence, emergence and convergence can be used. Furthermore feedback loops of action-reflection take place throughout the process. So carefull attention to processes in the design, facilitation and reflection on MSPs is needed.

What is your idea of social or political change, and (how) does it relate to your work?
Social change is related to social or societal learning and institutional change. Social learning for us means linking learning and change at the individual, organisational and group/network level. People, organisations and their relationships and behaviours may change through sharing of perspectives, dialogue, joint analysis and planning. Institutional change for us means the change in recurring patterns of behaviour, the rules of the game, that govern a certain situation. This is about institutional aspects like meaning giving institutions (values, knowlegde creation), association (organisations and their relationships), control (mandates, policies, legislation) and action (behaviour, services). Multi-stakeholder processes are tools for social learning and institutional change.

What is your definition of an unprofessional facilitator?
An unprofessional facilitator lacks the needed attitude, knowledge, skills and style to design, facilitate and sustain appropriate interaction among participants or stakeholders. S/he is not able to translate a thorough analysis of a situation, combined with the needs of stakeholders into a process that provides direction towards results. S/he fails to pick up signals from participants or stakeholders to adapt a process and deal with underlying issues, tensions or emerging conflicts. A professional facilitator combines methodological rigour with a deeply rooted passion for inquiry leading to impact and change.

What's the relevance of your work to interest and power-based Realpolitik?
Multi-stakeholder processes play an important role in new ways of governance in which government shares responsibilities and decision-making with civil society and private sectors. MSPs help to find practical and sustainable (locally owned) solutions to complex problems. Within MSPs there should be conscious attention understanding different interests and expectiations of actors, as well as power issues. Nevertheless MSPs can never be value-free or amoral - they will need to explicitly surface the underlying values and assumptions that are used to project and justify a certain change or solution.

What's a question you would like to answer on my blog (and what`s the answer)?
Are multi-stakeholder processes a means or an end? MSPs are principally an instrument to reach impact or sustainable change. However, multi-stakeholder processes also encourage and instill important values such as empowerment and accountability.

Dienstag, 10. Februar 2009

DiaMeet: Two Meetings On How To Do Participative Dialogue

In the upcoming two months, I'll attend and speak at two conferences, one hosted by Procedere (attention: change of website right now) and one by the Network for Community Spirit.

The central theme at the Procedere conference in the Protestant Academy of Loccum (Germany), March 13th to 15th, is eminently important to me: the competences of facilitators. There are several questions that will be defined and discussed:
  • HOW do we do it: finding visions, shaping and coping with change, and solving conflicts?
  • What are important basic skills and tools?
  • What are capabilities and capacities of facilitators?
  • What kind of competency in the sense of responsibility or (informal) "jurisdiction" does a facilitator need?
  • What are elements of the proficiency or mastery of facilitators?
  • What mix of theoretical and practical knowledge do we need?
  • What kind of training or curriculum is required to attain these competences?
The whole conference is set up as an exploratory search conference for answers. The organizers have based the program around a basic model of participative procedures that is close to my model of an organized dialogue. What they want to get at is a comprehensive understanding of competences which includes skills and tools in the sense of qualifications, but goes beyond that towards proficiency, mastery, and the competencies and responsibilities negotiated with the client. My own input will address the strategic dimension of procedural competence.

More than 60 practitioners and theorists from German speaking countries are expected to attend. Download the program in pdf here, and pass it on to people who are interested.

While Procedere asks "How can we do it?", the conference hosted by the Network for Community Spirit asserts "Yes, we're doing it". It's billed as the 2nd Munich Expert's Forum on Methods and takes place from the 3rd to the 5th of April, 2009 in Munich. The Forum, sponsored by an impressive list of institutions, will address different forms and formats of citizen participation in shaping societal change.

My own input, together with Wolfgang C. Goede, on "From Blair To Obama - International Examples of Political Participation" will be opening the conference. What's really worth checking out is the draft of the Munich Rules Of The Thumb For Participation, an input by the organizers that will be discussed at the conference.

I'd love to meet you there!

Mittwoch, 4. Februar 2009

DiaYou: Alisa Oyler On "Creating Inclusive And Just Social Systems"

DiaYou is about You, the professional facilitator! The aim is to to bring together all kinds of real life different perspectives on participative procedures.

I'm very happy to present my first interview with Alisa Oyler! She's the energetic one on this picture. Alisa is my absolute number one facilitator because she was the first one I ever met - back when we were bridge-builders in practice at North High School in Phoenix, AZ. I was an exchange-student from Germany to her senior class of 1992, and we both belonged to the crew of cool nerds in the class. Alisa came to visit me with her family in 1993 in Germany. Years later google told me these were the Oylers of Technology of Participation fame - a brand of facilitation that has left deep impressions in Germany, where the Bertelsmann Foundation and the CAP in Munich introduced it in 2004.

Alisa Oyler is now an international facilitator and trainer, currently based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Originally from Phoenix, AZ, Alisa worked initially for the ICA, before becoming a consultant, and has just finished 2 1/2 years working with Mercy Corps International first in Sri Lanka, then Aceh, Indonesia. She recommends keeping an eye on and Thank you, Alisa!

What I frame as "organizing a dialogue", you call "creating inclusive and just social systems". What do you mean by that, and what is an example?
By using "inclusive and just social systems" I wanted to highlight the output of participatory processes. I see a lot of cynicism about the effectiveness of participatory processes. People don't seem to think that these processes generate results that are implementable on par with the traditional top down decision making model. Critics say that open dialogue and solicitous decision-making is time consuming as well as generating "lowest common denominator" decisions.
So I'm highlighting the intent to create a certain product that holds a minimum standard of inclusiveness and just treatment of all those affected by a decision. With that intent stated, it's clear that it would be near impossible to assure that standard was met without engaging their voices in the process of decision making.
Examples? "Inclusive and just social systems" describes the local village in Aceh, Indonesia that is supported in the process of nurturing a local leadership structure, process and conversation, involving all members (even women and minorities who may have traditionally been marginalized) to decide how the post-tsunami aid monies will shape their common future. The term equally applies to the Human Resources department suffering from major cutbacks that uses the occasion to do a participatory 'role definition retreat' for key leaders, in order to redistribute priority functions or the local activist organization that engages their beneficiaries in a long term planning process to assure their missional relevance.

What is the relevance of "process" to your work? It's central. In my work with Mercy Corps, how a decision is made, how a program is designed, how a plan is implemented IS the work. It is all the work that we do, and every step of the way is an opportunity to refine the process to achieve better results. Engaging every member of the team in a cross cultural environment often relies on a discipline to open up the conversation regularly and sincerely to make room for a local perspective, or a nuanced interpretation. Care in the process is the only way to sidestep the pitfalls of aid work that can undo our successes.

What is your idea of social or political change, and (how) does it relate to your work?
This is a huge question best answered over several pints. For now I'll let that first statement on "inclusive and just social systems" be my answer.

What is your definition of a professional facilitator?
A content-neutral process guide who works with the client to design and lead an event (series of events) that gives the group the tools they need to achieve their objective(s) together. This definition presumes that it is usually someone external to the group or decision playing this role.

What's the relevance of your work to interest and power-based Realpolitik?
I'm afraid you'll have to define Realpolitik for me!

What's a question you would like to answer on my blog (and what`s the answer)?
"Where do you think that rigorous application of facilitation skills could have the deepest impact?" - My answer is that Thomas Jefferson once wrote about the three cornerstones of a functioning democracy, and I'm sure I'm going to butcher his trestise, but I remember it being
  1. a systems of checks and balances at the highest levels of state (met in America by the independent Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches)
  2. a well educated citizenry cultivated in a strong public education system and
  3. a public engaged in vigorous debate at the most local levels of government.
While we could argue about the state of the first two in most western nations, I would propose that it is the third leg - the lack of vigorous public debate at the most local levels of state that has led to the disengaged, sometimes apathetic voting public we've been haunted by.

Citizenship is a muscle that needs to be exercised, understanding, refining and moving forward the conversation about the critical issues that face is going to rely on the creativity and will of the entire population. This will has to be drawn out and fueled by taking on issues close to home, pushing some decisions down to the level of one person one vote, bulking up our sense of our role to play in crafting our own society. And local government officials have to be the hosts of these conversations, rather than their proxy's. Facilitation skills at the local city council, school boards, ministerial departments can refresh the notion of the public servant and the priviledge it can be to be the host to a community healing and rebuilding itself.

Dienstag, 3. Februar 2009

Participative Procedures for Sustainability: IAP2 Call For Papers

Why participative procedures? Because they are one of our best hopes for sustainable development. The core operative idea of sustainability is the integration of all aspects of a political issue - environmental, social, and economic into the political problem resolution processes. Participative processes, if intelligently designed, can deliver this integration.

That close interrelation between participative procedures and sustainable development is also the central theme at the next Conference "Making Sustainable Decisions: The Price and Promise of Public Participation" of the The International Association for Public Participation in San Diego, September 21-23rd, 2009. Their call for presentations is out now (here the link to the download of a doc).

They are looking for presentations focused around the following themes:
  • Sustainable decision-making processes: what characteristics are necessary for a public participation process to be sustainable?
  • Sustainable decisions: In what ways does public participation lead to decisions that are more workable and enduring than those made without public participation?
  • Sustainable outcomes: How do public participation processes and better decisions specifically contribute to the sustainability of projects and programs?
Those are good questions. My own focus would be not on participation per se, or the decision process, but on the whole process itself. (Thinking "decisions"is actually one the mind sets we should overcome. A political problem resolution procedure - or the creation of social, ecological, cultural etc. surplus value - is so much more than a process of consecutive decisions, and the preperation therefore. The focus on decision is very much inherent in our situational thinking.) Sustainable development is a political process that is larger than any one intervention or process. So what's needed is a regime of processes, and we need to know just HOW to design and implement that practically. That's a issue of what I call procedural politics (also here).

Tell me whether you are going there!

Sonntag, 1. Februar 2009

Obama: Turning Government Into Governance?

Here's an excerpt from Obama’s amazing Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, released on the 21st of January, 2009. With it, he announces standards of transparent, participatory, and collaborative government, in effect turning government into governance. He also announes an Open Government Directive that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in his memorandum within three months. If the implementation doesn't fall short of these standards, I think it's a breathtaking game changer in the way government works.

"Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. (...)"

"Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government's effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government."

"Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation."

What I think is remarkable is that he makes a distinction between participation and collaboration. I think he's right about that - participation in assembling knowledge, and establishing common sense recommendations in deliberative procedures is something else than engaging people for change in collaboration! I'll talk about that distinction in future blogs.

What do you think: will Obama succeed in turning government into governance?

Mittwoch, 14. Januar 2009

The Mental Checklist Series of Organized Dialogue: (1) OD As A Mental Model

Organized Dialogue (OD) is a mental model. A mental model is basically an idea that organizes your mind around certain important features of that idea. By providing specific categories relevant to your perception and action, mental models frame your thinking.

I submit this mental model of the Organized Dialogue for your consideration and application, and I'll do so in several installments of The Mental Checklist Series of Organized Dialogue over the next few months. I would love to hear your feedback.

I'm confident the mental model of Organized Dialogue will help you to organize your own mind - whenever, and whereever, you design, and navigate, a participative process through the unchartered sea of change ahead of you. In that sense, your mental model of Organized Dialogue is a good tool, like a compass, to help you reach your goals on that journey. I would hope that this mental helps facilitators deliver professional services whereever they engage people for change.

The mental model of Organized Dialogue has a basic structure, and upon that basic structure - that skeleton - other elements are affixed to bring the model to life. You can latch on elements from your own experience. In fact, for any new mental model, you need to make it your own by braiding and weaving your existing mental models into it. You can do that by mere acts of imagination and reflection, but you get more out of it when you apply it to your actual work.

Please stay tuned for updates... thank you.

Mittwoch, 7. Januar 2009

Political Scientists Get It: It's The Process, Stupid!

The need for procedural competence - for knowing how to organize and re-organize purposeful cooperative interaction in relation to common challenges - has roots in many different grounds. One comprehensive explanation for the importance of procedural competence is globalization.

At the 21st World Congress of Political Science in Santiago, Chile from July 12 to 16, 2009, the world's political scientists gather to grapple with globalization. In the description of their theme, GLOBAL DISCONTENT? Dilemmas of Change, it becomes appearent why procedural competence is so important. I excerpt the following issues from their text:

Reorganization of economic and political systems with new purposes and procedures
"Globalization as a process is of more recent vintage. It refers not only to the speed with which information, money and goods travel around the world but also to the reorganization of the world economically and politically in ways that were not possible before. Finally, globalization has become an ideology. Its proponents perceive the world through this cognitive framework and mobilize it in their efforts to shape how the world system operates and where it should be going."

They sound pretty gloomy about it, a gloom I do not share. I think globalization is a great opportunity to reorganize for a better world.

Focussing on the dimension of processes offers a deeper understanding of the phenomenon than treating it as a mere situation
"(...) more recently, “global processes” has been offered as an alternative to “globalization” to permit greater specification of the dimensions involved and to avoid some of the ideological undertones of the term. We face, as political scientists, both an opportunity and a challenge to advance our theoretical and empirical understanding of the phenomenon that we have loosely referred to as globalization."

To treat Globalization as a situation means to treat it as if it were a static state of being. However, globalization is not the state of the 21st century, it is the meta-process for many different kind of processes which are entangled, interconnected, and qualifying each other. In order to understand what is happening one needs to understand the dynamics of the subprocesses, the intentions behind the driving forces, and the recurring and typical temporal structures - the Zeitgestalt, the temporal shape - of these processes.

Political reorganization shifts focus from national government to multi-level governance
"As the removal of barriers to movement of capital, goods and information has gained ground, the nation state, the primary unit of human political organization since 1648, has come under challenge. One response has been the emergence of multi-level governance with the state redefining the space it occupies so as to reinvigorate itself and with new or strengthened entities forming at the regional and global levels."

The decentralization of government means that new actors take part in governing, and need to understand, and be able to shape governance processes. These transformational processes are complex interactions which involve both collaboration and conflict. Roles within the process of governance are redefined. Knowing how interaction processes are effectively focused for change is a key competence of all new facilitators of any form of organized dialogue.

The challenge of managing different developments
"One way the nation state has tried to meet the challenge of globalization, as already indicated, has been by forming regional unions and/or establishing multi-level governance. The European Union is the most complex example of a regional union since it aims for political union while others tend to limit their domain to trade. All share a similar intention, however: to form a bloc that can influence and give direction to globalization-derived developments so as to minimize their negative and maximize their positive outcomes. Similarly, nowadays, institutions of multi-level governance are proliferating throughout the world."

Facilitating new integration processes
"Integration has returned as a central concern of national governments. Some countries, for historical or cultural reasons, may possess attitudinal and institutional frameworks that facilitate coping with such challenges while others do not. Nowadays, however, most countries face these challenges, as people discover forgotten origins, identities and cultures. The search for new formulae for holding societies together is continuing, frequently accompanied by violence."

Where societal integration is a problem, the re-organization and new shaping of integration processes is the problem. Better understand the nature and workings of process and procedure!

Maneuvering within, and shaping conflicting trends
"Globalization produces a variety of trends, some convergent, others contradictory. A marked trend, for example, is the one toward democratization of societies, a global process harboring many challenges. In the emergent “market democracies”, economic integration goes hand in hand with populations clamoring for constitutional democracy. Elected politicians and government elites face unprecedented new challenges when striking a balance between two distinct constituencies and two distinct set of policy goals. The expectations and the changing moods of domestic and international markets and the perceptions and the demands of the electorate are rarely in harmony. Policymakers have little room to maneuver, yet they are under pressure to satisfy both constituencies. Is that an impossible task?"

No, it's not - if you understand how processes shape, and qualify each other, and how processes may become deliberate procedures.

Procedural Politics and democratization: Designing and applying and new rules and forms of democratic interaction
"Those societies that have a greater role in shaping the globalization process are projecting their political and economic values to the world. Having an operating market economy and democratic government seem to be the main elements of this ideological movement. Yet, there are doubts as to how well democracy has recently been working in its original habitat. Furthermore, the application of democratic forms in societies that have previously been ruled by other systems has often produced outcomes that are problematical."

Jupille defines procedural politics as "the everyday conduct of politics not within, but with respect to, political institutions." It's the challenge of the times: designing new (temporary or institutional) formats of democracy. We better know how democratic interaction can be shaped... which is why the model of Organized Dialogue is so crucial.

Procedural Politics and the world economic system: Designing new rules of economic interaction
"(...) The disadvantaged are demanding changes to the current international economic order so cherished by the international markets and sometimes euphemistically called the “new financial architecture”. Yet no new international arrangement capable of establishing basic rules for a new international order has come to replace the Bretton Woods system, a situation that generates instabilities in the developing nations. Indeed, the WTO Doha round designed as a “development round” has encountered serious difficulties and been suspended."

The challenge of sustainable development
"Globalization has brought with it global problems of environment, producing climatic change seen by many to be threatening the survival of societies. Politics has failed to bring about a solution. Developed societies work to insure a safer environment for themselves while exporting some of their problems to the less developed. The poor find it difficult to devote their limited resources to environmental problems. Globalization also results in the increased trafficking of women, both for prostitution and for domestic work - part of the new global care economy in which care in rich nations are increasingly supplied by migrant women."

The world is interconnected - environmental problems are social problems, and they may become economical problems, and vice versa. Sustainable development is an integrated approach to deal with all important aspects holistically. So we need to be able to design such holistic problem resolution procedures, and shape the processes of sustainable development.

Globalization is a dynamic and complex transformative process
"Globalization has produced a redistribution of power both within societies and within the world. Like any other major transformative process, it produces winners and losers. As the process moves on, it generates its own discontents, its critics, its opponents. It produces politics of resistance as well as politics of compliance in which both states and NGOs take part. At this critical juncture, we believe that the globalization process and its outcomes constitute critical topics of study for all political scientists."

Globalization is a non-linear process. It's important to understand what non-linearity means, and how one can deal with it. Not the least contribution comes from Clausewitz' idea of strategy.

Montag, 5. Januar 2009

Organized Dialogue for Social Innovation

I love to listen to the Stanford Discussions of the Social Innovation Conversations (usually when I'm on the treadmill in the fitness studio - it makes for an inspiring sweat!).

In "Evaluation: New Ways of Working Together", a distinguished panel discusses how "successful social innovation requires breaking down boundaries and working collaboratively across mulitple sectors for nonprofits, philanthropies and foundations, businesses, government, and more."

Such collaborative action is ideally modeled like an Organized Dialogue. OD is an interaction on many different levels, not just discursive argument. It can be everywhere where people interact openly with one another to work on a common task, and it's integrative across boundaries. I'll explain what I mean by OD in a short while - but I want to make the point here that social innovation processes are collaborative, participative processes which can and should be modeled like OD.

Donnerstag, 1. Januar 2009

Facilitators: Orchestrating Change or Jazzing Processes?

Process means change, participative procedures mean participative transformation. The question is whether facilitators can be thought of as conductors of a symphony of voices, as one metaphor has it (picture by Simon Kneebone, Figure 4), or whether process leadership basically requires the facilitator to act as a jazz musician, as a great article (download here) by Prof. Scheer of Aris, the leading Business Process Management company, lays out.

I think clients like the conductor metaphor better because it fits their idea of control with a tad bit of creativity; one of its proponents in the management world is Christian Gansch, a conductor himself, and a great, if somewhat self-centered speaker.

But I think closer to the truth of leading a participative procedure is the jazz metaphor. Facilitators will have to learn a lot from people like Professor Scheer, and the process thinking exemplified by his company. I've attended one of the Aris Process Intelligence Roadshows, and it's truly impressive. I'd like for us at Procedere to enter a dialogue with Aris representatives on the issue of "process thinking".

What do you think - which metaphor works best for you?

Cutting Through The Many Perspectives On Participative Processes

Informal participative processes not only go by many different names, the perspectives on them are also highly divergent in scope. That's a real problem, because without a common framework for all of these processes, the phenomenon can not adequatly be perceived, analyzed, evaluated, improved, and lobbied for.

Here's a quick list (to be updated in the future) of just some of the perspectives on informal participative processes:

Over at Learning Exchange at the NCDD, they describe seven streams of practice of dialogue and deliberation.

At Procedere, we propose to cut through that mesh of perspectives and simply say:
  • all these participatory processes are informal political processes, as distinguished from formal political processes, which are regulated by law
  • what is not decisivly important about these informal participatory processes is that they are participative - because it's the nature of any process that it is integrative of its elements, and in all those cases, the elements happen to be citizens, experts, or whatever type of stakeholder engaged
  • but what is important is that they are informal processes
  • in other words, it is decisive to understand the process character, if you want to design such informal political processes
  • and that someone is the facilitator, leading the process. Her know-how and competence is decisive.
Participation, to be sure, is relevant, not the least for its normative implications. But it's not participation itself which makes participatory processes effective as collective change processes. It's process that matter: what happens when, in what order. It's the how-question that matters: how to proceed?, that needs to be answered.

Organized Dialogue is a model based on these insights. This blog serves the process facilitators by exploring OD as a tool for change.