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.