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?