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.

1 Kommentar:

  1. Thanks for the shout out Alisa and Gepostet! Skilled facilitators are welcome to join our world-wide network of over 5000 facilitators by signing up here: