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.

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