Dialogue

Jim Rough on the disctions between discussion dialogue and choice creating.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jim Rough
Date: 2009/11/25
Subject: [DF] Re: [WC] Promise USA
To: DynamicFacilitation@googlegroups.com, wisdomcouncil

Hi Raffi,
Thank you for the “heads up” on this. I hope you and others will help the people at Promise USA know about Dynamic Facilitation and the Wisdom Council process and about choice-creating. I’m optimistic because Nancy Margulies, is a founding member of Promise USA, as well as a co-originator of World Cafe, plus being a world-reknowned graphic facilitator. She came to the DF seminar this past September and has been a strong supporter of the Wisdom Council Process for some time. I think her deep understanding of these different approaches will affect the orientation of Promise USA, as yours has with the folk at Open Space Technology. However, their orientation to “dialogue” makes me hesitate. I’ve seen a number of well-intentioned national dialogue networks fizzle because, in my mind, they misunderstand what is needed.
There are many of us now who see that the problem with our society has something to do with our way of talking and thinking together. Many see “dialogue” as the missing ingredient, others see “deliberation,” or the combination of dialogue and deliberation. I see it to be “choice-creating.” The problem is that those in the dialogue community “get” the value of deliberation but don’t tend to distinguish choice-creating. Those in the deliberation community tend to see the value of dialogue, but don’t distinguish choice-creating. I used to think DF generated a form of “dialogue” and I used to talk about how the “Wisdom Council” would change the national “dialogue”. I still do on occasion. But this is misleading. It’s choice-creating that is the missing ingredient.
Because others do not recognize the distinction, however, it’s possible for us to pretend that we offer a new method of “dialogue” and fit under that umbrella. But since we set up the room differently, we don’t require guidelines of talking, we encouraged advocacy, and we seek a unanimous perspective, our approach undermines dialogue. Ultimately, if we carry on in this way, we get people upset. The same is true for the methods of “deliberative democracy.” We don’t fit into that basket either but they don’t make the distinction, so we seem to fit. Eventually people get upset with our different approach. Once, for example, some deliberative democracy gurus became so frustrated with me and my perspective … we were going to meet with a high level government official … they insisted I NOT give him a copy of my book. They didn’t want my view of deliberation to mess up real deliberation.
As Rosa Zubizarreta said in a recent public letter …
“our work does not fit tidily into the pre-existing categories of “dialogue” or “deliberation”. Instead, it falls squarely “between and beyond”. In some ways it resembles dialogue, as the conversation unfolds in an open-ended way with a “continually emerging agenda” of people’s concerns as they are expressed in the moment. The effects of the process are often extremely empowering to participants, especially those who have not often had the experience of being fully heard in groups or public forums. At the same time, this work is similar in some ways to deliberation, in that our forte is helping groups arrive at concrete action steps with regard to practical problems, action steps that emerge from a shared systemic understanding of the situation at hand.”
We need a new kind of public conversation. This is the point of greatest leverage for us to achieve real solutions to Peak Oil, Climate Change, the Environmental Crisis, etc. You name it. But to actually make this shift in our society requires choice-creating. That’s my view. New national dialogue attempts like Promise USA start up often but they run into big problems immediately no matter who is behind it. One is that only members of the Blue Team show up. The Red Team goes missing. Another is that the process is fundamentally a small-group process that requires high levels of consciousness from participants. It sets up expectations for how people can talk with one another but there is no viable way to make this kind of talking systemic. Plus, of course, dialogue doesn’t enable people to reach group conclusions.
It’s obvious to most process-aware people that we need to distinguish “discussion” and “dialogue.” If we don’t make this distinction, dialogue is impossible. Since dialogue requires an attitude of inquiry, not advocacy, it just takes one person to speak with advocacy in order to collapse the spirit of dialogue. The same thing happens when we do not distinguish between dialogue and choice-creating (or deliberation and choice-creating). Without understanding the requirements for choice-creating and setting up a proper structure to assure it — mainly having a good DF’er in charge of the process — it’s easy to trash the spirit of choice-creating. But with a DF’er present we can achieve and sustain choice-creating and we don’t need to rely on the skills of individual participants, as one does with both dialogue and deliberation. We just need people to care about an issue. This means the Red Team can show up as well as the Blue Team and the conversation will remain at a high level. Choice-creating doesn’t avoid advocacy. It requires that people bluntly say what they want us to do. That’s how people think already and with the DF’er present its OK. They don’t have to define the problem first. They can jump to solutions. That’s how people think already and it’s OK, too. The DF’er provides a structure around how people naturally think rather than teaching them to think in a special way. He or she helps the group to hold these individual statements and behaviors in a way that supports the spirit of inquiry for the group.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to influence the advocates of dialogue methods and deliberation methods, encouraging them to see and appreciate this distinction. My efforts often backfire. Even some of the best supporters of this process have become really upset with me when I take the third path of just being honest about the different nature of DF, that it isn’t deliberative or dialogic. So here’s my current strategy, particularly that things are working so well in Austria.
I think the best strategy for me is to aim toward communicating to the people who have impossible-seeming, messy, systemic problems. Government officials, for example, increasingly find themselves in these untenable situations. Since the Wisdom Council Process and the Creative Insight Council really do transform the public conversation and since Manfred Hellrigl in Austria has already begun demonstrating this in an organized a way, the time will come when this distinction and the need to make it will just become obvious.
In the meantime I’m hoping you contact Promise USA and others to tell them about what’s happening with the Wisdom Council Process and Dynamic Facilitation.
Thanks for your persistence in helping to get processes into the mainstream that can help the human community transform the way we all make collective decisions.
Jim
On Nov 24, 2009, at 6:36 AM, Raffi Aftandelian wrote:

[x-[posted from OSlist. Would Wise Democracy see it worthwhile to be part of this?]

warmly,
raffi

Dear Open Space Friends,

I’m excited to announce that several of your Open Space and World Cafe

friends are inviting Michelle Obama to engage the country in a

national network of citizen conversations, using World Cafe and other

dialogue methods such as Open Space Technology and Appreciative

Inquiry. Please visit our new Promise USA blog and be sure to post

your comments so that Michelle can see the groundswell of support.

We invite you to become an individual supporter of Promise USA. And if

you know of any organizations or communities that might want to offer

official support, please let us know.

You do not need to be a US citizen to share our passion. We welcome

all your comments and questions!

Warm wishes from a warm autumn in the desert,

Christine

Christine Whitney Sanchez

Collaborative Wisdom & Strategy

480.759.0262

www.christinewhitneysanchez.com

Skype: christinewhitneysanchez

http://www.facebook.com/ChristineWhitneySanchez

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———————

Jim Rough

Dynamic Facilitation Associates. | 360-385-7118 | jim@dynamicfacilitation.com |
See www.DynamicFacilitation.com
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