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The Edge in Brief
Hot Topic: Employing Religious Values for Conflict Resolution and Peace-Building
As a driving force in politics, religion can sometimes be divisive. Of course, religious values and teachings can also play an important role in resolving conflict between those with opposing viewpoints. In The Power of Peacemaking: Seven Biblical Principles for Dealing with Conflict in an Angry World, mediator Greg Bourne discusses how his beliefs and faith as a Christian guide his work as a mediator and peacemaker. Greg gives examples of seven specific Biblical principles that he has applied with success in mediating challenging situations. Greg’s article is the first of a two part Collaborative Edge series on religion and conflict. In the second part of our series (forthcoming), Dr. Mohammad Abu-Nimer of American University will explore Islamic teachings and traditions applicable to peace-building and conflict resolution.
Toolkit: Bottom-up Community Planning in Portobelo, Panama: Engaging Residents in Creating a Sense of Place
While in Panama in early 2004, CCP associate Sarah Goldberg assisted in designing a community planning project. The goals of the project included creating home renovation guidelines, as well as helping to create a sense of community pride and cohesiveness that would bolster support for future historic preservation and restoration. In this article, Sarah describes the gallery walk approach used in their “bottom-up” process, as well as challenges and lessons learned.
Challenging Issue: The Impact of Changing Expectations in Complex Networks
Ever feel like you just can’t go it alone? In this article, Myrna Mandell examines how agencies and their constituents form networks to deal with complex public problems that no one of them can effectively address alone. In particular, Myrna’s article focuses on how agencies and stakeholders go wrong when they first experiment with forming networks, and what they must do differently in order to be effective. As an added bonus, Myrna’s sums up principles for effective network management culled from the growing body of literature on this topic.
Book Review: Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers
“Have you experienced that special moment in a group when the bickering and dissension stop and the impasse is broken?” So begins Patricia Wilson’s review of Presence, a book that she calls, “an engaging and legitimizing integration of left- and right-brain thinking…informed by extensive interviews with selected scientists, business leaders, and spiritual masters about how they create and invent, and how they discern their sense of larger purpose.” Presence distills the wisdom of thinkers from these many disciplines in order to shed light on how groups can achieve “a sense of direction and purpose that grounds quickly in action.” Intrigued? Read Patricia’s review by clicking here.
Find out about upcoming conferences, training, and events of interest to the collaborative policy community. Link to the Edge News by clicking here.New Resources
In this section of the Edge, you’ll find links to publications and websites newly added to our resources archive. We hope these articles, manuals, case study databases, contacts, tools, tips, models, and more can be of use to you in planning and conducting your own collaborative efforts. Visit the Edge Resources Section.
The Resources Archive is a compilation of online Resources from all issues of the Collaborative Edge. Resources are sorted into three categories.
- Community and Organizations: Focused on the issues and methods of primary interest to communities and organizations, including citizens, non-profits, and businesses. This category includes resources on civic engagement, deliberative democracy, environmental justice, building leadership capacity, and forming collaborative partnerships.
- Public Agencies and Government: Targeted to people who have some authority over public resources, and who are working collaboratively with their stakeholders to solve problems. This category includes public policy consensus-building, public participation, and understanding policy conflict.
- General Toolbox: Focused on practical tips and tools for those working in any sector on mediation, facilitation, dialogue, and collaborative process design.
Full Text Articles
The Power of Peacemaking:
Seven Biblical Principles for Dealing with Conflict in an Angry World
By Greg Bourne
People come to the field of peacemaking, conflict resolution and collaborative problem-solving for a variety of reasons. Some are drawn to this work primarily as a means to make a living, but most are drawn by something deeper. It may be for the enjoyment of working with people or the fulfillment of solving problems. But for many it goes even deeper yet, to their basic philosophical views of life, their values and / or their spiritual beliefs.
Modern day perspectives, however, often tend to marginalize or dismiss the importance of faith and religious beliefs. Some think intellectual and spiritual pursuits are antithetical opposing forces in the universe. This of course is contrary to earlier times in history, when spiritual values actually provided the basis for intellectual inquiry and discovery. Nonetheless, today the tendency is to avoid discussion of spiritual matters. The topic is considered to be “loaded” and, by some, even politically incorrect.
As such, it is important to lay out a few ideas as the context for this essay. My view is that spiritual values can and do provide not only the impetus but the framework for many lines of intellectual exploration. The same can be said of their impact on the world of public service and politics (as foreign a concept as this might sound). Our spiritual values impact our worldview, the lens through which we evaluate reality, determine what has worth, and assess what we might accomplish with our lives.
For me and many others, there is clearly a connection between spiritual beliefs and the work we pursue. My beliefs and faith as a Christian drive my work as a mediator and peacemaker. They drive not only the choice of my vocation, and the varied path that has followed; they also drive the practice of my vocation and the values I try to carry to that vocation, even if imperfectly (which undoubtedly many could attest).
I believe the Bible, the spiritual foundation for my work as a mediator, contains essential truths that are timeless and from which we can draw ideas and values that are as relevant today as when they were first recorded. These truths lead to wisdom that serves as a guidepost for how we live and interact with our fellow human beings, practical considerations in the work of conflict resolution. Furthermore, I believe God is interested in our attempts at peacemaking, however feeble they might be, and is right there with those who seek His counsel and direction in this work. I have seen this in my practice for now more than twenty years.
So it is from this context that I want to focus on seven Biblical principles that I believe help provide the framework not only for much of my work as a mediator and fledgling peacemaker, but for much of the field of conflict resolution as well. Certainly many other principles can be sifted from the scriptures. But these seven form a strong foundation for the work of preventing, managing and resolving conflict. Many are found in the current peacemaking and conflict resolution literature. The Biblical source follows each principle.
Principle 1: Be Quick to Hear, Slow to Speak and Slow to Anger (James 1)
Principle 2: Do Not Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger (Ephesians 4)
Principle 3: Take Responsibility, and Treat Other People the Way You Would Like to Be Treated (Romans 12)
Principle 4: Seek Peace and Pursue It (Psalm 34)
Principle 5: Do Not Seek Revenge (Romans 12)
Principle 6: Love Your Enemies (Proverbs 25, Matthew 5 and Romans 12)
Principle 7: Be Willing to Offer and Receive Forgiveness (Matthew 6 and 18)
Principle 1: Be Quick to Hear, Slow to Speak and Slow to Anger (James 1)
How often does conflict emerge because our human nature leads us in exactly the opposite direction of Principle 1? We are so often slow to hear, quick to speak and quick, to the point of reflexive, in allowing anger to dictate our words or actions. Learning to apply this principle would prevent much unneeded conflict.
In a recent negotiated rulemaking with which I was involved, participants in the process were quick to interrupt others to assert their views, especially early in the process. They were really not trying to understand what was behind the comments of others as much as point out the fallacy of their points of view. As time progressed, however, and some degree of mutual respect was built, the nature of the dialogue changed significantly. Participants began placing value on understanding what others were saying, and why. There was less positioning. And the negotiation became much more productive.
Principle 2: Do Not Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger (Ephesians 4)
Principle 2 suggests we deal positively with our anger. Rather than avoiding conflict, we are encouraged to deal productively with it. It is unrealistic to resolve all the issues which cause anger by the time the day is done, particularly issues about which we should be angry, such as world hunger, poverty, injustice and bigotry, to name a few. That is a different type of anger than what is being referenced here. The anger noted here is anger that would fester and become worse because of avoidance. This principle encourages us to let go of or resolve anger before it takes hold of us.
I have been involved in many mediations where the dynamics of the negotiation were a direct result of this principle not being applied. In a recent mediation involving a federal agency and various stakeholders, animosity had built up over a period of time between individuals that shaded not only the relationships but the tenor of the negotiations. On several occasions this resulted in a breakdown of communications and created an obstacle to progress in negotiations. It took extensive time and effort to turn the animosity into a more productive relationship.
Principle 3: Take Responsibility, and Treat Other People the Way You Would Like to Be Treated (Romans 12)
Principle 3 is about treating others the way we wish to be treated. Some today suggest we should treat others the way they want to be treated. This is a wonderful concept if we have the opportunity to know another person that well. But this principle is at least a starting point since no one wishes bad things, or ill will, or disrespect on themselves. This principle also talks about taking responsibility. People are often not willing to take responsibility or be accountable for their role in situations that have created conflict. This tends to shift blame to others and fosters conflict.
Communication with other people is challenging, even for those of us who make our living as communicators. Mediators are not immune. Recently, during a dialogue with a colleague, I had to confront the fact that I had made a comment which could be interpreted in different ways, and which had been taken as an affront. The tendency, which I also felt, is to think the other person is off-base in their interpretation. Applying this principle, however, which is critical to peacemaking, my obligation was to admit my contribution to the misunderstanding, apologize and attempt to work through any remaining conflict.
Principle 4: Seek Peace and Pursue It (Psalm 34)
Principle 4 makes a fundamental assertion about conflict resolution and peacemaking - it usually does not happen by itself. Peacemaking requires people being willing to reach out to others and pursue peace. Often, people want to leave the heavy lifting of peacemaking and reaching out to others to resolve conflict for someone else. But who should we expect to do this?
As can be recognized from previous examples, conflict can be resolved only if we encounter it and make an effort to work through it. In some cases it is appropriate to let a situation work itself out or be worked out by others. But if we see a situation of perpetuated conflict, this principle suggests we must become invested in the resolution, to everyone’s benefit. The 1000 pound gorilla in this case is unnamed and unpursued conflict.
Principle 5: Do Not Seek Revenge (Romans 12)
Principle 6: Love Your Enemies (Proverbs 25, Matthew 5 and Romans 12)
Principles 5 and 6 are particularly challenging as they reflect a counter-cultural approach to peacemaking and conflict resolution. So often, conflict is perpetuated by desires to retaliate and seek revenge. Wars and generations of hate have been fueled by these responses. The ideas of loving and yes even praying for one’s enemies are not the remedies that typically come to mind. But they are the beginning of reconciliation. It is certainly a challenge to understand how to love someone who has assailed you, especially in the hardened world of politics and public policy. But this is the radical nature of what Jesus taught, and He did not identify exceptions.
Several years ago, I was a mediator in a sensitive multi-racial, multi-cultural conflict. After a series of rather challenging episodes with one individual, he confessed to me in a private conversation that he had attempted to undermine me through a quiet campaign of personal attacks. Here is where my faith (as well as professional ethics) had a significant impact on my response. My faith response was to pray for wisdom about how to proceed as well as how to love a person under these circumstances. I tried to respond to this individual as one human being to another, not as an adversary, with an open mind and a forgiving attitude. I discussed with him the reasons behind his actions. After a couple conversations he confided in me that he was going to call the people he had spoken with to retract his earlier statements. I cannot say exactly why he changed his course of action, or even why he chose to discuss this with me. But had I reacted to his initial confession with a sense of animosity and retribution, the conversation most likely would have taken a very different course.
Principle 7: Be Willing to Offer and Receive Forgiveness (Matthew 6 and 18)
If the previous two principles are the beginning of reconciliation, or the first course, then Principle 7 is the main course. If we were just better able to seek forgiveness when we have done something to create or add fuel to conflict, and forgive those who in some fashion have offended us, the world would be a far better place. There is value of course in dealing with the underlying causes of conflict so they are not perpetuated, but forgiveness is often the key to that lock as well.
Discussions about forgiveness are also not commonplace in the public policy and political arenas. Most would consider it a sign of weakness, following conventional wisdom that we must never let down our guard or indicate to another we are “soft.” Yet look at the burden created and carried by those who refuse to admit their role in a conflict and refuse to seek forgiveness.
We too often forget that people involved in public policy issues bring their human emotions and shortcomings into these settings along with their intellects and interests. By not acknowledging the human dimensions of conflict, we lose opportunities to reconcile and create more positive and productive relationships. As Roger Fisher once demonstrated in a training video, often the best thing we can do to help move past conflict is to offer a genuine apology and seek forgiveness.
Much more could be said of these and other Biblical concepts related to peacemaking and conflict resolution. This is but a sampler. But consider the power of peacemaking:
• The power of confronting conflict
• The power of the greater good
• The power of forgiveness
• The power of reconciliation
• The power of the pebble in the pond.
The pebble in the pond? We may not be able to directly impact the global conflicts we would like to resolve. Or maybe even those in our own community. But we can, like the pebble in pond, create a ripple effect by practicing these seven principles of peacemaking in the world around us. And who knows how far those ripples might extend.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew, Chapter 5).
Greg Bourne has been designing and conducting public involvement programs for more than 25 years, and mediating the resolution of public policy issues for nearly twenty years. He has been affiliated with the Center for Collaborative Policy since 2001.
He is currently working on a diverse array of projects including a negotiated rulemaking for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, water forums for the San Francisco Bay Area and Fresno regions, a desalination planning handbook and air quality work in the Los Angeles basin.
By Sarah Goldberg
Like many places in Panama, Portobelo is a gem: a historic sea fort on the edge of an encroaching jungle surrounded by a vibrant Afro-Caribbean neighborhood. A fascinating country with a myriad of indigenous, black, and Chinese residents, as well as a large mestizo (interracial) culture, Panama is one of the most biodiverse patches of earth on the planet. Yet few tourists come to Panama. Fewer still come to Portobelo some three hours from Panama City.
Portobelo's sea fort is both beautiful and a reminder of a brutal past. Portobelo was a critical transportation link from 1596 to 1779; many slaves were brought to the new world here by the Spaniards. Many of the riches that the Spanish plundered from the Americas stopped at this Central American fort before the return trip back to the Spanish imperial coffers.
These days, tourists on cruise ship tours occasionally overwhelm Portobelo. But few venture into the neighborhoods, or more importantly to the locals, spend any money in the community. Outside of the fort, historic buildings are separated by simple concrete block houses. Because local residents have seen little benefit over the years from living in a historical place, the neighborhood has a ramshackle feel.
How I Got Involved
I was in Panama for three months accompanying my husband, who was in the country on a Knight International Journalism Fellowship. While in Panama, in addition to learning Spanish, I wanted to volunteer and put my conflict resolution skills to good use. The stars were pointing in the right direction; I met up with a historical preservationist and architect, Almyr Alba, and her colleague, Manuel Trute, an urban planner. Almyr works for the World Monuments Fund (WMF). She and Manuel were beginning a community-based project to help revitalize Portobelo’s neighborhoods.
Over coffee at the Restaurante Boulevard that looks out on the Panama Canal and Pacific Ocean beyond, Almyr told me about her goals for the WMF’s Portobelo project. She wanted to go beyond simply seeking funds to restore and maintain the Portobelo historic sites. WMF wanted to encourage a feeling of pride in the local community in its historic roots, and, over time, to see them benefit from tourism.
The approach Almyr was describing was what we in the conflict resolution field call an elicitive approach, where ideas and concepts are created bottom-up from the people who will be served by the project. Her desire to engage local residents about their perceptions and desires and to have those desires drive the project excited me. I had found my volunteer opportunity.
At our first meeting Almyr and Manuel explained that their immediate goal was to engage locals in discussion about the facades of their homes and to come up with a set of guidelines for the future look of the neighborhood. These voluntary flexible guidelines would be implemented as citizens remodeled or updated their homes. The longer-term goal of the effort was to build stronger cohesion and sense of community amongst local residents. The hope was that this would facilitate collaboration for future historical preservation projects.
The first step in creating the guidelines was to hold a workshop, but this could be no cookie-cutter approach. There were several important factors to consider. First, Almyr and Manuel recognized the importance of having a concrete product result from the workshop, but because the guidelines—the “product” —would be voluntary, they would be useless if citizens were not squarely behind them. This fact strengthened Almyr and Manuel’s desire for me to help develop an approach to elicit from people in the community what they really wanted the neighborhood to look like.
Almyr and Manuel were unclear how to find out what people wanted local houses to look like. They had already found that the local definitions of “colonial” style facades were all over the map. I suggested that one way to get a better handle on, and consolidate, the diverse opinions would be an approach I had seen work in other settings, a “gallery walk.”
A gallery walk involves series of stations where participants can spend as much or as little time at each poster as they choose. Almyr and Manuel loved the idea because it is interactive, facilitates inter-group dialogue, caters to multiple learning styles (people who learn by seeing, talking, and doing), and is fun. We decided on 6 stations: (exterior) paint colors, windows, doors, porches, adding a second story to an existing house, and old photos of homes in the neighborhood.
For most stations the participants were given many choices and they could vote for the two they liked the most. At the paint color station participants could vote for a suggested color choice and/or used colored pencils and a plain house outline to color in their own suggestion. I couldn’t believe how well this station went over. The room was quiet as participants of all ages colored intently.
I was impressed with how much effort Almyr and Manuel put into creating the stations. Manuel took digital photos of windows and doors from various historic neighborhoods and his resulting posters were gorgeous. Further, they lassoed two additional architects to assist with the workshop so every station would be manned by someone who could answer questions on behalf of the project.
The exercise was a hit. It took place first thing in the morning and one big surprise was how much everyone loved the old photo station. More predictable was two older men lingering at the second story (add on) station whereas the younger women were more interested in windows and colors.
Working Towards the Product
An activity to draft the facade guidelines followed the gallery walk. The afternoon focused on getting citizens to connect with the relevance of the historic monuments in their lives and the pride they have living among them. We began by having them tell individual, personal stories (“my first kiss was within the fort”), group/community level stories (“during the celebration of the Black Christ…”), and finally participants provided a revealing list of the pros and cons of living in their historic town (“People use the [400 year old] bridge as a bathroom”).
The afternoon ended with participants editing and finalizing a letter to the Mayor summarizing problems identified and a prioritization of those problems. WMF brought a printer and workshop participants patiently waited for the revised version of the letter to be printed so they could all sign it.
One problem we had with our first workshop was low attendance. Twenty-four residents had confirmed attendance yet only fourteen showed up. After the workshop we found out that a matriarch within the community had cautioned residents against attending because it might lead to having one’s home taken away. Rumor turned out to be the overriding challenge with this project.
In some ways, this rumor was a product of its setting in Panama. Although the specific rumor that was being floated--that the Spanish government wanted to take a particular home--was completely unfounded, I came to understand that local citizens were not crazy to be fearful. Just 15 years from the Noriega dictatorship and US invasion, Panama is a paradox, both modern and evolving, and riddled with corruption and elitism. With the legacy of dictatorship and corruption, people’s fear of losing their homes precisely because their land is more valuable isn’t unfounded.
Still, fears like these aren’t unique to Panama. This wasn’t the first time I’d come across rumor as an issue to overcome in public participation projects. On an environmental justice air quality project I worked on in North Richmond, California last year, I often had to wade through conspiracy theories circulating in the community.
Though fear of government abuse of power may be universal, the solution must be tailored to the setting. In Panama, we realized that many in this working class community did not understand what a non-profit organization was and didn’t really understand that the WMF has nothing to do with the government. This issue needed to be addressed head on.
I suggested that for our next round of involvement, rather than having residents come to the gallery walk, the gallery walk should come to them: we would canvass door to door with different design possibilities for the residents to choose from. In this way we could give local residents an opportunity to choose preferences (for doors or windows) and we could distribute literature stating the WMF has no interest in taking local homes and explaining what a non-governmental organization is.
Personal Lessons Learned
The complications that come from working with a legacy of corruption really threw me. When we asked government officials to speak at our next workshop to explain the land titling process they refused. No one wanted to be on record on the subject. But Almyr and Manuel were not as frustrated by this development as I expected, expressing confidence that as long as they continued getting support in the community, and stuck to sound organizational principles, that eventually the government would come on board.
Overall I was impressed with some universal truths about public participation processes. The same things that make for strong, successful meetings in the U.S. apply here.
- Great meeting space. We had a room full of natural light, a balcony, plenty of room, high ceilings with many ceiling fans, beautiful hardwood floors, & an attached kitchen.
- Extremely well prepared and well-organized staff.
- Diligent and dedicated follow up.
- Great food and snacks. For the morning break we had small turnovers filled with a local fruit (guyabana) that were so good I’d go back to the town just to have them again. And the lunch was excellent, accompanied by a delicious mango drink.
Progress, Poco a Poco (Little by little)
Although I am back in the United States now, I keep up with the project and hope to return to volunteer again at some point. Almyr wrote me an email excitedly telling me that the door-to-door gallery walk was a big success. She had a record 34 participants in the last workshop, and 26 had RSVP’d!
Sarah Goldberg is a facilitator and mediator with Community Focus and the Center for Collaborative Policy. She has an MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University. Sarah was in Panama from March to June 2004 accompanying her husband on his journalism fellowship.
By Myrna P. Mandell, Ph.D.
In general, networks are defined as two or more organizations working together in a horizontal relationship to solve problems of mutual interest to them. Decisions are not made based on top-down, hierarchical authority, as is done in most bureaucratic organizations. Instead, decisions are based on a consensus among all members based on mutual adjustments. The idea is that in networks, no one organization or group dominates, but rather all members act as partners with all others in the decision-making process.
This article discusses a type of network meant to improve complex public programs by the combined efforts of diverse groups such as government agencies and / or officials, not-for-profit organizations, businesses and community groups. In this type of network, there is an effort to change systems in order to handle complex public problems. This involves complicated joint decision-making and can be very risky.
In particular, this article focuses on the expectations of both government agencies and non-government groups and organizations participating in this type of network. Examining these expectations, and how they are functional or not functional for the purposes of the network, leads to a discussion of changing roles of network partners and principles for effective network management.
In the case of the community groups, participating in networks can result in raised expectations of power. As the community groups in networks learn how to work through them, they begin to see the advantages and reap the benefits of being part of a more powerful totality than just their individual groups. They often begin to take on efforts that they would not have taken on previously and they learn through their interactions within the networks how to maneuver through the system. They become more sophisticated, not only regarding what demands they make on existing systems, but also in the ways in which they express these demands. For example, in one such endeavor in South Central Los Angeles, a group of teen-agers who were being “put off” by their local councilman learned how to make use of the media to make their views known. The end result was that the councilman went from ignoring them to actually taking action.
This increased sophistication and empowerment is not, by itself, dysfunctional. However, it can be if the community groups raise their expectations and demands too high too fast. Newly powerful networked community groups risk being seen as a threat to the existing established powerful actors. In many cases, networks have had their funding cut off as a result of the perceived threat.
In the case of the government agencies, the dysfunctional expectation, spoken or unspoken, is often that the way the networks operate and the outcomes they produce will be based on traditional ways of working. Although agencies enter into networks for the purpose of working collaboratively and coordinating efforts of all parties, they instead expect to be able to control or dominate the processes through traditional, top-down management processes. They also often expect to see what might be termed “quick fixes,” i.e. they want tangible results in a very short period of time. Finally, agencies often expect to see traditional outcomes—such as changes to existing programs or the means by which they are delivered—and are upset when these do not occur quickly.
Agencies must change their expectations about control, timing, and outcomes in order to be effective in networks. The very reason a network is set up is because the traditional means of working have not succeeded and it is believed that only by developing new kinds of collaborative relationships among all of the relevant stakeholders involved might new solutions to the problem be found. All partners must learn that, in networks, although program changes are strived for, they are secondary outcomes. In networks, the primary outcome is the building of new and different kinds of relationships. Although this may take time, it will serve as a foundation now and for the future for solving problems that cannot be solved alone. Unless time is given to establish these new kinds of relationships and to change the perceptions of those in the network, these efforts will fail.
Toward more effective networks
This exploration of expectations shows that both community groups and governmental groups participating in networks hold expectations that hinder their ability to be effective. To increase their effectiveness, several changes must be made. First of all, both community groups and government agencies must begin to recognize the different roles they are now playing and the responsibilities that go along with these roles, as is discussed below. Second, they must learn new methods of managing in networks. No longer can the traditional top-down relationships be maintained. Management in networks is horizontal, not vertical. This means that everyone has the ability to make things happen and that each of the participants needs the cooperation of the others to make the endeavor a success.
Government agencies are typically accustomed to telling others what they must do and then overseeing their activities. In networks, the role of government is to set up the foundation in which members can operate with the authority they need, and then to “get out of the way.” This doesn't mean that government agencies should not be involved. Setting up a foundation means paring down to the agency's truly essential public service interests and legal / policy obligations—to clearly define these and insist upon these—and then giving partners the authority to be creative about everything else. Getting out of the way means the agency must then step back and allow the other members of the network to have the flexibility they need to begin to make a difference.
It also means that government will have to feel more comfortable with taking greater risks and sharing power with those who might currently have very little. Power sharing does not mean that any member in the network loses their inherent power. Instead it means being able develop solutions based not only on one's own perceptions, but by taking into consideration the perceptions of others. It means not “telling” others what to do, but rather making mutual adjustments based on the establishment of trust of the other members in the network. Sharing power in this sense means allowing flexibility wherever possible and not being afraid to act in a collaborative manner.
For community groups, participating in networks means that they are now in a position to really make a difference, but they cannot assume that they can get whatever they want. They must recognize that although they now have acquired a degree of power that they might not have had before, this power is dependent on the others in the network. Unless they learn how to share this power and work together with others, they will quickly find themselves without their newfound power. One goal and necessary component of participation in a network is to be able to change perceptions of others in the network. To do this, each participant must be able to “step into the shoes” of the other participants. For community groups, this means that they might have to be willing to give up some of their preconceived ideas of what they need in order to achieve their ultimate goals.
In the end, members of a network must learn the art of “network management” if they are to be effective. There is a growing body of literature on what this means. As a general overview, however, the following major points sum up the requirements of network management:
- Members must see themselves as only one piece of the total picture. This requires seeing the points of convergence, not just those of contention. It also means that power must be shared or lost.
- Recognition that building relationships, not accomplishing tasks, is the primary goal in a network, since the task cannot be accomplished without the relationships, and the relationships will outlive any one task that the network might be called upon to address. Building relationships requires building trust and breaking down communications barriers that might exist between the members.
- Being able to listen to others rather than merely telling them what to do. This is linked to the ability to build on the different types of expertise available in the network rather than assuming that only you have the expertise needed to make a difference.
- Allow enough time and flexibility to give everyone the opportunity to make a difference. Traditional timelines and roles of authority will not allow for the risks that must be taken in order to develop relationships which will be the basis for establishing innovative solutions.
- Be able to make mutual adjustments, build coalitions and mobilize support in order to make things happen. Working in a network means that each member recognizes their interdependence and learns how to capitalize on their interdependencies.
Unless those in networks are willing to make these changes in roles and management style, then the value of networks as effective collaborative efforts will be limited at best. As a worst case scenario, the proliferation of dysfunctional networks will lead to all networks being viewed as not worth the effort and some unique opportunities will surely be missed. The choice, of course, is always up to the participants involved, but considering the difficult problems that networks are designed to solve, it seems that changing our expectations and the way we do business might actually be worth the effort.
This article is based in part on an article by: Robyn Keast, Myna P. Mandell, Kerry Brown & Geoffrey Woolcock entitled: “Network Structures: Working Differently and Changing Expectations”, Public Administration Review, May/June, 2004, Vol. 64, No.3.
Agranoff, Robert & Michael McGuire (2003). Collaborative Public Management. Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C.
Kickert, Walter, Erik-Hans Klijn & Joop F.M. Koppenjan (1997). Managing Complex Networks. Sage Publications, London.
Kamensky, John M. & Thomas Burlin (eds.) (2004). Collaboration: Using Networks and Partnerships. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., New York.
Mandell, Myrna P. (ed.) (2001). Getting Results Through Collaboration. Quorum Books, Westport, Connecticut.
* * *
Dr. Myrna P. Mandell is a professor of management at California State University, Northridge in the College of Business and Economics. She is recognized as a researcher and consultant in the fields of networks, network structures and intergovernmental management in the public sector. Her most recent edited book, “Getting Results Through Collaboration: Networks And Network Structures For Public Policy And Management” was published in September, 2001. She currently does research as an Adjunct Faculty at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.
Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers
Cambridge, MA: Society for Organizational Learning, 2004, 289 pp.
Second edition to be published by Randomhouse in August, 2005
Reviewed By Patricia A. Wilson
Have you experienced that special moment in a group when the bickering and dissension stop and the impasse is broken? Suddenly there is a felt shift in the room, a new shared understanding of what needs to happen; someone articulates the sense of the whole, and everyone is on board. Presence aims to find an intentional and sustainable path to those moments.
The book relates an intimate conversation among the four authors that sheds light on collective intelligence: how we think and know together. Prying open the black box of participation, the conversation addresses how wisdom emerges in a group and how a group’s sensing (literally pre-sensing or presencing) of the emerging future can crystallize and manifest through action. The conversation is informed by extensive interviews with selected scientists, business leaders, and spiritual masters about how they create and invent, and how they discern their sense of larger purpose. The common denominator is a shift in the sense of self, from the isolated individual struggling to accomplish, to that of a lightning rod for grounding the energy and wisdom of a larger whole.
Particularly delightful are the theoretical threads woven throughout the book that draw on dynamic systems theory popularized in Peter Senge’s 1990 best-seller, The Fifth Discipline, but adding elements of chaos theory, complexity science, field theory, and esoteric philosophy, reflecting Peter’s own journey toward contemplation and his current passion for global environmental awareness.
Beneath the apparent non-linearity of the conversational text lies a logical structure of a model of group knowing, called the U model. Synthesized by one of Peter Senge’s leading protégés, co-author Otto Scharmer, who, like Peter, teaches at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, the model is described in several academic articles on Otto’s website (www.ottoscharmer.com), along with the introductory chapter of Presence and supporting interview transcripts.
The premise of the U model is simple: instead of moving straight across the top of the U from problem identification to solution using mental models based on past experience, we can deepen the conversation, the learning, the sensing, the knowing, through a process of letting go and letting come. As the illustration shows, with each added level of depth new understanding emerges before moving into action. At the turning point of the U—that magical moment of emptiness--comes a profound sense of group knowing.
To get there requires some difficult letting go of our mental models in order to move down the U from discussion (downloading of mental models) to dialogue (building shared understanding), as defined by David Bohm. Accurate sensing of current reality, devoid of pre-judgment, becomes a part of this process. Then when the group has formed a field identity (an energetic field of connection with a larger whole) new wisdom about the emerging future can express itself—the ‘aha’ moment when the group finally sees the way forward. The book uncovers some of the elements that give rise to this moment at the bottom of the U, such as group silence—sitting comfortably together in silence allowing the new wisdom to emerge.
The result is not a new master plan, or even vision, but a sense of direction and purpose that grounds quickly in action, followed by reflection and further action. The group may feel a sense of calling, of larger purpose, that motivates action and learning from action. The group is aligned (with a larger sense of purpose that is unfolding) and entrained (to a shared vibrational or energetic field). Immediate actions bubble forth seamlessly as a series of prototypes until eventually, some are scaled up, perhaps institutionalized.
Those of us in civic engagement or collaborative planning may recognize the steps in the U model from discussion to dialogue and later the learning-from-action of the reflective practitioner. And for those of us already attuned to the mystical or spiritual journey of emptying to the present moment, the bottom of the U is a familiar (and sacred) space. Presence brings these worlds together, offering an engaging and legitimizing integration of left- and right-brain thinking. As a core reading in a graduate seminar called “Deep Democracy: Creating a Culture of Dialogue” that I taught this spring with co-author Betty Sue Flowers, the book sparked a deep whole-person inquiry with the students. It left each of us inspired to deepen the dialogue in ourselves and in the civic arena.
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Dr. Patricia A. Wilson is professor of community and regional planning at the University of Texas, Austin, where she teaches collaborative planning and civic engagement.
Call to Scholars and Teachers: Use your work to help integrate citizens into the process of governance
A group of scholars from several disciplines has issued a call to their colleagues to meet the challenge of integrating citizens into governance processes by focusing more of their research and teaching on this challenge. The “Call to Scholars and Teachers” was authored by members of the Collaborative Democracy Network and is posted at http://www.csus.edu/ccp/cdn
The Call identifies several important research questions for the field. These include:
- Connections of collaborative and participatory processes to policy making.
- Examination of collaborative process quality dimensions.
- Examination of issues regarding representation and equality in collaboration.
- Evaluation of outcomes and impacts of collaborative policy making.
- Exploration of questions of institutionalization of collaborative policy making
- The call also suggests that more attention needs to be given to preparation of tomorrow’s leaders to establish the public spaces for deliberation within democracy.
It identifies several topics for curriculum including:
- Moving beyond the passive model of citizens as consumers of services to a perspective that seeks active citizen participation.
- Educating those who work in governance on how to establish public spaces for deliberation and conflict resolution.
- Preparing students to create institutions that allow for systematic and multi directional flow of information among officials and citizens.
- Nourishing the ethos of community and democracy and strengthening civic culture to reduce citizen distrust and cynicism.
The Collaborative Democracy Network (CDN) is an interdisciplinary network of over 80 international scholars working to advance the study of collaborative policy and democracy in building capable institutions of governance for network society. For more information about CDN visit http://www.csus.edu/ccp/cdn
Upcoming Courses, Events, Funding Opportunities
Click for events taking place in:
Collaborative Democracy Network Roundtables: “Building Capable Institutions of Governance for Network Society.” The Collaborative Democracy Network, a group of over 80 interdisciplinary and international scholars, has met several times in the past year to deliberate on research and theories to strengthen the capacity of democratic governance institutions to produce better public policy. Most recently, the Collaborative Democracy Network held roundtable discussions at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference (ACSP) in Portland, the Western Political Science Association Conference in Oakland, and the Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago. These sessions were entitled, “Collaborative Planning & Democracy: Building Capable Institutions of Governance for Network Society.” Summaries from these and other sessions are available at the Collaborative Democracy Network website: http://www.csus.edu/ccp/cdn/
Full Circle Associates Resources Web Page. Full Circle is the consulting practice of Nancy White and a network of independent professionals who provide strategic communication, online community development, facilitation, marketing, and project management services for the community, non-profit and business sectors. Their website features a collection of online resources, including an interactive Online Community Toolkit, Online Community Resources, and Facilitation Resources. Find out more here: http://www.fullcirc.com/resources.stm
Internet Law Library: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Arbitration, and Mediation Page. The Internet Law Library features a page dedicated to legal resources on Alternative Dispute Resolution, including cases. The Internet Law Library was originally provided to the public courtesy of the United States House of Representatives Law Revision Counsel Office. Part of the Counsel's mission is to make the law (particularly the U.S. Code) available to the public. When the U.S. House of Representatives discontinued hosting the Library, LawGuru.com and several others were allowed to carry it. Find the Internet Law Library page here: http://www.lawguru.com/ilawlib/314.stm
New Publication: "Involving Stakeholders in Irrigation and Drainage District Decisions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How." CCP Associate Director Lisa Beutler delivered this paper on stakeholder involvement in decision-making at the Third International Conference on Irrigation and Drainage: Water District Management and Governance. The paper includes topics that will be useful across disciplines to anyone planning stakeholder involvement in policy or regulatory decision-making, such as how to define and select key stakeholders, choosing the appropriate type of stakeholder involvement process, considerations or conditions for moving forward with a collaborative process, and best practices for stakeholder involvement. Available at http://www.csus.edu/ccp/publications/irrigation_drainage.stm
The Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD), published by Berkeley Press in California, is a new online resource that aims to provide insights into deliberative democracy from two views, scholarly and practice-based. Each edition of the JPD will deliver timely and informative peer-reviewed content spanning the range of inquiry and practice in the field on a revolving basis. The first edition of the Journal features contributions from a range of scholars and tackles topics from deliberative democracy and party politics in China to regulatory processes in the United States and an essay on future directions in the field. Visit the inaugural edition online and subscribe to receive content alerts at http://services.bepress.com/
Learning and Teaching for Transformation is a network hosted by the Participation Group at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), which aims to enhance the capacity of education institutions to develop and deliver effective programs that contribute to a wider transformation of individuals, institutions and society. The network supports dialogue, participation, collaboration and community development across and within all levels of the education system. It advocates forms of learning that are grounded in the principles and practices of participatory development and action research, and seeks to encourage these through the sharing and generation of both theory and practice. Find out more at http://www.pnet.ids.ac.uk/
Commentary: Lessons from a Canadian Experiment in Democracy is an editorial by John Gastil and Ned Crosby that highlights lessons from British Columbia's groundbreaking Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. As an empowered deliberative council of 160 randomly-chosen citizens, it has attained success in civic participation, policy innovation, and stakeholder agreement. After 11 months of study and hearings across the entire province, the Citizen’s Assembly achieved a 95 percent supermajority vote in favor of its final proposal. It is an inspiring model for citizen deliberation elsewhere in the world. Available in the The Seattle Times, November 18, 2004 edition at
New Publication: “Putting the Pieces Together: State Actions to Encourage Smart Growth Practices in California.” Published by the Statewide Coordinating Committee for the Urban Land Institute’s California Smart Growth Initiative, including representatives from business, real estate, civic, environmental, and social justice organizations. The report is the result of 18 months of analysis to find ways to curb sprawling development, and promote development that more closely links housing to jobs and preserves open space. Available at http://www.smartgrowthcalifornia.uli.org
PyGyWG: A New Participatory Geographies Mailing List. PyGyWG is a UK-based group/discussion list which anyone interested in participatory research and development – regardless of country, discipline, academic or non academic status etc – is very welcome to join. It is intended as a forum for discussion of the intellectual, practical, political and ethical issues involved in participatory research and development of geography. Subscribe to the discussion list at http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk, and/or join the Royal Geographical Society formally through http://www.rgs.org.
Red Lodge Clearinghouse offers a wide range of online resources to support, nurture and connect collaborative natural resource groups in the western United States. This website features a section on collaboration resources, with extensive information on collaboration methods, facilitator services, partnering agencies, and opportunities for fundraising, training opportunities, and technical assistance relevant to collaborative natural resource management and the needs of collaborative groups. There are also sections on news bulletins and issue articles, collaboration stories, legislation and regulations, directories of government and nongovernmental institutions, and links to websites organized by policy topic. Explore the Red Lodge Clearinghouse at http://www.redlodgeclearinghouse.org/resources/index.stml
Click here to visit the Resources Archive, a compilation of online resources from all previous issues of the Collaborative Edge.
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undertaken by the Center for Collaborative Policy
with the generous support of
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
for the purpose of building the capacity of the state of California
to use collaborative methods
in service of improved public policy outcomes.
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