Hard decisions don’t have to create winners and losers

Image by Jonathunder, used under Creative Commons licence
Convergent facilitation helped Minnesota pass landmark legislation, breaking longstanding deadlock.

The Scottish independence and Brexit referendums are just two recent high profile decisions which ended up with just over half the population ‘winning’ and the rest losing. Having followed some community ‘consultations’ about cycle paths recently, where vitriol and bile seemed to be the main basis of ‘debate’, we obviously have the same problems at a local level in Scotland. There must be a better way…

There is a long history of consensus approaches to decision making that seek to create a solution that takes everyone forward. Anyone who’s worked in a group or organisation that espouses consensus decision making knows that it’s not always an easy option – and that it can lead to endless, mindnumbingly tedious meetings, that seem to go around in circles. (Don’t ask how I know.) But it doesn’t have to be like that if there is a clear and effective process.

I had the privilege in August of taking part in a three day training workshop led by Miki Kashtan, a world renowned facilitator of ‘convergent decision making’. I was deeply impressed by the elegant – and deceptive – simplicity of the approach, which centres on developing a set of uncontroversial principles that everyone can agree on, and then building a solution that embodies those principles.

convergent facilitation

I swithered for a while before booking on the course; what swung it for me was the case study of how the process worked to bring together vehemently opposed campaigners and legislators to develop a new approach to child custody legislation in Minnesota that was passed almost unanimously, breaking years of deadlock. You can read it here.

I’m looking forward to using this approach in my work, especially in consultations and strategic planning workshops.