I've created this page as an alternative description of Dynamic Facilitation. I'm formatting it as a dialogue with Jim.... others are welcome to join in.

Jim: Dynamic Facilitation is an energy-based way of facilitating where people address difficult issues creatively and collaboratively, achieving breakthrough results. It creates a process of talking and thinking that builds mutual respect, trust and the sense of community.

Rosa: Yes, people are able to address difficult issues with DF, in a way unlike any other process i have ever experienced.... Jim, i'm wondering if you would agree that it allows groups to enter a natural 'flow' state?

Jim: The dynamic facilitator seeks to establish a "zone" of thinking and talking known as "choice-creating." Choice-creating is similar to dialogue in that it is transformational, and similar to deliberation because groups reach thoughtful conclusions. It is engaging to people, like when people face a collective crisis and pull together to creatively overcome it.

Rosa: There is something that happens when people are able to see all of the complexity that is in the room... all of the various perspectives, everyone's own take on 'what's the REAL issue' here?, each person's prototype 'solutions' to the problem he or she envisions as the most important one, all the various concerns about one anothers' 'solutions'... it's almost like the creation of a supersaturated solution, which then becomes immensely generative...

Jim: The dynamic facilitator plays an active role, helping people to follow their heart more than a preexisting agenda. He or she helps them determine an issue they really care about, whether it seems solvable or not. Then she helps them to say what is on their minds, what they really mean, in a way that all can hear and are respectful.

Rosa: To me this seems the essence of the work... i often describe it as "taking all sides"... really listening in a way that draws out each person's gift'... which is so hard to do, in situations where we believe we have an agenda to 'follow' and a group to 'manage'... in this way DF feels to me very compatible with practices such as Transformative Mediation, which place the human experience at the heart of the process.... and, at the same time, the human experience INCLUDES a natural desire to create innovative solutions to practical challenges, and when we are able to release our natural human genius for that, in a group setting, it's pretty amazing what can happen...

Jim: To do this and to help the group bring meaning to what they are saying the facilitator uses four flip charts*lists of Solutions, Problem-statements, Data, and Concerns. A fifth chart of Decisions is added as group conclusions emerge.

Rosa: The key point for me here, is that EVERYTHING is received as valuable... EVERYTHING finds their way onto one of those charts! (it may help to explain that the 'data' chart includes perspectives as 'data'... for example, "some of the people in this room feel strongly that the moon is made of green cheese..." the point is, that something extraordinary can happen, when we are able to honor the perspective that each person is bringing... while at the same time, making the space safe for all kinds of divergence...

Jim: The dynamic facilitator helps foster shifts of heart and mind by following the natural flow of conversation and supporting group spontaneity. Sometimes these shifts take the form of new ideas, other times they bring a new sense of what the "real problem" is, and other times yet, there is a change of heart.

How is Dynamic Facilitation different?

Jim: The best and fastest way for a group of people to solve a tough problem or to reach consensus is to have a breakthrough. When this happens, the results are exceptional and each person feels involved, knows what to do, and is committed to the group*s result. The process builds individual skills, empowerment, trust, and the spirit of community.

Rosa: I hesitate to even use the word consensus when talking about Dynamic Facilitation, because we are so used to associating that word with a long, drawn-out, negotiated process, in which people are encouraged to 'set aside' their individual interests and to 'think about the well-being of the group as a whole'.... Dynamic Facilitation operates within a different paradigm altogether, where each 'individual interest' is seen as a NECESSARY ELEMENT toward the creation of the emerging 'larger whole'...

so instead, i often use the word "co-sensing".... as in, all together sensing something new, that has emerged in the 'between space'...

alternatively, i sometimes tell a story about a meeting in which afterward, during a debriefing, one of the participants was describing the highlight of the experience for them. They began to speak about "when we reached consen..." and stopped himself, saying instead, "when we reached a 'meeting of the minds'." We had not described the process beforehand, only offered to use a new "creative problem-solving approach" with the group... yet this man knew that the understanding we had all reached together, was unlike any form of 'consensus' he had experienced before...

Jim: Most meeting facilitation processes limit this possibility. Traditional facilitation, for instance, asks people to work only on issues that are possible to solve, to mute their passion in favor of rationality, to break big problems into smaller ones, and to proceed step by step down a logical path. It depends on extrinsic factors like goals, objectives, agendas, and guidelines of behavior to preserve order and make progress.

Dynamic Facilitation is more oriented toward intrinsic factors, like how much people care about the issue at hand, or how excited they are about a particular idea. It proceeds dynamically, going with the flow rather than trying to manage it. It is like dialogue in that people open-mindedly and open-heartedly explore topics, but it is different because people address specific problems and reach specific conclusions. Also, this process is not dependent on the skills of individuals. That helps, of course, but more important with Dynamic Facilitation are the skills of the facilitator. He or she plays an active role, assuring a high quality of talking and thinking even when people have limited communication skills.

Rosa: I think that this is another key point... people are welcome to "come as they are", without needing to learn beforehand a new "conversational grammar". Of course, it is important that we all learn better ways to communicate... and in fact, people end up doing so, as a RESULT of their experience with DF... not as a PRECONDITION. People intuitively learn to welcome new ideas with an inquisitive attitude... because they have seen this approach modeled, and experienced viscerally its success, not because they have been exhorted to do so in any way.

Once upon a long time ago, I used to teach ESL... so to describe this phenomenon, i use the metaphor of language learning. People used to learn 'foreign languages' through studying the rules of grammar... until we realized that people can acquire a second language naturally, in a manner similar to how they have acquired their first language, through the process of receiving what linguists call 'comprehensible input'... Dynamic Facilitation is the 'natural approach' for learning how to create bridges of understanding in difficult situations.

When is Dynamic Facilitation most successful or appropriate?

Jim: Dynamic Facilitation is especially valuable when people face really important, complex, strategic, or seemingly impossible-to-solve issues, when there is a conflict, or when people seek to build teamwork or community. It*s a way to spark ongoing dialogue, systems understandings, trust, wisdom, and to generate the spirit of involvement.

Rosa: Dynamic Facilitation, as a non-linear approach, is particularly useful in turbulent, non-linear situations... It's appropriate whenever we are wanting to help groups become more can be an extraordinary way to help people shift from what Herb Shepard called 'primary', or 'win-lose' mentality, to what he termed 'secondary', or 'win-win' mentality.... all the while they are working on the practical issues that are most important to them.

It sounds too good to be true, but Edgar Schein's theory on culture change can help us understand how these two things can be accomplished simultaenously: Schein describes how, when a group experiences success, the embedded assumptions in its successful problem-solving strategy become part of the group culture. This is why i maintain, contrary to conventional wisdom, that the best way to help a group engage in true dialogue is by helping them to address the practical problems they care about the most, in a manner that is both open-ended AND effective....

Jim: Dynamic Facilitation is especially appropriate in groups where people speak for themselves, when no one is a representative or is playing an assigned role. It*s for when people care about problems, rather than just working on assigned tasks. Dynamic Facilitation is particularly valuable for "Wisdom Councils," a new large-system transformation strategy.

Rosa: thank you Jim! as young people say, "DF rocks!"...

Rosa Zubizarreta



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see where we are also listing similar practices

  --Michel Bauwens (Not signed in).....Sun Jan 31 00:53:33 -0800 2010

The Bohm Dialogue, especially Collective Reflection has significance for me in terms of artistic critique and dialogue.

If one wanted to connect this to Jungian thought I'd relate to that.

  --Srule Brachman (Not signed in).....Mon May 21 17:09:16 +0000 2012





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