Recent learning from our recent Multi-Party Dialogue on Climate Change with John Ashton on 29 May

At the start of the day, participants were allocated (randomly) to a five or six person stakeholder group and asked to participate in the discussions throughout the day from the perspective of that group. The format was a great success.

 

Here are 5 things we learned: 

  1. Break up into small groups: You’re likelier to incorporate the views of others in a small group, and those who aren’t as vocal find it a less intimidating format to engage in. As people worked together you could see them actively dealing with conflicting priorities and then generating options that went beyond what would have emerged in a single group setting. 
  2. Walk in another person’s shoes: It was clear that some of those assigned to represent groups had to advocate a position they personally didn’t agree with, but the results were fascinating. Unexpected insights emerged as to what their motivations could be and where common interests converged. Understanding topics from a different perspective also enables people to question themselves and their own commitments, which brings entirely new insights to the process. 
  3. Maximise creativity and innovation: Setting the theme for the discussions by having thoughtful short contributions by well-regarded speakers worked extremely well as it provided focus and provoked people’s creativity in new and interesting ways. A variety of solutions were generated at the tables, and one of the particular highlights was the evident freedom people had to inhabit their roles. 
  4. Prepare for future events: When it comes to negotiation, nothing is more valuable than practice. The day’s facilitated conversations on climate change provided a framework to explore and discuss the complex issues at stake with the security of testing things out. Furthermore, the opportunity to be challenged helped guard against possible naiveté concerning one’s own position. 
  5. Give people positive channels for action: The facilitated discussions broke down a complex and daunting issue into a manageable process. Each person had a part to play through their small groups and no voices or perspectives were silenced. There was a great enthusiasm for action at the end of the day because everyone had contributed to the outcomes that emerged, making this a successful format for moving towards shared understanding on a difficult issue.