Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nonviolent competencies: Eliciting co-leadership

My friend Carie Fox is one of the top transportation/environmental public policy mediators in the country. She came to my class one evening and brought along one of the top Oregon Department of Transportation officials. Carie put a set of sticky notes all across the front wall of the class, and each one was one piece of the process by which decisions were made at ODOT. She and the official explained the process, which was based in part on the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act.

Then Carie explained how that command-and-control process generated resentment, opposition, lawsuits and a contentious process.

Then as she talked she started rearranging the sticky notes, taking the public input elements and putting them into the line much earlier, telling us why at each stage.

When she was finished, the ODOT official said that now ODOT decisions seem to start slower, but actually finish faster, and with good results, since the public is involved meaningfully much earlier. "The best move I ever made was to hire Carie Fox to consult," said the official. "I hired her for one problem, but she immediately said the real problem was our order of decisionmaking, and she redid it for us. That fixed many of our problems, not just the one I hired her to troubleshoot."

Building consensus by a facilitative and elicitive model is hard, but worth it in so many cases. It is one of the nonviolent skills that can help prevent conflict in the first place, and better resolve it with a transformational model once it does break out.

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