Depending on the situation and your specific request and objectives we may use some of the following tools. We provide them here only by way of example. The list is not exhaustive and in our practice we will typically rely on yet other tools, which we have not stated here.
General Fact Finding
Here are short descriptions of some of the tools that we often use for fact finding at the beginning of more complex assignments:
In an early phase we often give our clients the opportunity to map the power and interest of stakeholders with regard to the current project. This helps identify favorable and opposed forces with regard to the project and gives some first ideas for possibly required interventions. It also helps clarify which stakeholders should be encountered in semi-directive interviews.
Semi-directive Stakeholder Interviews
Based on a questionnaire we meet with different stakeholders individually and understand their attitude with regard to the issues. The interviews also help us to better understand many aspects that we need for designing appropriate interventions such as escalation levels if there is conflict or the specific relationships between stakeholders.
A constellation is an interactive modelling exercise where people stand or sit as representatives of the stakeholders. This typically generates a better understanding of the current situation as well as new ideas for possible interventions.
Coaching and Decision Analysis
Solution Focused Interviews are a specific coaching approach in which the coach asks the coachee about solutions in the presence, in the future, and in the past. Instead of only listening to problems this approach helps the coachee to become aware of her own resources and capacities. It is often combined with a systemic constellation intervention.
Besides being used in Fact Finding, Constellations are powerful tools for seeing new pathways in previously apparently blocked situations. They not only help the coachee to see new solutions but – and this is possibly much more important – also often create a motivation in the coachee to implement this solution.
We have been using a wide range of facilitation tools since the year 2000. The description of many tools can now be found on the internet. As with all tools it is important how they are used. We guarantee their proper use with our person-centered and situation contingent attitude. Here are the descriptions of some of the tools that we often use.
At the beginning of a workshop we often ask for expectations and say which ones we will be likely to meet, which ones possibly not and where we can adjust the agenda. We also check if we need any specific rules for the exchange such as “respect”. And we may ask participants to what extent they are prepared to contribute or if there is anything missing so that they can do so.
The term “brainstorming” is credited to Alex Osborn who published it in 1953. Ever since, various subspecies of the method have evolved and people often call activities “brainstorming” that do not meet the basic requirements, if the goal is to stimulate creativity and a maximum flow of ideas. We use brainstorming based on index card writing but also based on verbal contributions. We often combine it with clustering and prioritizing ideas
The Focused Conversation method has been described by Brian Stanfield (2000) of the Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs. It allows to combine the need for providing information with the need for activating and involving all participants and also getting a maximum number of ideas. Practically speaking participants will work in small groups after a presentation and respond to a few specific questions. The answers are then shared in the plenary.
This method has by now become a classic of interactive workshops. It is a small group approach that can be held with a large number of people in parallel and has been used by big corporations and institutions such as the UN, and of course many small organizations all over the world. It has two advantages. One is its insistence on informality (the “Café” part) and the other the rotation of participants which means that after a first round of discussion, participants continue either on the same topic or (your choice) on a new one. Whatever the choice may be, after rotation, a sub-group facilitator (who stays put) will explain results of the previous sessions to the new arrivals so that there is a sharing of ideas.
This is a very open process that combines brainstorming, giving responsibility to participants, and intensive interaction. We often use it towards the end of larger workshops when participants have already clarified many aspects but still need to assume responsibility for implementation and clarify the next steps with those that are likely to be involved. It is a useful tool for ensuring transitions from workshops to implementation.
Samoan Circle Dialogue
You can easily have a dialogue with 150 people or more when chairs are organized in concentric circles. There are four aisles for participants to pass through from back to front. There is one ground rule: only the participants in the innermost circle may speak. Whenever someone wants to join the innermost circle s/he may do so. People in the inner circle then move back to a listener position. The facilitator – also in the center circle – will support the exchanges.
We use a wide range of tools that we deploy in response to the specific conflict situation to which our intervention will always be contingent. Here are the two principal approaches that we are using:
Transformative Mediation was first developed by the North American Academics and Practitioners Robert B. Bush and Joseph P. Folger in 1994. It is mainly based on the stance of the mediator who sees the parties as capable of making up their minds in constructive ways. The mediator will mainly intervene by active listening, summarizing and raising open questions but not by proposing a specific process. We use this approach especially in two- party conflicts.
This approach has been developed from the late 1960s onwards by the Austrian academic and practitioner Friedrich Glasl. It includes many possible interventions but in general consists in the use of highly structured activities with the parties that allow them to listen to each other, understand the other’s perspective and find solutions together. We use this approach in team conflict situations. It includes a wide range of tools such as a visualized look at the situation, analysis of key moments of the past, perspective change and the joint search for solutions.