Five Easy Strategies to Facilitate A Roomful of Extraverts and Introverts

Great facilitators adopt group processes that help introverts and extroverts to shine!

Insights Image Image. Also see HBR: Introverts and Extroverts and Complexities of Team Dynamics

Over the past twenty-five years of facilitating group work, I have found that consciously working with this human dynamic, more than any other – has a dramatically positive impact on the outcomes and interactions of collaborative group work. Here  are five relatively easy strategies to engage both introvert and extroverts in your sessions and meetings: Continue reading “Five Easy Strategies to Facilitate A Roomful of Extraverts and Introverts”

Understanding Participation: A Literature Review

This new resource just brought to my attention by Sandy Heierbacher on NCDD’s listserve is worth sharing … a 50-page Understanding Participation: A Literature Review  covers a wide range of participatory activities that are often viewed in isolation. Download it here.

“The review brings together different bodies of literature on participation, including literature on community development, volunteering, public participation, social movements, everyday politics and ethical consumption.”

(From a major national research project called “Pathways through Participation: What creates and sustains active citizenship?” led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve.)

Spoken Word Group Poem

Thanks to a wonderful process developed by Lisa Heft of Opening Space, my colleague at Masterful Facilitation Institute Brenda Chaddock, Sandy Heierbacher from NCDD, and I co-designed a Spoken Word Group Poem with 18 participants at the IAP2 San Diego conference. Together, their response to three key questions resulted in an extraordinary co-created group poem which was delivered it in a collaborative performance at the start of the Wednesday morning Plenary.

Engagement and Democracy

Great post by Matt Leighninger, director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, on the question, “How should we improve democracy?”, with myriad resources and links such as:

Community: The Structure of Belonging

“Most of our communities are fragmented and at odds within themselves. Businesses, social services, education, and health care each live within their own worlds. The same is true of individual citizens, who long for connection but end up marginalized, their gifts overlooked, their potential contributions lost. What keeps this from changing is that we are trapped in an old and tired conversation about who we are. If this narrative does not shift, we will never truly create a common future and work toward it together.”

In his book, Community – The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block explores how community can emerge from fragmentation, how community is built, how transformation occurs, and what individuals and formal leaders can do to create a place they want to inhabit. The kind of transformation that can occur in community starting from powerful questions, other than just talk, include:

-Invitation replaces mandate, policy and alignment
-Possibility replaces problem solving
-Ownership and Cause replace explanation and denial
-Dissent and Refusal replace resignation and lip service
-Commitment replaces hedge and barter
-Gifts replace deficiencies

“We know what healthy communities look like—there are many success stories out there. The challenge is how to create one in our own place. Peter Block helps us see how we can change the existing context of community from one of deficiencies, interests, and entitlement to one of possibility, generosity, and gifts. Questions are more important than answers in this effort, which means leadership is not a matter of style or vision but is about getting the right people together in the right way: convening is a more critical skill than commanding.”

As he explores the nature of community and the dynamics of transformation, Peter outlines six kinds of conversation that will create communal accountability and commitment and describes how we can design physical spaces and structures that will themselves foster a sense of belonging:

  1. Conversations for Inviting
  2. Conversations for Possibility
  3. Conversations for Ownership
  4. Conversations for Dissent
  5. Conversations for Commitment
  6. Conversations of Gifts.

Download the booklet Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community: Changing the Nature of the Conversation for the questions, tools and techniques to foster the transformation and restoration of community.

Office of Public Engagement at the White House!

From the NCDD listserve, just received this incredibly positive breaking news for the field…!

The White House announced today that the White House Office of Public Liaison is being tasked with an expanded mission, and a new name: the Office of Public Engagement! In his video announcement about OPE, President Obama said:

This office will seek to engage as many Americans as possible in the difficult work of changing this country, through meetings and conversations with groups and individuals held in Washington and across the country.”

Core Principles for Public Engagement

Reproducing here, a truly important synthesis piece initiated by the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation, the Co-Intelligence Institute, the International Association of Public Practitioners, and endorsed by many others….


The Seven Principles for Public Engagement were developed collaboratively in Spring 2009 by dozens of leaders in public engagement, with the expectation of ongoing dialogue and periodic revision. (See National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation for full details.)

In a strong democracy, citizens and government work together to build a society that protects individual freedom while simultaneously ensuring liberty and justice for all. Engaging people around the issues that affect their lives and their country is a key component of a strong democratic society.

Public engagement involves convening diverse, representative groups of people to wrestle with information from a variety of viewpoints all to the end of making better, often more creative decisions. Public engagement aims to provide people with direction for their own community activities, or with public judgments that will be seriously considered by policy-makers and other power-holders.

The more any given public engagement effort takes into consideration the following seven Core Principles, the more it can expect to effectively build mutual understanding, meaningfully affect policy development, and/or inspire collaborative action among citizens and institutions. These seven interdependent principles serve both as ideals to pursue and as criteria for judging quality. Rather than promoting partisan agendas, the application of the Core Principles creates the conditions for authentic engagement around public issues.

The Seven Core Principles (download PDF)

These seven recommendations reflect the common beliefs and understandings of those working in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and collaboration. In practice, people apply these and additional principles in many different ways.

1. Careful Planning and Preparation

Through adequate and inclusive planning, ensure that the design, organization, and convening of the process serve both a clearly defined purpose and the needs of the participants.

2. Inclusion and Demographic Diversity

Equitably incorporate diverse people, voices, ideas, and information to lay the groundwork for quality outcomes and democratic legitimacy.

3. Collaboration and Shared Purpose

Support and encourage participants, government and community institutions, and others to work together to advance the common good.1

4. Openness and Learning

Help all involved listen to each other, explore new ideas unconstrained by predetermined outcomes, learn and apply information in ways that generate new options, and rigorously evaluate public engagement activities for effectiveness.

5. Transparency and Trust

Be clear and open about the process, and provide a public record of the organizers, sponsors, outcomes, and range of views and ideas expressed.

6. Impact and Action
Ensure each participatory effort has real potential to make a difference, and that participants are aware of that potential.

7. Sustained Engagement and Participatory Culture

Promote a culture of participation with programs and institutions that support ongoing quality public engagement.

1 In addition to reflecting democratic ideals of liberty, justice, and freedom for everyone, “common good” refers to that which benefits all, like a traffic light in a dangerous intersection or a cleaned-up water supply.

Canada’s World Dialogues

Last year, I had the priviledge of being part of a fabulous national team of professional facilitators who co-facilitated a series of regional dialogues held across Canada as part of Canada’s World 3-year consultation process into the role that Canadians want our country to play in the world in the 21st Century. Through dialogue, Canada’s World engaged Canadians in a great conversation about our role in the world. The dialogue process brought Canadians together to discuss their visions for Canadian foreign policy and for Canada as an important actor on the world stage. Using the perspectives and ideas heard in the dialogue sessions, Canada’s World is putting Canada Back on the Map and sharing a new story about a bolder, more responsible Canada in the world. The reports on the session results, including the wealth of dialogue resources used, are available at Canada’s World Results.

Continuum of Engagement – Ask Who Does It Primarily Serve?

This Sunday January 18th at beautiful Rivendell Retreat on Bowen Island, BC, my colleague Brenda Chaddock and I are co-presenting Facilitating Wise Action: Engaging Groups in Meaningful Conversations Around Complex Issues. The program is focused on conversational methods that foster mutual understanding, learning, partnership, and co-creation.

In past offerings (this is our third), participants have found the questions from our Engagement Process and Continuum to be enlightening, especially those related to purpose, convener, participants, and methods. We suggest that the continuum of engagement can be distinguished according to two broad types: unilateral/bilateral, and multilateral. The purpose for unilateral and bilateral forms of engagement primarily serves the convener. In multilateral engagement, all participants are equally served by the purpose, including the convener. Viewing the purpose of engagement through this lens sheds some helpful light on the role of the convener, on who should be invited, and on what are the best methods for the engagement. For those interested in learning more, please download a PDF extract of the Engagement Process: Continuum of Engagement which is part of our Facilitating Wise Action curriculum. A summary follows of the above categories:


Type: Unilateral & Bilateral (Serves Convener)

  • One Way Communication: We Tell You Our Story (inform, educate)
  • Hearings & Research: We Invite Your Input (listen, gather data, input)
  • Two-Way Consultation: We Listen to Various Sides (discuss, obtain feedback; hear sides & stories)

Type: Multilateral (Serves all participants)

  • Mutual Understanding: Together, We Learn/Reframe Conflict (learn together about common issue; transform conflict)
  • Partnership & Co-Creation: Together, We Decide & Collaborate (generate solutions; collaborate; partner; co-create)

Engaging Groups Around Solving Tough Organizational Problems

Yesterday in conversation with a client who leads Six Sigma projects to enhance operational excellence in his organization, a moment of clarity emerged around a distinction that is not always apparent on what is needed for successful implementation. (The Six Sigma methodology is a proven and rigorous approach for systematically identifying problems, examining root causes, generating possible solutions, and eventually selecting the best according to objective criteria.) Essentially, the insight boils down to this:

  • Six Sigma processes are appropriate for studying and analyzing processes and systems. Underlying this methodology is the assumption that: 1) operational and production processes can be viewed from a problem-solving lens; 2 the problem though complicated, can ultimately be known; 3) through appropriate analysis and study, the problem can be solved, i.e., a ‘right’ answer can be found; and 4) a good implementation plan can then eventually be designed and implemented. Most Six Sigma teams devote the bulk of their attention and energy on getting this right.
  • Organizational change and transformation processes are based on different assumptions: 1) organizations and people are systems; 2) systems are complex and therefore are inherent unknowable; 3) complex issues and systems cannot be solved; at best they can be aligned with a common direction and purpose; 4) successful implementation in a system requires the alignment of individual and collective, as well as personal and organizational/community systems and structures. Even if the Six Sigma gets a 100% correct answer to the problem, implementation may not succeed unless conscious attention is also placed in parallel during the project on engaging the people within the organization for alignment with the eventual change.
  • Conversational methods are uniquely suited to help people grapple with the complexity of the need and implications of change, to understand and embrace diverse points of view, and to gradually gain a larger system’s perspective. Such methods are also effective in drawing out insights, generating creative ideas, and obtaining contributions from the people affected by the change that the Six Sigma team can incorporate or address in such a way that it may make a big difference in the eventual acceptance of the proposed changes. Adding conversational methods to the Six Sigma toolkit, and learning how to attend to the dimension of change from start to end can go a long way to enhance the eventual success of a Six Sigma project.