Start becoming a Convergent Facilitator yourself: register here for our upcoming Convergent Facilitation Introductory Course in March 2024 with Paul and Verene.
How people experienced Convergent Facilitation
I really had no interest nor any belief that this process would actually do anything. However, the trust that it built was quite amazing to me. I wouldn’t have believed it was possible, but we achieved more collaboratively than we were able to do as adversaries.” There was a moment when it became apparent to me that people had become problem-solvers rather than position-staters.
At some point, we came upon the issue that was THE issue; the one that, if we didn't crack, we wouldn't reach consensus on the overall project. When we didn't think we could find consensus, we created the opportunity to simply publish the opposing viewpoints. Eventually, we agreed that the field didn’t need another report that outlined the polarizing perspectives. So instead, we dug deeper, expanded our creativity, and developed a frame, and solutions, that held us all.
As soon as we started meeting, we had fun. Parents, staff and board members didn’t experience the decision process as a debate - no one tried to convince anyone else - and our discussions didn’t feel endless. The main shift happened when we discovered we could integrate two pathways we initially thought of as opposite. We could merge them into a parallel and complementary model that works beautifully.
I came up against a lot of intense power struggles when I worked as an advocate. Instead, what I witnessed in this process was completely different: people representing different parts of the system came together and stayed together across real differences, went to the heart of thorny issues, and came out at the other end with realistic, durable and robust strategies.
What makes these experiences possible?
We aim for solutions that work for the most powerful and the least powerful
We go through great efforts to bring in, hear and integrate all that matters to all stakeholders across power differences. Without those with the most power, agreements might just not be implemented. Without those with the least power, agreements might simply not work. We know that this is a key condition for a practical, sustainable and implementable outcome.
We create conditions to make shifts possible
We don’t expect people to change their position or values, because it’s not necessary for them to agree on specific solutions. All we aim for is to make it possible for people to trust that everyone cares about what matters to them, to see that there are deep principles they all care about regardless of their differences, and to be supported in seeing and caring about what matters to others. This combination is what moves people to orient to the whole. Then they can shift to see that this or that proposal isn’t actually threatening anything that matters to them.
Apprecation for Convergent Facilitation
There is a belief in our culture that we have to choose between collaboration and efficiency. It’s one or the other. Convergent Facilitation shows that there is an efficient path—perhaps the only truly efficient one—that gets everyone’s needs met.
Convergent Facilitation will steer us away from wasting time and accelerate our work for the Great Turning.
Convergent Facilitation is a revolutionary new way of collaborating by creating space for all needs to be heard, inviting dissent without fear or animosity, and attending to power dynamics that are in the room.
Convergent Facilitation is a vision of democracy that is something other than a six-hour meeting after which we are too tired to implement any decision. It opens a path towards a democratic praxis where we all take responsibility for the whole and make decisions that meet the needs of everyone.