Monthly Archives: March 2010

The fridge

Lack of time is the major obstacle to effective participation. This is particularly evident when a sizeable group discusses something: matters come up that have to be set aside.

A solution is to place them in a Fridge for the time being: issues raised + the name of the persons who bring them up are noted on a flip-over sheet. Later, when there is a suitable opportunity, time is devoted to emptying the fridge. For this, the method Common agenda can be used to advantage.

See also the application Peter & Paul and the alternatives

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

The line

This is a method for valuation that can be used in almost any situation where there is enough space. It works well as a starter, as a quick check of the situation or as a concluding assessment. Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Possibilities chart

A form of brainstorming that gives the participants an opportunity of visualising a future project or arrangement in an new way.

  • The participants imagine that the arrangement has already occurred and ‘recall memories’ of it that they write down on post-it slips
  • The slips are placed on a chart in relation to two coordinates: desirable <-> undesirable and likely <-> unlikely
  • This ‘chart of possibilities’, to which everyone has made a contribution, is then used for planning Read more ›
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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Markers

This is a quick way of arriving at and visualising joint priorities or rankings.

Each person is given the same number of markers (small adhesive slips or ticks with a marker pen) and distributes them among the alternatives or suggestions the group has already produced. Everyone is free to distribute the markers as they please. Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Beehive

A presentation is interrupted for a couple of minutes to allow the participants to discuss an issue in pairs.

See also the application Peter & Paul and the alternatives

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

SWOT

This is a method for examining the internal strengths and weaknesses of an organisation, the opportunities and threats presented by the outside world and how these factors affect problem-solving.

SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat. Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Case

A narrative that describes a notional or an actual course of events.

It can be related in stages or all at once from beginning to end. The purpose is to give the participants an opportunity to discover possible choices and find solutions to a specific situation.

See also the applications Peter & Paul and the alternatives, Focus on the agenda and Rule of law and a fairly democratic country

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Cross sections

This is a simple and effective method for spreading information quickly in large groups. Together with rounds, it can maximise participation. Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Focus group

A focus group enables everyone to participate effectively by valuing and commenting on a particular theme. It lays a foundation for a plan of action by providing a comprehensive picture of the present situation. Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Dialogue conference

Up to a hundred people have an opportunity of exploring common interests, agreeing on interpretations and definitions, and arriving at joint suggestions for future work.

The conference consists of three rounds of group discussions, with up to 8 participants in each group. Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods Tagged with:

Four corners

Four corners is about forming an opinion and making a choice. It is a good way of beginning or depening a discussion and the method can be used with large groups. Even shy persons can express their attitudes without feeling exposed. Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Open space

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Open Space gives the participants – in contrast to a Dialogue conference – the possibility of introducing whichever issues they wish to the agenda and discussing them in groups of their own choosing.

The conference is divided into the following stages: Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Hot seat

The Hot Seat is another, more reflective, method for encouraging participants to take a stand and express their values openly. They indicate their opinion by standing up or sitting down.

Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Techniques for domination

Every now and then a couple of persons can dominate a meeting using various methods of manipulation.

A Norwegian professor of social psychology, Berit Ås, has identified five techniques for domination that are used by men to assert themselves in relation to female colleagues, but these discriminatory practises can be directed against anyone, regardless of their gender:

Read more ›

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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Brainstorming

Get the group to associate freely around an issue, a statement or a word. Make a note of every suggestion from every participant:

  • no idea is wrong
  • no one is to comment on other people’s ideas
  • agreement is not required
  • keep it going. All that matters is getting numerous alternatives uninhibitedly Read more ›
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Posted in Method Bank, Methods

Rounds

Each person in turn has a minute or so in which to say what is on their mind without being interrupted and with no questions, comments or discussion. No one is obliged to speak. As a round should continue without being controlled, it is important to start by adopting a theme, for instance: Read more ›

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Posted in Instruments for better meetings, Method Bank, Methods

Common agenda

This tool creates an open and jointly decided distribution of power during a meeting. It starts with a round in which all those present are given an opportunity to state:

  • what issue they want to raise
  • whether it is a matter of information, a discussion or a decision
  • how long the item is likely to take Read more ›
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Posted in Instruments for better meetings, Method Bank, Methods

Rotating functions at a meeting

Facilitating a meeting is a complex matter and is preferably shared by a number of people. If the functions are circulated among the members of the organization, everyone will become acquainted with how the organization works and feel responsible for the meetings: Read more ›

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Posted in Instruments for better meetings, Method Bank, Methods

Speaker’s ball

A soft and light ball that visually signals who is speaking and puts attention on the speaker. The holder of the ball is authorised to voice an opinion without being interrupted. Read more ›

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Posted in Instruments for better meetings, Method Bank, Methods

From needs to rights

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Purpose

Give the participants an opportunity to:

  • actively acquaint themselves with the UN Declaration of Human Rights
  • reflect about the gap between abstract principles and daily life

Read more ›

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Posted in Application, HR and Democracy

Focus on the agenda

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Purpose

illustrate agenda problems by making an inventory of current political issues and discussing them in Focus groups

Background

Once there were three boys fighting over a bar of chocolate. Then an old man appeared:

– Boys, boys! You shouldn’t fight. Violence simply breeds violence.
– This is none of your business!
– It certainly is, says the old man. I am a teacher here at school.
– And? says Peter.
– We don’t tolerate fights here!
– And? says Paul.
– This is a decision made by the whole staff!!
– Well, says the third boy, do you know who we are? The Three Musketeer Alliance! And we have unanimously decided to fight over the bar in a glorious battle.

Real world disputes may be less absurd and about more important issues. But if you want to avoid not only violent solutions but also authoritarian ones, then one often faces a similar difficulty: the parties belong to different communities claiming the right to decide for themselves.

This agenda problem may be solved if the parties can be made to accept one, common democratic structure. There are different varieties, for example:

  • rules of conduct are taken in a general assembly where all staff members and musketeers participate as full and equal citizens

  • the rules are decided by a democratically elected body representative of all concerned groupings

1. Theme in focus:

“Issues necesary to deal with”

2. Inventory

  • groups of up to 6 persons perform individual brainstorming: each person writes down 5 issues – on separate post-it slips – that she thinks it is important to deal with

3. Sorting and priorities

  • Each person presents the issues to the rest of the group. Related issues are placed side by side. Slips that mention the same matter are piled on top of each other
  • each person gives one third of the issues priority by marking those slips with a cross
  • the seven post-it slips that get most crosses are selected by the group

4. Assessment of the present situation

How and where are the jointly chosen issues tackled at present? Place each of the seven priority post-it slips in one of the columns in the following table.

1. Individually by the participants.
2. Internally by the participants’ own group/organisation.
3. Negotiations with external parties but no decision by a public authority.
4-6. Decisions locally/nationally/internationally: issues that in addition require a public authority’s decision at any of these levels.
7. Uncertain: use this column if it is not clear at what level the issue can be settled.

5. Joint analysis

Compare the groups’ results. Concentrate on the political issues (columns 3-7) and try to work out those that are not clear:

  • Are decisions required at more than one level? How can such a situation be solved without disputes about competence?
  • May bee there is no body that has the issue on its agenda at present. If so, what should be the strategy for achieving a solution?

Comments

If there are unclear issues for which the group has difficulty in finding an appropriate column, this is no doubt mainly because agenda problems are complex and tricky.

No single body, not even a more or less sovereign state, is completely self-governing in the sense that its members control an open agenda so that they can deal with any issue. A group is often affected by what others do, just as others are affected by the group’s own decisions. This problem – that those who are affected and the people are not identical (see An ABC of Democracy) – could in principle be resolved if:

  • everyone has access to a variety of communities that between them are entitled to decide all relevant issues
  • and the communities do not decide issues of the same type

This requires a system with a number of clearly differentiated levels for decision-making: nations, for instance, are fairly independent entities, with relatively open agendas, that mostly delegate issues to do with education, social services, medical care and so on to a lower level, for example a local authority. These smaller entities then have a more limited agenda; their decisions are restricted to certain types of issue. Similarly, nations can refer more universal issues – security, trade, etc. – to an international institution.

Such a system with a number of entities at different decision-making levels could be fairly democratic provided there is a clear, orderly structure that connects the entities in such a way that the agenda of all entities on one of the lower levels is fairly open, while the agenda on all other levels is clearly delimited.

This is often not the case. It is not clear who has delegated what to whom; thus. No one is accountable. There will then be many important issues that do not belong anywhere.

This agenda problem is accentuated in large-scale, representative systems with a wide gap between the rulers and those who elect them. When the representatives become “them there” who mostly seem to look after themselves, the way is open to populist pseudo solutions where the principle of Equal consideration only applies to one’s own group and a charismatic leader makes hay of the presumption of Personal autonomy.

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Posted in Application, International Level, na

Towards a stronger civil society

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Dialogue conference

Target group

Organisations and public authorities with projects aimed at promoting a democratic development of society

Purpose

  • visualising, discussing and valuing what may happen in a future project in a concrete, playful manner
  • using this new perspective to accentuate the democratic aspect of their projects Read more ›
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Posted in Application, Civil Society, na

Rule of law and a fairly democratic country

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Purpose

Use a case study to reflect on how rule of law relates to a fairly democratic country Read more ›

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Posted in Application, na, National Level

Developing a democratic organisation

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Target

  • The participants’ own organisation

Purpose

  • identify democratic shortcomings inside the organization
  • outline a plan of action for dealing with them
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Posted in Applications, na, Organisational Level