On Process Design
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Bernard le Roux
We distinguish between the roles of the facilitator or mediator and that of the designer of a process. The roles may well be borne by the same person or team, but we find it useful to focus on them separately.
A brief note on roles: while there are people who call themselves facilitators, mediators and designers and identify with these labels professionally, we believe that it is possible for anybody to take on the role of facilitator, mediator or designer. This does not mean that everybody will be equally competent at it, but it is a role that can be filled by any given person in a group at any time. It is possible then to shift from the role as a leader or expert to that of a facilitator and back.
The designer of a dialogue process has the responsibility to make decisions about the structure and form of the process. This involves, to put it simply, decisions about who speaks to whom, what they speak about, and when and how they do it. It also involves, as you will learn on the course, where, when and how best to intervene to achieve the best results. These decisions can be made before a process starts but might need to be made during a meeting or between meetings. If and where possible these decisions need to include the participants in some way.
This raises several issues. We have often been asked whether we can provide a handbook of methods for dialogue. A method enables us to follow a process step by step – the way a recipe helps us to bake a cake. However, when an issue is complex (we will explain the idea of complexity below), it is also dynamic. This means that it changes – either over a longer time or suddenly – thus requiring decisions to adjust the process to the changed circumstances. We do not believe that it is helpful to force a group through a method when it clearly is not being helpful. Involving the participants in the design of the process is an issue that we will discuss in more detail under the meta-skill of inclusion.
(You will find a comprehensive discussion on design and our model in the section in the text “A process logic”.)
Questions for reflection
Do you notice the societal shifts described above in your own work and in your community? How do they show themselves?
Are you more inclined to operate with a rational or integrated mindset?
Do you notice an adversity or resistance to the changes around us in yourself or in others you work with or meet?