Process Design

I will work with you to design a collaborative process unique to your situation. The following outline offers a general sense of how such processes are often structured. I developed this example for a group of citizens seeking a better outcome to a particular local controversy. Probably, your process will be different, but include many of the same components.


Leaders of a group of upset citizens (or local government leaders) contact the community diplomat and describe an issue that is headed toward community hostility, loud reactions from locals on all sides of the issue, and possibly even litigation.



1. The community diplomat:

a.  Assesses the situation
b.  Helps the leaders vent their upset among themselves, organize their thinking, understand their tactical options, and develop a strategy for collaborating among people with different points of view.
c.  Outlines a collaborative or meditative process.

2. The leaders may:

a. Carry out the recommended process, with or without the community diplomat serving as a advisor, or
b. Request the community diplomat create and facilitate (if necessary, mediate) the recommended process



3. The community diplomat:

a. Participates, not as an advocate for one side, but rather as an impartial facilitator/mediator
b. Develops a clear understanding of the issues and stakeholders, and details a collaborative process.
c. Visits with each stakeholder group to:

i. Identify its positions, interests, tactical options, and collaboration opportunities (similar to initial conversations with the citizen group)
ii. Invite its participation, which may include a limited number of its members — preferably the more diplomatic members, not the “warriors.”
iii. Describe civic collaboration practices and principles,
iv. Invite commitment to those practices, and
v. Request that the stakeholder group convene periodically throughout the process to hear from its representatives regarding progress, and use social media to augment those communications.

d. Works with all “sides” to determine if the upcoming collaborative process should be public or private.

Collaborative process:

4. The community diplomat convenes discussions (sometimes workshops) in which participants:

i. Foster mutual understanding and trust. Each person hears the concerns, goals, interests, and feelings of all stakeholders, especially their adversaries.
ii. Consider reframing respective assumptions as hypotheses, which will be tested,
iii. Develop a mutually satisfactory definition of the problem, by exploring underlying causes and interests,
iv. Employ subject-matter experts chosen mutually by all stakeholders (If facts are at issue),
v. Hear and discuss the facts from expert perspectives,
vi. Brainstorm solutions where participants’ interests intersect
vii. Develop a whole-system framework for considering the various prospective solutions (the author has a tool for such a framework) ,
viii. Select prospective solutions,
ix. Explore technical, institutional, and political barriers to each solution, and
x. Identify solution(s) that all stakeholders can support or at least live with.

In the event that two or more participants exhibit anger that threatens the process, the community diplomat may suspend the process, mediate that dispute, then resume the process,


5. The community diplomat helps participants:

i. Identify measures of success and ways to monitor those measures,
ii. Develop a public statement describing the solution(s)
iii. Market the solution(s)
iv. Carry out the solution together