It does seem, however, that we humans have a particular hurdle to negotiate before we can fully harness the “Power of We.” These days our economic, social and environmental structures are in a state of crisis. Yet we are unable to make progress due to our polarised debates and conversations. We are caught in a destructive struggle between the polarity of individual rights vs. the collective good, in an adversarial tug of war between right and left wing ideologies or even between the intellect and feelings.
When the proponents of individualistic freedom triumph the door is open for the common good being sacrificed by unchecked greed. When the champions of the collective dominate then diversity and individual expression is compromised.
As Margaret Wheatley puts it “It seems that whenever we bargain with life and seek to satisfy only one of its two great needs, the result is a quality of true lifelessness. We must live within the paradox; life does not allow us to choose sides.”
But how do we live with the paradox? How can we honour both the needs of the collective and the needs of the individual?
As a facilitator I am particularly interested in how we can overcome this duality in the context of group meetings. People all too often find meetings boring – they walk away feeling an individual has dominated proceedings or they feel unheard as though the group has stifled their unique contribution. This is a tragedy given that the necessary building blocks to resolving our problems are engaging conversations that harness both individual expertise and contributions of everyone. We are not lacking in well-intentioned people with great ideas. What we need is social technologies that enable conversations in which a diversity of perspectives can converge and find the common ground of “we” solutions.
The great news is that methods for facilitating conversations already exist that are performing this very function!
Impossible, you may say. How can we get people holding polar opposite viewpoints onto the same page with “we” solutions that compromise nothing of the participants' individual viewpoints?
In the field of social innovation the process of Dynamic Facilitation is one excellent tool that enables this. The method shifts the participants of a meeting away from adversarial debate and towards confronting the issue. Every contribution is valued and noted down for all to see. The facilitator follows the energy of the group and its participants, without imposing ground rules, so that a natural flow of creativity can emerge. Rather than managing and controlling the discussion to a pre-established agenda that stifles out-of-the-box thinking, the facilitator simply trusts that the group knows how to self-organise, put the pieces of the puzzle together and arrive at a level of collective intelligence. Even with seemingly impossible issues group breakthroughs and authentic win/win solutions emerge through this radically different way of holding a conversation.
This new way of holding meetings has massive implications for groups, communities and societies. It even holds the potential of transforming our democracies so that they become truly participatory. Wisdom Councils use Dynamic Facilitation to help randomly selected citizens find unanimous “We the people” solutions to pressing issues which can then be presented to the community or to elected officials.
Below is a video by Jim Rough, the creator of Dynamic Facilitation. He explains its potential for harnessing "the power of We":