Lessons learned and other inspirations
First in a series of blogs about creating collaborative, facilitated processes.
Written by Allison Roberts, Co-Owner, Kulshan Services
Being that it's the month for Valentines, we are feeling the love...
With many aspects of civil society showing the strain of civil discord, our sincere compliments go to the groups of people we have worked with who are willing to do the work. They show their commitment by showing up and being ready to work together. Their respect for each other doesn't flag just because they disagree. By committing to a civil process, they are agreeing to trust the process and work together. The alternative is gridlock, indecision, inaction, and discord.
There is another way. We invite people to believe in the process as being as important as the outcome. By building relationships over time, people can build trust and start believing that success is possible. In fact, that's the way we roll here at Kulshan: we believe that the process influences the outcome and that success is possible if people engage in facilitated processes and discussion. (Stay tuned every week for our blog series: Facilitation Matters.)
Facilitated processes set the table for collaborative conversations. These conversations allow people to take a larger view, build trust, take time to chew on the issues, and hear other perspectives.
What's keeping people from entering these conversations? Why is achieving lasting solutions so difficult? Many feel the processes are ponderous, inadequately focused, and poorly managed. Sometimes people simply give up too soon. Others are afraid the playing field might get rough. That's why a facilitator is important.
The payback to entering into collaborative conversations is worth the effort:
Hiring a facilitator may appear extravagant. You may think you have someone in-house who could do it. Or, the process doesn't seem to require hiring someone from the outside. There are probably other reasons organizations go it alone. But they don't have to.
Hiring an outside facilitator is worth it:
We have the honor to work with some amazing clients who hired Kulshan Services to facilitate their conversations . Today, we applaud their willingness to engage, trust, and set the stage for successful conversations by hiring a facilitator. After all, hiring a facilitator may be just the ticket for you or someone you know. Maybe right now or a day a week from now, you'll be thinking of a situation or a group that could benefit from a facilitator.
Share this article with them or contact David to discuss options. We're here to help!
Written by Allison Roberts, Co-owner, Kulshan Services
How sure do we need to be before taking action? What if we are 95% sure that something could kill us? If we have 5% of doubt, is it worth the risk of inaction?
We just can't help ourselves in sharing thoughts inspired by this article from the Scientific American by Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard science historian. She also wrote Merchants of Doubt, and cracked open how tobacco and oil industries manipulated science and the media... and Americans.
Oreskes asks if 95% certainty is enough when dealing with issues of massive consequence like climate change. She suggests we heed the precautionary principle into statistics about climate and change. She suggests that the 95% certainty standard has kept us from acting earlier on climate change.
Sometimes the evidence requires us to accept scientific findings even when the evidence goes against our personal beliefs. In the face of evidence, the powers that be can promote doubt and that promotes inaction. In any case, promoting doubt is easier than the burden that comes with proof. They know that people love to be told what they want to be true.
For instance, people are naturally afraid of getting a negative health prognosis, so they ignore the signals and delay a diagnosis. A person can observe troubling signs of illness - fever, chills, unusual feelings or pain. They privately nurture their doubts but delay action. They dread the proof, but at some point have to accept something is wrong. This tendency to delay comes with significant peril. And, if the patient experiences something enough to outvote their doubting mind, they seek help. Time was on their side... until it wasn't.
Alas, responding too late has effectively removed many of the better options to treat the problem. This is the way with climate change. Maybe we need to suspend our doubt and take more precautionary actions before all good options are exhausted.
That is why Kulshan Services offers Climate Change Planning services.
Contact us today to learn more about our services.
Inspired by Naomi Oreskes and her article, Playing Dumb on Climate Change.
Written by David Roberts, Founder and Principal, Kulshan Services
We have the honor to work with some amazing people, committed to working together for the betterment of their communities and the environment. these are real troopers - people who have often been in the technical or policy trenches for many years.
Success: a scare commodity. One of our observations is that many of these people have yet to experience success as a result of all their efforts. Politics or significant disagreements on the fundamentals needed to resolve concerns have kept people from achieving lasting solutions. Many feel the processes are ponderous, inadequately focused and poorly managed. Others shared their frustration because people simply give up too soon.
We have found that looking at the world from a system's perspective with the intention of achieving a multiple benefit outcome has proven to be valuable to many communities. Often it opens up opportunities for shared financing and coordination that aren't immediately clear to any one entity.
At the same time, reaching out to a broad audience of potential interests is equally important. There are few things worse than thinking you have agreement with one group of interests only to find that it is diametrically opposite of what some influential group or individual has been trying to achieve. The result is the same - disappointment and conflict often in a highly public arena.
All of this takes time, fortitude, and commitment. Time is needed to plan, reach out, listen and learn. Time is also needed to bring people together to build workable relationships. Fortitude is needed to hang in there when conversations are tough and to listen, share, and debate ideas. Commitment is needed to continue the conversation even when things get tough or seem to be going against what you believe.
We are a society that generally doesn't like debate or negotiation. Our lack of comfort leads us to push forward to decisions even when it feels we don't have all the information we need. Our measure of success is often based on how much we get done - checking off t hat item on a list, getting the permit out, coming to final agreement on a contract. Time is often a significant driver frequently tied to funding deliverables. As a result, decisions are often reached in a way that people don't feel engaged or appreciated leaving lasting disappointment and sometimes animosity. Building long-term relationships is rarely a measurable outcome of any discussion or process - yet this is what is needed to sustain our communities and help us deal with both near-and long-term challenges.
Successful relationships are built on trust. Without a basic level of trust, no process can move forward or be successful. Trust is built through getting to know the people through storytelling or sharing of personal information. It also comes from p roving one's self through action and deed. Trusting relationships allow people to learn together - a first step to solving problems. They can identify their interests and explore ideas that are "outside the box" without fear of consequences. Only after trust is established can creative solutions be achieved.
Multi-benefit solutions require trusting, creative, open minds working together in a cooperative manner over time. These types of solutions to problem solving are a necessity in our complex modern world. As Albert Einstein stated, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." We need to step beyond our usual ways of addressing issues, because the way we have done so in the past has resulted in limited long-term success.
A group I am currently assisting recently revisited their commitment to continue working together. This community has faced very difficult challenges related to land use and endangered species for many years. They cam together to change the way the community looks at conflict seeking a multi-benefit approach to resolving issues. While the group has made many strides together, at times, the group's process has appeared to have stalled or even moved backward. After some lengthy conversation about the challenges and opportunities of continuing their process, one of the participants asked a prophetic question:
"What will our children think if we just give up?"
A silence filled the room for a moment as everyone pondered his question. One by one they all shared the satisfaction they feel building positive relationships, finding opportunities, to share ideas and building a legacy for their community. Time and specific outcomes appeared less important than staying at the table. They re-committed to their efforts to address the issues most pressing and to innovating together. Their process is growing and working together has become a highly successful outcome.
By David Roberts, President and Founder
We believe everyone has a role to play in ensuring a healthy, prosperous, and resilient future. Meaningful change can occur through sound science, shared vision, and group innovation. That's why at Kulshan Services, we seek to be catalysts for positive change.
After many years of state government work, I wanted a change of pace and place where I could apply my skills constructively, help people communicate more productively, and create positive outcomes with multiple benefits. I longed for results that benefited our planet. I felt the expertise I'd gathered over the years working in environmental protection and public process, that I could help others do the same in my community.
Over the seven years since then, the part of my work that I love the most is bringing people together in collaborative settings and facilitating successful and positive outcomes. This has become the hallmark of Kulshan’s work. The team that I have built is a reflection of that collaborative and restorative work that makes me love coming to work every day.
At Kulshan, we put the emphasis on the process. "The process largely dictates the outcome." We don’t focus so much on providing answers to our clients. Rather success comes from focusing on the process everyone builds together - asking the right questions, applying technical information, providing strategic guidance, and creating a safe space for generative exploration of new possibilities.
Believe in new possibilities - this is what leads us all to better solutions.
At Kulshan we work every day to help our clients experience this type of collaborative success. Contact us today, if you are looking for a local and established company to help you discover new possibilities when it comes to environmental planning, facilitation, or technical and field services.
Kulshan Services works with governments, non-profits, and businesses to create opportunities for addressing ecosystem management and restoration, climate change, and sustainability challenges. We possess in-depth environmental, facilitation, sustainability, and technical and field service experience and skill sets.