By: Robyn Jacobsen
The main reason is that the problems we have to solve today are more complex than they have ever been.
Solving them requires a variety of skill sets, perspectives, and approaches, and a lot of pieces need to come together smoothly for resolution to be successful.
Training programs like the Consensus Decision Making program offered through ADRIA provide a solid foundation for practitioners to build their skills and start to develop the experience they need to successfully manage collaborative, consensus processes.
Collaboration means working together towards solutions. Consensus is the way the group reaches agreement. Consensus usually means that everyone involved agrees to the final solution. A collaborative, consensus approach creates durable solutions to complex issues, while ensuring that everyone can live with the outcome and there are no winners or losers.
This way of doing business is more than just consultation. It provides a forum for participants to have meaningful discussions and to engage in conflict in a constructive way. Participants can discuss and test ideas without prejudice and then build solutions together – the reason participants engage in consensus processes is to produce something better than they can get on their own. Everyone has a unique piece of the puzzle and everyone’s interests are addressed, creating shared ownership and buy-in to the final agreement.
An implicit benefit of consensus processes is that mutual understanding and respect develops as people search together for the solutions. Participants place a huge amount of importance on the trust and relationships they are able to build through these processes.
Working as a facilitator and a mediator of collaborative, consensus processes that are designed to take into account everyone’s interests and find solutions that everyone can agree to is a dream come true, and a passion!
All these years later, I have built extensive experience as a facilitator, planner, advisor, strategist and project manager for a wide range of collaborative dialogues and complex, multi-dimensional issues.
I have recently started my own consulting practice based in Edmonton that provides facilitation and process design services. I focus on designing collaborative processes, consensus building, and interest-based approaches. I have had the amazing opportunity to work with government, industry, and non-government organizations in the resolution of complex public policy issues in Alberta. My role in these discussions requires an integrative and collaborative approach to develop solutions that everyone can live with.
Robyn Jacobsen has 8 years' experience acting as a facilitator, planner, advisor, strategist and project manager for a wide range of collaborative dialogues. Robyn designs and hosts processes for groups who want to meet and work together in a more collaborative way.
Originally posted in December 2016. Edited and updated.
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