Facilitation of Consensus-Building Processes
More and more public and private entities are beginning to see the value of using neutral facilitators to assist groups in reaching consensus. People are increasingly aware of the power of relationships, the necessity of building lasting coalitions, and the desire to have a reputation for professionalism in conducting negotiations as well as in producing goods or providing services.
As a consequence of this changing consciousness, people are beginning to demand that attention be paid to process as well as to content in negotiations of all types. Nowhere is this more evident than in the public sector, where government is beginning to take full advantage of outside facilitators to assist in stakeholder meetings and negotiations. Skilled facilitators help keep meetings on track by having rules for participation, allowing all stakeholders (including the conveners) to participate fully, and bringing objectivity and even-handedness to the way the meetings themselves are run.
Facilitation may be useful in negotiated rulemaking, in resolving specific conflict, in organizing coalitions, and in crafting legislative proposals. In all cases, facilitation may help the parties develop a better understanding of the others’ perspectives. This can be very useful in the long term as negotiations and implementation of agreements often continue over months and years.