I wrote this for a client today to clarify how to facilitate the "Open Discussion" space that a Proposer can request before making a proposal in Governance Meetings.
Experienced practitioners know it's a "risky" space because it can easily derail into consensus-seeking, or other behaviors attempting to bypass the governance process. So I thought I'd share this with the community.
As Facilitator, you want to facilitate Open Discussion by getting as quickly as possible to either
- a proposal, or
- the determination that no proposal can/will be made, in which case you close the agenda item and move on.
Open Discussion is not just a space to chat; it's to explore how to get to a starting proposal. This should be the focus of the discussion. So to open for discussion, you need at least an intention to propose something.
A few guidelines for how to guide participants:
For Facilitator: start by framing the open discussion.
- Before going into open discussion, ask the Proposer to share the tension, and inquire whether they have "an idea" for how to solve it. If yes, it might be enough as a proposal to start the process. If not, offer them some 'open discussion' to get help finding a starting proposal that would address the tension.
For Proposer: it's all about tuning into your tension and finding a proposal to address it
- State your tension clearly, or explain why you're unclear on it. Ground it in a couple examples if you can.
- Tell other circle members, as clearly as you can, what information you need from them to help you determine what to propose (if anything)
- Don't try to convince others of the legitimacy of your tension
For Other Circle Members: it's all about being in service of the proposer to address his/her tension
- Help the proposer clarify his/her tension if it's unclear
- Help the proposer find a starting proposal to address the tension. It doesn't have to be the "best" proposal, and you might suggest ideas to the proposer even if you disagree with them — you can still raise an Objection later.
- Don't debate the legitimacy of the tension
- Don't try to influence the Proposer into also addressing another tension (of yours) at the same time
I'm curious if anyone has anything they would add to this list, or even disagrees about any specifics?