Friday, December 17, 2010

Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner

On wish list. Consider donating for Anarchist Library.

You know how sometimes meetings are awesome and sometimes meeting suck?  Usually we blame it on the people who happened to be at the meeting, "Gee, that guy was disruptive or dominating," or "Everybody seemed scattered and disorganized."  However, it is seldom recognized that the facilitator of a meeting makes the difference between successful and sucktastic.  For those of us who lead meetings often or occasionally, this book comes to the rescue!

The Facilitators Guide to Participatory Decision Making is a highly-accessible and concise manual to running successful meetings that feel good.  As a member of numerous consensus-based collectives, I quickly saw how our meetings and decision-making could be vastly improved by reading this book.

The Facilitators Guide was passed to me by Nancy, one of the best facilitators I've ever met.  Years ago, we were attempting to create a new mission statement for a non-profit public radio station with people who could barely stand to be in the same room with each other.  There were board members who were marked by their passivity and others who usually got what they wanted through proactive Machiavellian maneuvering. 

It was an impressive group and an impressive task to bring together these divergent points-of-view to create a unified mission.  The facilitator left everyone feeling heard, acknowledged, considered, and involved, and in the end we did several days of work together that felt like a successful and productive use of our time.  Surprisingly we even felt great about working with each other.  Years later I found myself, as an amateur facilitator offering to lead another non-profit in creating a mission statement.  I called Nancy for help and she passed me this book.

As I read this book, my friends rapidly became tired of my enthusiastic interruptions. I had so many Ah-Ha! moments I could see my friends tensing up every time I gasped.  It felt like someone had passed me the hitherto unpublished operations manual on human group relations.

The book offers basic principles, such as an understanding of the dynamics of group decision-making, participatory values, and the role of a facilitator.  It talks about facilitator basics like listening, open discussions, brainstorming, managing lists, and dealing with difficult dynamics.  Finally, it offers a whole section on building sustainable agreements, covering diverse views, shared understanding, inclusive solutions, unanimity, and closure.

A brilliant book, deceptively simple, breaking down complicated human dynamics and offering tools to create sustainable and democratic decision-making. (Review by Wes)

Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by New Society Publishers

The Anarchist Library does not currently have this book.  Please feel free to purchase it from our wish list here.

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