episode 13

“Efficient Collaboration Through Convergent Facilitation” with Paul Kahawatte

Listen Now…

Listen Now…

“Win-wins are possible even in the most challenging situations”

How can we ensure everyone wins?

In this episode with Paul Kahawatte, you’ll get a small taste of the power of convergent facilitation, a process created by OWP podcast guest Miki Kashtan, and learn how to find the non-controversial essence behind what people desire. Using these tools, we can discover what people truly need and find a way to incorporate that into a solution that works for all. 

Paul explains how we can look toward something more transformational and visionary while addressing the practical steps to get there. By integrating different needs, we can create something much more powerful and creative than if we don’t.

After this conversation, Duncan was filled with hope that we can truly create a win-win future. Join us on that journey.

Watch the episode below:

Would you rather read?

This episode and much more content is available in written form


  • Duncan and Paul talk about how convergent facilitation can bring divergent voices to collaborative decisions
  • Discover the power of convergent facilitation in creating win-wins
  • Understand why we can’t get what we want without collaboration.
  • Learn why binary choices force us to compromise
  • Paul introduces the “non-controversial essence”, which helps us understand the why behind someone’s position
  • Understand the magic of incorporating everyone’s needs to create a better outcome.
  • Uncover why it’s important to realize that everyone matters, and how this can lead to better solutions.  
  • Duncan and Paul ponder why people don’t use the process more, and how that could change.
Click here to download the transcript

Duncan Autrey: Paul welcome to the Omni win project podcast. I’m really excited to talk to you about convergent facilitation today. Thanks so much for having me. So I actually recently had Miki on his guest of the podcast and who is one of the co-creators of the convergent facilitation model. I imagine she’s a mentor and teacher of yours, but I, I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about just like like your relationship to convergent facilitation, like how you got into this and and then we’ll start unpacking, like, what’s it all about?

Paul Kahawatte: Sure. So I’ve encountered nonviolent communication or NVC around maybe around 2009, something like that. And. Became really, really passionate about it and, and kind of followed that through a lot of different trainings and workshops and just trying to integrate it. And then through that was always really interested in the social and systemic change potential within NVC, but took me some time to figure out what that could look like.

And so through that, I got really interested in work with conflict and restorative and transformative justice, and worked as a mediator for a while. And I also came to know Miki and be really, really interested in her work and then learned convergent facilitation formally around 2016, and then have been using it in a lot of different contexts over the past few years alongside also working as a mediator and facilitator in a, in a variety of ways.

Yeah. So it, it is something that is a really central part of my work. And I feel like it has really profound potential for, for transformation. 

Duncan Autrey: Perfect. That’s what I’m excited to, to dig in with you about. So part of the, the promise of convergent facilitation is bringing disparate people with very different ideas that are stuck in, conflict or disagreement and finding a way for them to move forward together, which is in a way, the promise of conflict resolution or remediation and various kinds of dialogue and so forth.

It’s like a very powerful promise, right. To be able to say whatever group we have, we, we can figure it out together. When you talk about your work, like what is one of the things that you just like really wish people knew about the power of these kinds of processes and, and like what they’re able to do.


Paul Kahawatte: One of the first things that comes to mind, as you were saying that is this this quote from this woman called Mary Parker Follett that Miki often mentioned. And I feel like it’s in a way, at the core of what convergent facilitation is about, which is around there being as mary Parker Follett put it three ways of handling difference.

And she’s essentially saying that there’s win, lose, which she calls domination a kind of lose lose where no one really gets what they want, which she uses the word compromise for. But some people understand compromise differently, but essentially something where both people walk away feeling like they didn’t really get what they wanted.

And don’t really feel very good about the relationship between between the parties and then what she, she calls integration where everyone gets what they need and they feel good about what they’ve come out with. And for me, there’s something about the simplicity of how she lays this out.

That it, I really appreciate, it just feels so clear. It’s like any interaction, any decision, any conflict, any difference that we are encountering? we kind of just have these three options and there’s something about the clarity and the simplicity of it. That’s just like, well, which, which are we doing, like paying attention to, which are we doing and which do we want to do?

And I think that because of living in the, in the social context, that a lot of us live in, it’s often hard for people to imagine something that really is win-win or really does feel good to everyone, and that people can really come together around and, and genuinely support and feel positive about.

But I guess my sense of working with, with conflict and, and with decision making is that it’s, it’s really possible. And, and I have a really deep faith based in experience that it’s, that it’s possible even in the most. Challenging or impossible looking situations. And it’s, it’s sometimes it’s kind of surprising to me how, how easy it is within convergent facilitation to find some needs or some criteria that people can agree on with, or not have any opposition to very quickly, even when they’ve been in a, a very, very stuck or, or long running disagreement. So I think that it’s, it’s often hard for people to imagine, and I, I kind of wish that I could share that faith and that experience that, that backs up that faith that, that there is this, this third way that Mary Parker Follett kind of lays out.

Duncan Autrey: Wow. Thank you. So yeah, Mary Parker Follett has become like a, like a superhero of mine. For those don’t know, I’ll make sure to include some, like, information about this in the episode notes and things, but, a hundred years ago basically like mapped out, like what a better way of doing our democracy could look like, and, as a woman, like no one really paid any attention to her and just totally went under the radar and she was way ahead of her time.

So yeah, the new state is really cool book. but I think what you’re saying here is like, it’s really important is, I mean, with the name of like the Omni win project, this is part of what I’m aiming for. It’s. Okay. We have this win lose model, right? And everyone’s like, I’m this person’s gonna win the election or this person’s gonna win the argument, or we’re gonna choose pro-life or pro-choice or regulate guns, or don’t regulate guns.

We’re just like, da, da, da. And all these binary things are just really messing us up. So then people think like, oh, well, what you want me to compromise my values, compromise whatever is important to me in order to get things to work out like that isn’t attractive. And as the world is getting kind of more complex and people are more passionate, like compromise, isn’t really that much of an option either.

Right? And so if people are thinking that the only two choices are like, let me just give up whatever I want or beat the other person and win, then I see why, the first one’s compelling or whatever, and then. So the fact that like, wow, we can find a solution that actually everyone’s getting what they want or what they need.

And and I think this is part of the brilliance of bringing nonviolent communication into the dialogue process, because we’re like getting down to like, what are the underlying needs here? Right. That one of the things I love about the principle, one of the principles is not so much about what, but the why is this important?

So I want this and I want that. But then it’s like, no, actually, why do you want that? And this is so maybe this is a moment. Can you talk a little bit about finding the non-controversial essence of something like, when someone has this desire for something like finding the part that everyone can be like, oh, I, I can see why that’s important.

Yeah. Yeah. 

Paul Kahawatte: So this term, the non controversial essence, which is a kind of technical term that I don’t normally talk about it in those terms with a group that I’m working with, but the, the non controversial essence is, is really pointing to the essence of what’s important to someone what really matters to them.

The, like you said, the why behind whatever position. So if someone’s maybe got a very strong feeling about a particular policy, for example they’ve got very strong feelings around it and that might appear very fixed. And like they’re holding that position very, very strongly. I, I personally believe from, and that’s my experience is that people aren’t actually ultimately attached to that position.

They’re attached to what that position is trying to take care of. So for example a policy that could be. Ultimately about trying to take care of something around safety or security, for example, or something around choice or freedom or whatever it might be. And I, I really see in my experience that if that thing is taken care of, if people trust that it’s gonna be taken care of, then they actually very naturally become much more flexible about how it’s gonna be achieved.

So the idea of the non controversial essence is finding what is that that why that thing that really matters to someone within whatever position they’ve got and making sure that that is really held. I almost think of it a little bit. Like if, if there’s something that’s really important to me And I think that if I don’t hold it, it’s gonna fall to the floor and maybe get broken.

Then my body is going to kind of keep holding it. And if, and if I’m worried about it getting dropped or taken away from me or something, I’m gonna maybe get more and more tense around it. But if you come and fully hold that weight with me, I don’t have to, I don’t have to be as tense around it. And I don’t think people enjoy actually in general being tense around things when they have a sense that what is important to them is included in a way that they can actually trust that it really is going to be included.

Then it’s very natural for people to, to relax. And so that’s kinda talking about the essence side of it, and then the non, the non controversy side of it is if we get down to that level of what’s really important, very quickly, these things that in the first place were the positions were very controversial.

There was reason for people to have active opposition. To the, the policy suggestion or the idea that someone else was proposing once we get down to that essence level it’s very quickly not, not a threat, not a, not a concern, not controversial. And so at least, at least it’s like, well, okay, I don’t have opposition in principle to the thing that’s important to you.

As long as the thing that’s important to me is also taken care of. So that, that’s kind of what this, this term is referring to. I think people are familiar with different forms of, of, of conflict resolution or conflict. Conflict transformation will be familiar with this idea. There is some specifics of the distinctions that are made between non controversial essence and deeper layers of needs which we can get into if you, if you wanted to talk more about that, but that’s this, that’s the basic kind of power of, of the non controversial essence.


Duncan Autrey: Thank you. Yeah, cause I mean, one of the ideas of non, in nonviolent communication is that there’s, we all have needs and we all have strategies to meet those needs.

Right. And so there’s something that we want or some reason why we want something and and we think that the thing’s gonna solve it and it very well could solve it were. But someone’s like, I don’t actually like the way you’re doing this thing or getting your need met. And so and so just by helping people really get to the essence of it.

And so what I’m also hearing though, is like, there’s something in the listening that kind of helps people soften around their experience, right? As you’re talking about, like I’m holding onto the thing and I don’t want it to fall a break and I, and, and I’m not gonna let this go because this is like, know, I build my life around it and this is even oftentimes in deep conflicts, people have like, it’s like my purpose in life is to get this to happen and da, da, da.

So by reflecting back to them, like, okay, I see this important to you is this is important to you because of this reason. And then like helping them figure out what is the reason behind it. Not only is helping them like, find something that becomes like the non-controversial, but when you, as a facilitator is, are reflecting that back to them.

They’re also able to be like, oh, I’m not holding this by myself anymore. And not only is the facilitator also holding it, but everyone here also just heard that as well. Right. Actually I wondered, do you have an example of what if someone’s like, I would need this to happen and then, and then you help them understand what their, why is just to sort of give this little structure.

Paul Kahawatte: Sure. Maybe I’ll just say one thing yeah. Bit before giving an example, which is that it feels really important to me that in that moment of, for example, as a facilitator, connecting with what’s important to someone that I’m really genuinely I’m genuinely connecting with, what’s important to them in a way that it makes sense to me.

So that it’s not just, I’m gonna reflect back to you. But I there’s, it feels like I’m actually really making sense of with, with, with respect and understanding what’s important to them. And that I, I think that there’s a layer of it, which is about being heard. And like you’re saying, I think sometimes that can even be a layer of people hearing themselves in a new way.

It’s like, oh yeah, that’s, that’s, what’s important to me. When, when you really connect with a non controversial essence, the, the, the deeper, what matters to someone in whatever position they’re taking. I often see their body relax a little bit and yeah. On a sort of neuroscience level, there’s a way in which they can actually be help, helped to, or supported to make sense of what’s important to them for themselves.

But I think what’s also really important is this sense that it’s not just heard in convergent facilitation, but it’s also, so in convergent facilitation, we’re putting those non controversial licenses on a list, and there’s a kind of commitment that it’s held throughout the process. And so I think it’s not just being heard, but knowing that it almost like what they’ve put it as an ingredient into the pot is gonna stay in all the way through the process.

And it’s gonna be. Included in an, in an outcome and they’re gonna have choice and agency about whether they feel that it’s been sufficiently included. So I think that’s a really important element that I only want people to relax in a sense when it really is gonna be held and carried forward and they’re not having to hold it and carry it alone.

But I, as a facilitator am committed to holding it with them right. The way through to an outcome that genuinely works for them. 

Duncan Autrey: Yeah. So I know I asked for example, maybe we’ll come to that in just a second, so what I understand about convergent facilitation is like, is there’s kind of like these second three stage process, right?

The kind of the previous stages. Well, we had some challenging conversation that we need to have about some tricky thing and no one can figure out how to solve it and everyone’s fighting about it. Right. But basically the first layer is figuring out, what are the criteria for the outcome that we want to get to.

Right. And then and then second layers, like come up with proposals to meet that criteria. And then third one’s like deciding upon it now it’s seems like an oversimplification and it is, but I just wanna name that three part step is the essence of just about any dialogue, conflict resolution process that I know of.

Right. It’s you gotta figure out like, what’s the issue. Let’s get everyone’s voices on the floor and then when we get everyone’s voices on the floor, we also establish like, this is what we, these are, this is the things we need to make sure that whatever we do coming out of here is gonna touch on all these.

And so in your process, you’re someone that says, I want this, you’re getting reflect, finding out why they want it and figuring out a way that, that makes sense that everyone in the group can be like, okay, I can see why that’s important and they’re softening because then also you’re documenting it. And then that list of criteria then become like this guide throughout the whole journey.

Am I getting right? More or less? Yeah, 

Paul Kahawatte: yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I think, I think this is also something that happens a lot of the time in life, like for example, like a group of friends, for example, deciding where they might go on holiday or vacation together. If they either, if they keep, for example, they might make suggestions of let’s go here or let’s go there.

But if they keep saying, no, I don’t wanna go there. I don’t wanna go there. They might just be like, okay, well, what is it we’re actually looking for from this, from this trip? And someone says, well, I’d love to be in nature. Okay, cool. Let’s let’s think about somewhere. That could be in nature And someone says I want it to be relaxing.

I don’t wanna be it to be a massive effort. Cause I’ve just been really busy recently and, and I need to rest. Okay. So something that’s in nature, that’s relaxing and restful. Someone else is like, well, but I also want it to be fun, not just relaxing, but also like actually fun, like some excitement in there too.

So we, they might just build this list and then they can look at proposals that meet that, those kind of requirements or those criteria, rather than everyone just saying, well, let’s go to X, let’s go to Y let’s go to Z without even knowing what’s important to us because. It might be that we’ll just keep saying, if we haven’t had that, what do we want from this conversation first?

Then we might just keep making suggestions that don’t work for someone and it’s, and it’s just a lot slower actually. And, and, and could also lead to tension. So I think this is something that people do a lot of the time, particularly in relationships of trust. We, we look at what do we need from this thing?

And then we can start to build a proposal once we know what we need from the proposal. 

Duncan Autrey: Yeah. Thank you. It’s a great example. And in my experience, I think it’s interesting. There’s some little caveats that can happen, especially like in our like relationships around this, that one is sometimes people will like, self-edit like, they’ll anticipate what they think someone else’s needs are.

Right. And also sometimes people don’t really know why they wanna do something. And so making it explicit of like, why do you actually wanna do this? Or what is really important about this for you is interesting because it could surfaces more than you might expect. Right. Cause sometimes it’s like, well, I was proposing this because you said like six months ago that you wanted to do this thing.

And it’s like, okay, well, what is it that you wanted to do? And maybe it’s just codependency or whatever, but there’s all these different layers that we could kind of get mixed around here. So. Yeah. I think that in a certain way, that covers our example a little bit.

So we’ll like just right. Like I wanna do this thing and then like, okay, why do you wanna do it? It’s because of this and this and this, and, and helping the people figure that out could be like really powerful. 

Paul Kahawatte: Would it, would it be helpful for me to give an example of how these kind of positions that appear polarized or mutually exclusive basically can be, you can find a non controversial essence that, that opens up the possibility of something that works for everyone.

Duncan Autrey: Yeah. I think that would be really great. I that thank you. 

Paul Kahawatte: So one that comes to mind I was working with an organization and there was a tension around particular decision that was being made around something in the kind of area of do we do something that’s kind of more radical that’s about really deeply transforming like the whole system or this kind of thing versus a position which was more about, well, let’s be realistic and let’s make maybe some smaller changes or try and make change within certain parameters that are more.

Normal. So I think this is a, this is a question that comes up a lot with around people who are wanting to, to change things or, on, on one level, it’s kind of like this reform versus revolution kind of debate that goes, that goes on and can get very, very heated. So just, at, at, at that level, it can, it can get really polarized people are like no way, no way an attention can be rising in that.

So getting down to what, what could be a non controversial license behind the more radical transformation position perhaps could be something like we want our, our way forward to get down to the level that is necessary for transformation to happen or something like this. So it’s kind of about getting down sufficiently to the roots, to be able to actually bring about change.

So we might have different assessments of what that level is, but I don’t think anyone from the more the sort of the less radical position would generally have active opposition in principle to the idea of getting down to a level that actually makes transformation possible is it’s. Because if we don’t get down to the level that makes transformation possible, then we’re not gonna have the, the change.

But then on the, on the other side, it might be something about being able to, for example, mobilize sufficient numbers and power to accomplish what we’re trying to achieve. So there’s something about if we are too, if we’re too kind of radical and we don’t bring people with us, then we’re also not gonna achieve the change that we are trying to achieve.

So at that level, A non controversial essence of, of both positions getting down to a deep enough level and mobilizing enough enough people or enough power to actually create the change that might be non controversial. It might even be shared as those two principles. And then with that move to that more non controversial position, also a lot of, a lot of flexibility opens up.

So then the question becomes, rather than do we do X or do we do Y that gets stuck in this kind of either, or we we’re coming into a question of, well, what could we do that attends to both of these non controversial lessons, both of these criteria?

Duncan Autrey: What I like about this. there’s kind of this lateral move that’s happening that is different than what anyone thought that they were gonna be talking about. Right. And, and I, so like there’s, as you, this classic tensions, interdependent polarity of like, do we do things a new way or we do things the old way and, and our, or how quickly do we change or how much do we think about it before we act and all, that those, that tension is there.

Right. And so what I like about this is that it’s like, we could talk about the pros and cons of either one and you get a lot of information out of that. Like polarity thinking, it’s like this cool model we could figure out, we could map it all out and find out what’s going on. But the, but the idea that like, well, I’m actually worried that we’re gonna.

Like, if we move too fast, we’re gonna lose people. Or if we don’t move fast enough, if we don’t make it exciting enough, people won’t engage, whatever. And everyone sudden everyone’s like, yeah, well we need people to be involved. Oh yeah. Everyone agrees on that. And so like, that’s actually, you totally just jumped into a new box and could reminds me in some of the literature, I was like reading the primer on convergent, facilitation and Miki has on our website.

And there’s this example of that perennial conflict about air conditioning or window open or window closed and heater on and I have a friend who keeps on bugging me about this because she’s like, this is impossible conflict. And I’m like, well, we figure out what people’s underlying needs are.

And I’m like, actually can’t get there that way. Right. And in the primer with the example, the solution was is once we’re committed to figuring out what’s good for all of us, then you can go to the place of, well, let’s choose one for, and then we’ll do it for 10 minutes. And then if you’re too cold or too hot or two bothered by the air or whatever, then change it.

And we’ll do that for 10 minutes. And in a way it’s like, that’s like totally outside the box. Right. Because we’re like, we’re kind of meeting everyone’s needs, but it doesn’t look like the question that we started with. Right. Or where everyone thinks that they we’re trying to find like the fixed once and for all solution or something.

So by getting people in your example, like to start focusing on figuring out, okay, there’s a criteria here is we wanna make sure that this is engaging for people and that enough people wanna be involved, whatever that looks like now, you’re really just like, look, you’re totally thinking outside the box now.

Like I just really appreciate that example. 

Paul Kahawatte: Yeah. I just, I just pick up on that. I’d say that it, it feels to me like very often what can come out of this is a very creative solution that is actually it’s much stronger because it integrates these different things. Like it one way that I think of conflict processes and, and convergent, facilitation kind of decision making processes, it’s almost.

A an ecosystem is talking with itself in the process. It’s, it’s allowing different bits of information that are held over here or over here to, to come together. And that actually allows both a, kind of an evolution of a creative solution to come out that integrates much more and, and also brings together the collective power of everyone working together to be able to bring it about.

So it feels to me almost like by doing these processes, we’re allowing something that has the potential to be there, to kind of be unleashed a, a much wiser, more creative solution and better relationships between people and a type of collaboration to make it happen. That just, just wouldn’t be possible without that.

And maybe, maybe one thing more that I could add onto that. So just an example that comes to mind for me is say for example, there was a converge facilitation process around changing practices in, in farming, for example. So people working in a more kind of conventional large scale farming agricultural industry way and people who are coming from a more kind of environmentalist perspective, they might have really, really different positions when they come into the room.

But a couple of non controversial lessons that could come out of that might be something like Caring for the, the health of ecosystems, which is not, I don’t think that anyone in the agricultural industry has a fundamental opposition to that in principle people aren’t there to, they don’t want to destroy ecosystems, but there are certain reasons why some of the things they’re doing might, might have that effect maybe massively, but that’s not what they’re fundamentally committed to.

And, but something that might come out from the someone who’s who’s from the, the more conventional farming practices position might be the non controversial essence that might come out their position. Is that any transition be realistically economically viable for, for farmers, which again, I don’t think someone from an, a more environmentalist perspective would have any opposition in principle to that.

And then by bringing those two together, it’s almost like we are. Stretching towards something more visionary or something more transformational, but at the same time, really looking at what are the practical steps that could take us there. So it’s almost like by bringing together these different positions we’re getting both pulled in a more radical direction and also in a more practical direction, which is for me as an example of how something much more powerful and much more creative can evolve out of integration than, than if we don’t integrate these different underlying needs.

Duncan Autrey: That’s a really good example. Thank you. One of the things that sort of the, the values or principles of, of convergent facilitation is the idea that everyone matters. And so, with just the G of the farming example, right? Like the, the farmers, and then the people wanting to change the farming process and make it more be eco-friendly. In a lot of our conflicts, it’s, there’s, people don’t necessarily care about the other people initially. Right. So they’re coming in and, and it’s like, cuz they really wanna get their outcome.

And and they are maybe see each other’s enemies, and whatnot. And can you talk a little bit about like getting to the, to the place where people start finding that commitment to the whole, right. Like, oh, wow. I really okay. I, starting to see that I actually can really, I can only get my transitions in the farming industry to happen if farmers are engaged with it.

Right. Like I actually, these are the people that are gonna be the ones that implemented and they’re the ones that are gonna be impacted by it. And you, so how do you get, what are some of the ways you get people to care? And, and I know that part of the answer is by, finding these non controversial essences by listening to them, giving them a chance to, sharing the holding of whatever’s important to them.

But I wonder if you could just like talk a little bit more about like, getting people to realize like, wow, I need to actually. Solve this with these people. 

Paul Kahawatte: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s a really important question. So I think that one, one thing that is a really helpful kind of precondition is when people really recognize that even like, even if I really dislike you or even hate you or totally disagree with your position, if I recognize that it’s not really going to be possible for me to get what I want without some form of collaboration with you.

When I recognize that we, we have a shared problem, or we have a, a risk that we share, or a, or a possibility that we share in some sense, recognizing that in a sense we are in community, the community of a problem, or a, or a possibility or a, a risk that we share. There’s some way in which, and I think that’s, that’s often really helpful in, in something like convergence facilitation is if people really feel the significance of the possibility of finding something that we can both support and they maybe feel the significance of the possibility of not finding something that they’re really connected to they’re being something at stake.

So that’s, I think that’s, that’s one thing that Miki often talks about this principle that people are much more likely to agree on a, on a shared problem that really affects them or, or things that they care about than if we’re just gonna have an ideological discussion or something like that. It’s actually possible for people who they can maintain different ideological or philosophical or political positions.

They can, it doesn’t actually require people to necessarily change them in order to come up with something that they can. Collaborate on and, and genuinely support. So that’s, that’s one strand. I also think that a really important part of it is I, I, I kind of see what convergent facilitation does is shifting from a competitive game to a collaborative game from a zero sum to a positive sum game.

So in a competitive game where it’s me versus you and everything that I lose means you win everything you win means I lose. There’s a, it makes sense. There’s a logic to me, fighting with you to try to get as much as I can for me, because it’s me versus you. But in convergent, facilitation, by building this shared list of criteria that we are looking at, how can we work together to meet all of these criteria sufficiently that everyone can genuinely say yes to what we come up with at the end?

We’ve actually just switched the game from me versus you there’s no incentive for me to win over you if I can win with you. Yeah. I have this little phrase in my head, like win, win. There’s nothing to lose. Like there isn’t, there really isn’t anything to lose if I’m getting what I want out of a solution.

And I think that sometimes people can enter a process with quite a lot of kind of adversarial orientation towards, towards each other or low trust or like, okay, I’m gonna try this out. I dunno if it’s gonna give me what I want, but I’m gonna try it. And through the process of entering a collaborative game, coming out of a competitive game into a collaborative game, it’s, it’s no longer incentivized to fight with you.

So I. We actually can just start talking, for example, in the break, we’ve just come up with a list of principles and I actually feel good about those principles. And in fact, even maybe the principles that came out of what you were saying, I actually shared them and agree with them. Like, yeah, I want this to be economically viable for, for farmers.

Like that’s, I don’t want them to, go out of business or not have enough money to feed their families or whatever. It’s possible that we can then start to, to develop connection through the process and something that I’ve really enjoyed seeing a couple of times is when we get into that second phase where we’ve got a shared list of criteria, and maybe you have a couple of different working groups trying to come up.

A proposal. They might even get competitive about who can come up with the best collaborative proposal. Like we really want in our group to come up with a thing that’s gonna meet all the needs so well. And then there’s this human creativity and energy that’s going into finding something that works for everyone to the point where people are quite attached to their different proposals, but their collaborative proposals.

And I find that a really beautiful moment. It’s like, oh wow. It, it’s almost like we’re creating conditions where humans can get to drop all of that fighting that we maybe don’t even want to do in the first place. And we can get to collaborate, which is a lot more enjoyable and, and fun. I think there’s a lot to say around power dynamics and, and if, yeah, if there are people coming into the room, who’ve got very different levels of power.

It may be important. It may be that that can be addressed just through entering a collaborative game. So even if you’ve got a lot more power than me, If you are getting what you want from a solution, you probably don’t have opposition to me getting what I want, but there might be situations where in order to even enter the, the room in the first place into, in order to be able to enter dialogue, we may need to do something that addresses the imbalances of power in, in, in some situations that may be for example, form a strand of nonviolence being to create the conditions for dialogue when someone is not willing to dialogue.

So there’s a lot more to say around, around that. And I think that there are these different strands into how we get to a place where people are at least open to the possibility of something that meets other people’s needs. But at some point I think people can start to actually get committed to each other’s needs, where they were like in the first place, when they entered the room, perhaps they were only committed to their own.

They can get to a place where. I’m committed to my needs and your needs and vice versa. And there’s a, a key principle that Miki talks about is the more that we trust that our needs matter, the more willing we are to, to stretch and to yeah. Seek something that works for the other person as well. But also the less that we trust that our needs matter, the less likely we are to, to reach towards the 

Duncan Autrey: others.

God. So rich, thank you. Yeah, cause what I’m imagining is like this, this moment of like, okay, so we’ve come up with, everyone’s spoken, we have a list of criteria and these are all the things that are important to being and this is a little bit of how that power gets dressed.

Like, is there anyone else, is there anything missing here? Right. Like anything that we don’t have on the list Notice that you haven’t said anything yet today, what’s going on. And various ways of is this covering it? Cause, but then once that list is there, everyone’s like, hold on, we’re gonna spend the rest of our time trying to figure out how to make this list work.

Like, oh, that sounds kind of cool. Right. I mean, like, I imagine that there’s like that magic of like people being like, oh, wow. Yeah, like, and that’s, I love the, the competition between the, the groups that are trying to yeah. Like picture yeah. The, the farmers and the environmentalists, like this group of farmers, environmentalists are trying to find the more collaborative solution than this group of farmers and Yeah, actually your piece about getting the power balance, is, is interesting. I tend to think about this, like graph that like John Paul Lederach has in one of his books and it starts with if the power’s imbalanced, you can’t actually start negotiating as if there’s like a massive power imbalance.

Right. And cuz if someone’s like, I don’t actually need to talk to you or I don’t actually have to listen to you. So this is where like, non-violent protests or whatever is like use full to like get the power balance. Cause it’s like, now I have your attention and, and this is why like true non-violent protest is so important because it’s, it’s loving of the enemy.

Right. Because. If people are just in protest, cuz they’re just pissed off about something, then they don’t realize that once they have the attention, they have to go collaborate with that person to find the solution. Right. If, if you just framed them as your enemy the whole time along, it’s harder to get that jump to, oh wait, I’m gonna have to work with you to sort this out, and that kinda makes me think about just like, as you’re setting this up, I, I, in comparison to like different processes one of the earliest dialogue models that I learned was reflective, structured dialogue, which is from the public conversations project, which are now called essential partners.

And and they put a ton of emphasis on the preparations, right? So they’re like interviews with everyone and just like making sure that you figured out, like, what are the different issues? And and. And I also have been thinking about if people who are doing kind of like citizen assembly, deliberative processes and so forth, oftentimes they’ll prepare like a whole information sheet, to be like, these are all the different perspectives and they’ll frame it.

Like, this is why these people want this, and this is why these people want this. And and so that first process is really focused on like, figuring out like the greatest question that’s gonna really get everyone to engage. And this other process is about framing, the full complexity of it. And other projects or, yeah.

So I’m curious, like, what is that preparation look like? Like how what’s your, how much pre-work is happening before you’re bringing everyone together in this model that you are using. Hmm. 

Paul Kahawatte: I think it, in my experience, it really, really depends on the, on the context. So for example, sometimes I might be using, sometimes I might use some of the principles of convergent facilitation in a a meeting within an organization where there’s maybe quite high level of trust.

there’s just maybe one particular problem that they couldn’t really figure out. And maybe even without saying it, I’ll just suggest as I’m facilitating. Okay. Let’s I think I’m hearing this is important to you. I think I’m hearing this is important to you and I’m just building a very short list of maybe four or five criteria and say, okay, what could we do that would address all of these well enough?

That’s kind of like a tiny version of convergent facilitation. Or, or, or at least elements of it in other situations, it might be that there are massive imbalances of power. Not only in terms of the, the kind of power over an outcome in terms of, for example, a large institution and a group of activists who don’t have the same structural power as the institution does, for example.

But there might be also other forms of all kinds of other forms of power imbalance that might need to be addressed in some situations I’d want to meet with everyone. Who’s gonna be in the process one to one for a whole chunk of time beforehand. In other situations, I might just invite them to, to just answer a couple of questions in writing to me about what’s important to them or any kind of combination of those things.

And I think an important sort of spectrum that convergent facilitation can find different places on is, is around. What’s the level of relational tension between people like what’s the level of actual anger or mistrust towards each other. Cuz sometimes people have very, very different perspectives on what they want to happen, but there isn’t a lot of.

Tension between the people. It’s more in relation to the decision in other situations, there might be a lot of that. And so in some situations I’ve, I’ve been involved in, there’s a, there’s a process of mediation that happens before we go into convergent facilitation, where people need to hear each other and work through that relational side.

First in some situations, there’s a little bit of that, and it’s not like I need to do a whole other process first, but when we’re in the room, maybe I need to do be a lot more careful to really hear people take a lot more breaks, to be able to check in with people one to one, all these sorts of things.

So I think there’s a massive spectrum of what might be needed in different situations. And I think, yeah, the power, the different elements of power is, is one really important part of that. But yeah, it’s also about the relationships. It’s also about the. How polarized it’s been lots of different factors, I guess 

Duncan Autrey: so continuing on this thing about how we’re framing the topic one of the issues that I’ve heard. And this kind of been a discussion through different podcasts so far is how much, like some people will bring people together and they’re gonna be like, here’s like a whole information packet of like all the different perspectives and stuff like that.

And, and I’m, and then I’ve heard a critique of having doing that because it’s priming everyone to think about how the conversation is already going, as opposed to allowing that kind of creative generative space to kind of go wherever it, it takes. Right. So if I’m taking issue and it’s like, well, here’s all the reasons why we need to fix it.

The farming industry to make it more equal for like, here’s all the reasons why we shouldn’t change it, whatever, you know? So when you’re bringing people together, is it really just like, here’s a topic that we’re gonna be talking about and, and I guess does is the implication for this process that they all need to be stakeholders and more or less be familiar with whatever the issue is.

Paul Kahawatte: So I think this that’s a really important question that I’ve been just engaging with quite a bit recently part, yeah. Through a couple of processes, one that I was facilitating and one that I was supporting someone else to facilitate where the, the people in the room in, in one situation, it was a, like a citizen’s jury, similar to a citizen assembly.

And in that situation, the people in the room were in the room through a process of tion. So they weren’t necessarily stakeholders in the sense. That some people involved in that situation would be stakeholders. So they didn’t necessarily have a really deep familiarity with the particular different strands of the issue.

I think this again, can, can depend on context, but my sense is that in general, it’s helpful to start with building the list of criteria that are important to people, to some extent first, before bringing kind of information inputs and to really focus those information inputs on things like understanding the problem more or understanding possible solution areas.

Or particular kind of dilemmas or something like this. So rather than bringing in information that would, in a sense kind of entrench or polarize, or be making again kind of competitive arguments like this makes more sense, or this makes more sense, trying to, once we’ve started to come together to look at what can we do to address this problem in a way that addresses all the needs, then feeding information into that process in a way that’s not about making a case for this or that, but highlighting opportunities or possibilities for a solution highlighting impacts or problems or challenges, these sorts of things so that the, they can kind of join together with the criteria.

And it might be that from that input, you. Come up with, with new criteria and that’s that’s, that was part of the process that I was recently doing. I think also that something that had a, as a reflection on the process that I was recently doing is I wonder if in some deliberative processes, there is a, a bit of a kind of inheritance from the idea that the way that we can get to good decisions is by getting all the information and maybe having a kind of logical or rational debate or something like this.

And I think the information is a really important strand and it might be that the, the stakeholders bring all that information already with them into the room, but it might be that there’s information that they could benefit from. That’s not that they’re not bringing into the room, things they don’t already know about.

But the, the problem is not only addressed on the level of information, because I think that’s missing a, a big layer, a really important layer of why it’s even a problem in the first place. An example of, of, of a kind of principle that’s really key in convergenter facilitation is this idea that we are trying to create the conditions where there’s been a polarized issue, where we are moving from kind of fighting against each other, to sitting or standing together in a shared dilemma.

Like, okay, how can we address X and Y rather than I want X, I want Y and, and fighting against each other. So once we’ve got to that place of looking at, okay, what could we do that would address X and Y that would address this criteria and this criteria. Then Miki calls it an engineering problem. It’s kind of like, then we’ve got a practical problem that we are looking to solve, but we’re looking to solve it together.

At that point, getting in inputs of information, perspectives, people with different experiences or expertise can be really helpful to answering the question of how could we come up with a creative solution that could work for everyone. But if we try and jump to that, we’re actually probably still having a kind of either or win, lose argument through information.

Whereas if we get down to what’s important to everyone build that shared list of what’s important to everyone, then we can look at the practicalities in a kind of forward moving let’s solve this together kind of 

Duncan Autrey: way. That’s so perfect. Thank you. This is, you really got right to the, the essence of what I, what I was trying to ask here.

And, and part of what I’m hearing then is like this convergent facilitation model, it can be really adaptable. So we can either have like a bunch of people that are in the topic and they’re done it into it, and they’ve been digging into it for their whole lifetime or years. And, and it also can be applied to a group of people that are being brought together to talk about an issue that they haven’t necessarily all thought about that much before.

And, but really the key thing is to, is to understand like what’s at the heart of it for folks kind of really making sure that that’s addressed. And one of the ways to do that is to make sure you talk about that first and then maybe, and then talk about it again and keep on checking on that. And that makes a lot of sense to me.

I like to say that it’s like conflict is always this opportunity because it gives you a line like straight into someone’s heart. If I have feelings about something that means that you’re touching on something that’s important to me. And that’s like, what you were saying and if I think that you’re gonna hurt it, then like, like stay away, I’ll kill you, like, and, but if you’re like, oh, actually let me hold that for you. Like, let me actually understand why this is important to you and there’s mutual care and support for that thing. Then it’s like, oh, we’re about to get real intimate cause I’m gonna tell you about something that’s really important to me and why and all that.

so this was that other branch of the conversation. So gimme a sense of the range of applications either that you’ve heard about for this or whatever. Cause I know that, okay. So we can use this tool to help us figure out where we’re gonna go on vacation with our friends. We can figure out how to rearrange the office furniture, I think is an example I was reading about, right.

Just today I was listening to apparently like a Colorado river is not making as much water as it’s been doing for a long time and all these Southwestern United States that use that water for basically everything. The government gave ’em two months to come up with a solution on how they were gonna conserve their water and reduce their water use by like seven to 20% in certain cases.

They didn’t come up with an agreement. So we can imagine they all just fought or whatever, who knows what? and so I’m wondering like, Ooh, could we apply this to that kind of process? And then, and then kind of going to this, like citizen assembly level, could this process work to get like a group of people to talk about like gun policy in the United States or immigration policy in England, like some sort of massive topic where you have that, given that sortation or representative sample, like, do you see this process being applicable in all the range of topics? 

Paul Kahawatte: Yeah, absolutely. I think yeah, really from, I I’ve even supported someone making a major sort of life decision. As an individual to, to use convergent facilitation for a kind of internal decision making process to get clear on what different, different parts, O of, of us as an individual are wanting, that might lead me to want to do X or want to do Y so from that level, all the way through using it very informally in a, in a yeah, in, just in a family or in a group of friends or in a household using it in quite a routine way, in certain decisions within an organization or something like that all the way through to these much larger public policy situations in including and, and convergenter facilitation is, is I feel like it’s it’s has a particular relevance and power in these highly polarized situations in a sense I’ve seen it work.

Most smoothly when people feel really strongly about something. And it’s, and it’s really polarized. There’s a way in which you actually, sometimes I, I, I have a bit of a working theory that you come up with a, with a shorter list of criteria. Sometimes when people feel really strongly about an issue, they feel really affected by it.

And they’re really committed to a solution that works for themselves. There’s a way in which you actually get a shorter list of criteria. Cuz people say like, well, this is what I’m, as long as, as long as my community is safe, I don’t mind, that’s, that’s my one, that’s my one thing I’m bringing to this.

I want this community to be safe or as long as, there’s, there’s freedom of choice around whatever, whatever it might be. I don’t, I don’t mind what else goes in the pot as long as that’s in the pot and it’s still it’s, it’s looked after, by what we, the, the meal that we, that we, that we cook up together, then I’m fine.

So I feel like it can be applied to. So, yes, so many different contexts. One other one that I want to bring in for me is around not only coming up with specific decisions around a particular area of policy or particular decision that needs to be made, but also I think it can be used at the level of systems change as well.

So a really important part of, of, of how I see or how, how I feel hope in relation to systems change is the possibility of us creating. Very very different social systems based on very different paradigms that are based on, for example, collaboration rather than competition economic systems that are based on collaboration or with decision making systems or justice systems that are based on collaboration rather than competition that are based on shared power rather than imposition and domination, et cetera.

And I think that something like convergent facilitation can be used in the process of developing systems, because in a sense, shifting our social systems is in itself a choice, a decision, a, an agreement that we are changing an agreement. And so it’s a way of integrating different concerns and perspectives and, and needs.

Into designing new social systems. So I use it as, at a much smaller scale level at the moment, for example, working within a, an organization where we are, we we’re developing a conflict system and we are hearing different, different things that people are saying. Maybe someone says oh, I hate it. When people talk behind my back, there’s a way that from that we can take some sort of principle or criterion.

So it, it sounds like it’s important to you that we create space for people to be able to speak honestly, and directly, and for us to be able to know what’s going on with our colleagues. Yeah. Okay. That’s a, that’s a, almost like a design criterion for designing the conflict system this person would like to, to move towards.

So that’s a, that’s a small scale example, but I think this can also be done. at a much larger scale. That’s something I’m really interested in is we can use some of these principles to co-design social systems that would work for everyone. So in a sense, it’s kind of like a collaborative decision making process to create a new social systems that are based that are, that are based on collaboration.

So it’s kind of, again, going back to nonviolence it’s, it’s integrating means and ends collab collaboration in the process of creating the social systems that we want, which are in themselves collaborative. This is, this is very much also related to the work of Dominic barter. He’s a, he’s a main influence for me in my way of understanding systems and the process of developing or building systems that’s done through dialogue in order to create conditions for dialogue ongoingly.

Duncan Autrey: I actually went to a Dominic barter workshop, like almost 15 years ago. I’m totally psyched to hear whatever you was going on there, but we’re going look to this show now. So be some information there for folks that are listening, but so I read now, I just wanted to reflect something that I find to be really exciting.

So I think not only can we use this for just like super big issues, but we could even use this kind of tool to talk about how we want to talk about these issues. I’m just imagining like, wow, here in Oakland there’s like a question about how much funding is going to the police and how do we, what are the police in charge of?

And it’s kind of a big topic and, and so we could use this process to like, get all the different people who were, wanna talk about it. To talk about it. But people are also really angry. Like, wait a minute, I didn’t get even consulted. I didn’t do this. No one told me about this. I didn’t get enough information that I wasn’t included, whatever these issues.

So we could also use this kind of convergent facilitation process to be like, how do we wanna talk about this issue? Or how do we wanna make big long-term decisions in the city of Oakland, for example. Right. So I think we’re gonna get down to, this is the question just deep is the closest to my heart right now.

Why are we not using this all the time? And I’m curious to hear your theory about that. Like what do we need to do to get this into the mainstream? Is it that people don’t know or is it that people don’t believe in it or they’ve never heard of it? Or like what are your obstacles like as are people doing convergent facilitation, but what is going on in our society?

Why are we not doing this more often? Do you have a theory? yeah. Yeah, 

Paul Kahawatte: I guess I feel like that’s, that’s a whole, a whole, very long conversation in itself, but I guess I could just say a few, a few thoughts that come to mind. So I, going back to something we were talking about earlier, I think that not only have people not heard of the specific processes, whether that’s convergent facilitation or dynamic facilitation or these, these processes, but I think that people often have most of their life experience around charge and difficult topics is of some sort of win, lose, or lose, lose kind of.

And, and if, if you haven’t. Experienced it it’s, it makes sense to me, if people would doubt it’s doubt the possibility, I’m just having a conversation with someone just the other day. And, and they were like, yeah, but do you think you could do that with this issue? And for me it’s like, oh yeah, of course, this is what, this is what this thing is called.

But of course, if you haven’t experienced it, then, then it makes total sense to me that people would have doubts around that. So I think that there’s, that’s a, a huge strand and that when, and because people have so little experience of it that sometimes if you talk about win, win, I think people sometimes even hear that as you’re suggesting that they lose kind of thing.

Which, again, it makes sense to me, but it’s, it’s, if, if I talk about collaboration, some people will probably be like, oh no, that means I’m not gonna get what I want, or it’s gonna take forever or both, or. Whatever it is. So I think that that’s one strand. I think that for me, there’s a whole question around what, what I could call strategy and theory of change around what do we do with these processes?

So, and I think that, that, again, the question of power comes into that because it might be that we would need to have a really powerful social movement in order to create the conditions where we can be using a process like convergent, facilitation to address some of the major issues and crises that we are facing.

Or it could be done through a process of creating new systems without necessarily needing to. Interact directly with the old ones or, or the current, the dominant ones and the idea of creating social systems that work so well that people move towards them because they work well because they meet needs.

But I think that that’s a whole, in a sense, just to have the process on its own, there isn’t necessarily a theory of change or a strategy for how to bring out the, the full potential or power of that. And so I think that there’s a, as a whole nother strand, I also think it’s important to acknowledge within that, that there are people groups, social forces that

for, for different reasons might be opposed to trying to shift things around. If we’re trying to shift social systems, some people who currently in certain ways. Benefit or feel like they’re benefiting from our current social systems may well have a lot of resistance to that. So I think that really needs to be factored in as well.

And, and, and to really think about if we’re going to bring these things into a more mainstream space, how do we do that in a way that doesn’t lose their transformative or radical potential? Because I think for me, like I was saying earlier, I think that convergence citation, like other sort of transformative conflict processes can have the function of organizing connective power to shift the systemic conditions that we are in, that are bringing us into conflict in the first place.

And that is something that. Can easily get diluted or even removed from these things. So I think that’s also a really challenging question. I, I, I have a lot of hope and faith that it is possible, and I’m super excited about the experiments in this area. And I, and I have a sense that one thing is just starting to have enough examples, even if they’re quite small scale of where this thing happened.

I, I remember watching this documentary about climbers in Yosemite and something that was, was thought completely impossible was then became possible, but it was possible only with a huge amount of infrastructure to, to, to climb a particular rock face. It was thought impossible. And then someone did it and it was like, oh, it’s possible.

But it was a, it was a huge amount of effort and logistical and took, took ages to do. And then. Like decade by decade, people pushed that edge further and further to the point that someone was free, siloing it like climbing without ropes in a matter of hours. And I feel like I, I see that process happening.

I remember I was a couple of winters ago. I was with some friends and we were jumping, jumping from, we made these big structures out of snow and we were jumping between them and things that, that first looked impossible. Someone would try it and then they’d managed to do it. And it was like, oh, is it possible?

Or it’s possible. And literally within about two minutes, all of us with very different kind of abilities to jump around and stuff. Some of us were like, 12 years old, some of us were like 50 years old. Everyone was doing this thing that had been on the edge of, I don’t think we can. This is possible.

So I have a sense that there is something. Significant. I don’t think it’s enough, but there’s something significant in just creating a few robust examples of integration being possible on a really polarized issue that somehow just changes the, the boundaries of what we think is possible. And from there, I feel like there’s a, there’s something that can come next in terms of the growth of that thing.

I think that in some ways, a lot of us, maybe all of us even are actually deep in our hearts, longing for the belief that it’s possible to live in a world that works for all. And a lot of us that aren’t saying we are up with, we are standing for that. It is because we don’t believe it’s possible. So if it’s not possible, then yeah, I want to win.

If, if someone’s gonna lose, I don’t want it to be me, but if we can all win, then I think that. Most of us. There’s a lot of trauma. There’s a lot of really, really difficult stuff. Clearly like, so much of that, but I, I really believe that most human beings are not fundamentally committed to being horrible to each other.

If we can create conditions for them to do something where they can meet their own needs and meet each others. I, I think that that is more attractive to most people, if they actually have a real felt sense of it being, being real and not just a kind of, again, not just a, a compromise where they’re actually not getting what they need from a solution, but they’re getting what they need both in terms of the needs that they walked into the room with.

But they’re also meet getting a lot of other needs met in terms. The experience of collaboration, the experience of community, the experience of connection, the experience of being able to work together, that I think is often one of the things that people love doing the best, no matter what their political position, when people identify someone being on their team, they like to help each other.

A lot of the time. I, I think there’s there’s lot of situations that, there’s a lot of situations where you could say that’s not the case. And I think it’s really complicated, but I also have a lot of faith that for me, feels like it’s, it’s backed up by my experience.

Duncan Autrey: Wow. I okay. So thank you. I love that your answer so much. And this is gonna be the future conversation. So yeah, as I was saying, the season one, I’m like getting all the different, cool perspectives. Next layer is to actually start getting into the conversations, start getting into the conversations of like, how do we actually do this?

And and But, so I’m gonna lift out a couple of the things that you said there that I think are really interesting and just like stuff it brought up for me. I love the story of the jumping in the snow. Right. And like that thing, I, I actually was in an Ecuador and we, me and this group of friends, like when, and we, like, we heard about this really amazing rope swing and we, we went there and there, there were like closed, but like, yeah, just go ahead and go up on it.

And we finally go, we drive hours to get here and we get there and it’s like a hundred foot rope with like a disc of wood and like a 300 foot drop below it, and it was like super scary. And we’re like, oh, no way, we can’t do this. know? And then, and then I was like, you know what, I don’t really feel comfortable like coming all this way and telling the story about like, oh, I didn’t really feel safe doing it.

NA NA and so we like kind of figured out what would make us feel secure in doing it. And then I go and do it. And I was like, whoa, that was so fun. And then like, I did it again. And, and then one other person was like, I’m willing to try this, and, and so. That there can be a cascading effect, right.

That if we can show people like, wow, this is possible and it gets into their consciousness and that gives someone, like someone else, the courage to try it and then someone else to, and then, and then eventually we’re like, oh wow, this is totally possible. And we can do this. And actually makes me think about like how change happens.

There’s like a, it’s like one of the shortest little Ted talks and there’s like this guy in a field and he’s dancing. Right. So it’s like a concert and there’s like, everyone’s sitting on the Yolan. Have you seen this before? Yeah. Few years ago. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And there’s like, everyone’s sitting around watching the concert and there’s one dude just wilding out.

Right. And then someone else like comes like running across and joins that person who’s wilding out. And then there’s two people wilding out dancing. And then within 15. Seconds. There’s 50, a hundred. Everyone is doing it. Right. And so part of the, the point that the did the person who did that was not necessarily the first person who has the idea that makes the difference, but it’s the person who makes, who validates that idea.

It’s the second person, that’s really the courageous one that is saying like, I’m gonna go and do this. And that makes it accessible to everyone else. And so anyways, just that, that cascading effect, I think is really interesting. And and so like how do we demonstrate this, get it into people’s consciousness enough that someone else might be willing to give it a try.

And there’s some like some clever ideas that, that like have come up in different conversations so far. So we will definitely gonna follow up and talk about that some more. And, I’m also touched by like this idea that it’s like that power imbalance. Right. And then there’s like various layers there. Like, I mean, people, it might be easy to say, well, people in power don’t want us to do this kind of thing. And that might be true. It will probably be uncomfortable for people in power to be like, wait, I’m not gonna be the one who comes up the policy all by myself.

Like, we’re gonna, like, I’m gonna hand it over to a bunch of citizens and, whatever. And but it seems like the real power imbalance is just like, as like around attention and awareness, right. That that’s like that like the people who are like dominating the, the attention tools, TV, and internet and all that.

they’re just like totally stuck in the system and just like playing, playing, playing it out. And so this kind of lateral thinking is like of hard to like that something else could be possible. And which touches on something that’s just been like like, I don’t know, just something I’ve been thinking about.

I was actually like doing like little like Google trends, research and stuff. And I was just finding like, there’s so few people that are Googling, like deliberative dialogue or anything like this right. Conflict resolution. And almost no one is asking how do we fix our democracy?

Right. And it’s like, how is that possible? Cause everyone’s pissed off about the way it’s going right now. It’s broken and everyone agrees. It’s broken, but almost no one is being like. Hmm. I wonder if there’s a better way to do this. And and there’s just like, yeah, just like that inertia of like, well, we’ve been living in this for so long and, and, and, and I get pushback, some of these ideas, like it’s like very specifically, like my dad listened to my first absolute podcast and, and his response was well, that people are in this country are like selfish and not that smart and, whatever.

And it’s like, well, hold on. It’s never gonna work. And it’s almost like people really kind of want that despair. Right? They kind of just like wanna hold onto, it’s all a mess. There’s nothing we can do about it. These people are gonna mess it up or those people are gonna mess it up and, and it’s their fault.

And, it’s interesting why that doesn’t get people to say, huh, I wonder if anyone’s found this out. And then they like do some research and they find convergent facilitation or dynamic. Yeah. Like I find all these great tools. So anyways, that’s what we’re gonna try to do is get everyone to know more about this.

Paul Kahawatte: I just wanted to pick up on that just just quickly. I think it seems to me like people in some situations have made some kind of a decision or choice, maybe not, not fully consciously to, to not hope or to not believe in these things, because I think it can be really painful to, to, to walk around in the world or to move around in the.

Thinking that these things are possible. So I, I, I’m not not saying that specifically with your dad or anyone in particular, but I, I think that there is a way that people might for very good reason, that makes a lot of sense to me be protecting themselves from the risks of having some hope or belief or faith in these possibilities.

And so I think that that’s one way in which leading with really robust examples can be a way that’s almost like people are on, on the back foot. They don’t want to give their weight to something that, unless they’re sure that it can carry their weight, they don’t want to, I don’t want to step on this on this platform unless it’s really gonna hold my weight.

And so if you, like you’re saying with the rope swing, If you’ve seen other people standing on that and it’s taking their weight, then maybe I’m willing to just kind of try it out. But yeah, I wonder if sometimes we need to lead with, with something that feels really real and practical and robust and kind of people can believe in, even if they have a lot of, a lot of doubts.

One of the thing that I wanted to say is a, around the, the relationship between convergented facilitation and the systemic context, I think that things is, this is very much relevant also to lots of conflict transformation processes as well, that if we’re trying to, to do something collaborative in a wider space, that is competitive, there will be dynamics and forces and

kind of gravitational pulls that will be affecting what we’re trying to do. So I think we either need to create enough of a container where collaboration actually makes sense for people that, where they’re not being pulled by those wider systemic forces and dynamics, or we may need to, in some situations, get to the point of shifting systems sufficiently that people who might currently have an incentive to block or try and disrupt a collaborative process no longer find themselves in that same position.

I guess that’s, that’s again, another whole massive topic that that there’s tons, tons more to say on, but I think that it’s, it’s important to me to understand or to think about the, the potential of convergenting facilitation as a process that is kind of like a temporary. Pause on the systemic dynamics that are, that are currently dominant or generally dominant as a process, but to also bear.

Yeah. So to look at the, the potential for that. And I think there’s huge potential for that. And to also bear in mind the, the importance of the systemic conditions and the conditions of power that are around it, that if we can not only change our decision making processes, but change our decision making system, that’s, it’s, it opens up a lot of things that otherwise are gonna be, otherwise we’re doing it in a headwind.

And if we could create different systemic conditions, we could be doing it with a, with a tailwind, something that’s actually, going in our direction rather than something we’re going against. 

Duncan Autrey: Ooh. Yeah. That thank you for that. One of the challenges that we can have is like, some big, tricky topic and, there’s all these different organizations around it and that’s where we get the leaders of all these organizations to come and talk to each other.

Right. And they come together and they come up with the solution. They’re like all here we go, we converted and guess what? And they go back to their organization that they, and they’ve been fighting in this, in the trenches all this time. And they’re like, Hey, we’re gonna go collaborate with NRA now, or we’re gonna go.

And everyone’s like, what the hell happened to you in there? And they lose their role in leadership. Not mean like, so that like you like that allegiance to your different teams, for example, might be something that could be a, a challenge and just like bigger structural things, right?

Like, great. All the citizens figured out this one thing, but then the politician that’s in charge of like implementing that now doesn’t have the power to do it. Some of the edges that we get to explore and figure out how to go forward. But I hear like the importance of like, it’s like, there’s like systemic change and there’s like cultural change.

And I, and I get a lot of hope from like that cascading, ability there that you talked about. And gosh, just thank you for the richness of this conversation, Paul that’s really, this has been really awesome to talk to you. 

Paul Kahawatte: Yeah. Thanks so much. And I just wanna say that I feel really, really hopeful about what is possible in, in these areas. I, I think that, that these kinds of evolutions of how we make decisions and how we share power and 

deliberative processes, all these things are going to play a really crucial role in the transformation that we need to bring about. And I have a, a huge amount of, of hope in the sense of possibility that I, I, I feel from, from what I’ve seen and what I know from my experience. 

Duncan Autrey: Oh, thank you for that. Both reminds me that kind of what you said. I think the reason why my dad gives me pushback is cause he doesn’t want me to get my hopes up, like, and, and he doesn’t want me to be hurt, and and like you were saying, but that hope that you’re feeling like I’m, I’m really with you on that.

Because like all of these like massive issues, if we approach them from this new perspective or a new way of doing it, we can just start sorting them out. Like we can change the process or the how we’re doing things. We can start finding solutions just like that. And not only do I believe that is this process possible?

And that it can work cuz I’ve seen it like you have. But. I also believe that so many things can, wonderful things can happen, cool. Well, onwards and upwards. Thank you, Paul. Great. 

Paul Kahawatte: Thanks.


Picture of Paul Kahawatte
Paul Kahawatte

About this episode’s guest

Paul is a mediator, facilitator and trainer, with a depth of experience in supporting people through conflict, collaborative decision making and the process of developing their systems and ways of working together. He draws on a number of approaches in his work, including Convergent Facilitation, Restorative Circles, Nonviolent Communication (NVC), Aikido, Focusing, Relational Neuroscience and multiple others.
Paul currently focuses on supporting groups and projects working for social and environmental justice, and has also worked as a community mediator. He is currently exploring movement building and radical approaches to democracy. He is passionate about helping people to come together in transformative ways, to organize their collective power and find ways forward that genuinely work for all.

Connect with our guest

Guest Resources

Convergent Facilitation

Convergent Facilitation is a 3-phase process that makes it possible for groups to make decisions about matters of significance to the group. Its aim is a decision that everyone can wholeheartedly embrace even if it’s not their preference.
Here’s a diagram of the process and the core question that guides each element:

Three phases of Convergent Facilitation: Criteria Gathering, Proposal Creation and Decision Making

Convergent Facilitation Primer [Learning Packet]

Download the Convergent Facilitation Primer for basic information for anyone interested in creating more collaboration in an organizational context. This ranges from a full introduction to organizational systems to a basic description of what interpersonal collaboration looks like within an organizational context. (34 pages)

Book Cover: Evolutionaries

The Highest Common Denominator: Using Convergent Facilitation to Reach Breakthrough Collaborative Decisions

by: Miki Kashtan

THE HIGHEST COMMON DENOMINATOR gives readers examples, tools, and processes to implement Convergent Facilitation. It includes vivid case studies and practical examples to explain how to guide people towards solutions that integrate everyone’s needs and concerns and don’t require compromise; provides tips on how to keep people on track with the task at hand; and encourages facilitators to invite dissent and engage with it productively.

Online Convergent Facilitation Intensive: A Pathway To Efficient Collaborative Decisions

Recorded training with Roni Wiener and Magda Barańska

The Convergent Facilitation (CF) Intensive offers a comprehensive introduction to collaborative decision making. We invite you to learn how to effectively arrive at group decisions that everyone can accept as their own. The skills you acquire will help you make group decisions more easily and effectively at home, in your work, and in your communities. This is an opportunity to learn the basics of the CF process and principles or deepen your practice, no prior experience with CF is needed.
Listen to
Miki Kashtan’s Episode:

“Reclaiming Our Power with Nonviolence”

Omni-Win Project Content


Here are some podcast episodes related to the conversation in today’s episode:

Videos & Essays

Here are some essays and videos from the Omni-Win Project YouTube Channel and Substack about topics we discussed in the episode.

An Essay on Upgrading Democracy

Strategic Themes of the Omni-Win Project

Topics Discussed in Episode

Dominic Barter and Restorative Circles

Dominic Barter is the creator of Restorative Circles, and Paul says, he is “a main influence for me in my way of understanding systems and the process of developing or building systems that’s done through dialogue in order to create conditions for dialogue ongoingly.”

Restorative Circles helps communities, organisations, families and government develop their own processes for supporting those in conflict. Commonly these bring together the three parties to a conflict – those who have acted, those directly impacted and the wider community – within an intentional systemic context, to dialogue as equals. Often participants invite each other and attend voluntarily. The dialogue processes used tend to be shared openly with all participants, and guided by a community member. Generally these processes end with actions that bring mutual benefit.

Here are some videos with Dominic Barter:

“There’s something really unique about empathy, that it clears the things that are blocking action, and that it connects both inside and to other people in a way that is transformative.”

Balancing Power & Conflict Transformation

Book Cover: Evolutionaries

In his book Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures, John Paul Lederach shares the model below which he adapted from Adam Curle (1971). According to this model, the phases of conflict transformation are,

  1. Education/Consciousness Raising
  2. Confrontation/Advocacy
  3. Negotiation
  4. Sustainable Peace

Negotiation and efforts for collaboration can’t be used until there is a balance of power. When power imbalances and systemic oppression are not addressed in a process, it can create settlements that favor the powerful and continue the imbalance of power.

Mary Parker Follett

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) was a visionary in the field of human relations, democratic organization, and management. Follett is increasingly recognized today as the originator (at least in modern times) of ideas that are today commonly accepted as “cutting edge” in organizational theory and public administration. These include the idea of seeking “win-win” solutions, community-based governance, strength in human diversity, situational leadership, and a focus on process. (Source: Matthew Shapiro)

Paul made a reference to this quote from Follett during the episode: 

There are three ways of dealing with difference: domination, compromise, and integration. By domination only one side gets what it wants; by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish.”

I discuss the quote in this essay: “Interest-Based Mediation for Long-Lasting, Mutually Beneficial Change”

Here are some of Follett’s writings:

The New State: Group Organization the Solution of Popular Government

The Essential Mary Parker Follett: Ideas We Need Today

And below more Omni-Win content about another of her famous quotes:

Book Cover: The Essential Mary Parker Follett: Ideas We Need Today
Book Cover: The New State by Mary Parker Follett

From The New State: 

Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. We attain unity only through variety. Differences must be integrated, not annihilated, nor absorbed. Anarchy means unorganized, unrelated difference; coordinated, unified difference belongs to our ideal of a perfect social order. We don’t want to avoid our adversary but to “agree with him quickly”; we must, however, learn the technique of agreeing. As long as we think of difference as that which divides us, we shall dislike it; when we think of it as that which unites us, we shall cherish it. Instead of shutting out what is different, we should welcome it because it is different and through its difference will make a richer content of life. The ignoring of differences is the most fatal mistake in politics or industry or international life: every difference that is swept up into a bigger conception feeds and enriches society; every difference which is ignored feeds on society and eventually corrupts it.”

Full Book and Quote

How to Start a Movement

Paul and Duncan discuss the cascading effects that can happen when one and then another have the courage to try something new. If they can make it irresistable than the whole world will want to participate.

The TED talk (below) from Derek Sivers called, “How to Start a Movement,” discusses the same idea and the picture below is of Duncan being the first to try the greatest swing on the planet (in Ecuador).

Duncan hanging from a long rope swing with a view of a clouded Amazon in the distance

About The Omni-Win Project

The Omni-Win Project is a multimedia effort to raise awareness of the myriad existing and emergent opportunities to improve our democracy and heal our political culture.

Our mission: facilitating the healing and evolution of our democratic systems and political culture, so that we can co-create a future that works for everyone.

Meet The Host

I am omnipartial: I am biased in favor of the success of everyone and the whole. I believe it is possible to improve systems of communication and interaction in ways that will allow humanity to thrive and evolve through our complexity and diversity.

My purpose in life is to support an omnipartial revolution. How? By helping the world understand the fractal nature of conflict and how we can transform conflict into a positive and inspiring experience. We are all in this together. I firmly believe we can do this complex dance through life with much more grace and beauty.

I am specifically committed to transforming how we work together in teams and organizations and how we experience conflict and collaboration in our democracy.

Fractal Friends

Duncan is also the host of the Fractal Friends podcast. An exploration of our self-similary across our diversity.

Fans of the Omni-Win project podcast will enjoy this collection of episodes: https://www.fractalfriends.us/transforming-politics about Transforming Politics and Healing Democracy

Rather read?

Get each episode delivered to your inbox? Sign up for the Omni-win Project on Substack