Friday, May 4, 2012

Trust the Process

You can probably see immediate personal applications of the sage advice to “trust the process”, but here at JCCI it applies to how even when it feels wobbly, like there are too many polarized positions or we’re saying similar things, a diverse group of people can come to consensus.  Over the course of four decades, the hallmark of JCCI’s work has been our process—our model for community change.
We’ve been asked many times, “How do you take a room full of strangers with varied opinions, perspectives, and passions through a series of thought-provoking questions and challenges and ask them to come to consensus in a decision that may affect the whole community?”  Our answer?  “Easy.  Stick to the process.”

OK, maybe it’s not easy.  But we’ve proven time and time again that it works.  And the principles are simple:  During an inquiry process, the committee meets, then listens to experts with a range of information and opinions to contribute to the discussion, and then asks questions.  Members of the group challenge what they’ve heard, challenge each other, and challenge their own thinking, all while being respectful and civil. 

And the civil part is important.  It sounds unlikely, especially given the current political and social climate, but we know it works – and we’ve seen that open dialogue has power.  If you know your voice is going to be heard, it’s easier to keep your tone in check when you really want to say, “Are you KIDDING ME?!”  Instead, our process asks you to calmly say, “I disagree.  Here’s why . . .” and lo and behold, the room hears you and considers your point.

Filibustering or obstructing an opposing viewpoint by making long speeches is forbidden.  Just because you will be heard does not mean you can hog the conversation. 

Consensus is not about a majority vote or a battle of the most vocal viewpoints in the room.  Consensus is about coming to a conclusion.  Period.  How do we get there?  We ask questions to the group assembled:  Based on what we have all heard, what is best for the community?   Have we weighed the points of dissent against the dominant opinion?  Are there concessions, compromises, or ways to address the contentions so that everyone can walk away feeling like they can “live with” the outcome? 

It takes a mixture of some patience, lots of listening, mutual respect, and faith that the process will lead us to this final outcome.  And it always does.  Last Friday, our Inquiry participants deliberated and discussed their ability to make a case for whether the Jacksonville Public Library should pursue dedicated funding, and they determined that yes, in fact, it should.  The next steps in the Inquiry are to discuss how pursuing dedicated funding will happen…and the process continues.

We hope you’ll join us to share your opinions, perspectives and passions about how our community funds our library system.

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