When reading the previous steps in this facilitation manual you might think that organizing a Wicked Problems Plaza is just a sum of some methods and tools. However, in order to reach the ultimate aim of the WPP, you will need to dig a bit deeper and really take your participants on a journey of addressing the wicked problem.
Below you can find some extra advice that can help you upgrade your WPP, in order to make it more than just another facilitated group dialogue. The following advice is based on our experience with the WPP and action research that has been done on the effectiveness of the WPP method. It is still work in progress, so you can help us by thinking along and evaluating your own sessions. For such evaluation remarks, you can contact email@example.com
For a session of good quality, it is important that the participating stakeholders feel ownership for the problem and solution. This starts with the commissioner, who does not just hire a facilitator to solve the problem, but who asks the facilitator to invite others to join in ownership of the problem and solution. The facilitator should make this clear right from the beginning, but communicate this also during the session to the facilitator. Only telling people that they should feel ownership is not sufficient – try to use tools that stimulate a sense of ownership during the session. An example could be an upgrade of the vision-tool in which the facilitator asks each participants to also reflect on their own role in that ideal world. During the partnering space you could upgrade the work on new ideas tool by asking participants to formulate their next steps according to the SMART framework, and to start them directly the next week.
Head, hearts & hands:
The Wicked Problems Plaza is unique in its set-up to confront head, heart and hands in one day. However, we have experienced that it is not easy to get some participants to really use their hearts and hands without still ‘being in their heads’, meaning that they are still mostly thinking about the problem. During most sessions we experienced that people still want to talk and reflect a lot, even when they are in a physical, creative or meditational activity. There are tools that can help a group to become more creative or active, however the way a facilitator uses such tools determines their effectiveness. From our sessions we concluded that participants should use both head, heart and hands during every space and preferably even in every tool. This can be stimulated by asking a very personal question to a very rational person, or to include a drawing in for instance a pitch. Ask participants to get out of their comfort zone and specifically assign ‘talkers’ creative tasks. Make those tasks quick and short, so that everyone can make optimal use of its senses in every space.
Collective vision based negotiation:
One of the theoretical principles of the WPP is collective vision based negotiation. In the theory booklet you can read how this type of negotiation is different from interest- and position based negotiation. But how to make this reality during your WPP? This is also very context and person dependent, but the facilitator plays a key role in guiding the group towards consensus on such a collective vision. A special task is to continuously translate jargon and develop a common language for the group. This does not mean that differences in perspectives among stakeholders should be smoothed over, on the contrary! By carefully negotiating on a vision that is shared by all participants, it becomes a strong incentive for those participants to take ownership and become a coalition of the needed. This requires the facilitator to listen actively, ask many clarifying questions, and to translate the answers into a shared language. After the WPP, the facilitator can help the new coalition to stay motivated after the WPP session. A follow-up trajectory after each WPP helps to implement the ideas generated in the session and learn from the outcomes.
Evaluate and learn:
The WPP is developed in an iterative manner, meaning that we developed and adapted the format while we were experimenting with it. We have continuously piloted different interventions and observed their effects on the on the sessions. Based on this, we have developed this manual which we now want to openly share with you. This does not mean that the WPP is now perfect and that we now know all the answers. Otherwise we would already live in a world without wicked problems! You can help us by evaluating your own sessions and telling us how you have learned from this experience. Ultimately we would like the WPP to be a community of commissioners, facilitators and participants, all working towards more effective multi-stakeholder dialogues. We thank you for your time and interest, and we look forward to our continued dialogue. For your comments, feedback and advice, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.