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Trainer’s Manual: Getting the Most from a Collaborative Process

This Manual from the Policy Consensus Institute contains the essential information for training leaders from agencies and organizations interested in learning more about how to use collaborative processes to address public issues.

These materials are practical and problem-centered, designed to capitalize on people’s experience and to help them integrate new ideas with their existing knowledge. They are presented in eight modules, each module covering an aspect of the “best practices” for sponsoring, organizing, and conducting a collaborative governance process.

Each module includes descriptions of key points to cover and activities to address the key points. The Manual also provides audio visual materials in the form of a CD with PDF handouts and slides and a video DVD of various leaders describing their roles in collaborative processes. These materials are designed to be used in conjunction with the PCI Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance.

The first step for workshop sponsors and trainers is to decide on your objectives, target audience, and the format and length of the workshop. Then you will be able to decide which modules will best serve your objectives.

At minimum, if all modules are used, the workshop will take six to seven hours. With the use of speakers, panels, and time for group interaction, the workshop will take eight hours or more. However, effectively covering all of the material in one day can be a challenge, even for experienced trainers. An alternative is to hold a series of workshops, so that each module can be covered in a more in-depth fashion. This could take the form of a two – or three-part workshop, or even a “Module a Month.” The more time spent with each module, the stronger the chances are that the material will be used effectively.

Table of Contents

Planning The Workshop

  • Introduction
  • Responsibilities of Workshop Sponsors
  • Responsibilities of Trainers
  • Steps In Planning The Workshop
  • Planning The Workshop
  • Confirming Workshop Participation
  • Preparing And Assembling Materials
  • Preparing An Example For Module 3

Keys To A Successful Workshop

  • Workshop Modules (See PDF slides and handouts provided on CD)
  • Module 1: Collaborative Governance Processes: An Overview
  • Module 2: When to Sponsor a Collaborative Process
  • Module 3: How to Assess the Potential for Collaboration
  • Module 4: Working with a Neutral Forum and Facilitator
  • Module 5: The Role of Convener
  • Module 6: Participation: Who Needs to be at the Table
  • Module 7: How to Plan and Organize the Process
  • Module 8: Tools and Techniques for Reaching and Implementing Agreements
  • Module 9: How to Close the Workshop

Resource Link: www.policyconsensus.org/publications/practicalguide/collaborative_governance.html ($75)

A Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance

A Practical Guide to Collaborative GovernanceThis 62-page step-by-step handbook from the Policy Consensus Institute walks readers through the stages of sponsoring,convening, organizing, and participating in a public policy collaborative process. Designed primarily for elected and appointed government officials and civic leaders, the guide also is useful for those who provide leaders with the staff assistance, facilitation services, and support they need to employ these approaches effectively.

The Practical Guide was developed and written by Chris Carlson, founding director of PCI and a leading authority on consensus building in the public sector.

The Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance will help equip more leaders – present and future, in the public, private, and civic sectors – with the information and tools they need to bring about better governance through the use of collaborative practices, with instructions on how to:

  • Understand the spectrum of collaborative processes
  • Identify when collaborative processes will work and when they won’t
  • Sponsor a collaborative process
  • Conduct an assessment
  • Choose and use a neutral forum and facilitator
  • Identify and work with a convener
  • Ensure legitimacy for the process through inclusive participation
  • Plan and organize the process
  • Develop ground rules to guide the process
  • Conduct problem-solving discussions and reach consensus agreements
  • Create Mechanisms for implementation and on-going collaboration

Excerpt: Understanding The Spectrum of Collaborative Governance Processes (58kb PDF)


“PCI’s Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance is indeed practical. It is also succinct, thorough and wise. Municipal officials and other leaders will appreciate the careful outlines of steps and considerations. Especially important are the balanced assessments of what works when and how – and what doesn’t. This is an excellent resource for local leaders.”

Bill Barnes, National League of Cities

“PCI has provided yet another practical publication for legislators and other government officials. The chapter on ‘The Role of the Convener’ gives lawmakers clear examples and tips about how they can lead and promote collaborative problem solving in their communities. The helpful guidelines should greatly assist legislators who want to try on this important convener role.”

Bruce Feustel, National Council of State Legislators

“A Practical Guide to Collaborative Governance will undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to develop a consensus-based solution to a complex or contentious public issue. Whether the goal is conflict resolution or the development of sound public policy that all comers can support, users of theGuide will find helpful process-oriented suggestions based on the real-world experiences of those who have successfully employed collaborative governance techniques in a wide variety of circumstances. The Guide will help lawmakers and other elected officials fulfill their unique potential as “conveners” of collaborative initiatives designed to produce lasting policy results.”

Mike McCabe, Council of State Governments

Resource Link: www.policyconsensus.org/publications/practicalguide/collaborative_governance.html ($15)

The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life

Non-partisan, interdisciplinary, and written for the educated lay reader, “The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life,” was released by Paradigm Publishers in 2014. Written by scholars Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Elizabeth A. Bennett, Alissa Cordner, Peter Taylor Klein, and Stephanie Savell, this book is an excellent way to further a conversation about what it means to be a U.S. citizen, a skeptic, an activist, and a dreamer of a better tomorrow.

161205305X_cf150The Civic Imagination is an ethnographic study of seven civic organizations in Providence, Rhode Island. For one year, the five researchers participated in each groups’ meetings and events, volunteering alongside activists, and interviewing leaders about their lives and work. All these people wanted to make Providence a better place to live, but their ideas about how political change is made, and the actions they took, were radically different. This book introduces the concept of a “civic imagination”– a cognitive roadmap that guides civic engagement, helps to diagnose social problems, and directs actions that affect political change.

In a time of unprecedented skepticism of governments, disdain for politics, and distrust of politicians, The Civic Imagination offers two key insights. First, cynicism and apathy do not go hand in hand! People who “are not political” actively create ways to make change. Second, how we think about politics shapes how we do politics. By sharing colorful stories and surprising accounts of how Providence activists go about making change, the book provides examples of possible forms of engagement and critical commentary about these approaches, paying particular attention to how engagement strategies can often be blind to or inadvertently deepen social inequalities.

Resource Link: www.paradigmpublishers.com/books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=356908

This resource was submitted by co-author Stephanie Savell of Brown University via the Add-a-Resource form.

Six Tools for More Effective Nonprofit Board Meetings

In this paper, Dr. Rick Lent of Brownfield & Lent provides directions for six tools that he finds particularly useful in improving the effectiveness of board meetings in nonprofit organizations.

All meetings have structures that influence which participants speak, how they sit, how time is managed, how thoughts are shared, and how decisions are made. People act as they do in a given structure because that’s what makes sense to them to do—without even thinking about it. Most structures go unnoticed even as they influence the way the meeting works. Nonprofit board meetings are no exception and may face additional challenges due to their large size (more than 10), mission focus, role of volunteers and so on. Fortunately, you can easily implement more effective structures—a more effective structure naturally builds productive discussions and helps the board stay on track and on time.

Resource Link: www.4good.org/rick-lent/five-tools-for-more-effective-non-profit-board-meetings

This resource was submitted by Rick Lent from Meetings for Results via the Add-a-Resource form.

Civic Dialogues on Sustainability: Business Briefing and Best Practices Guide

Businesses have traditionally played little role in civic dialogue, but their involvement can help advance issues. The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) has recently published two reports, written by Dr. Thomas Webler, that identify the potential for business involvement in civic dialogue.

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The reports are aimed at a business audience, and can serve to introduce businesses to civic dialogue concepts. We hope that they will also be useful for anyone seeking to understand business perspectives or the value of engaging businesses in dialogues.  The reports are:

1) Civic Dialogues on Sustainability: A Business Briefing  (17 pages)

This overview for business executives describes:

  • Civic dialogue’s contribution to sustainability
  • Its relationship to other types of engagement
  • The value of business participation in civic dialogue for business and society

2) How to Engage in Civic Dialogue: A Best Practices Guide for Business  (45 pages)

This detailed guide, intended for those charged with implementing business involvement in a dialogue, also provides:

  • Models and best practices for effective civic dialogues
  • Civic dialogue case studies and lessons learned

Resource Link: www.nbs.net/topic/stakeholder/civic-dialogue/

This resource was submitted by Maya Fischhoff, Knowledge Manager for NBS via the Add-a-Resource form. NBS appreciates thoughts and feedback, and will evolve the reports accordingly. Comment on the report webpages or by sending a note to Maya at mfischhoff@nbs.net.

Meeting for Results Tool Kit: Make Your Meetings Work

MFR Tool Kit cover onlyThe Meeting for Results Tool Kit by Dr. Rick Lent of Brownfield & Lent provides a different approach to running effective meetings because it:

  • Helps you structure a naturally effective meeting instead of relying on rules or norms for guiding behavior.
  • Provides 12 clear choices and 31 supporting tools for planning, conducting and achieving results from meetings.
  • Serves as a job aid to plan and run meetings. As an e-book you can have it with you whenever you need it.

The Tool Kit is designed to help leaders who need to run effective board meetings, team meetings or staff meetings—in a nonprofit, academic, business, or community setting. It is for leaders who want to engage others in getting work done through their meetings. This e-book helps you structure meetings for success and a better structure naturally supports more effective discussions and better results.

Resource Link: http://amzn.to/PJEyJY

This resource was submitted by Rick Lent from Meetings for Results via the Add-a-Resource form.


Codigital’s cloud-based tool is used by facilitators and conference organizers to engage communities and stakeholders in a simple, participant-driven process that generates ideas, insight, consensus and solutions to the issue under discussion. The tool is used in live face-to-face situations and also in 1-2 week online projects such as gaining input from attendees when planning a conference.

codigital_logoCodigital’s tool incorporates features that (i) enable people to cross-fertilize their ideas so as to benefit from the different perspectives of the group’s members, (ii) avoid individual bias, (iii) establish the collective view of the group, and (iv) generate a concise summary of the top ideas and themes in real time.

Codigital’s tool works with groups from 10+ to many thousands. This scalability, coupled with the tool’s concise pdf report generation, makes it an effective solution when seeking creative input from entire communities or large groups at conferences. (more…)

The Transpartisan Listserv

The Transpartisan Listserv was launched in March 2014 by the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, Mediators Foundation, and over a dozen co-founders who are leaders in political bridge building work.

The purpose of this moderated listserv is to introduce potential colleagues to one another, to expand our knowledge of transpartisan theory and practice, and to showcase ongoing activity in the transpartisan field. Our goal is to provide a simple, safe communication channel where individuals and organizations that are active in this boundary-crossing work can connect and learn from each other.

What is transpartisanship? One perspective was published in the Washington Post on January 27, 2014. In Katrina vanden Heuvel’s editorial, she wrote: “At a time of paralyzing political polarization, partisanship has naturally gotten a bad rap. But a reactionary shift toward bipartisanship — toward an anodyne centrism — isn’t the solution. Passion, deftly deployed, is actually an effective political tool with which to advance good ideas. That’s the promise of transpartisanship.” (more…)

Using Dialogue Then Deliberation to Transform a Warring Leadership Team

This case study is on the use of dialogue then deliberation to transform organizational cultures. The authors are John Inman (the consultant) and Tracy A. Thompson, Ph.D. a professor at University of Washington. This case study was published in OD Practitioner in the Spring of 2013. You can reach John Inman at john@johninmandialogue.com and Tracy Thompson at tracyat@uw.edu.

The new organization normal is complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity. Old paradigms or mindsets of leadership based on positivist and linear approaches to problem solving worked well in predictable and stable contexts but they are less well-suited to address the complexity and challenges of the current world. If leaders are to create an organization that thrives in the world as it emerges, they need a different mindset, one that enables them to design and host transformative conversations (Groysberg & Slind, 2012). (more…)

Connections 2013: Citizens in Democratic Politics

Connections is a yearly periodical published by the Kettering Foundation featuring articles devoted to a theme. Each issue of the foundation’s annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research and contains articles, feature stories, and book reviews relevant to the foundation’s work. Editing responsibilities for Connections rotate among Kettering program staff.

The 2013 edition focuses on”citizens and the importance of the choices they make in politics.”  Below is an excerpt from the introduction…

The foundation’s annual research review in 2013 includes looking at citizens and the importance of the choices they make in politics. In many ways, politics is about choice—not only among policies and candidates in elections, but also among the many actions to address and solve problems.

Two difficulties stand out: Too often, people are on the sidelines of the political system. They don’t make any choices, or they choose by not choosing at all. Furthermore, simply being involved won’t result in good choices unless people make informed and wise decisions about what they should do. Kettering research is both about what motivates people to become involved and about what helps them make sound decisions.

- David Mathews, President of the Kettering Foundation

…along with the contents of the newsletter…

Contents of the 2013 Edition

Getting Off the Sidelines and Making Good Choices
David Mathews

Deliberative Opportunities in Everyday Political Talk
Amy Lee and Erika Mason-Imbody

Public Deliberation from the Jury Room to Initiative Elections
John Gastil

Issue Guides and Issue Frameworks
Brad Rourke

Learning Exchanges with Centers for Public Life
Alice Diebel and Randall Nielsen

A Public Voice: A Long-Running Experiment Bears Promising Fruit
David Holwerk

Reinventing Hampton
Connie Crockett

Learning Exchanges with Professional Organizations
Phillip D. Lurie

Public Learning in Public Schools: How Networks of Teachers and Public Partners Can Support Civic Learning
Libby Kingseed and Stacie Molnar-Main

Active Citizenry in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia: A Case of Citywide Deliberation, Collective Acting, and Civic Capacity Building
Germán Ruiz and Ileana Marin

Online Deliberative Decision Making
Amy Lee

Folk Politics
Randall Nielsen

This edition of their annual newsletter is currently available as both a free download and in print (also free with shipping) from the Kettering Foundation website.

Resource Link: http://kettering.org/periodicals/connections-2013-citizens-in-democratic-politics/