The Founders of our country told us that we should have more perfect union. They did not say we have to agree on everything. And yet, a more perfect union is a union that is built based on relationships, centered-around trust and doing the right thing.
Public policy disputes have the potential of polarizing communities with the affect of delaying important decisions on vital issues of public policy, often resulting in diluted policies or no action at all. As a result, policy makers tend to avoid controversial issues or postpone crucial decisions hoping to avoid conflict.
Facilitation helps resolves some of the high-profile policy disputes and finds resolution through controversy and clarity amidst chaos. To assist governments in resolving disputes by and between each other, the disputants need a trusted third party neutral who is knowledgeable about the issues and the process, while being sensitive to the politics of the issue.
It is time our leaders lead us forward, not back. This starts by reframing the problems we face as a community, state or nation in a way that each side could identify with. Once we find a connection to an issue, we are most likely to work hard at finding a resolution. In doing so it is hard to look beyond the politics, but as long as we can agree to concepts and work to make small steps towards building or rebuilding trust in finding a common agenda, our lawmakers can eventually find common ground and those difficult issues, the ones that kept getting put off or “re-authorized,” will move off the agenda so we can focus on the next great challenge.
Associations throughout the nation can play a key role in moving legislation forward by serving as that neutral, and through the strategic engagement of its membership, leveraging their expertise, relationships and best practices can help move the important issues above the chaos.
A path to move forward begins with a vision that each stakeholder can agree on. A vision keeps you focused forces solutions. At each step of the way, we work to identify quick wins or mutual gains for each stakeholder. It helps build trust and gives us the opportunity to work on something together. And at each step, we share information to help each of us make informed decisions. If it is not something we can agree on, then we move on to the next issue and focus on those issues that we can agree on.
By facilitating these discussions, we separate the politics from the process, help the parties find a common ground, build trust and identify potential solutions to agree on and move forward with.
Conflict among lawmakers and regulators is inevitable. However, carefully structured dialogues, mediated or facilitated by skilled third-party neutrals could offer a more effective and durable method to resolve conflicts and build consensus around controversial and often complex public policy issues.
We elected our leaders to represent a common mission not a party platform. Yet in legislating, most often it is politics that trump sound public policy. It is time to shift how government decisions are made and for our elected leaders to find a new way forward while seeking consensus instead of controversy.