The group is stuck. You need to move forward, but you know the group will contest your proposals because you are a stakeholder. Erik comes in and facilitates a meeting. Everybody will have a chance to present their views, often people will vent and tension will rise. But that is good in Erik’s book. Once emotions are out of the way, Erik is able to find the common ground between stakeholders and force them into a process that will result in a plan to move forward. You will be surprise how those who seem most dogmatic in their positions literally melt into the will of the group and are ready to compromise. Such is the power of good facilitation.
Joaquin Gonzalez-Aleman Regional Adviser at UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
In Ha Noi Erik Kijne facilitated 30 Heads and representatives of 14 UN Agencies to reach an agreement on a ONE UN Plan, a ONE UN Budget and a ONE UN Leader a process initiated by an evaluation of the UN Agencies by the High Level Panel. See website
The workshop kicked off with a couple of presentations by donors and a Vietnamese professor warning the UN to adjust their focus of operations with the rapidly changing social economy towards a middle income country within a few years!.
Against this background the workshop was launched with a ‘shooting exercise’, a (flexible) problem identification of the existing plan also allowing for questions, observations, suggestions, risks, etc. Such an exercise apparently had never been done and generated a large number of written cards. After reading these out one by one only allowing for clarifications, we categorized the cards in the following clusters: budget issues, strategy, prioritization, flexibility, synergies, presentation, management of expectations, one leader, team and management plan including e.g. one building. The issues related to the ONE Management Plan were to be treated in a workshop scheduled the following week.
This insight in the perception of problems with the plan by the group was already a great eye opener particularly for some who did not yet see ‘the problem’.
In the mean time in the break the chairs were arranged in three rows of half circles in front of the wall with sticky paper and the tables were removed, a ‘novelty’ apparently compared to previous workshop experiences! However, how minute this novelty in our facilitators’ eyes might look, it created a very different atmosphere which later was recalled as one of the magic tricks.
Due to time constraints of a two day retreat and also because the seniors in the group did not want to split up as all categories were of each concern, we did not split in sub-groups. Instead we generated a brainstorm on suggestions and proposals for all the identified categories at the same time taking the problematic issues raised earlier into account. Of course this exercise lacked focus and missed potential creativity, however the anonymity of the suggestions appeared very important in the acceptance level.
The second day we dealt with the most important issue first, the budget, for which also most proposals were generated. After reading and discussing the proposals we launched a ‘dotting’ exercise. Each participant could stick 5 dots on five different proposals and miraculously the generally accepted procedure to cut the budget drastically got developed in the workshop in a democratic way. Treating the suggestions of the other categories were in comparison a ‘piece of cake’ and also jokes created a ‘one family’ atmosphere.
Feedback during the closing speech from the Resident Coordinator and from several individuals during the cocktail party was very positive. Apparently we ‘cracked many more nuts’ than expected in an atmosphere which had not been as constructive since long time.
In this respect it is highly interesting to note that most participants wrote ‘the finalization of the ONE PLAN and the ONE BUDGET’ as their expectation of the workshop, something that had been really impossible because of the size and the detail of the document. An assessment of the total document and its components (outcomes / outputs / expected results) would also have been quite difficult because each agency is responsible for its own components of the plan and can not be assessed by other UN agencies who do not have this specific expertise. Modification, prioritization and even reduction of the ONE UN PLAN and the ONE UN BUDGET can only be done by each respective Agency. The workshop provided the criteria, procedures and the deadlines upon which this job can now be done now by each Agency.
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