ACCESS Facility hosts a global community of dialogue facilitators. These experienced professionals from around the world use consensus-based processes to help communities, companies, and governments resolve disputes through dialogue by engaging constructively to find their way to rights-compatible, interest-based solutions to common challenges.
At the launching conference of ACCESS, five dialogue facilitators experienced in company-community conflict resolution shared their firsthand experience with the audience. View the video of the full panel discussion here:
More about dialogue facilitators and what they do, follows. A seperate list of Frequently Asked Questions for dialogue facilitators answers another set of questions.
Dialogue Facilitators & What They Do
Dialogue facilitators in the community of practice hosted by ACCESS Facility are senior professionals, often supported by organizations, recognized by their peers both for their expertise in designing and implementing consensus-based processes, and their experience in a non-partisan role – meaning they do not defend the particular interests of any one party – in a consensus-based process where communities and companies, as well as governments, NGOs or others, interact in a mutually agreed manner.
The word “non-partisan” has been chosen to describe the role of a facilitator. Words such as neutral, independent, impartial, or third-party are also frequently used, though the acceptability and meaning of these terms of course varies around the world. The role can also be seen as an omni-partial one, meaning partial to all interests. Regardless of the precise term, the key is that the facilitator enables a process, and does not represent, defend or favor any particular interests to the detriment of others.
Who dialogue facilitators serve
Dialogue facilitators help people who are affected by an issue, and have an interest in the outcome. Generally speaking, outcomes are strongest when every person or interest group who is affected by an issue is represented at the table. These affected persons or interest groups are often referred to as stakeholders, but the acceptability of this term varies. In the case of tensions or a dispute between a company and a community, one or more representatives of the company, and one or more representatives of the affected communities will be necessary participants.
Government is typically an important actor in this context, because government (at the national level, regional level, or both) authorizes and regulates companies’ operations. However, governments may not always be participants. In some places, representatives from the public sector are necessary parties. In others, they can play a role in convening a process, and in some others, government may be altogether absent.
A consensus-based process is a way for different people and interest groups or ‘parties’ – such as communities, companies, governments, and NGOs – to interact and engage with one another constructively to identify problems, brainstorm solutions, and reach a mutually agreeable course of action. This process can take a number of forms, such as dialogue tables, joint fact-finding, participatory monitoring, or working groups. They are typically ongoing rather than a one-time interaction. The ACCESS case stories on this site include examples of these various kinds of consensus-based processes.
Parties to a consensus-based process co-produce knowledge and build mutual understanding about interests and values, and find agreement on ways to address their shared challenges. The structure can help address the often significant power imbalances between marginalized communities and sophisticated commercial actors.
Rights-compatible, interest-based solutions
The desired outcome of a consensus-based process is both rights-compatible and interest-based. A rights-compatible solution accords with rights and freedoms recognized or declared in international frameworks and national legislation, and sets out rights and responsibilities of communities, companies, governments and other parties at the table. An interest-based solution addresses the fears, concerns and needs of each of the parties. The two solutions don’t always overlap, so achieving one or the other, but not both, can reduce the likelihood that the process and its outcomes will be accepted by all of the stakeholders. Professionally-trained facilitators can help parties overcome this complexity.
The dialogue facilitators profiled here have joined the community of practice, support its goals, and donate their time and energy to work toward them. The professionals profiled on this site by no means represent an exclusive or exhaustive list of individuals or organizations with this professional experience and expertise. Participating in the community of practice is not a professional certification.
ACCESS Facility makes the profiles available as a resource for communities, companies, governments, NGOs, and others to directly contact professionals with their questions about facilitated dialogue, and learn more about the involvement and role of a facilitator.
The founding members of the community of practice are in the process of reaching out to their peers to grow the list of interested professionals. If you have questions about participating in this community, please contact any of the facilitators or the ACCESS secretariat directly.
Members of the community of practice share three broad goals:
1. Advance the theory and practice of facilitating dialogue between communities and companies, as well as governments.
The community is a place for professional facilitators to network, share knowledge and experience, and to provide mutual support and professional development that leads to advancement in the thinking and practice of the field.
2. Expand the pool of facilitators to address tensions where they occur.
The community aims to expand the pool of highly qualified professional facilitators across the globe in the localities and regions where tensions arise.
3. Advocate for the uptake of consensus-based processes among companies and communities, as well as governments.
The community will identify opportunities to advocate for uptake by relevant stakeholders of approaches that prevent destructive conflict, improve working relationships, and arrive at rights-compatible, interest-based and value-maximizing solutions in company-community-government relationships, with special emphasis on the role that dialogue facilitation can play.
In late 2011, seven organizations with expertise in conflict resolution and transformation from around the world started their collaboration to form this community of practice, with assistance from the Corporate Social Responsiblity Initiative (CSRI) at Harvard Kennedy School and in response to research identifying an emerging need for non-partisan experts in company-community dialogue facilitation.
The seven founding organizations are:
in Africa: the African Centre for Dispute Settlement in South Africa,
in South Asia: Meta-Culture in India, and
in Southeast Asia: the Conflict Resolution Group Foundation in the Philippines.
Over the course of 2012, the founding organizations reached out to their peers to build this global community of practice. With seed funding from the Swedish International Development Agency, they hosted four convenings – respectively in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia. For each convening, they invited dialogue practitioners from the region to meet and discuss the needs and priorities of practitioners, and developed actionable ideas on the role of the network in growing the pool of practitioners with the requisite skills in that region:
In late October 2012 in Quito, forty dialogue practitioners gathered on the third day of the VI Regional Forum on the Transformation of Socio-Environmental Conflicts in a regional convening organized by Futuro Sostenible and Cámbio Democratico, with assistance from Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano.
In early November 2012 in New Delhi, nearly forty participants from civil society and the corporate sector gathered with dialogue practitioners, engaging on the use of dialogue and consensus building in resolving company-community disputes in India and South Asia, in a regional convening organized by Meta-Culture.
In mid-November 2012 in Manila, about thirty dialogue practitioners gathered at an expert's roundtable organized by the Conflict Resolution Group Foundation, and 180 participants from a range of stakeholder groups (national and local governments, indigenous groups, academia and the private sector) gathered to listen to case stories from the region.
In late February 2013 in Cape Town, a dozen experts in community-company conflict management and collaboration in Africa gathered at a roundtable organized by the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement.
All regional partners met in The Hague in December 2012 to participate in the opening conference of ACCESS on Resolving Company-Community Conflicts: Practical Approaches and Multi-Stakeholder Perspectives, to moderate case story panels and to speak on the role and value of facilitators in resolving these conflicts. This community of practice has been housed at ACCESS Facility since early 2013.