Collaboration and consensus
Human beings in most cases handle problems in groups. From antiquity to the present time, different organizations meant to further common audaemonic pursuits have existed. These have ranged from the simple hunting bands of the antediluvian epoch to the complex modern corporations and multinationals. However, this collaborative instinct, as much as it may seem firmly embedded in human nature, requires high level of understanding, not only of the object or subject of interest but also of the process and implication of the pursuit.
One integrative element in the formation of associations, groups or organization is the unity and correspondence of goals. Individuals who possess similar goals become attracted towards one another and thus work on a joint venture. This is true for small organizations but not for large ones. Even in the small ones, conflict exists. The modern day organizations have in most cases tried to form organizations that attempt to address issues that affect people en masse.
The success and failure of such organizations in carrying out their supposed duties is the subject of this paper.
Research findings indicate that majority of organizations do not have shared values, beliefs and mores. Instead, they in most cases comprised of satellite groups that possess their own more or less corresponding culture or subculture. With this regard, differing perceptions are inevitable among organizations. For instance, the League of Women Voters, being an organization comprised of diverse populations with varying background, is bound to be faced by difficulties in decision making and representation. The major question that persists is how inter-group differences can be addressed.
Three major approaches have been developed in the recent past as a response to this issue. The imaging exercise where different organizational groups define their own objectives and conception of themselves and other associate groups in isolation is the first approach. This approach enables the members, not only to understand their collective goal but also of others within the parent groups. It also makes the groups to ascertain awareness of perceptual differences. Another approach is based on inter-group theory which sees organizational members from easily identifiable groups as both individuals and representatives of their particular groups. The success in handling a group therefore requires as explicit acknowledgment and valuing of group perspectives. This has proved to be successful in organizations that have racially diverse groups like the League of Women Voters. A third approach is the collaborative alliances and coalitions. This is particularly important where there exist problems that are too large or complex to be resolved by actions taken by members of one organization (Bartunek et al, 1999: 702-703). The League of Women Voters in this regard can be seen as a product of collaborative alliances beyond being an organization in itself, with the capacity to collaborate with other organizations. The collaborative advocacy is meant to be exercised by internal change agents and to integrate different group perspectives in a single organization.
All these consensus approaches are applicable to any organization with divergent membership such as the League of Women voters. They offer the best methods through which conflicts can be addressed and therefore solve. However, in situations where particular members hold radical views, they may suffer a blow. For instance, if a section of members are opposed to a particular political view furthered by the organization, using the first approach may yield a result that may not correspond with that of the entire organization. Consensus building dictates that for problems to be effectively addressed, some general characteristics must be shared. This is however not the case.
The aim of consensus building is to settle conflicts that involve more than a single party. In the situation involving the community and the proprietors of the strip club, there is need for the parties to understand each other. The problem here basically has to do with defining the problem. The perception of the community members concerning the problem may be radically different from that of the proprietor. The community may be opposed to the opening of the club owing to moral considerations while the proprietors may be considering the business aspect since they feel that some members of the community will find the facility useful. There may also be the possibility that several members of the community do not view the proprietors as part of the community. Again, the community may be skeptical of the moral consequences of having a strip club in the neighborhood and hence do not want to take the risk in allowing it to operate. Either way, these concerns can be addressed through a consensus-building approach.
The first important step is to address the concerns of each party. It is during this stage that consensus building as a process of resolution is made. This decision may be made by the local authority. Since the problems that are solved by consensus building involve multiple stakeholders, there is need to get every individual who may be affected by the final decision to be involved. This can be done through advocacy. Another important step is to define and analyze the problem in details. Every stakeholder may define the problem differently. However, as the stakeholders share their perception, a more complete picture of the problem may emerge. The choice can then be reduced to a single approach until every party agrees.
The second instance which involves the construction of a community playground is however different as it involves several groups within the same community. Some members may want the playground to be used for purposes other than the one proposed. As such, there is need to collect the view of as many members of the society as important. The process for achieving this does not vary much from the above discussed process as it also involves defining and identifying the problems associated with constructing the playground on that particular section. Reaching consensus on this instance may be much trickier than in the above situations as the involved parties may be organized differently and may also be having radical views for either opposing or supporting the project. The first step is therefore to make the parties realize the importance of the problem so that they may be willing to participate.
After the identification of the problem, there is need to let bring forward alternative solutions. During the entire process, there is need to integrate various proposals that may be raised so that a common ground may be found.
Bartunek, J., Foster-Fishman, P., & Keys, C. “Using Collaborative Advocacy to Foster Inter-
group Cooperation: A Joint Insider-Outsider Investigation.” Human Relations, Vol. 49, No. 6, 1999
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