Is your organization/congregation at a crossroads?
Are there passionate voices advocating for different visions of the future that are at odds or seem irreconcilable?
Are there internal or external politics that seem to be exerting undue influence?
You are not alone.
It is not uncommon for passionate differences of opinion to lead to relational discord, pain, and fracture. However, when these tough conversations are facilitated with the four core pillars of the Cultivating Unity process, the energy of these tensions is harnessed to generate profound innovation, connection, insight and growth.
How? While each group is unique and requires a tailored approach that best addresses their particular dynamics, there are four common elements to the Cultivating Unity facilitated dialogue process:
For significant issues, this may entail convening focus groups, cultural analysis, and mission assessment. For smaller groups, a few conversations with significant players can be sufficient.
For organizations addressing core issues of identity, vision, and mission for the future, the four 2-hour Cultivating Unity foundational formation sessions can be extremely good preparation. For issues that are more narrow in scope, preparation is tailored according to the particular need.
In traditional facilitation structures, the focus can often be to ensure that every voice is heard. With Cultivating Unity facilitation, participants are invited to not just understand another point of view, but identify the values that give them so much energy. When topics of tension emerge in the group, especially binary “either-or” prospects (i.e. “we need to close a key ministry” vs. “we must keep it open,”) the facilitator invites the community to pause, and helps them apply the four pillars in the presenting context. After doing this, nearly always, a third way emerges, and the entire group grows in awareness of the field that is beyond the either-or, the values that inspire both sides, and discovers a more creative and connective way forward; usually by consensus.
In the final portion of the facilitated dialogue, participants reflect on the power of engaging in this kind of way with one another, reflect on movements that happened, and share hopes for moving forward. While documentation of next steps includes traditional “action item” planning, it also includes hopes for continuing to engage in this more contemplative & soulful way of engaging with one another in differences.
One of the most significant moments (during the session) was when one member surfaced an enduring community concern that is core to our mission and identity. It was so sensitive, one could hear a pin drop after she said it. She then shared, “maybe I shouldn’t have said anything,” but when the facilitator asked who wanted to have a conversation about it using the Cultivating Unity pillars, nearly every hand went up. I can barely express the positive energy that was unleashed through the process. The entire room took on an attitude of contemplative curiosity, wonder, and engagement as they sought to hear and imagine the core values in one perspective, and then those of the other. People felt relaxed and jovial, energized by the discussion. There was no more “us and them” on this topic, but a powerful sense of unity.
- Neumann Franciscan Congregational Leader
This helped us navigate some of our “rubs” and transformed the ways we relate with each other in (our congregation). - Franciscan Sister
I gained a lot of insight into my tendencies when reacting to conflict and have taken steps to become a better listener. That has led to deeper connections with people who appreciate being heard instead of being "corrected."
- Tony Turano, Commissioner of Cattaraugus County Social Services
Everyone in healthcare could benefit from this process. I’ve already shared a number of the tools with my colleagues! - Nursing Leader
The (session) was timely due to the polarization we've experienced in our culture, as we continue in the service and accompaniment of our parish community with their diverse needs... Very practical relational tools for healing divisions.
- Deacon David Lansford, Monterey Diocese, Third Order Franciscan
In a world filled with so much divisiveness and a lack of civility, it is important to hone skills for slowing down, listening, and inviting understanding and dialogue. The openness, sharing, and connection among all the participants helped in understanding and appreciating the skills shared in this (session). I highly recommend this (process) and look forward to sharing the experience with our staff.
- Sr. Margaret Magee, Congregational Minister (Executive Leader) of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, which has nearly 200 sisters who have founded hospitals, retreat centers, schools, & social service ministries around the world.