How it is leading us away from representative government to an illusion of citizen participation
The Delphi Technique and consensus building are both founded in the same principle - the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, with synthesis becoming the new thesis. The goal is a continual evolution to "oneness of mind" (consensus means solidarity of belief) -the collective mind, the wholistic society, the wholistic earth, etc. In thesis and antithesis, opinions or views are presented on a subject to establish views and opposing views. In synthesis, opposites are brought together to form the new thesis. All participants in the process are then to accept ownership of the new thesis and support it, changing their views to align with the new thesis.
Through a continual process of evolution, "oneness of mind" will supposedly occur.
How the Delphi Technique Works
That is the crux of the situation. If 50 people write down their ideas individually, to be compiled later into a final outcome, no one knows what anyone else has written. That the final outcome of such a meeting reflects anyone's input at all is highly questionable, and the same holds true when the facilitator records the group's comments on paper. But participants in these types of meetings usually don't question the process.
Why hold such meetings at all if the outcomes are already established? The answer is because it is imperative for the acceptance of the School-to-Work agenda, or the environmental agenda, or whatever the agenda, that ordinary people assume ownership of the preset outcomes. If people believe an idea is theirs, they'll support it. If they believe an idea is being forced on them, they'll resist.
The Delphi Technique is being used very effectively to change our government from a representative form in which elected individuals represent the people, to a "participatory democracy" in which citizens selected at large are facilitated into ownership of preset outcomes. These citizens believe that their input is important to the result, whereas the reality is that the outcome was already established by people not apparent to the participants.
How to Diffuse the Delphi Technique
Three steps can diffuse the Delphi Technique as facilitators attempt to steer a meeting in a specific direction.
- Always be charming, courteous, and pleasant. Smile. Moderate your voice so as not to come across as belligerent or aggressive.
- Stay focused. If possible, jot down your thoughts or questions. When facilitators are asked questions they don't want to answer, they often digress from the issue that was raised and try instead to put the questioner on the defensive. Do not fall for this tactic. Courteously bring the facilitator back to your original question. If he rephrases it so that it becomes an accusatory statement (a popular tactic), simply say, "That is not what I asked. What I asked was . . ." and repeat your question.
- Be persistent. If putting you on the defensive doesn't work, facilitators often resort to long monologues that drag on for several minutes. During that time, the group usually forgets the question that was asked, which is the intent. Let the facilitator finish. Then with polite persistence state: "But you didn't answer my question. My question was . . ." and repeat your question.
At a meeting, have two or three people who know the Delphi Technique dispersed through the crowd so that, when the facilitator digresses from a question, they can stand up and politely say: "But you didn't answer that lady/gentleman's question." Even if the facilitator suspects certain group members are working together, he will not want to alienate the crowd by making accusations. Occasionally, it takes only one incident of this type for the crowd to figure out what's going on.
Establish a plan of action before a meeting. Everyone on your team should know his part. Later, analyze what went right, what went wrong and why, and what needs to happen the next time. Never strategize during a meeting.
A popular tactic of facilitators, if a session is meeting with resistance, is to call a recess. During the recess, the facilitator and his spotters (people who observe the crowd during the course of a meeting) watch the crowd to see who congregates where, especially those who have offered resistance. If the resistors congregate in one place, a spotter will gravitate to that group and join in the conversation, reporting what was said to the facilitator. When the meeting resumes, the facilitator will steer clear of the resistors. Do not congregate. Instead gravitate to where the facilitators or spotters are. Stay away from your team members.
This strategy also works in a face-to-face, one-on-one meeting with anyone trained to use the Delphi Technique.
Lynn Stuter is an education researcher in Washington state. Her web site address is www.learn-usa.com/.