Hosting Difference Creates Insight

Members of our NewStories Team have years of experience in designing and facilitating multi-stakeholder engagements. Some of the stories we like to share come from the work of Susan Virnig and Simone Poutnik.

Susan worked for several years with the Colville National Forest in Eastern Washington where a new plan was created which addressed the needs of lumbermen, wilderness advocates, bike-riders, horse people, backpackers and everyone else who used the forest. Over many months, small group dialogs discovered a critical underlying principle:  there is enough forest for all of us.  That principle was the foundation for a multi-year multi-stakeholder process that created a new plan that just about everyone could support. The process was built around dialog in cross-sector groups where month after month people grappled with different aspects of the plan weaving from small groups to the whole stakeholder community.  One of the sweet, memorable statements from the final session was when the Mayor of a small timber community looked across the table at the Sierra Club representative she had been talking with for almost two years. “When we started andI saw we were going to be in a group together, I just wanted to go to my truck and get my gun and shoot you. Now, while I will never have the same passion for wilderness that you do, I am beginning to understand your passion and I know we can work together.”

In Northern Kenya a severe drought had led to tribal communities depending on charity. Caritas Austria invited several stakeholders to explore ways for communities to become self-reliant and sustainable. They hired Simone to design the engagement process. It took several months and included a field trip to the various tribal communities to gather the wisdom and insights from tribal community members about past, present and future resilience practices. The second phase was a four-day knowledge conference. The purpose of this conference was to share knowledge and discuss feasible alternative practices for the future of pastoralists’ livelihood creation. Over four days a group of 45 stakeholders including members of rivaling tribal communities, researchers, local and international NGOs, donor agencies and government representatives engaged in story telling and solution finding activities. Outcomes included several actionable entrepreneurial ideas for community members and relationships with potential traders of goods they would produce. The conference also kicked off a series of capacity building workshops for local non-profits and a local network of organizations for building community resilience.

In 2015 Simone supported the Government of Tanzania’s Ministry of Education in a seven-week project to develop a national implementation plan for practical skills development across six economic growth sectors in Tanzania. The project was run in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Employment and the World Bank. Simone was the project manager and led a team of 20+ international and local colleagues that facilitated 170 participants from different government divisions, training institutions, business, non-profit and youth organizations during two co-creation workshops of three days and three weeks. The workshops resulted in a widely supported national strategy and implementation plan for skills development, fostered better relationships among stakeholders and ensured the plan also had an implementation process to carry it through, especially given upcoming elections in Tanzania. A year later the plan had been approved by the new government and moved towards the implementation stage.

When we create a space of respect, curiosity, and generosity and bring different ideas and perspectives forward, creativity blossoms in the middle.

Contact us and we will explore how a team from NewStories might be able to help you!