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Facilitation using Shared Value Frameworks

June 26, 2012

There’s an oft quoted truism that a tyrannical Minister will have tyrannical advisors. If you stay too close to the fire your blood will boil, and you will be burned.

When we meet people we make assumptions. Strong, weak, honest, untrustworthy, successful etc. A brand, whether that of an NGO, business or government regulator, is often embodied by its representatives. A swagger, a blink or a yawn say a lot about the institution as much as the person.

The partnerships between our great institutions – church and charitable organisations, corporations, governments, the justice system, the media – are so often shaped by longstanding, tacit rules of engagement. In the 21st century those rules are fast becoming redundant and, with them, the behaviours through which they are expressed. You need only look at the fracturing of  the media, corporate sensitivity to activism (No Logo was just the start) and the rise of independent political advocates like Getup! to understand how complex things have become.

We do not know what shape the future will take but, no matter our job or our community, we know we want our income and our lives to be less uncertain. That’s a feeling common to all people and all organisations. Applying a shared value framework to facilitation elicits those ‘wow we do think surprisingly alike’ moments. Here’s a guide to using it.

1) Articulate the problem(s).

Common interest underpins shared value collaboration. Investment of time, money and energy must create or unlock value for all partners, which means removing structural barriers and changing behaviours. Partnerships function best when participants are unified by shared intent.

Get each participant to agree on the causes and scope of the social, economic or environmental challenge being addressed. Document all barriers: cultural, process, economic, structural, leadership etc.

2) Define value creation.

Value has many meanings and is most commonly confused with value statements: ‘our corporate values are…’. Traditionally, corporate values are designed to foster behaviour along the lines of Hugh Davidson’s work. This is quiet distinct from value in the shared value context.

An honest discussion must be initiated regarding the intentions and interests of each participant. Each stakeholder, regardless of common interest, will have their own motivations for entering a shared value agreement. Be it financial gain, competitive advantage, influence, reputation, operational sustainability, empowerment or health – there are many expressions of value.

Ask participants what success looks like. How do they intend to measure value creation? Value creation goals must be achievable.

Look for alignment in the value objectives of participants. There is always alignment and this is the power of the model.

Firstly you are getting people/organisations that need one another to speak openly and comfortably about what they seek but in a values based way, not as a set of hard objectives which inevitably encourages hard fought compromise rather than collaboration.

Secondly, you are demonstrating that most values are shared, if not in the same priority. Consider the formula: higher profit = more customers + more productivity + less sick leave + better reputation. All the factors leading to growth have social and/or economic dimensions. So, even if the priority objective is higher profit, the company needs to value the linked social and environmental dimensions of its operations.

3) Establish equitable terms.

Each participant must collaborate on an equitable basis.  Any imbalance of power or influence will only restrict shared value creation for all involved. It will manifest in withdrawal, withholding information, skewed communication of messages and other common reactions.

This process requires a formal admittance that no particular value pursuit will be prioritised over another, or that any particular stakeholder will possess a greater influence over the direction of the initiative.  Establishing these terms may take various forms, be it a contract, compact, a public statement or a charter.

An experienced independent coordinating organisation can be very helpful and capable of assisting the creation of terms and then ensuring compliance and accountability.

4) Understand strengths, agree roles.

The great benefit of cross sector partnerships are the efficiencies and increased capacities that can be realised. Knowledge, skills and information are shared – from consumer insight to better processes, the benefits flow all ways. Each partner will bring certain benefits and core competencies to the project. Organising activities by competency will ensure the most appropriate partner is placed to achieve results, while sharing outcomes and capabilities with partners.

5) Time and timelines.

One of the critical failings of collaborative projects is a misunderstanding among one or all participant organisations as to the investment of time required. Ensure time commitments are estimated and agreed.

Timelines must be reasonable. Milestones should be set for pilot programs and review periods regularly planned to overcome short term issues collaboratively.

Careful planning assigns timeframes to activities. Use a project management system such as Teamwork or Basecamp to assign tasks and deadlines, and provide visibility to all partners over project activity.

Time is limited and valuable, and accountability is essential to ensure that resources and efforts are not wasted by delays or setbacks.

6) Set metrics for analysis.

What gets measured gets done. Measurement is important to validate investment, generate further buy-in, facilitate reporting, raise public awareness, celebrate success. Ultimately, shared value is an organisational philosophy – that means a critical mass of leaders and employees need to understand and embrace it. The more concrete the results, the easier that will be.