Agile coaching for the greater good

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One of the most exciting aspects of working as an Agile Coach is applying what we know to other industries. Especially when what we do serves the greater good. We’re both always actively looking for opportunities to work with integration initiatives, and in this case we supported an initiative to improve integration of newcomers. Here’s how we facilitated the 2018 kick off meeting for Järfälla municipality’s Interfaith Council.

The purpose of the meeting was to identify collaborative activities for 2018 that create a stronger sense of community and greater understanding between people in Järfälla of all backgrounds. The members of the council are representatives from the different political parties and religious centers.

The evening started with soup and sandwiches for dinner. There was lot of pleasant chit chat, as well introductions and discussions about the different ideologies and theologies.

We prepared for the meeting by moving the huge conference table in the middle of the room up against the wall, and organizing the chairs in a circle. When the participants entered the room after dinner, we knew that we had their full attention; this evening was going to be very different to what they were used to!

The agenda was pretty simple:

  • Introduction and check in – What do you hope to get out of today’s meeting?
  • What is our impact for 2018?
  • Which activities do we want to engage in?
  • Conclusion

Some people already knew each other and some were new, so there was another round of introductions to start off the meeting. The members of the council were all dedicated to achieving tangible results. Our meeting agreements just reinforced the attitudes and good will of the attendees:

  • Be respectful
  • Ask for everybody’s input
  • Be aware of your impact in the room
  • Listen to learn
  • Be responsible for achieving the meeting’s goal

When we were asked to facilitate the meeting we were told that by joining the council all the members had agreed to support the municipality’s integration goals. They also had a set of working agreements. We decided to build on the agreements by asking the council to identify the impact that they hoped to achieve in 2018, as a base for the list of activities.

The larger group self organized into 3 smaller groups. The discussions were as varied as the group members themselves, but by the end of the session, they had 3 impact statements that were very similar. We asked them to vote for the proposals based on the wording that they identified most strongly with. They agreed to the following statement:

Increased respect between the citizens of the municipality regardless of religion or background. Respecting each other’s ideas. Being considerate.

They also identified a few possible ways of knowing if they had succeed in reaching the desired impact:

  • Residents feel safe and secure
  • A decrease in violent crime
  • More cooperation and greater sense of community

With a common goal the group was quickly able to come up with a list of potential activities. Again working in 3 groups, shuffled so that people could build on the ideas from the previous round.

The result was about 20 possible activities. We asked them to sort the notes into three categories:

  • “To Do” – valid activities that help the group achieve their impact
  • “Don’t Do” – activities that are not applicable right now
  • “Discuss” – if there are questions or clarifications needed

We were starting to run out of time by now and we knew we wouldn’t be able to discuss all the notes as well as prioritize the activities. So we focused on prioritzation, so they would have a concrete list of activities. We used the Bockman technique (silent, round-robin sorting), to efficiently sort the list, and the group agreed to cover the few points in the “Discuss” column at the beginning of the next meeting.

We now had a concrete list of actions that the whole group agreed to. They also knew how to start the next meeting. This is when a value-added suggestion was made: instead of just deciding when and where to meet next time, the group would pick one of the (lower prioritized, but easy to do) activities to do next time. At the end of their next meeting they decided to go for a solidarity walk together, clearly displaying their religious and political affiliations, signaling their cooperation to the community. The meeting ended with a positive checkout in a big circle.

When we tell people about this facilitation they assume that we were faced with a tough, contentious, tension filled room. What we experienced was the complete opposite. The members of the council were united in their desire for a more integrated Järfälla. They listened, discussed and found a common way forward.

We both hope to have more opportunities in the future to use our experience in facilitation and coaching for the greater good! We’ll be sure to report back from time to time!

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