Future Search Conferences LO6420

Alan Mossman (100733.3202@compuserve.com)
04 Apr 96 17:10:44 EST

In LO6386 Steven Lux asked:
>Question #2 - Should one be concerned about the readiness of the audience
>to accept the search conference methodology, or does the theory suggest
>search conferences are appropriate for any group of people regardless of
>their prior exposure to systems thinking and shared visions?

I think there are two approaches to Search conferences - Weisbrod is the
one I am familiar with. The other is the subject of an upcoming seminar
March 22 at MIT with Steve Cabana (see LO6334).

** Can you (or anyone else) tell me the key differences if any between the
two approaches ?

In Stroud (see the Learning Communities thread LO6010, 6030 and 6187) the
community was presented with a choice of four processes.

* a marriage of a USOE DHEW Educational Facilities Charrette with Robert
Fritz's creative process
* Future Search (a la Weisbrod)
* Planning for real (a process developed by Tony Gibson in UK for
involving communities - works best with single issues in well defined
geographic areas; more info from Neighbyourhood Initatives Foundation fax
+44 )
* a variant of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) UDAT (Urban
Design Action Team) process

We designed our own taking the best from each. By the sound of things
that is not likely to be an option with the conferences you wrote about in
Hungary where you are dealing with a virtual rather than a physical
community. Our reasons may be of interest though.

One reason that Future Search was not successful was the small number of
people involved. (less than 72). There was some urgency to get certain
decisions and it was felt that it would take longer to agree who was to be
involved (who were to be the stakeholder representatives), than there was
time to reach the substantive decisions. There was also some concern
about - the ability of the process to cope with the wide range of issues
which are of concern in the town - the likelyhood of three or more

What people liked about the FutureSearch process was the idea of common
ground/concensus and some of the values which people presenting the
approach spoke of (ironically it is in honouring one - maximise
participation - that contributed to the decision not to use FS)

What people liked about Planning For Real was its immediacy, its structure
and its way of arriving at conclusions and decisions. It is a very
concrete process which has been used successfully in many communities. I
do not think it is a process which lends itself to the kind of application
you have in mind.

The AIA UDAT approach was seen as too expert centred. Professionals and
consultants seem to dominate the process.

The creative charrette was rejected because the only examples I could find
at the time were from the US in the late 60s and early 70s. The fact that
Nixon had cut the programme was seen as a plus but not enough to swing it.

In all four cases the notion of partnership is crucial as it appears to be
in yours. I have some limited experience of the kind of thing you have in
mind but in a very different setting and not knowingly using Search
Conference methodology. That was in the 70s with sometime member of this
list Roy Madron. We ran conferences for local government and for central
government which aimed to build partnership and strategy in particular
areas such as services for young adults with learning difficulties,
health, transport, residential environment redesign, etc. These were
successful. I don't know if the search process would have been more so.

It would be interesting to hear what other replies you get.

With very best wishes



Alan Mossman <100733.3202@compuserve.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>