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Meetings can save the world (potentially)

Waiting to save the world

And there it was, a small ray of hope in all the dark and gloom of 2015. Let’s face it: 2015 was not a great year: terror (starting and ending in Paris), war in Syria, mass migration on shaky boats… To name just a few highlights.


But the Climate Talks (also in Paris) ended with a ray of hope. 195 countries came to a common conclusion and signed an agreement on climate change. A breakthrough!


The Indaba made it possible

For me the most interesting point was the way the presidency lead the last rounds of negotiations. They used the Indaba, a way of meeting used by the Xhosa and Zulu in South Africa to tackle complex issues. The Indaba provided a process in which convergence towards one single agreement became possible.


And that’s what I find so fascinating and interesting. The normal meeting process (and by ‘normal’ I mean the setting we’re all accustomed to, i.e. sitting around a table trying to outsmart all the others) would not have been conclusive.


Why the Indaba did work

The Indaba opens up the space for every leader to talk and display his or her concerns, ideas and solutions for the issue at hand.


But the real magic happens because of the following rule: every party is invited to speak personally and to state its ‘red lines’. By giving clarity on the ‘red lines’ positions become clear. But not only that: because participants speak from their heart, openings for new solutions arise.


And thus it happens. In Paris, the Indaba with the 195 parties regularly split up in smaller Indabas in which stakeholders around one issue were asked to come up with a common solution. This solution would then be reported back to the big Indaba.


Meetings can save the world (potentially)

To me it proves that complex issues need new types of meetings. In these new meetings participants are engaged, make their contributions personal and find a listening space for their concerns.


On the Climate Talks in Paris, the Guardian reports that: ‘“Including everyone and allowing often hostile countries to speak in earshot of observers, [one indaba] achieved a remarkable breakthrough within 30 minutes.”


Our normal meeting processes are bankrupt. They fail in tackling highly complex issues. They might have worked in the old rational and hierarchical world. But the way we run our meetings did not keep up with the increasing complexity that is surrounding us.


So we need to experiment and try new processes. We need much and much more Indabas and other inclusive process (i.e. World Café, Open Space and many, many more). It will help us face and find workable solution for the problems of our world. In essence, we need much better meetings to save the world.

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