“The paradox is that if you really want to change how people act, don’t ask them to come to a meeting on action,” said Adam Kahane during the presentation of a proposed scenarios dialogue process aiming to develop answers to the question: Who would have to do what by when, in order to stabilize the earth’s climate?
At first glance, inviting people to develop answers to the question – Who would have to do what by when, in order to stabilize the earth’s climate? – might appear to be inviting people to a meeting on action. But what Adam and colleague Earl Saxon are proposing is not a space in which people commit to action. They propose an exploration. They propose exploring a number of “possible concrete courses of actions by different sectors and countries that would, in aggregate, achieve climate stabilization, together with an analysis of the costs, benefits, tradeoffs and challenges for different actors in each scenario.”
Since the early 1990’s, Adam Kahane has been using scenarios for open and in-depth dialogue among diverse, influential and committed leaders. He has learned that “it is possible for all the people who are part of a mess to sit together and find a peaceful way forward.” And he has learned that this is facilitated by the creation of spaces for off-the-record exchanges away from formal decision-making processes, in which people can try to put political agendas aside and talk, listen and think differently with one-another. For Adam, this is an incredibly powerful part of generating the “will to act” – the challenge of achieving which is so often massively underestimated.
Whilst formal channels (such as the IPCC and UNFCCC) have their role in generating the will to act to address climate change, how powerfully might they be complemented by parallel, generative dialogue processes which ask leaders to explore future scenarios which stretch imaginations, challenge ideas of what is possible and develop shared understanding of options? How might other processes in which we are involved benefit from a similar approach? And how should we invite participants for greatest success?