Working Assumptions

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Identification
Alternative names: 
Ground Rules
Level of process: 
Application
Method
Intervention
Intent or purpose: 
The Working Assumptions create an atmosphere of respect in the room without being moralistic with rules.
Used as component of: 
Opening a session
Recognizable Components: 
Working Assumptions 1. Everyone has wisdom. 2. We need everyone's wisdom for the wisest result. 3. There are no wrong answers. 4. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 5. Everyone will hear others and be heard.
Recommended size of group: 
26-50
Optimal amount of time needed: 
5 minutes
Howto
Usual or Expected Outcomes: 
Atmosphere of respect in the room
Level of participation: 
Facilitator talks through to set context
Ideal Conditions: 
Write the short form on the flipchart and explain in your own words.
Potential Pitfalls: 
May seem trite if the explanation is not clear
How is success evaluated: 
Group works together respectfully
Level of Difficulty to Facilitate: 
No specific skills required
Facilitator Personality Fit: 
Values-based person
Setting and Materials: 
flipchart and markers
Resources Needed: 
flipchart and markers
Pre-Work Required: 
go through and internalize what they mean for you
Procedures: 

Working Assumptions

(with explanation of each in parentheses)

1. Everyone has wisdom. (This doesn't mean everything that everyone says is wise. It means that behind what they say is wisdom, and we will listen for it.)

2. We need everyone's wisdom for the wisest result. (In the same way that a diamond is more valuable when it is cut with more facets, what we come up with will be more valuable when we have illuminated more facets of what we are working with.)

3. There are no wrong answers. (See number 1 -- behind what may seem on the surface as a wrong answer -- and I have heard some that were positively evil on the surface -- there is wisdom, and that is what we will listen for. The corollary, of course, is that there are no right answers, only the best we can come up with given our limitations.)

4. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (Trite, yes, but points to consensus as creating a larger answer that is not identical to any one view, but includes the wisdom of many. Diamond image again. I think of compromise as smaller than the sum of its parts, consensus as larger. Like a puzzle picture, which is the sum of the puzzle pieces and their relationships. All puzzle pieces are included, or there is a hole.)

5. Everyone will hear others and be heard. (This doesn't mean that everyone has to talk all the time -- then nobody would be heard. It means listening to others as well as making sure your wisdom is on the table.)

I've recently concluded that Aretha Franklin would probably summarize the whole list with "R.E.S.P.E.C.T."

(The only time I had anyone argue with this was the first time I used them, about 13 years ago. When I put up "there are no wrong answers" one lady in the back of the room shouted "there are too wrong answers!" I thought really really fast and responded, " and that's not a wrong answer either!" The whole group gasped, laughed, relaxed, and began to participate. Since then, I tell that story when I put that item on the flipchart, and groups respond in the same way.)

Jo Nelson

Background
Developer: 
Jo Nelson
Epistemological Framework: 
Respect, Affirmation
History of Development: 

Anticipation of a difficult group catalyzed this.

License Model: 
Open
Suppliers
Creators: 
Namesort descending City Country
ICA Associates, Inc. Toronto, Ontario Canada
Trainers: 
Namesort descending City Country
CFI Syllab Inc. Montreal Canada
Helen J. Wythe & Associates Winnipeg Canada
ICA Associates, Inc. Toronto, Ontario Canada
Consultants: 
Namesort descending City Country
CFI Syllab Inc. Montreal Canada
Helen J. Wythe & Associates Winnipeg Canada
ICA Associates, Inc. Toronto, Ontario Canada
Online: 
Namesort descending City Country
ICA Associates, Inc. Toronto, Ontario Canada
The Monarch Park Group Toronto Canada
Supporters: