Included on this page:
1.) Time frame for a one
2.) Time frame for a 90
3.) Content framework
purpose audience content framework
community content framework
4.) Guiding Consensus seeking on values
Process of Stating Farming Values
Values Classification, useful for an Overhead Projection
5.) The Process of Stating Principles and its Rationale
Principle Consensus must precede policy renewal and institutional
reform (Why we
need "Soul" first!)
Classification of Ethical Principles, useful for Overhead
Tools for Consensus Formation Exercises
On this page you will find a variety of formats for helping
a group of farmers, rural residents, environmentalists, farm
labor, community food security supporters, etc. come to a
preliminary consensus on the basic public values of family
managed farming and on the mutual ethical obligations required
to sustain those values. The tools presented are of two sorts:
Time/activity frameworks and content/discussion guidelines.
These are just suggestions, which have no more wisdom than
what any experienced discussion facilitator might suggest,
on how to allot time, move ahead and prevent seat-fatigue.
They are based on the different levels of time-commitment.
Soul has conducted consensus formation exercises varying in
length from 90 minutes to two days.
There is less experience available in the work of leading
a diverse group of people to express their fundamental values
and the consequent ethical commitments needed to secure those
values. In many segments of our society there is and almost
cultural embarasment over the open declaration of fundmental
values (even when they are dearly held). And there is even
a stronger taboo against stating universal ethical principles.
Neither of these cultural oddities suggests that such values
and principles do not exist. Just let someone disparage a
fundamental value held in an audience or transgress a basic
ethical standard and the reaction will tell you quickly how
real values and ethics are. The job of a consensus formation
exercise is to get people comfortable with stating what those
implicitly held values and ethics are.
The best way to get an audience to reflect on values and ethics
without seeming to impose the facilitators ready-made list
is to introduce, preferably after an articulate speaker has
laid out her/his views on some issue of values/ethics (10
to 20 minutes), the distinction between values (which are
the goals or goods) and ethics (which are the commitments
which protect them). Then pull out of the speaker's comments
the values he/she has appealed to and any ethical principles
he/she suggested as needed. Then as a way of getting the audience
and the speaker to continue digging, lay out one of the taxonomies
(classification system) of agricultural values and later one
of the taxonomies of ethical principles we provide.
Such taxonomies do not impose values or principles
but simply stimulate the thinking of people. One could have
a simple hodge-podge of questions. E.g. Are there values in
enabling farmers to eventually own their land or have some
other form of security in his profession? Are there values
in life-long familiarity with a piece of land, a crop, a type
of animal? But the danger of such lists is that, like a grocery
list, things get left out. A careful taxonomy is an effort
to make sure no area is uninvestigated.
Necessity of Basic Values
In spite of the openness of using a questioning system based
on a taxonomy, no discussion or effort to reach consensus
in any profession or vocation that serves critical human needs
can be made absolutely wide open. When we discuss what we
expect of a nation's medical system, we have to assume that
the basic values assigned to medicine today are health and
pain-control (usually, restored health and control of disease/trauma
related pain--keeping healthy we usually assign to nutritionists,
gym coaches, parents, public health regulations, common-sense
etc). The ethical obligations of doctors, therefore are to
cure and to keep comfortable.
When we discuss agriculture we have to assume
the following basic values in food and fiber production:1.)
Sufficient, 2.) Healthy, and 3.) Sustainable Food Supplies.
And these three must be obtained: 4.) by means that respect
the rights and dignity of all the participants. Most commonly
assigned values fit under one of the four above. For example,
accessiblity of food can fit in "sufficient" as
understood to mean that the food system as a whole must allow
all to eat a sufficient diet. Future sufficiency fits under
"sustainable" . Community food security is the same
as local, reliable sufficiency. Under #4 would be such things
as the rights of labor, the health of rural residents, the
dignity of farm animals, etc.
Below we will provide taxonomies to guide whatever
consensus formation activity you may be planning.