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Tools Methods for Scaffolding Collaboration on Complex Issues

Methods for Scaffolding Collaboration on Complex Issues

Facilitated Method

Structured methods for facilitating collaboration on complex issues can scaffold productive collaboration and overcome interest conflicts among diverse stakeholders. It can help the practitioner facilitate collaboration and problem-solving on a specific issue, as well as long term openness to diverging perspectives and co-creation skills.

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When issues are very complex, no single actor possesses the knowledge and competences that have to be weighed in and used when developing action plans. Over the last five decades or so, a very large number of methods have been developed in order to scaffold productive collaboration and overcome interest conflicts among diverse stakeholders.

Some examples (of very many) of such methods are:

  • TIP, The Integral Process for Working on Complex Issues
  • Soft Systems Methodology
  • Open Space
  • Future Search
  • the Strategic Choice Approach
  • WorkOut
  • the Consensus-Based Approach
  • the Inquiry-Based Approach
  • Deep Democracy
  • Future Workshops

How it can help

These structured methods facilitate collaboration, problem-solving and strategy development in relation to specific issues. They also support long-term learning among participants regarding awareness of complexity, openness to explore diverging perspectives and concrete co-creation skills.

Learn more

Read the IDG Phase 2 Research Report and get more in-depth information.

How to practice

When starting with methods for scaffolding collaboration on complex issues for the first time, try the following:

  1. Identify the complex issues and high level purpose for which you would like to use the method.
  2. Seek out structured facilitation, either using an established method, or a bespoke design by a skilled facilitator. A trained facilitator can adapt the design of a group process to the specific conditions in the particular case, and can facilitate each phase of the process in order to mobilize the competences of the participants and ensure productive collaboration.

Most relevant skills

Co-creation Skills
Inclusive Mindset and Intercultural Competence
Complexity Awareness

Research and resources

  • Bunker, B. B. & Alban, B. (2006). The handbook of large group methods: Creating systemic change in organizations and communities. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Holman, P., Devane, T. & Cady, S. (Eds.) (2007). The change handbook: The definitive resource on today's best methods for engaging whole systems. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  • Jordan, T. (2014). Deliberative Methods for Complex Issues: A typology of functions that may need scaffolding. Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal, Nr 13, pp. 50-71.
  • Rosenhead J, & Mingers, J. (Eds.) (2001). Rational analysis for a problematic world revisited: Problem structuring methods for complexity, uncertainty and conflict. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Ross, S. N. (2006). The integral process for working on complex issues: Public issues edition. (4th Ed.) Bethel, OH: ARINA, Inc.

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