Gather first– and second-hand background information to determine which issues should figure into the tailored design of a collaborative process.
In this stage, the process team designs and implements an inquiry plan that specifies who will be interviewed, what questions will be asked, what documents will be consulted, and what other information will be sought.
Good background information—gathered from surveys, interviews, focus groups, and existing documents—can identify potential barriers to problem solving, provide realistic assessments of time and resources needed, and ultimately inform the design of an effective collaborative process.
It’s important to understand the way stakeholders frame the issue, their degree of attachment to their perspectives, and their history of interaction with the topic at hand. If a valid assessment uncovers problems with the objectives and/or scope as originally conceived, the initiative should be reconsidered and revised.
From the information gathered, the process team can begin to identify which issues—substantive, relational, and procedural—will figure into the design of the collaborative process.
A less-than-adequate assessment could
actually subvert the effectiveness of the collaborative process.