Core Capacities Overview: Relationship and Deep Listening

Emphasize Relationship and Deep Listening as a Foundation for the Work

Kris Archie and Trilby Smith (2020) write that “Relationships bring a system from mechanistic to living.” Their claim invites questions about who we need to be together to successfully adapt to a changing climate, to meet the climate crisis with the readiness that it requires, as well as about the role practitioners can play in activating or weaving these connections.

For some, a relationship-focused approach is a critical dimension of the capacities described in the section above, and evokes the transformational power of relationships (Sandercock, 2020). This power involves a shift that is necessary for climate adaptation to be a process that isn’t only about rethinking physical infrastructure but about supporting resilience of the actors involved in the ongoing processes required, from organizational change to community preparedness.

Ungar (2018) writes that “connectivity refers to how well components of systems interact with one another during a crisis.” He goes on to argue that “the more collaborative the network (e.g., the more organizations are coupled together without becoming too enmeshed or too disengaged), the more likely systems are to solve complex problems” (p. 34). Similarly, Sandercock (2020) argues that in so far as virtually all planning is done in some kind of partnership… collaborative planning is the mode of planning in the 21st century.”

Relationships are also key to addressing the blind spots that can prevent any one individual or organization from seeing and working with the intelligence of the larger system (as noted above). This is important for “building a shared understanding of complex problems…, [which] enables collaborating organizations to jointly develop solutions not evident to any of them individually and to work together for the health of the whole system rather than just pursue symptomatic fixes to individual pieces” (Senge et al., 2015).

Throughout this course, we will reflect on how an emphasis on relationships shows up in formal and informal engagement processes, partnerships and organizational change efforts.


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Strategic Dialogue and Engagement for Climate Adaptation Copyright © by Simon Fraser University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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