Participation without meaningful engagement is futile


Some thoughts about participation that emerged in conversation with Chris Blantern – a very wise person.

Some leaders treat participation as an end-in-itself – a box to be ticked in the proverbial good leader manual. Arguably, how conversations happen is more important.

Depending on prevailing organisational culture, meetings can be discursive rather than action orientated; or, it can be action-orientated without being discursive. Frustration with either pattern can generate adversarial forms of talk, which could, in turn beget active or passive resistance.

There is a skill/art to facilitating/hosting conversations that generate genuine engagement. However, there is only so much a facilitator can do at each event or meeting. Organisational actors need to be attentive (listening), appreciative (thinking the best of others), curious and inquiring. For many these skills do not come naturally, they have to be learned and practiced. Attending to developing this culture should be the raison d’etre of organisation development practitioners.

group of people reading book sitting on chair
Photo by Helena Lopes on

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