see-saw co-development

Notes for Guides in Stage 1

Please refer to the general notes on the reflection stage.

If a See-Saw participant is already capable of reflecting effectively both on what they offer, and on their initiatives, and is able to produce useful briefs that can well be related to by other participants, a Guide may not even be needed. The value of having Guides is to help where there are challenges to overcome.

The challenges below are not listed on the general guidance page, because only one or two are likely to be encountered at one time.

The skills needed by Guides themselves are similar to those often used in counselling, business support, careers advice, coaching, mentoring, and related activities. Of particular importance is a keen sensitivity to personal values, and the ability to sense when someone is genuinely connecting with those values in discussing their ideas. The energy in the See-Saw process is likely to come in part from a connection between values, together with the peer-to-peer nature of the process.

It is vital for Guides to bear in mind that their role is not in any way to judge the value of the initiative briefs, nor even the appeal of the individual briefs, but to give feedback on their perception of how well they will work in the context of the conversation meeting. Will an individual brief help participants in the initiative position to relate to that individual? Will an initiative brief help participants in the individual position to relate to the proposed initiative?

Possible challenges

Many people are less than sure about how to present themselves and their ideas to a peer group, because they may have lacked helpful, honest feedback, and good personal development opportunities. Some of the barriers to writing effective briefs are outlined here below. Please tell us of any other patterns that you identify, that could help with this guidance, which is tentative and provisional until more experience is built up.

Individual brief written for traditional audiences

For presenting themselves in the context of work, most people have been conditioned to think in terms of CVs and résumés. An old fashioned CV might not even highlight skills and abilities, but could be written in terms of qualifications and experience. For See-Saw, an individual brief needs to present the person in terms of their values and abilities. In representing their initiative ideas, participants will relate to any similar values of the individuals they are having a conversation with, and will value those individuals' abilities to act effectively in the roles needed for their initiative to be a success. Guides can be expected to have some experience of this kind of situation, and therefore should be well prepared to help in this kind of situation.

Individual ability underrated or undervalued

Abilities that are developed outside the workplace, or away from “official” training or education, can easily be overlooked. Though there has been much talk about transferable skills, employability skills, or key skills, people may still find it difficult to relate the experiences they have had to the ways that the skills learned from that experience could be valuable in other situations. Guides may need to support participants in identifying and valuing such abilities.

Individual ability overrated or overvalued

Conversely, people who have, perhaps, been on a day's course introducing some skill may believe they “can do it”, and their lack of appreciation of what it really takes to be expert may be underdeveloped, simply because they have not had the opportunity to compare their own ability and performance with real experts. This is clearly a sensitive issue, but cannot be overlooked, as someone entering See-Saw conversations with an inappropriate sense of confidence risks wasting time and reducing good will. Guides may need to use their coaching skills to help the participant write a brief that is realistic by the standards of the other participants likely to be present.

Initiative too vague to relate to

If someone has not put much time and personal energy into thinking around an initiative, it may be vague and unconnected with the person's real values. It is likely to be natural for a Guide to help the participant clarify the initiative through appropriate questioning.

Initiative too tightly defined

Conversely, some people are prone to planning and envisaging at a finer grain than is helpful at this stage, and this may mean that possibilities for collaboration are overlooked, when they might actually be fruitful. As with overrated ability, the Guide will need to be sensitive when leading the participant to open the brief up, focusing on the essential principles, to allow other participants to relate to it more.

Initiative not appealing to values

Within the socio-economic models that have been dominant in the past, people often start and run businesses with financial return as the primary objective, and little consideration for the common good. Initiative ideas in that vein are more likely to be helped by venture capitalists than by See-Saw. In these cases, a Guide could focus on the exploration of other value sets, or as an intermediate step, for example, try to introduce the value of co-operative principles.

Traditionalist world view

The professor of adult learning, Robert Kegan notes that adults in our culture tend to behave in line with one of two “orders of consciousness”. Kegan associates what he calls the third order with “traditionalism”, and the fourth with “modernism”. (He also describes a fifth, associated with reconstructive post-modernism.)

People operating largely within Kegan's third order of consciousness — traditionalism — may find it hard to relate to the See-Saw process, because See-Saw deliberately goes beyond the traditional approaches of hierarchically structured ventures operating within the dominant set of values in our society. Secondary school students are very likely to be operating at Kegan's third order of consciousness. Thus, the See-Saw process as formulated here may not be successful in a school or with children.

If, at the reflection stage of the See-Saw process, it seems likely that someone is operating within Kegan's third order, the guide needs to consider carefully what to do. The participant may be best directed to more traditional channels of support. It is important to be aware of this possibility, so that expectations can be managed, and the remaining people in a group of participants do not get frustrated.

The objective

From the above discussion, and from the general notes, it should be clear that the main tangible product of the reflection stage is two briefs with which the other participants are likely to be able to engage. In essence, the Guide is representing other potential participants, giving feedback during the reflection stage on how other participants are likely to respond to points put in a brief. If it seems the right thing to do, Guides may want to do a little role-play, to allow participants to test out draft briefs.

For each brief, the aim is both for Guide to be reasonably confident that the brief will serve its purpose, and for the participant to be happy that the brief meaningfully expresses to others what he or she intends. The Guide is not playing the role of a business or careers advisor.