Nervous System Informed Facilitation for Strategic Sustainable Development: Integrating Polyvagal Theory in the ABCD-Process
Abstract: The activities of modern society create an unsustainable trajectory for life on planetearth. The issues related to that, as summed up in the sustainability challenge, are interdependentand complex, thus effective solutions must be systemic and involve diverse stakeholders.One proposed tool from the field of Strategic Sustainable Development (SSD) to operationalizeparticipatory multi-stakeholder engagement is the procedure ABCD. But a procedure is onlyone aspect, how it is used determines its success. Through exploring Polyvagal Theory andrelated approaches (PRA), this research suggests an approach to support ABCD practitionersin conducting good facilitation by incorporating a practical understanding of the human nervoussystem. To do so, 15 PRA- and six ABCD-facilitators were interviewed, an advisory boardworkshop with four experts was conducted, and a survey with 13 SSD practitioners gave feedbackon a first draft to iteratively produce a guidebook prototype for PRA-informed ABCDfacilitation. It consists of central PRA-informed concepts, 10 principles, five categories ofmethods, and specific amendments for the ABCD procedure. Almost all parts of the guidebookprototype saw high approval for usefulness and applicability. The results of this research suggestthat PRA-informed ABCD facilitation might support a transition towards sustainability,although its application depends on the context of the procedure.
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