Trip Barthel is quite clear about his
question, and it’s not a small one:
“How can we work together to
overcome suffering, solve conflict,
and arrive at unity?”
About the Author
is Associate Professor of Organizational Studies at
University. He has
more than 25 years
of experience in
and training and
consulting, and has
been active in ACR
Larry R. Rute
Every compelling book I’ve read in our field seeks to
answer an important question for practitioners and/
or those whom we serve. Trip Barthel is quite clear
about his question, and it’s not a small one: “How can
we work together to overcome suffering, solve con-
flict, and arrive at unity?”
Barthel spends the remainder of this 176-page
book guiding the reader through the “Affirmative
Facilitation” process which (not surprisingly, given
the title) consists of nine keys. Along the way we are
treated to multiple case studies from Barthel’s own
mediation and facilitation experience which elucidate
the process and provide hope and encouragement.
“Affirmative Facilitation” draws on the premises
of positive psychology as well as Barthel’s own faith
tradition, which is Baha’i. (The Baha’i teachings are
only alluded to in this book, but receive much fuller
treatment in a companion volume titled Dynamic
Consultation: 9 Keys to Unity). However, the reader
does not need to embrace positive psychology or
adhere to Baha’i doctrine to benefit from the Affirmative Facilitation model.
The nine keys of the model are both explained
and illustrated in the main body of this book, made
somewhat more digestible by the fact that all nine
start with the letter “e.” Each key can be utilized
within multiple processes, including Affirmative
Facilitation, Facilitative Mediation, World Café,
Appreciative Inquiry, and DiBono’s “ 6 Thinking
Following is a brief overview of the nine keys.
1. Engage—The facilitator welcomes
participants and strives to create a safe
environment through the use of ground
rules and context setting.
2. Empathize—The facilitator encourages
questions and listening in a discovery process
that leads to greater understanding and
empathy among the participants.
3. Explore—The facilitator coaches
contributions from all through storytelling and
the use of “why” questions.
4. Envision—The facilitator works to frame the
issues and to help the participants define
the problem(s) in ways that are mutual and
5. Expand—The facilitator encourages creativity
by inviting multiple options to address the
issues and resolve the problems.
6. Elucidate—The facilitator encourages the
participants to identify moral and ethical
criteria which will guide their choices among
the options identified in the previous step.
7. Evaluate—The facilitator assists the
participants to select options based on the
criteria identified in the
8. Executive—Now that a decision has
been reached, the facilitator may record
the agreement or coach the parties in
implementing the decision(s) made.
9. Examine—Finally the facilitator encourages
reflection or even a formal evaluation, looking
back on the process to reach agreement
and the implementation stage.
Reviewed by David Brubaker
9 Keys to Synergy
by Trip Barthel
Create Space Independent