Perspectives on SF in social and political dynamics
A Solution Focus Conversation with Sofie Geisler
Jan 29, 2021
Introduced by Marika Tammeaid
In this captivating fifty-minute audio conversation, Anton Stellamans interviews Sofie Geisler about her work with large scale processes and political and social movements in Mexico. Sofie describes very well what is different when practitioners take Solution Focus into the political and social change field and such a controversial theme as justice; justice as it is officially distributed and also what people think justice is.
It becomes clear that the magic wand that SF can bring to those fields is to take what people say seriously, and to give importance to what they think is important. Defining SF as ‘active acts of recognition’ is excellent wording that Sofie uses during the conversation. She also points out that practising SF on a large scale does not mean practitioners always being positive and encouraging; instead, we should be constructive and disciplined in what we bring to the change situation. As an important exception to organisational consultancy or therapy, the SF practitioner is just one player in the ‘change landscape’ of SF’s large-scale social change applications and does not lead or steer the process, not even temporarily. The work is focused more on navigating using SF lenses and nudging the emergence towards more positive results.
Sofie brings up another theme that I find extremely interesting: Do we require new types of SF questions in large scale processes? Sofie’s example of the usefulness of recognition maps is one example leading in this direction. “By whom would you like to be recognised?” and “Who would you like to notice what you do differently?” are great examples of questions that help to make sense of turbulent and complex dynamics between different opinion groups. The same goes for notions of starting to use the words the other party will hear. In the conversation, Sofie reminds us, importantly, that we should not look at public policies as ways to repair a problem but as ways to cocreate new and relevant solutions. In addition to listening to and acknowledging what people want, there are other important issues like money and impact to consider. Often the first SF act is to reframe the problem-focused public issues and the passive view of the world; this reframing leads us towards a more workable target, and it is important to engage people in building better solutions to achieve that target.
The future-driven, collaborative and relational design that SF brings to large-scale challenges helps to cross boundaries. With that, SF can provide public policymakers and NGOs with a new type of platform to contribute to society and to social change. Like Sofie suggests, it would be worthwhile to identify what is already going on within the global SF community in the political and social change fields and start to recognise the resources SF has to offer for policymaking and implementing reforms, where people are co-creators.