The New Volunteerism Project
Ivan Henry Scheier
What Is A Think Tank?
(training handout summaries)
Created for the use of participants in the 1992 VOLUNTAS Institute for Consultants and Trainers. Sponsored by the Center for Creative Community, P. O. Box 2427, Santa Fe, NM 87504.
@ -- permission for use-with-acknowledgment
A think tank is a process for looking long and deeply at underlying assumptions and values (in volunteerism, for our interest here) and feelings.
- Beyond "how" to "why"
- Beyond "what" to "what if"
Concentration is on why rather than how to questions. (There were as estimated 3,000 workshops on volunteerism last year; we would be very surprised if there were more than a dozen think tanks over the same time period.) Think tanks appear to have very special, perhaps even unique value for us in the following ways:
- to challenge advanced and/or restless-creative leadership
- for a renewal of motivation, rededication
- as an antidote to hardening of the categories in volunteerism
- as an especially powerful process for examining long-range issues and directions (as distinct from basics)
- to focus on a organizations main challenge at a different level from a basic workshop
Hopes within a broad framework of volunteerism, examined via the think tank process:
- to get substantial help with at least one primary challenge/issues of immediate concern to you as an individual
- to contribute substantial help re at least one major challenge of concern to volunteerism in general
- to learn the think tank process well enough to teach it and apply it "back home"
- to contribute to a continuing evolution in understanding the potential of the think tank process
Who Is It For?
Coordinators or other leaders of volunteers
Who are visionaries explorers creative and in search of challenge who can entertain unconventional approaches to problems which have resisted convention solutions who feel the big picture of volunteerism merits their commitment who are willing to re-examine basic assumptions in volunteerism today chronic questioners within a framework of faith in volunteering the restless seeker of broader perspective We especially seek people of a mature, self-disciplined distortion who are comfortable in sharing and completely reliable in observing confidentiality.
Almost anyone in the right situation, e.g., one which calls for renewal, re-direction, etc. Amount of experience is less important than how the person uses that experience Genius is not necessary Both sides of the brain are helpful So is patience with the problems of others: ability to function in a relatively unstructured, self-directed group; and "benign schizophrenia" re resource role.
Who Is It Not For?
People who mainly need help with the practical basics, such as how to recruit, place and train volunteers people with such immediate program or professional problems that they have very little energy to devote to the problems of others or of volunteerism as a whole people who assume that sheer longevity in the volunteer leadership field assures relevance of this think tank to their needs and style. People who need definite structure, rules, and objectives tend to have a lot of trouble with think tanks.
Special features of a think tank are:
- Everyone is both student and teacher, both seeker and "guru"
- Rules released from are more important than rules imposed. Largely self-structured group responsible for its own well-being
- Group works within broad framework rather than narrowly defined topic
- From there, freedom to dream, to pursue possibilities wherever they may lead
- Visualization, "what if" thinking, imaging are key processes
- Unanimity is not
- There is deep suspicion of the "obvious"
- Instead, we concentrate on getting beneath the surface to underlying assumptions, values, feelings
- Its OK to "get personal" in fact, its hard to remain robotic
- In the above ways, the process helps prepare the ground for more effective problem solving. But, unlike more conventional problem-solving processes, we do not rush to offer "solutions" until we understand what the problem really is
When and where appropriate?
Raising awareness Team-building Re-direction: Getting out of a rut Clearing ground for more effective problem solving Long range planning, visualization
A Consideration of Volunteerism: Exercises for the Creative Gadfly
An Invitation to Soar: Manual for the Think Tank Process
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Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, 87901
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