The more we get into resident participation in every level of planning, from space design to long term strategic planning, I am coming more and more to understand how important it is to structure discussions in ways that everyone can engage. We all think about things differently, and we give our best thoughts when those thoughts are stimulated in a variety of parallel ways.
In part it is about meeting process, listening, and meeting leadership, and there will surely be much discussion about that as we go forward.
But here I want to focus on the importance of values, goals and principles. What I am seeing again and again is that when we get caught too early in the weeds, it is very hard to pull together and keep moving to decisions and beyond. So I have become an advocate of focusing early on goals, values and principles, and getting agreement on those as a tool for resolving disagreements.
Some recent examples from Collington. Back when we were discussing the so-called “transition process,” that is the process why which decisions are made about the appropriate level of care within our continuum for a resident, we started off talking about a lot of specifics, and trying to write policy out of those specifics. There was a lot of anxiety from both residents and staff.
So we backed off, and agreed on principles first. In particular we led with the most important principle, that of resident autonomy. The simple idea was that absent certain very limited exceptions, the decision was ultimately that of the resident, or “patient self-detirmination,” as we called it. The principle, particularly when expanded and qualified in other principles, made it remarkably easy to resolve other issues as they came up. The policy summary is here.
A very different example occurred at one of the excellent meetings that the Districts have been having about how to improve our central courtyard. No suprize that that discussion brings up very powerful feelings about space, community, design, etc. So, there it has been suggested that an initial focus on goals and principles might be very helpful, rather than getting bogged down in the merits of specific suggestions.
Here, then, are some possible goals and principles that might be a draft which, after input and changes, might be appropriate for this particular situation. They are offered more as an example of the approach than for the specifics.
The courtyard should be usable for as large amount of the year as possible.
The courtyard should be usable by as high a proportion of our residents as possible.
The courtyard should provide a powerful visual focus for our community.
The courtyard should foster communication and connection within, and even beyond, our community.
The courtyard should be maintainable at a reasonable cost.
As we move forward, I think we will see more and more the utility of this approach.