Since Talk Shop’s very first event in Newcastle, on fracking, in 2014, we have concentrated on the big issues of the day, mainly national. Here we describe the second string to our bow that we added in 2020: supporting local democracy to tackle place-based issues. At the heart of this is our belief in win-win, our belief that such solutions, which give all competing groups a ‘win’, can be found much more often than people think.

We are looking for people and organisations that wish to join us in action research, testing different ways to search for win-win solutions. If that interests you, contact Perry Walker.

We are encouraged that in the first two months after launching this programme, we have been able to run four online workshops on win-win. Two were for independent parish and town councillors, part of the Flatpack Democracy movement. One was for parish and town councillors in Herefordshire. The last was for worker coops, part of a Virtual Workers Coop Weekend. The slides used to introduce Win-Win are here (you can download them to view in PowerPoint).

Our first briefing on the subject is here.

The first stage in seeking win-win solutions is diagnosis. Why is it a tricky issue, how has it got stuck? Many of such issues fall into one of a small number of patterns.

One of those patterns is false contradiction. The positions of two sides appear to be incompatible, but actually can be reconciled. For example, a Quaker meeting house in Maryland, USA, needed enlargement. A balcony was proposed, but it involved destroying an old partition which had once separated men and women. People said:

“But I love that old partition. It reminds me of where we’ve come from.”

“That partition has been there all my life. I’m not sure I could worship here if it were gone.”

There was impasse for three years. Then someone found the solution that resolved the contradiction:  “I see a balcony in this room and it is faced with the panels from the partition.”

Once the diagnosis is made, we can suggest ways of working and participatory processes that will fit the situation.

Crowd Wise: an example of a win-win process

Crowd Wise was developed by Talk Shop’s Perry Walker when he was at the New Economics Foundation think-tank. Our briefing on Crowd Wise is here and some examples of its use are below.  In the case of the Transition Town Lewes event, The organisers were extremely nervous about it, because there had been much recent conflict within the group. The people in conflict were there on the night. Yet Crowd Wise provided such a clear structure that a solution acceptable to all was agreed in two hours.


Examples of Crowd Wise