Have you attended a meeting of the local government and left there feeling that what you said was ignored, or the goals of the meeting were to inexplicably support everything the government group decided was what ‘THEY’ wanted? You may have been a victim of The Delphi Technique, a very effective tool which, when used by the wrong people, can make every meeting look as if there was participation and/or consensus when there is none.
Using the Delphi Technique to Achieve Consensus
How it is leading us away from representative government to an illusion of citizen participation
by Lynn Stuter
The Delphi Technique and consensus building are both founded in the same principle – the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, with synthesis becoming the new thesis. The goal is a continual evolution to “oneness of mind” (consensus means solidarity of belief) -the collective mind, the “wholistic” society, the “wholistic” earth, etc. In thesis and antithesis, opinions or views are presented on a subject to establish views and opposing views. In synthesis, opposites are brought together to form the new thesis. All participants in the process are then to accept ownership of the new thesis and support it, changing their views to align with the new thesis. Through a continual process of evolution, “oneness of mind” will supposedly occur.
In group settings, the Delphi Technique is an unethical method of achieving consensus on controversial topics. It requires well-trained professionals, known as “facilitators” or “change agents,” who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting one faction against another to make a preordained viewpoint appear “sensible,” while making opposing views appear ridiculous.
In her book Educating for the New World Order, author and educator Beverly Eakman makes numerous references to the need of those in power to preserve the illusion that there is “community participation in decision-making processes, while in fact lay citizens are being squeezed out.”
The setting or type of group is immaterial for the success of the technique. The point is that, when people are in groups that tend to share a particular knowledge base, they display certain identifiable characteristics, known as group dynamics, which allows the facilitator to apply the basic strategy.
The facilitators or change agents encourage each person in a group to express concerns about the programs, projects, or policies in question. They listen attentively, elicit input from group members, form “task forces,” urge participants to make lists, and in going through these motions, learn about each member of a group. They are trained to identify the “leaders,” the “loud mouths,” the “weak or non-committal members,” and those who are apt to change sides frequently during an argument.
Suddenly, the amiable facilitators become professional agitators and “devil’s advocates.” Using the “divide and conquer” principle, they manipulate one opinion against another, making those who are out of step appear “ridiculous, unknowledgeable, inarticulate, or dogmatic.” They attempt to anger certain participants, thereby accelerating tensions. The facilitators are well trained in psychological manipulation. They are able to predict the reactions of each member in a group. Individuals in opposition to the desired policy or program will be shut out.
The Delphi Technique works. It is very effective with parents, teachers, school children, and community groups. The “targets” rarely, if ever, realize that they are being manipulated. If they do suspect what is happening, they do not know how to end the process. The facilitator seeks to polarize the group in order to become an accepted member of the group and of the process. The desired idea is then placed on the table and individual opinions are sought during discussion. Soon, associates from the divided group begin to adopt the idea as if it were their own, and they pressure the entire group to accept their proposition.