August 6, 2010

Solution-focused politics?

Matt Gibson asked me the following in a comment to a previous post: "So do you think that a solution focused approach to politics can work? I am looking at how this can be applied at the moment but this book seems to be saying it can't? Any thoughts?"

My reply was: "Matt, thank you for your comment. I do think the solution-focused approach can be useful in several ways. From the top of my head, here are some thoughts. 1. Solution-focused principles can be applied by political parties to help 'solve' internal conflicts and to improve internal communications. 2. Politicians can use the non-blaming, non-accusative language aspect, when debating with others (I think Obama does this rather well), 3. Politicians could formulate goals more in achievable terms (see here), 4. they could use the platform principle more (make explicite what is already working and has already been achieved, 5. they could use earlier success more explicitly, etc, etc. I mentioned Obama. I sometimes think he is already applying much which I would suggest from an SF perspective (see here and here). So yes, I agree. I would be against however the idea to start a solution focused political party. To a large extent every party could apply this kind of stuff while it does not prescripe on a content level what the politics should look like."

I am curous about your thoughts.


  1. Hi Coert,

    Thanks for the reply, very interesting. If you don't mind I will look to expand on these ideas in posts on my blog in the future. I am interested to see how it could be applied to 1) internal party politics 2) on the door step to engage people more in the process 3) in formulating policy. Or even new ideas of making things work better for people. There are many exceptions which work well which can be found on your site (signs of safety as an obvious one) but also others that I am looking at on my site. If you have any ideas or contributions then they would be very much welcomed.

    I have no doubt it could bring a valuable contribution to politics.

  2. This is too idealistic. Politics is a power struggle in most countries. Sure, they can benefit from using Solution Focused approaches or benefit from using NVC language but in the end it will boil down to who's paying for the campaign, to whom do you have to payback with favors once you are in power. It is about corruption.

    Politics is about absolute power and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    One small example from my experience. I despised politics and considered it something to be avoided but in light of recent information, I thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt and take a second look. I selected Green Politics because the values that they promote (at least on the Wikipedia page) are in perfect alignment with my values. I then moved to research on a local party and I haven't found those values explicitly stated and explicitly supported. All I found was various whining regarding the opposition. I tried to find more about the organization from my hometown and discovered that it is headed by a person with a history of corruption (front man for a big industry boss).

    The main problem steams from lack of democracy. People have very little control or way less than they fantasize. Maybe my view is distorted by the situation in my country but I don't way see better results in the rest of the world. Big countries wage illegitimate wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) in spite of a overwhelming desire of people against them. In a true democracy, the will of the people would be reflected in the actions of the government. Unfortunately, what we see in the world right now is an economical interest of few overriding the will of the general mass.

    The solution, as I see it is represented by a democratic mechanism using modern communication (internet) creating and maintaining a political structure that oversees their interests. Either a new party should be created or a traditional one should be retrofitted with this mechanism.

  3. Thanks Matt and Peter. Peter, I like your idea of improving the democratic process. I think that democracy creates a tendency towards peace in and between countries,whereas lack of democracy does the opposite. In my view promoting democracy serves both human rights of individuals and enhances international stability and peace. And while some countries are now clearly more democratic than others, I think that in countries now called democratic there is a need to further enhance democracy.

    By the way I agree with your warning against too much idealism. A realistic view is clearly adviced. But I also like to warn against cynicism. A statement like: "politics is about absolute power and absolute power corrupts absolutely", could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  4. I agree with your warning against cynicism. I view the quote about power more like "keep you friends close but your enemies even closer".
    This reality should be understood so that preventive measurements could be taken.

    In regard to improving democracy, the best direction I can think of is a move towards dissolution of countries by emphasizing more local autonomy where by local I mean town level.

    The idea is that local autonomy will foster better community self-efficacy. Better lead towns could move way faster with this flexibility and this could have a rippling effect when they make public the specific solutions they focused on, specific strategies, specific tactics. Some of these specifics will not be portable but some will.

  5. Hi Coert, you said that "to a large extent every party could apply this kind of stuff while it does not prescribe on a content level what the politics should look like". I was wondering what you thought about applying a SF approach to a party that subscribes to an ideology. What works is sometimes not what we expect and I was wondering if this may make it more difficult for an ideological party?

    Peter it sounds like you have had a bad experience - all the more reason to join them and make a difference. Politics needs more people with a passion for doing the right thing like you.


  6. Hi Matt, you could be right. Strongly ideological parties may become to some extent blind to what works and therefore less pragmatic.

    For instance, an ideology might be: government should be a small as possible, so that the people can be free and the economy efficient.

    But you may also be more open and say: The question is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works. Here is a post that explore the theme of government size:


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