The old fable continues to echo down the centuries. A rancher left a rich legacy, seventeen camels, for his three sons. According to the testament, the eldest son can get one-half of the total, the second brother can get one-third of the total, and the rancher’s little son can get one-ninth of the total. However, seventeen couldn’t be divided by two, three or nine with no remainder. So, they don’t know how to distribute the camels.
Enthusiastic villagers come to persuade, but with little success. The three brothers are unwilling to give in, and they even suspected that the villagers were partial to the others. At a loss, they decide to turn to the prophet in the village for help.
The prophet says, “I don’t know how to divide the camels, but I also have a camel and I can lend it to you.”
Facing the eighteen camels, the three brothers suddenly see the light. Eighteen can be divided by two, three or nine with no remainder. According to the rules of distribution, they distribute the camels in the following ways. The eldest brother gets nine camels (one-half), the second brother gets six camels (one-third), the little one gets two camels (one-ninth). Nine plus six plus two equals seventeen, a camel is redundant. So, they return the camel to the prophet.
In the story, the prophet plays a role of facilitator. All the prophet did was to lend one camel to three brothers. He did not intervene in the distribution process, and he pushed the three brothers to come up with their own solution. It not only maintained its neutrality, but also gave the three brothers the ability to solve the problem of inheritance ownership by themselves. This approach is highly consistent with the core idea of facilitation.
2. Introduction of Related Theories
2.1. Definition of Relevant Concepts
The “community” is a relative conceptual concept that was earliest proposed by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies. In the early 1930s, Fei Xiaotong, a famous Chinesescholar, introduced the concept of “community”  into China. At this time, the concept of community was no longer limited to the blood relationship. He holds that “Different from the relative groups on the basis of blood, the community is a group of mutual assistance and cooperation on a geographical basis .” This argument was widely accepted in China. After this, though different scholars have slightly different definitions of “community”, most agree that the essence of the community is a regional community of social life .
It should be noted that though there are places where a neighborhood forms a community, it does not mean that the community and the neighborhood are the same concept. The neighborhood usually refers to a dense residence at a certain area of the city and its surrounding supporting living services. In general, the neighborhood is only a component of a community. A community usually has one or more neighborhoods.
According to Oxford dictionaries and Collins dictionaries, the word “Facilitation” means “To make an action or process easier and more possible”. Its theoretical prototype is the facilitation theory in the field of business management, that is to guide and serve the group constructively, provide structural help to the interaction process of the group, and guide the group’s activities according to specialized procedures and technologies to achieve the best effect . In China, some scholars have introduced the concept of facilitation theory into the field of public administration. ZhengSisi, an initiator of “He Non-profit Organization”, thinks that conflict resolution in the field of public affair is often a problem of facilitating participation and participation effectiveness.
The person who pursues facilitation concept, and uses facilitating technology for facilitating activities, is called facilitator. ZhengSisi thinks that facilitator is a server. Through organizational process, process service and the use of tools, he helps participants hear and understand each other, identify problems, brainstorm ideas and reach consensus, so as to achieve the results we all want. In the facilitation process, as a third party, facilitator will not interfere with the choices of interests parties, or even provide any options. Just by empowering and putting in place a set of procedures, he tries to get the parties to come up with reasonable options and obtain reasonable conclusions for themselves.
2.2. Theoretical Basis
1) Empowerment theory
Empowerment Theory is also known as empowerment, empowerment, and stimulation power theory. The concept of “empowerment” was first proposed by the American scholar Sullivan in the book “Black Empowerment: Social Work and Oppressed Community” in 1976. Many people have different understanding in the interpretation of “power”. The “power” here can be interpreted as a self-control and effectiveness sense of individuals, and also as an ability to adapt the interpersonal or social environment, or as a social power to obtain education, health care, work, etc., and it can also extend to political power . Empowerment targets vulnerable groups in society, which are lacking of access to social resources and stay in a disadvantage position .
In the analysis of this case, the facilitation team exercises the empowerment theory and tried to explore or stimulate the owner’s potential through empowerment, increase their ability in obtaining resources and change the current status, so that they can solve problems by themselves.
2) Procedural justice theory
Justice is the bond of trust among people in a country, since the implementation of justice, that is, to determine what is justice, which is the source of order in political society. Procedural justice can be seen earliest from Rawls’ “Justice Theory .” Procedural justice refers to the procedural dimension of justice, which implies that judicial decision makers follow the legal rules established, equally treat the parties as the main body who apply the legal rules, and enable people relevant to interest to participate in the judicial process with equal opportunities in which the rules and judgments applicable to their effectiveness are formulated .
Although procedural justice mostly starts from judicial practice, procedural justice still plays a very important role in the public domains. In this case, the facilitation team followed the principle of procedural justice, guarantee the interests of both community and owners, and also enhanced its own credibility.
3. Historical Evolution of Case
Neighborhood H is located in the center of the city and was established and put into use in 2003. It has the convenient transportation and commercial prosperity. The total area of the entire neighborhood covers about 145,000 square meters, and the green area is about 15,000 square meters. It has 5 buildings of the multiple floors, 17 high-floor and small high-floor buildings, and 1048 households in total. The residents in the neighborhood are mostly personnel in the field of science and education, medical education, with a higher education and higher quality in general. Since January 1st, 2010, according to Article 58 in Document 274 of the Building , the community residents ‘committee has performed the duties of the Proprietors’ Committee under the guidance and supervision of the sub-district office and the township people’s government.
This case involves a large time span. In order to facilitate the study, the author draws the boundary between the facilitation team entry and street budget reduction, divides the entire case into three periods according to the timeline: the emergence period; the situation upturn period and repeated deterioration period.
3.1. Question Emergence Period
Period of time: From January 2010 to September 2014
State of neighborhood: Conflicts of the neighborhood become more prominent and the situation continues to deteriorate.
From the beginning of 2011 to March 2012, the community committee organized the member election of the owner committee and the two establishments and preparations for the election of the owner committee. However, the three events eventually failed. From this time on, the problem began to gradually get exposed.
The author has sorted out the exposed problems. At this stage, the focus of disputes in Neighborhood H is mainly as follows:
1) Government overstepped its authority in the participation and community roles and responsibilities were unclear.
According to Article 58 in Document 274 of the Building , the community committee will act as the owner committee of Neighborhood H from January 1, 2010 to perform its duties. However, as such escrow meets the regulation, the community cannot permanently and completely replace the owner committee. Such dissatisfaction is mainly concentrated on two sides. On the one hand, it’s thought that the community power is overstepped and over-intervened. For example, in the preparatory process for the election of the owner committee, the community took the initiative to make decisions for the owners and appointed five members for the preparatory groups. This causes damage to the owner’s autonomy; On the other hand, it’s thought that the community does not work. In the interview, the owners of the community mentioned that they had repeatedly reported problems to the community and asked it for replacing the property and clear the accounts, but the matters have not been resolved.
2) The community owner is extremely dissatisfied with the property, but no one can restrain it.
According to the stipulation of Article 78 in Chapter VI of Real Rights Law of PRC and Article 6 in the Regulation on Property Management, only the owners may sign or the owners’ committee may sign a formal service agreement, and only the owners congress and the owner committee may manage and supervise the property. Because of without the effective supervision and restraint, the quality of service provided by the property to the community has plummeted, in which many problems arise.
According to the report by representatives of the owner, the management of the neighborhood property is chaotic as follow:
a) The number of security guards in the neighborhood has dropped from 31 to 11 now.
b) The parking chaos in the neighborhood is very serious.
c) There were problems in the daily maintenance of neighborhood public facilities and greening. Property companies privately occupy some of the community’s public facilities such as public green areas, walks, etc. for debris.
d) The security system was scrapped without the consent of the owner congress.
e) The original hall was closed for a long time due to controversy, and there was no place for activities in the neighborhood.
f) The property had collected property management fees in a manner of intimidation, insults, and hooliganism.
For the above reasons, many residents believe that the property has not fulfilled its responsibilities and refused to pay property management fees, gradually forming a vicious circle.
3) The revenue and expenditure of the neighborhood is opaque and the accounts are confusing.
The neighborhood has a large amount of operating revenue, such as owner parking fees, advertising revenue and so on. The former owner committee poorly managed and the accounts were in disorder. As the new session of owner committee fail to establish, the neighborhood’s revenue expenditure is controlled by the property, and the lack of effective supervision makes the accounts even more confusing. Some owners asked the former owners committee and property company to liquidate the accounts, but they have not been able to do so.
4) The serious faction struggle in the neighborhood, and the low willingness of ordinary owners to participate in management.
The neighborhood owners are roughly divided into three groups. One is a group composed of former owner committees, one is a group that requires innovation, and the other is a group composed of ordinary owners. The innovation group and the former owner committee groups are in conflict, accusing each other, and both sides sometimes even resort to excessive measures. The struggle between both parties also directly led to ordinary owner group avoiding the problem. Although there are many capable people in the neighborhood and owners who try to improve this situation, they will eventually be discouraged by enthusiasm and quickly withdraw.
The dispute points of contention further complicate with the situation in the community. The establishment of the preparatory group for the election of the neighborhood owner committee is extremely difficult, let alone the establishment of the new owner committee. In August 2014, the community tried to introduce third-party organizations to mediate disputes when it was unable to resolve problems of Neighborhood H.
3.2. Situation Upturn Period
Period of time: From September 2014 to May 2015.
State of neighborhood: the involvement of the facilitation team, the situation is benign to change.
In September 2014, He Non-profit Organization (HNPO), the third-party organization, formed a facilitation team to participate in the event of Neighborhood. It tried to solve the problem of Neighborhood by facilitation activities. The facilitation team was formed for members as third-party organizations who were interested in this facilitation activity. Most members have only scattered experience in the facilitation.
From September 2014 to December 2014, the facilitation team interviewed community leaders, members of the former two owner committee, and neutral residents in properties and communities to collect relevant information. In the process of collection, follow the principle of facilitation-not judging, not defining, and trying to ensure their neutrality and objectivity, and get along well with all parties.
After collecting relevant information, the facilitation team began to promote solving some surrounding non-core issues. For example, an college volunteer teams were recruited to provide care and psychological care for the elderly and disabled in the neighborhood, and to assist young students in school who have difficulties. What’s more, the facilitation team actively helped the neighborhood solve the problem of parking chaos and participated in the design of a new parking system; actively negotiate with the property and reopen the activity center that has been closed for a long time. With the facilitator’s efforts, the state of the neighborhood has been improved to a certain extent, which has not only strengthened the confidence of all parties in solving problems, but also made all parties more trust in the facilitation team.
After gaining all parties’ trust, the facilitation team convened the first residents “consultation on March 10, 2015”. Tendelegates participated in the first consultation. The main topic was to analyze the reasons for the failure of the first two preparatory groups and suggestions in solving problems. The meeting followed the previously given procedures: ice breaking, selection of topics, and discussion. The entire process was conducted in strict accordance with the given procedures and a number of rules were designed to allow conflict parties to communicate more calmly and increase the possibility of solving problems. In the course of the meeting, the facilitators followed the facilitation principles of no analysis, no definition and procedural justice, and only to give instruction in the process, or to help the participants who could not catch the focus to summarize and not publish evaluation. On base of this, the participants themselves would find the key point of the problem and explore reasonable conclusions.
The 2nd consultation congress was held on March 25. The main topics voted this time are the reasons for the failure of the election of the owner committee and the discussion on the solution to problems.
3.3. Repeated Deterioration Period
Period of time: From March 2015 to now.
State of neighborhood: In the late stage of facilitating period, it becomes weak, and the situation worsened again.
At the beginning of the invitation, the community and the facilitation team agreed to be supported by the street office providing expense, and the estimated cost is about 80,000 to 100,000 yuan.
In May 2015, the street office deducted community bonuses, and the facilitation team had never been able to establish a new owners’ committee in H neighborhood, so the community was also less active in facilitating activities. In the case that the funds for facilitating activities could not be guaranteed and the community did not cooperate, so the attitude of facilitation team was gradually negative.
Atthe end of May2015, the former director of the second owners’ committee who gave their feedback that the H neighborhood was in a very chaotic situation, and he found the facilitation team and hoped that the facilitator could solve the problem. Due to lack of funds, the facilitating effect was not obvious.
At the beginning of 2016, the facilitation team completely withdrew from the neighborhood H and failed to facilitate.
4. Advantage Analysis of Facilitation Concept (Based on the Thinking about the Upturn Period)
In the case, the intervention of the facilitation team in the H neighborhood case has significantly improved the situation, which proves that the concept of facilitating is feasible. To this end, the author tries to combine the corresponding theoretical analysis of cases, and finds the beneficial components of the facilitation concept, to demonstrate its scientificality and rationality.
4.1. Maintain Your Neutrality
In general, the third party cannot guarantee its neutrality or make people believe that neutrality has always been criticized, which seriously affects the trust of all parties to the third party. In practical situations, third-parties are often hampered by limited funding, which involves who will pay for them. If the government provide the money, it is hard for owners not to suspect that third parties are politically inclined; if the neighborhood provides the money, it is hard to come up with such an expense in a neighborhood with muddled accounts. Although some scholars try to make the government and the third-party organizations maintain the equal relationship of buying and selling, entrusting and being entrusted through system design, rather than relying on each other. However, it is difficult to identify and prevent whether the government has some kind of transaction or attachment with the third party or organizations in private. In the cases, both the community and the owners were willing to trust and cooperate with the facilitation team, and were willing to have the facilitation team mediate. To a large extent, it is because the facilitation team has a different approach, and maintains their neutrality and gains the trust of their owners through two principles.
1) The principles of no analysis and no definition
As a third party, the facilitators do not interfere in the selection of interests parties and do not make any evaluation of interests parties. He considers himself merely a servant. Therefore, in the process of collecting data, the teacher does not express his own preference. When the conflicting parties express their opinions, the facilitator only need to faithfully record and find out the crux of the problem without evaluating the right and wrongs of either party, let alone being a mediator. The biggest difference between facilitators and other third-party mediators lies in that he does not have to provide an option, not to say, “You are in the wrong here, so you should make more concessions”. The essence of facilitator is to let the interests parties find reasonable options and draw reasonable conclusions by themselves. Therefore, the problem of neutrality has been well solved. He doesn’t do any persuasion at all. He doesn’t speak from the standpoint of either side, so there is no question of favoring one side or the other, which is also easier to trust.
2) The principle of procedural justice
The theory of procedural justice holds that procedural justice is a prerequisite for obtaining public credibility, with the implementation participation and procedural guarantee as its core. The facilitators usually organize a series of consultative meetings to increase communication among the parties concerned. The entire consultative council strictly followed a per-determined set of procedures including invited object, and flow of meeting, etc. Besides, many rules have been set up to ensure that the meetings are conducted in an orderly manner. Its purpose is to allow the conflicting parties to communicate more calmly and increase the possibility of solving the problem. The facilitators do not define what the participants say or steer the conversation (Just ask attendees to vote for the topic they want to discuss). Therefore, the facilitators could not bring their personal view or attitudes into the consultative meeting and maintained their neutrality. In this case, the intervention of the facilitator eased the tension, and the parties began to communication in a rational manner. This was a remarkable improvement from the days when we were locked in endless arguments and even resorted to drastic measures.
4.2. Improve the Enthusiasm of Village Owner
Empowerment theory is closely related to learned helplessness theory. Learned helplessness theory is that if people experience the inability to change the problems they face, then they may form these expectations, that is, one’s own actions rarely have useful results. Based on the theory, due to learned helplessness, owners will lose their enthusiasm to participate in community governance. For this, facilitation concept inherits empowerment theory, and empowers vulnerable groups to tap into their potential and increases their ability to access resources and change the present situation. In this case, facilitators empowered the community or the owners at three levels by conducting communication sessions.
1) Empowerment at individual level. Facilitators facilitate owner’s ability and awareness of reflection to express their needs in adverse circumstances. On the one hand, owner can express their needs to the community and property through communication sessions; on the other hand, due to the limitation of communication sessions, the owner can calm down and reflect on the problem.
2) Empowerment at the interpersonal level. During the communication sessions, the community can improve its image in the process of interacting with the owners and change the negative evaluation of the owners on the community’s inaction; Owners can also form a certain social network through interaction with other owners, so as to have greater influence.
3) Empowerment at the level of social participation. Communication sessions will enhance the influence of owners on district governance decisions. Owners can have chance for communicating with the community and the property department calmly, so as to express their interest demands, promotes the redistribution of resources and improve their own environment.
In a word, the empowerment of the three levels can increase enthusiasm of owners to participate in the governance of the community and encourage them to solve problems by themselves.
4.3. Inherit Common Advantages of Third-Party Organizations
Facilitators do not always take the position that let the parties to a conflict resolve it themselves. On the core issue of the dispute between the two sides, the facilitators will only conduct the guiding work. However, in some peripheral issues, the facilitation team will also actively deal with, and let the community and owners see the good results to enhance the confidence of the community and owners and increase the possibility of mediation. In this case, the facilitation team also solved some problems, for example, they actively help the community to solve the problem of parking chaos, participate in the design of a new parking system, actively negotiate with the property department and re-open the closure of the activity center for a long time, and so on. With the efforts of facilitators, the situation of the community has been improved to some extent.
Facilitators play an role of mediators in solving these peripheral problem. Whether it is a community part, a property part, developers, owners, they all are willing to make some concessions in some aspects, many problems have room to solve. However, due to poor communication between the conflicting parties, many problems that should be solved have been put on hold for a long time. This is the advantage of third-party organizations, and the facilitation concept doesn’t abandon this advantage due to its own concept.
5. Analysis of Facilitating Failure (Based on the Reflection on the Continuous Deterioration Period)
There is no denying that the situation of H neighborhood has been improved to come extent after the intervention of facilitation team, however, since May, 2005, the situation in the community has been getting worse every day, which proves that there are still shortcomings in facilitating.
1) Not completely consistent with current policies of facilitating activity.
According to the theory of collaborative governance, currently, the main body of social governance has changed from government agencies to governments, non-governmental organizations and social members to cooperate and actively participate in governance. In the case of community, according to the Property Management Regulations, community takes owner congress as the highest authority of the community which has the highest power in the community and the owner’s congress shall implement the owner’s self-management of the community for the executing agency. The government plays three roles from transition of management to guidance. First, act as a guide, guide the owner congress to conduct scientific and effective management and guide property management and third party organizations to improve service quality; second, act as maker, standardize the behavior of owners, property department, and third party organizations to help correct possible errors; three, act as supporter, support and train property management personnel, promote the neighborhood to maintain smooth operation. As a supplement to government work, the third party can make up for the deficiencies of government policies and effectively prevent and resolve conflicts . In this case, the property has many problems due to lack of effective supervision. However, due to restrictions stipulated by the policy, the facilitation teams have no right to supervise the property, and the government also has no clear law and regulations on how to make up for the lack of supervision in the context inability of owner congress and the owner committee to supervise the property. There is a gap between both parts.
2) The facilitate effects failure to gain official recognition.
The operation expense of this activity is provided by the street office. Later, the street office cut expense because the progress of the facilitation team failed to live up to expectations. It took about seven months from the introduction of the team to the signing of the formal contract. In this period of time, although some achievements have been made in facilitating, the problem of H neighborhood has not been solved, and the new owner’s committee has not been established yet. According to Vroom’s expectation theory, if one’s investment fails to achieve the desired goal, the corresponding reward for reaching the goal cannot be obtained, and the corresponding reward cannot meet the needs of the individual, then he will lose the motivation to continue . The street office allocated funds to community in the hope that the community can solve the problem of H neighborhood. When the facilitating activity cannot achieve the expected effect, of course, it is of course desirable to reduce the input. More than that, the street office also deducts community bonuses, and the community loses momentum in the chain reaction.
3) Questionable professionalism of facilitators
In the field of business management, many scholars have translated a large number of theoretical prototypes of facilitating “Facilitation Ideas”, and there are some works on its specific applications, such as Facilitation management series translated by Hu Jixuan, Guiding: A Practical Guide to Teamwork, translated by Ren Wei, and so on. However, how to combine “Facilitation Management” with the field of public administration is still at an exploratory stage. At the current stage, most of facilitation organizations are transformed from some interested third-party organizations, and lack of relevant experience. Members of the facilitation team have not received or been unable to receive systematic training, and can only draw experience from the “Facilitation Management” or practice in the field of enterprise management. In addition, due to immature development of facilitation organizations, team members often only serve as teachers, when they carry out their facilitating activities, they are prone to execution deviation, and it is difficult to see the effectiveness of their facilitating activities and other parties will also have less credibility in promoting success.
6. The Future Way of Facilitating Optimization
Based on the analysis of above reasons, it is found that the reason for the failure is not that there are inevitable defects in the facilitation concept. The problem lies in the policy mismatch and the technical problems of the facilitation team. Therefore, there is a certain space for optimizing facilitating.
1) Solid theoretical basis
Practice needs theory as its guide. Currently, as an emerging thing, the theoretical foundation of facilitation is still shallow in China, and relevant researches are scattered; most of them apply the concept and method of “Facilitation Management”, and fail to deeply explore the connotation of facilitation. Therefore, it is urgent to establish a complete theoretical system to guide facilitating activities. Some excellent theories, such as Social Governance Theory in the field of public administration, Third Party Governance Theory, Theory of Procedural Justice, Facilitation Management Theory in the field of business management, and many excellent practical experience such as “Fengqiao Experience”, etc., which can be used to facilitate the establishment of the theoretical system. However, after all, there is still a long way to go to build a complete theoretical system of facilitation, because of the insufficient of theoretical achievements and the lack of relevant practical experience. Therefore, in the process of construction, the researcher should draw the picture slowly, not too hastily, and try to select the excellent theory and practical experience to fill the gap in the facilitation theory.
2) Fill policy gaps
In spite of some optimization of the third party participation, reference promotion has been conducted―Relying on its own positioning and procedural justice to solve the problem of its own neutrality, but there are still gaps between the facilitating activities and the current policy. On the one hand, this is because the relevant laws and regulations are not sound enough, on the other hand, this is because facilitation is far from mature. To fill those gaps, the boundaries of power between the facilitation organizations and the government must be found. Only by drawing clear boundaries of power can the government and the facilitation organizations improve their own areas of power. In this way, even if the facilitation organization should cooperate more closely with the government, the authority should be avoided. Of course, with the adjustment of state and social relations, the government’s power boundary is also in constant adjustment . Generally speaking, the government will gradually remove some non-core functions and entrust other governance bodies with the responsibilities of public affairs governance. Therefore, the facilitation organization should grasp the trend of government at any time and make timely adjustment.
3) Sign performance contract
After the facilitating activities, the key point of weakness lies in that it does not know how to advance the next step of the work when it has achieved certain results, which lead to a long period of hesitation in facilitating activities in the resolution of parliamentary and community issues. The author think that the government can sign performance contracts with the facilitation organizations, evaluate the facilitation achievements and force the facilitation organization to optimize themselves, by improving the assessment mechanism. On the other hand, facilitation organizations need not worry about the lack of operating funds. As long as the performance target is achieved, the organization can get the agreed funds to maintain its stable operation. In this way, the problem of who should pay for the money, who should do the work and who should manage the people has been well solved.
4) Facilitator talents specialization
Third party organizations start late in China, so there is a shortage of professional talents. Especially in the field of facilitation, there are only a handful of talents. Therefore, how to optimize the training path, and cultivate special facilitator talents has become the difficulty of facilitation optimization. Nowadays, there is a lack of theories, and the technologies and methods quoted cannot fully match with practice. Therefore, a lot of research and practice are needed to draw experience, and the procedure of reference facilitation also needs to be redesigned and improved. There is still a long way to go if we want to have a complete system of facilitation cultivation.
In the context of public collaborative governance, the participation of third-party organizations in social governance is the key to realize the modernization of governance capacity and governance system. How to enable social organizations to better participate in grass-roots social governance is a new issue to be solved under the situation of social management innovation. You get a glimpse of it. Take this case as an example. For example, there may be many other governance problems such as grassroots public disputes etc. And then, how to solve the complicated dispute problem at the basic level? How to stimulate the vitality of urban grassroots autonomy? The facilitation concept in this case has certain reference significance. However, we should also note that the current concept of facilitation is not yet perfect, and there are still deficiencies in the technique of facilitation, which still needs time for optimization and development. Through the analysis of this facilitating action, the author aims to provide ideas for improving the mechanism of social organizations participating in social governance and promote the benign development of social organizations participating in social governance.