Here you can find the research that has been undertaken by the partnership along with useful videos and the best practice for communication!
Best Practice Communication
The objective of the practice is to develop and implement meeting methods based on mutual recognition and respect that facilitate decision-making and problem- solving processes, eventually building common ground and expand everyone’s possibilities of choice and initiative. Ascolto Attivo, therefore, aims to respond to the urgent need for more facilitative leadership in order to promote more creativity and dialogue.
The approach is based on active listening and mutual learning used to engage individuals and groups in the management of relations, stimulating creativity that enable participants to activate their personal and emotional resources, to generate new ones, and to put them at the service of the objectives set, identifying innovative solutions and responses.
Ascolto Attivo organises participatory design and training experiences through which participants acquire these skills and set about practising them in their daily lives. This process is based on “The seven rules of the art of listening”, which were elaborated by one of the organisation’s member. These rules are:
- Never be in a hurry to reach conclusions. Conclusions are the most ephemeral part of your research.
- What you are seeing depends on your point of view. In order to see your point of view, you have to change it.
- In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that he/she is right and ask him/her to help you to understand how come so it is.
- The emotions are basic tools of knowledge if you understand that they speak a language of analogies and relationships. They don’t tell you what you are looking at, but how you are looking at it.
- A good listener is an explorer of possible worlds. The signals which he or she finds most important are the ones that seem both negligible and annoying, both marginal and irritating, since they refuse to mesh with previous convictions and certainties
- A good listener is happy to accept the self-contradictions that come to the fore in personal thoughts and interpersonal communications. Misunderstandings are accepted as occasions for entering the most exciting field of all: the creative management of conflicts.
- To become an expert in listening you must follow a humorous methodology. But when you have learned how to listen, it is humour that will follow you.
Methodology & tools:
Open Space Technology (OST):
Creative workshop designed by Harrison Owen, allowing participants to freely explore proposals and ideas. It is a mutual learning tool that facilitates the sharing of information, knowledge and experiences within groups and communities. It is an excellent starting point for participatory design work when there is a need for discussion on complex issues and where there is no one-size-fits-all solution and instead the possibility of “outside the box” processing is needed. OST is nowadays a widespread technique and is also practiced in institutional and corporate environments. In Italy, OST was introduced by Gerardo de Luzenberge.
Creative Conflict Mediation:
This process starts with the sharing of the principles that will govern subsequent meetings. The cornerstone of creative conflict mediation is the mutual recognition of different points of view, often through role-playing, which allows a person to put oneself in the other’s point of view; this element highlights commonalities and allows to move “from positions to interests”.
The implementation of creative conflict mediation can be summarised in 8 steps:
- preparing the space and welcoming;
- presenting the rules and checking the consensus;
- listening to the points of view of the conflict and paraphrasing them;
- returning the experience, moving from positions to general interests
- brain-storming alternative solutions
- constructing a solution;
- drafting the agreement and congratulations.
It is an approach that ensures a sense of belonging based on the common ability to make decisions that are polyphonic, effective, respecting the multiple identities of those involved through active listening. Discussion tables are established to facilitate the process, giving each participant the chance to practice active listening, trying to understand what the speaker wants to communicate, the message they want to convey. This is how the organisation builds common ground, jointly exploring new possibilities. All participants are involved in managing dissent in a polyphonic framework.
Impact & Outcomes:
Multiple target groups:
Ascolto Attivo works with local and national institutions, territories and communities, with associations and citizens’ groups, with neighbourhoods, schools and condominiums, with private companies that want to improve their skills in listening and creative conflict management, particularly when they are facing moments of transformation and growth.
Ascolto Attivo acknowledges that each project has unique characteristics and requires a tailor-made approach, which is why it is necessary to create a multidisciplinary team. Over the years, in fact, created a rich and heterogeneous network of professionals has been created: in addition to the company’s partners, there are other facilitators, urban planners, landscape architects, mediators, communicators, graphic designers, social workers, fundraising experts.
Cultural barriers to active listening techniques:
In Italy, it is still not so common, especially in the workplace, to refer to professionals practicing active listening techniques to solve internal conflicts. Most companies have a rather hierarchical structure based on traditional leadership, with a clear division between ranks and little association amongst employees of varying statuses. Decisions are generally usually made privately before the meeting by senior managers or the director of the organisation. The meeting itself is usually to evaluate the atmosphere and test the support of colleagues
Manifesto della Communicazione Istituzionale Interculturale
Thematic area: Intercultural Communication
The “Manifesto della Comunicazione Istituzionale Interculturale” is a public document elaborated by journalists, public communicators and other operators in the public administration, addressed to the municipalities of the Emilia-Romagna region. It puts emphasis on the strategic role intercultural public communication plays in supporting practices of information, listening, discussion and participation between institutions and citizens of foreign origin that are useful for promoting social cohesion and introducing elements of awareness that help citizens to get to know one another.
The objective of the practice is twofold:
- to provide indications to support the communication design of public authorities from an intercultural perspective;
- to serve as a useful tool for public administrations committed to improving communication and information towards the communities they administer, which are increasingly diverse in terms of origin and culture.
The Manifesto stems from the need to go beyond the idea that a good intercultural communication is only a matter of translating a message into different languages, since it necessarily implies making room for the other person’s word in order to be able to understand each other. It requires the involvement of its target audience. Actions are therefore carried out taking a bottom-up approach, and aim at encouraging the participation and involvement of foreign citizens through specific support to media education projects and initiatives and the consolidation of appropriate networks at the local level to allow for coordinated management and enhancement of their intercultural communication activities. Public communicators are required to keep up to date on all the aspects necessary to improve their understanding and knowledge of the migration phenomenon and to better respond to the communication needs of their institution. Finally, tools to monitor and evaluate their own communication actions are made available to eventually identify possible corrective activities.
Methodology & tools:
Supporting training and refresher courses:
Public authorities recognise the fundamental role played by public communicators and practitioners in facilitating more inclusive and diversity-friendly institutional communication and, therefore, support and encourage their training and updating. Public communicators participate in training and refresher courses to better respond to the communication needs of their organisation.
The Manifesto stresses the importance of listening to the communication needs of citizens of foreign origin and preparing a communication strategy that is as open as possible to the outside world, capable of overcoming the use of self-referential and one- way communication practices.
The public communicator pays attention to the communicative needs of the target groups and undertakes to prepare initiatives of listening and co-planning with foreign citizens through consultation tables, public meetings, and by strengthening relations with their cultural moderators.
The practice urges to give visibility to intercultural processes that involve local territories and promote integration through non- hostile, non-discriminatory and stereotype-free institutional communication. The public communicator avoids the use of stereotyped representations, values diversity and promotes the dissemination of news that is part of a “culture of normality”, in order to overcome narratives that would like themes related to interculturality and migration to be flattened exclusively on a social, welfare and/or emergency dimension.
Impact & Outcomes:
High level of replicability:
The practice can potentially be replicated in every Italian or European regions for its high degree of flexibility which makes it possible for it to be adapted to the different local and national contexts.
Integrated communication approach:
The practice adopts an integrated approach that takes into account both the multiplication of languages (images, illustrations, audiovisual products, etc.) and channels (analogue and digital) when designing their communication activities. Communication strategies are adjusted according to the specific dynamics of the local community in order to maximise the impact of the communication campaign, always considering the characteristics of the target audience and recognising the potential and limits of multilingual communication according to the communication action to be implemented.
Non-legally binding document: The Manifesto only contains political and moral commitments that are not intended to create legal rights and obligations. Municipalities are not forced to adopt such approach to intercultural communication which, in turns, undermines the consistency of the overall practice
IF – Informazione & Fiducia
Thematic area: Active listening Country: Italy
The state of emergency due to the extraordinary measures implemented at the government level to face the COVID-19 pandemic has a strong impact on the economy and people. Companies have been instructed to encourage smart working as much as possible. However, this can lead to individual difficulties such as: anxiety and stress, possible drops in performance, communication problems, discomfort, etc.
In this context, the objective of the practice is:
- to provide psychological support to employees;
- to support them while carrying out smart-working activities;
- to scientifically analyse difficulties, enabling the company to implement concrete actions for health, performance, prevention and management of emerging risks.
The practice provides active listening and professional support services through psychologists and experts specifically trained to promote organisational wellbeing, performance and the prevention of discomfort, harassment and violence in the workplace. Indeed, there is evidence that organisational and personal wellbeing encourage workers to maintain high levels of motivation and stimulate a sense of belonging.
Uses its own innovative and scientifically validated model to gather information from workers on any critical issues. These are then synthesised in quarterly reports and transmitted to the management board. The reports, accompanied by corrective and improvement actions, are coordinated and supervised by a Technical-Scientific Guarantee Committee made up of scholars, specialists and high-profile professionals who are external to the company, and allow the management board to concretely promote and increase organisational wellbeing and performance through targeted interventions.
Methodology & tools:
EAP – Informazione & Fiducia:
Active listening activities engaging workers through the use of IT tools aimed at constant monitoring of organisational well-being and workers’ discomfort/stress. Psychological counselling is made available to people within the company to support health and performance.
The administration of questionnaires to groups of employees providing a snapshot of the company environment, highlighting key aspects such as culture, climate, good practice, integrity, team and individual management. The questionnaire is complemented by a checklist containing a specific set of questions to detect sentinel events and risk factors linked to the job content and context.
The provision of an innovative and tailor-made training for workers – based on the results of the questionnaire and linked to EAP activity – on issues such as ethics, responsibility, sharing and full integration between people, both vertically and horizontally. The training provides important information for the assessment and prevention of excessive stress, which can have serious negative effects on the company (e.g. reduced efficiency, absenteeism, turnover) and individuals (e.g. discomfort and illness).
Impact & Outcomes:
High level of replicability:
The practice can potentially be replicated in every national and European working environment for its high degree of flexibility and adaptability, especially now that smart working approaches have become popular and have proved to be an efficient way of carrying out almost any kind of task.
The in-depth assessment provided by the practice is based on an intervention process comprising methodologies, activities and tools that are adjusted to the particular needs and priorities of a company. As a result, the practice makes it easier to achieve the company’s objectives while stimulating internal efficiency. It also represents a sign of openness of the company itself as it shows interest in improving employees’ well-being which, in turns, will have positive repercussions on image, internal and external relations and corporate social responsibility.
The use of IT tools to practice active listening:
Active listening can feel like it is in short supply when team members are working remotely out of multiple locations. This is because it is hard to observe all the non-verbal cues of the speaker, to pay attention and ignore all non-urgent texts and emails, and to actively manage the conversation preventing team members from interrupting one another.
“The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”