Strengthening Our Co-Op Through Dynamic Agreement

Submitted by maggie on .

Polycot Associates has been working with a new kind of process that puts the power of creating a resilient legal agreement into the hands of the people who are affected by it.

What if you could collaboratively co-create agreements (e.g. marriage, employment, business partnership, exclusive supplier, organization governance, landlord/tenant, etc.) with other participants? And what if your agreement was written in legally enforceable, easy-to-understand, non-legalese? And what if the agreement served not only to memorialize the “deal points” (who, what, when, and where, and how), but also to express values, principles and motivations (why) acceptable to all concerned? An agreement that outlines a process to address change, challenges, and conflicts that arise in any sort of relationship?

Austin, Texas attorney, Randy L. Langford, has developed such an approach, termed Dynamic Agreement™. It puts the power of creating an agreement and addressing change into the hands of its principals and stakeholders.

Polycot Associates is engaged in the process of creating a Dynamic Agreement™ of its members. While it is not yet complete, the process has already yielded deep insights within the group, and it has supported a deeper understanding of individual contributions as well as the overall group dynamic.

Creating a Dynamic Agreement

Central to the Dynamic Agreement™ approach is Dynamic Agreement Dialogue™, a collaborative, co-creative communication method that draws on time-proven processes and techniques to facilitate listening and decision-making. This is done by creating a safe environment for the respectful sharing of perspectives.

“Dynamic Agreement™ is relational and humanistic,” Langford says. “Most relationships involve agreements. Some of those agreements are important enough to formalize. The importance we place on the relationship often determines what the participants want to know about each other. For example, if participants are considering entering into an agreement which may result in them being substantially affected by the actions of the other person, they’d probably want to know if the values and principles, and motivations of the other participant are acceptable for the purpose of the agreement.”

He further explains, “A static agreement (conventional contract) is transactional and legalistic. The people involved in a static agreement are commonly referred to as the parties. A static agreement represents a snapshot of the condition of the participants at the time they sign the agreement. The motive of the participants for entering into the agreement is usually given little, if any, attention. Often participants don’t even read a static agreement because it’s been negotiated and created by attorneys who use legalese that may be difficult for non-lawyers to understand.”

To complete the Dynamic Agreement Questionnaire™, participants share short stories of experiences - as opposed to multiple choice/directed options - in an enjoyable exercise in self-reflection. From these stories, a trained DA Facilitator can identify expressly stated, or inferred, overarching values, principles, and motivations of each person, which are shared with them in a report that is then provided, upon individual approval, to the other participants. This is when the Dynamic Agreement Dialogue™ process begins with participants engaging one another by exploring values, principles, and motivations.

If all perceive mutual alignment for the purpose of the agreement, then they move on to co-crafting their Foundation Statement. This is a kind of touchstone for the agreement, similar to a preamble, which serves as a litmus test with which the participants can measure their actions going forward, and determine if those actions align with the original purpose of their agreement.

Handling Changes, Challenges and Conflict

In addition to the Foundation Statement, another unique feature is the Change, Challenges, and Conflict section of the agreement. This addresses how participants will approach conflict. Langford says, “Along with the joys of humanity come the challenges. If we live in community, it’s not a matter of IF we will experience conflict, it’s only a matter of WHEN. It’s beautiful when participants enter into an agreement and things work out exactly as planned with no conflict.” Issues may arise, however, when incidents occur beyond our control (e.g. job loss, illness, product unavailability, natural disaster, etc.), and needs or desires change. . Security may be the priority, rather than flexibility; or opportunity may be the priority over safety. You may be focused on immediate results, rather than long term growth. Or maybe mistakes are made (e.g. low performing investments, misunderstandings, uninformed decisions, miscalculations, unrealistic expectations). Imagine collaboratively addressing conflict rather than defaulting to costly, adversarial, impersonal litigation.

A Dynamic Agreement™ is personalized, empowering and practical. It is collaborative in nature instead of adversarial, and it’s relational instead of transactional. A much needed approach in a very polarized world.