Back to Basics, and Then Politics: An Interview with Practitioner Marianne Munis

Whenever you read someone’s profile, you wonder what their story is: how did they start or get introduced to their field, what are some of the challenges that they have faced, and there do they want to go next.

Marianne Munis is known for her knowledge and leadership in deep democracy. She has been using her knowledge and experiences in deep democracy to help and teach people through her roles as a instructor, facilitator, supervisor and consultant. She works in the private and public sector, with NGOs, companies and schools. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.

How did you get introduced to the Deep Democracy method? What appealed to you about it? 

Marianne was introduced to the Deep Democracy method through a consultant who was trained in the method in South Africa and gave a workshop as a guest lecturer at the Experimental School in Denmark where Marianne was principal. Her staff welcomed the idea of a more inclusive democracy that this method offered. Marianne further got involved in Deep Democracy after one of her students from the school became interested in Deep Democracy and decided to travel to South Africa where she studied under the co-founder Myrna Lewis, who was in turn invited to came back to Denmark to teach a workshop. What appealed to Marianne was the concept and wisdom of the ‘No’. She found this very interesting because you “tend to forget about the minority and tell them shut up, and do not listen to them. But there is wisdom in what they are saying”. Whenever she brings this into a group, participants always find this a provoking and interesting idea.

How did you start when you were a novice and how did you build up your skills and confidence?

Marianne approached Deep Democracy hands on through a step by step approach. For example, start with just finding the ‘no’. Next session, try looking for the ‘no’ and then spreading it through the group. Her suggestion is to try not to do all the steps at once. Instead, slowly add skills and do what you are comfortable and confident with. After fluency is developed you can add more challenging tools to your facilitation processes. Marianne suggests you should not be afraid of mistakes and that the only way to be comfortable and skilled with the methods is to practice, practice, practice. Furthermore, it helps to have a partner that you can get feedback from. Marianne notes that the type of feedback is important. This should come in the form of ‘what you do well’ and ‘what you could try’. The Deep Democracy process is about teaching people another way to think while simultaneously learning alongside them.

How to you prepare for a session that might be difficult? 

To prepare for a difficult session, it is important to know where your perspectives lie. Knowing if you are going to be facilitating alone or with a partner will alter how you will prepare. Meditating, or having a personal augment with yourself can be ways of helping you achieve neutrality. Having a co-facilitator is very helpful because you can rely on each other, and step in if you start to loose your neutrality.

Learning how to de-role and debrief is important at the end of the sessions, and having a partner for this can be very helpful. You can share your experiences with someone who has been a part of the processes. Marianne prefers to work with someone, but knows that this isn’t always possible.

Do you have any sense of the effectiveness of your facilitation? 

Marianne feels and can sense a change in the atmosphere, particularly near the end of the session. She can see it in their body language, tone of voice, posture; they look more relaxed if the session has gone well. People become less defensive and sarcastic, and more reflective and thoughtful. By using and listening for the the ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ in the group, Marianne can see how the room is doing and adapt her tools for the levels of perception that people want. 

What future plans do you have for using this methodology? 

Marianne wants to continue with the work that she is currently doing, and bring Deep Democracy into Danish politics. Denmark recently had an election with the majority winning only slim margins (51-49). She is tired of seeing how arguments and debates are carried out in politics, would like to see how Deep Democracy can reform the political stage. The next steps for Marianne will be to find someone she can partner up with and introduce this to the politicians and political parties.

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