Strategic Questions for Postgrowthers

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maze through brain from question to exclamation mark from mouth

Strategic Questioning is an essential tool for any change agent, including advocates of postgrowth ideas.

Fran Peavey – activist, thinker and author of a manual on Strategic Questioning – describes it as ‘the skill of asking the questions that will make a difference.’

Key features of Strategic Questions include:

A strategic question creates motion.
By asking questions focussed on ‘how can we move?’, they are dynamic and don’t allow a situation to stay stuck.

A strategic question creates options.
‘Why don’t you [do x]?’ is a question that is dynamic in one direction. A strategic question opens the options up… ‘What would you like to do?’

A strategic question digs deeper.
Questions can be like a lever you use to pry open the stuck lid on a paint can.  A short lever will only just crack open that lid. But if we have a longer lever, or a more dynamic question, we can pry off the lid and really stir things up.

A strategic question avoids ‘Why.’
Most ‘why’ questions force you to defend an existing decision or rationalize the present. ‘Why’ questions can create resistance to change.

A strategic question avoids ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
Questions that can only have binary answers leave the person being asked in an uncreative and passive state.

A strategic question empowers.
‘What would you like to do to [achieve your goal]?’ there is a confidence expressed that they can contribute to the process.

A strategic question asks the unaskable questions.
For every individual, group, or society, some questions are taboo. A strategic question often challenges the values that an issue rests upon. Asking taboo questions in a nonpartisan way can be a great service to anyone with an issue on which she or he is ‘stuck.’

[adapted from In Context, Spring 1995]

Strategic Questions help break societal and cultural taboos

What Strategic Questions might we ask to create dialogue about postgrowth ideas? What opportunities and positive challenges are there in acknowledging the physical limits of the planet, and that the human enterprise must fit within, not exceed, these limits?

Here are a few to kick things off – please offer any suggestions you may have!

  • what is more meaningful/enjoyable because of limits? what about sport, the lines on a field delineating the realm of play? marriage? staying within the limit of your credit card? consuming enough [but not too much] food, alcohol? can you think of any other examples?
  • how can we make decisions outside the framework of money, given money is an abstraction/cultural construct and not backed by anything of real value?
  • what will get people – and politicians – scrambling for postgrowth as much as they currently do economic growth?

References & Resources:

Strategic Questioning Manual – Fran Peavey
[sourced from The Change Agency]

Strategic Questioning: An Approach to Creating Personal and Social Change
[In Context, Spring 1995]

Published by Sharon Ede

Sharon is an ideas transmitter, writer and activist who writes, collects, and shares stories on communication and change for sustainability at cruxcatalyst and is founder of Share Adelaide Share Adelaide. Sharon has been working on sustainability issues in paid and voluntary work since 1993 and loves playing connect the dots by cultivating a wide network of people working on sustainability.

2 replies on “Strategic Questions for Postgrowthers”

  1. Strategic questioning is also being used with great effect by Sue Lennox and the Ozgreen team (http// with respect to younger and older people finding their purpose with respect to sustainability movements.

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