About

Glenn has evolved a significant consultancy practice from a prominent legal career. He has a proven track record dealing with diverse interests – interactions within, between, and among organizations and groups – building relationships, achieving consensus, developing partnerships, and resolving conflict. He is internationally recognized particularly for his work mediating complex multi-party challenges involving environmental, resource, and land use issues, from mining to oil and gas, fish to forests, energy and water, often involving indigenous rights and interests.

His work in the field was acknowledged as early as 2000 in the publication of the Program Negotiation at Harvard Law School: Public Dispute Mediators: Profiles of 15 Distinguished Careers. Since 1994, he has been a Principal in the professional affiliation of independent practitioners known as The CSE Group, who are widely recognized as leaders within the field and its development. He brings to bear experience from across diverse sectors. Currently, he is Chair of the Board of Directors of RESOLVE Inc., headquartered in Washington D.C., one of the premier, public policy dispute resolution and collaborative leadership organizations in the United States and internationally.

Sustainability has provided a focus within which Glenn has drawn together the many dimensions of his strengths and experiences including co-authoring a widely referenced book, Building Consensus for A Sustainable Future – Putting The Principles Into Practice, a 1996 publication of the National Round Table of Canada. Included within a broad range of sustainability related assignments and activities he has served as an adviser to and facilitator for Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development Project (MMSD), led by the London based International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) a global undertaking of research and engagement focusing on how the mining and minerals sector could contribute to the global transition to sustainable development (1999- 2002). He founded and leads Global Energy Minerals and Markets (GEMM) (www.gemm.ca); a dialogue platform which brings into conversation leaders from communities, companies, and countries in the mineral sector to engage in difficult conversations to tackle the toughest challenges each is facing in building a sustainable future.

He has been delivering leadership, conflict resolution, executive and management development programs for over 25 years, first with the Banff Center (1985- 95), and Royal Roads university (1996 -99).In 2000 Glenn added another layer to his professional life associating with Simon Fraser University as Senior Dialogue Associate of the Wosk Center for Dialogue, and later with Faculty of Business as an adjunct professor where he teaches in the MBA program, including the pioneering MBA in Aboriginal Business and Leadership as well as other customized programs. As a Senior Associate of the Center for Dialogue he gave leadership to the Dialogue Forum Project which resulted in a series of publications Knowing Dialogue through Dialogue. The focus of the highly interactive facilitated programs he delivers is Leadership Strategies for Managing Complexity Within and Beyond the Organization in both the private and public sectors to assist today’s leaders in both the private and the public sector to develop the insights and skills required to respond effectively to the ever increasingly complex and diverse context in which we all work and live.

He also delivers an online 8 hour program through EduMine “Practical Tools for Sustainable Relationships in Mining”, also available in Spanish. He has written and spoken extensively in the field, and is a former President (1996) of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR), now known as the Association for Conflict Resolution, the pre-eminent international organization in the field, headquartered in Washington, DC. Glenn’s background includes experience as a mediator, facilitator, and negotiator; he also brings with him an extensive adjudicative background as an arbitrator and mediator in workplace, commercial, healthcare disputes, and complex litigation. He was the Senior Vice Chair of the Manitoba Labor Relations Board (1980-1989, part time).

Glenn grew up in Riverton Manitoba, along the shores of Lake Winnipeg, where he graduated from High School in 1964. He went on to earn his B.A. (Hons.) Economics from the University of Manitoba (1968); and his LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto (1972). He is a former barrister and solicitor called to the Bars of Manitoba (1973), and British Columbia (1989). In 1985 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel. During his legal career he was involved in very high profile cases as Counsel to the 12000 Manitoba Cree people (1973-86) whose lives and livelihoods were impacted by hydroelectric development, to the Ojibway people in North Western Ontario affected by mercury contamination (1981-86). He also gave leadership to a path breaking initiative (1999 - 2001) which brought together representatives of governments, churches, and indigenous survivor groups in a national series of dialogues to explore alternative strategies for reconciliation, healing and redress for claims arising out of the Indian Residential Schools operated in Canada for over a century.

In 1989 he moved to Vancouver and built what has become a complex career involving major private and public disputes, organizational dynamics, leadership development, and teaching. He is well known as a writer and speaker who brings into any room a stimulating and interactive experience reflecting his vast range of front line experience across diverse contexts including fish, forestry, mines, oil and gas, nuclear waste disposal, watershed planning, oil and gas, wines festivals, school boards, pipelines, transit systems etc.

He has remained deeply connected to his Icelandic heritage, having served as President of the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, and led the Centenary Celebrations in 1989, returning to his cottage and the festival each year. In his recently published book, Vikings on a Prairie Ocean (www.vikingsonaprairieocean.com), he relates how the people, places, and influences growing up in a legendary fishing family on Lake Winnipeg have shaped and guided his career, and his long involvement with indigenous people. He is continuing to publish new engaging short stories that take the reader inside the wisdom of the people of the lake while exploring the history of Icelandic settlers since their arrival in Canada in 1875.

Relationships as an Asset

Investing in developing a relationship, and directing the continuing attention necessary to preserve and enhance it is to build an asset, and to manage the inherent risk if it fails. Effective relationships must have the capacity to respond to changing circumstances, the evolving needs and goals of the parties, differences in values and perspectives, and inevitably, disagreements. That capacity will exist where each of the participants considers that its own interests are best served by understanding and addressing the interests of the other party, and where the relationship is seen and valued as an asset that requires ongoing and explicit attention and investment.

Clarity of Expectations

Clear expectations as to the purpose and explicit understandings as to the basis on which the relationship will go forward, including the way in which decisions are to be made, and the roles and responsibilities of the participants, is the platform for comfortable conversations and trusting relationships within the organization, and in its external relationships. Many attempts to build and enhance relationships or restore thos in difficulty fail, not because of a lack of will or skills, but because the participants have failed to first direct their efforts to first reaching common ground on “why and how they might do business together before they try to do business.”

Managing at the Edges

Identifying and engaging the organizations, groups, and interests, both internally and externally, which can help or hinder each participants range of choices and possible outcomes, and developing the competencies to do so effectively, will be critical to success.

Process for The Purpose, And The Players

Process fit for the purpose, not purpose forced to fit the process. Whether the challenge is to respond to a problem or to seize an opportunity, if the participants “own” the process they will “own” the outcome, and be committed to turning agreements reached into action.

Safe Places for Difficult Conversations

Whether building and enhancing relationships or restoring those in difficulty, powering the organization by empowering individuals requires “comfortable places for uncomfortable conversations”. With safe space for difficult conversations comes the confidence and security for an individual or group to go behind the curtain of its ostensible demands and share what it is really worried about or wants.

The Power (And Limits) of Consensus

Building consensus starts with the right to say no. Reaching for consensus enables each participant to explore its interests within the context of understanding the interests of others which may impact their ability to achieve or implement their own interests. The goal is to reach mutually acceptable outcomes which are preferable to any other alternative, and if that cannot be achieved, the reason for pursuing other alternatives will be clear.


Strength Through Diversity

What you see depends on where you stand, and the depth of the vision and the commitment to fulfill it will be stronger and more creative if molded within a diversity of values and experience, perspectives and histories.

Sustainable Outcomes Through Sustainable Relationships

Predictable responses, timely actions, and being given the “benefit of the doubt”, are elements of a sustainable relationship; the outcome of a relationship not well managed are uncertain reactions, potential resistance, and the “assume the worst” presumptions.

Nature of Services

Developing and reviewing with the parties from time to time clear expectations as to the basis on which the relationship will go forward.

Assisting the parties to define significant aspects of their relationship, including factors contributing to success and potential trouble areas.

Identifying specific realities of the situation, that must be taken into account and accommodated in the relationship.

Working with the parties to develop the internal arrangements and communication to ensure that commitments made externally by the representatives are internally supported.

Actioning Sustainable Development

Developing procedures and mechanisms for feedback, and changes necessary to be responsive to that feedback.

Training in collaborative problem solving within and between organizations and assisting those involved in the process to accurately reflect the interests and expectations of their principals and to shape those expectations in a manner that is conducive to reaching and supporting mutually acceptable outcomes.

Facilitating meetings, assisting in preparations for them, and preparing Meeting Notes.

Mediation to assist the parties in reaching resolution on differences between them.

Assisting in structuring third party relationships relevant to the parties.

Helping parties to develop dispute resolution alternatives and procedures that might be appropriate in respect of any differences that may subsequently arise between the parties, or the parties and third parties.

Sustainability Challenges us to:
  • Make decisions of a different nature.
  • Think in different ways about how we make decisions, and who we should involve in decision making.
Sustainability is a "Value" Which:
  • Establishes a basis for action.
  • Guides the way we make the decisions that underlie our actions.
  • Creates additional responsibilities and requires specific concepts, tools, and skills through which to discharge them.
Sustainability Requires us to Think Different:
  • Expands the scope;
  • Extends timelines;
  • Integrates across boundaries; in relation to both the challenges and the processes through which we respond to them.
Sustainability Requires us to:
  • Create new approaches within which to make decisions across conventional boundaries and hierarchical lines, outside but alongside traditional authority structures, and between and among diverse values.
  • Build processes internally and externally to fit the challenge, not "force fit" the challenge to suit existing processes.
  • Create the "platforms" on which to work and to make decisions within the organization and beyond it, that allow us to deal with interactions among multiple players and perspectives, and diverse interests and values.
Sustainability is Thought of Both in Terms of:
  • Achieving better outcomes in relation to how we live in, and make a living from the natural world, which responds to challenges of a technical and scientific nature about understanding ecosystems and how they respond to human activity, and the management of our resources inter-generationally; and
  • The process of decision making through which we try to reach those outcomes - including the structures in which we work within, between, and among organizations and groups, and the competencies (i.e., skills and tools) to do so.
Key Building Blocks Include:
  • Seeing relationships as an asset - to be established, managed, repaired, and employed to build the "relationship account".
  • Creating context is critical to managing relationships - reaching common ground on "why and how to do business"before doing business.
  • Understanding the dynamic - moving beyond analyzing the organization in static terms of organizational charts and products and programs to the fabric of networks and relationships through which the organization really works.
  • Creating continuing systems and linkages with the organization between and among their networks and relationships, and extending them beyond to the stakeholder interests, and the capacity to anticipate issues and responsive structures to deal with disputes when they arise.
  • Developing the concepts, tools, and skills, to get the job done.
Links to References
Online Course
Building Consensus for a Sustainable Future :Guiding Principles
Dialogue Forum Handbook
Building Consensus: Turning Principles into Practice
Video Talks
Sustainability Principle

The thirteen multi-stakeholder Round Tables of Canada, and the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment developed through a national negotiation process of nearly three years a concise, comprehensive, and authoritative statement of principles which were set out in the 1993 document “Building Consensus for a Sustainable Future: Guiding Principles”. These principles were developed under the leadership of a National Task Force of which Glenn was both a member and a trainer.

While others have evolved similar principles and articulated them in different ways, what distinguishes this work is the manner in which it was created, and the range and depth of perspective that was reflected from across the country in the consensus achieved. The challenges of sustainability will always present unique factors, and particular characteristics. Any process designed to respond to them will need to be specially shaped to meet the particular circumstances and players, the Guiding Principles set forth below in summary form offer guidance as to the characteristics any process designed to achieve consensus should reflect.

Principles: Foundation of Glenn's Approach and Practice

Principle 1: Purpose-Driven
People need a reason to participate in the process.

Principle 2: Inclusive, Not Exclusive
All parties with a significant interest in the issues should be involved in the consensus process.

Principle 3: Voluntary Participation
The parties who are affected or interested participate voluntarily.

Principle 4: Self-Design
The parties design the consensus process.

Principle 5: Flexibility
Flexibility should be designed into the process.

Principle 6: Equal Opportunity
All parties have equal access to relevant information and the opportunity to participate effectively throughout the process.

Principle 7: Respect for Diverse Interests
Respect for the diverse values, interests, and knowledge of the parties involved in the consensus process is essential.

Principle 8: Accountability
The participants are accountable both to their constituencies and to the process that they have agreed to establish.

Principle 9: Time Limits
Realistic deadlines are necessary throughout the process.

Principle 10: Implementation
Commitments to implementation and effective monitoring are essential parts of any agreement.

A Participant Driven Agreement Seeking Process Include:

All Participants who have a stake in the outcome aim to reach agreement on actions and outcomes that resolve or advance issues of importance to the parties. This is often also referred to as a consensus process, which begins with participants working together to try to reach an agreement on the design of a process that maximizes their ability to resolve their differences to ensure that expectations are clear on how they intend to try to work together. In reaching that threshold, they also begin developing the confidence and relationships to work together to develop solutions. As such, it encourages discourse and understanding among the parties, and creates a forum in which the importance of reconciling competing interests is both understood and addressed.

Such processes do not avoid decisions or require abdication of leadership on the part of the traditional decision-makers. Although they may not agree with all aspects of the agreement, consensus is reached only if all participants are willing to live with “the total package”.. A consensus process provides an opportunity for participants to work together to realize acceptable actions or outcomes without imposing the views or authority of one group over another.

There are many forms that such processes can take. Each situation, issue or problem prompts the need for participants to design a process specifically suited to their circumstances, issues, and interests.Agreement seeking processes of this nature can be defined in a number of ways. Participants in a consensus process are free to define the term in any way they wish, provided that there is unanimous agreement to that decision.

The willing participation of all sectors. seeking brings together all sectors, non-governmental stakeholders and governmental authorities, to work together in a cooperative forum. Most importantly, it facilitates the achievement of two primary objectives: a shared commitment to the outcome achieved through negotiations and the development of a long term working relationship

The Career

Glenn Sigurdson has evolved a prominent consultancy from a significant legal career. He has a proven track record dealing with multiple parties and diverse interests – interactions within, between, and among organizations and groups - managing relationships, building consensus, developing partnerships, and resolving conflict.

Glenn Sigurdson square