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The Delphi Technique

Posted by Judy K. Warner on September 17, 2007

A few months ago I came across something called the Delphi Technique.  It was originally developed as a way for experts to come to a consensus quickly and without having to meet face to face. But in recent years it has become a technique used by government officials and educators to manipulate a public meeting to a desired outcome, such as getting parents to accept school programs they don’t like.  Here is the nub of it:

First, the person who will be leading the meeting, the facilitator or Change Agent must be a likable person with whom those participating in the meeting can agree or sympathize.

It is, therefore, the job of the facilitator to find a way to cause a split in the audience, to establish one or a few of the people as “bad guys” while the facilitator is perceived as the “good guy.”

Facilitators are trained to recognize potential opponents and how to make such people appear aggressive, foolish, extremist, etc. Once this is done, the facilitator establishes himself or herself as the “friend” of the rest of the audience.

I can see elements of this technique being used in advance of the meeting, whether its users know about the Delphi technique by name or not. The meeting itself is not supposed to produce an outcome. It is supposed to be an informational meeting at which we can ask all our questions.  I trust the moderator, Dave Jordan, will hold an honest discussion and let everyone be heard.

However, those of us who have questions about the refugee program are already the bad guys in the eyes of the Herald-Mail. Our concerns are interpreted as proving our hate for refugees and foreigners, and our being narrow-minded, uncaring extremists.  Those who support the refugee program are pictured as good and caring people. 

I expect on Wednesday to hear speeches from people on stage and in the audience about America being a nation of immigrants, the Statue of Liberty with its Emma Lazarus “give me your tired, your poor” poem, the terrible conditions from which the refugees have come, the hard-workingness of the refugees, and the recent event with the Burmese refugees and the old folks.

Meanwhile, those who raise questions like the ones on this blog — questions of health, culture, money, resources,  policy, etc. — will be cast as the enemies of everything good and noble. But our questions are valid ones, and we want to make sure they are answered, no matter what is done to make us look bad.

I have great personal sympathy for refugees. My grandparents on my father’s side were refugees from pogroms in Russia in the early years of the last century, who were able to enter America legally. Our questions have to do both with the well-being of the refugees, who are not always well served by their treatment here, and with government policy at a national level. We also especially have questions about the impact of refugees on the citizens of Washington County, and America as a whole, as we have legitimate rights also which must be taken into account.

4 Responses to “The Delphi Technique”

  1. […] they had a hand in the decision.  The strategy was probably developed within the framework of the Dephi Techinque, more details on it here.  Remember Obama has already used the strategy in a couple of meetings.  […]


  2. […] Going to the meeting?  Have some fun!  Learn about the Delphi Technique and see if you can spot it being used on the meeting participants.  Now that our eyes have been […]


  3. […] I had forgotten all about the Delphi Technique until responding to a commenter at this post.  Go here and see how what happened at the meeting in Rome puts the technique on full display.  Judy posted […]


  4. Diana said

    I think you must be a prophet- you knew exactly the outcome before going!!


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