header 1500x360

What does an “affordable“ Bellingham look like? With the recent election results and the recommendations of Bellingham’s “Climate Action Task Force,” soon to be taken up by the City of Bellingham (and likely Whatcom County, too) it is really important that local stakeholders pay attention to what’s happening and what’s contributing to the increased “lack of affordable housing/shelter,” in our community.

You may ask yourself, “Why is the Bellingham City Council pushing the Climate Action Task Force agenda on its residents?” The reality is that what is happening in Bellingham/Whatcom County is a compilation of the Delphi Method and the Overton Window.



What is the Overton Window?

From Wikipedia: The Overton window is an approach to identifying which ideas define the domain of acceptability for a democracy's possible government policies. Politicians can only act within the acceptable range. Shifting the Overton Window involves proponents of policies outside the window persuading the public to move and/or expand it. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable. According to Lehman, who coined the term, "The most common misconception is that lawmakers themselves are in the business of shifting the Overton window. That is false. Lawmakers are actually in the business of detecting where the window is, and then moving to be in accordance with it."[6]

According to Lehman, the concept is just a description of how ideas work, not advocacy of extreme policy proposals. In an interview with the New York Times, he said, "It just explains how ideas come in and out of fashion, the same way that gravity explains why something falls to the earth. I can use gravity to drop an anvil on your head, but that would be wrong. I could also use gravity to throw you a life preserver; that would be good."[7] But since its introduction into political discourse, others have used the concept of shifting the window to promote ideas outside it, with the intention of making less fringe ideas acceptable by comparison.[8] The "door-in-the-face" technique of persuasion is similar.

Noam Chomsky said in 1998:[9] The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

So, what is the Delphi Method?

It is method whereby a select group of people hold a forum or a meeting to discuss and communicate an issue. The select group have a predetermined outcome in mind and will steer the group into mini groups, strategically placing one of the select people within each group in order to facilitate the discussion and often pushing predetermined outcome to the forefront of the group’s choices.

From Wikipedia: The Delphi method (/ˈdɛlfaɪ/DEL-fy;[contradictory] also known as Estimate-Talk-Estimate [ETE]) is a structured communication technique or method, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts.[1][2][3][4] The technique can also be adapted for use in face-to-face meetings, and is then called mini-Delphi or Estimate-Talk-Estimate (ETE). Delphi has been widely used for business forecasting and has certain advantages over another structured forecasting approach, prediction markets.[5]

Delphi is based on the principle that forecasts (or decisions) from a structured group of individuals are more accurate than those from unstructured groups.[6] The experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator or change agent[7] provides an anonymized summary of the experts' forecasts from the previous round as well as the reasons they provided for their judgments. Thus, experts are encouraged to revise their earlier answers considering the replies of other members of their panel. It is believed that during this process the range of the answers will decrease, and the group will converge towards the "correct" answer. Finally, the process is stopped after a predefined stop criterion (e.g., number of rounds, achievement of consensus, stability of results), and the mean or median scores of the final rounds determine the results.[8]