A large part of successful change is exchange. Each of us has needs and problems and each of us also has knowledge resources that can be useful to both ourselves and others in solving problems. Hence problem solving is in large part a matter of matching resources in one person or group with needs in another. Yet most of us have difficulty in asking for help and in giving help. This is why persons with special skills in communicating and relationship building are important change agents.
How does resource-linking work? Consider the simplest case of a person, the client, who needs some sort of help, and another person we will call the "resourcer," who has knowledge, skill, products, or materials that could be useful to the "client." As we noted earlier, every client will have his or her own customary processes of problem solving. Without help from any outsider he or she will find some sort of solution, however inadequate (dotted arrows in Figure 1 below).
On the other hand there may be someone somewhere who has a better solution (or can make a better diagnosis or can adapt and apply solutions more effectively). If this person exists and if he can intervene in the right way at the right time, the client will be "helped."
We sometimes forget, however, that the resourcer has his or her own way of formulating the problem and defining appropriate solutions. Can he or she, in the effort to be "helpful," successfully match the client's need and provide the right kind of resource at the right time in the right way? Unless he or she is either a mind-reading expert or an extremely lucky gambler, the resourcer will not be able to provide meaningful "help" without first listening to what the client has to say about a problem and what has been done so far in trying to solve it. (see Figure 2 below)
In other words, some sort of two-way communication between resourcers and clients has to take place before "helping" can really be relevant and effective.At the beginning, two-way communications are clumsy and difficult, but over time, with the experience of repeated contacts, trial expressions of need, and trial efforts at helping, a truly effective helping relationship is built up (see Figure 3 below).
Because these human resource linkages are difficult to build, there is a special need for the "linker," someone who knows about resources, knows about people's needs, and knows how to bring clients and resourcers together. Like the process helper, the primary mission of the linker is to put himself or herself out of a job by helping clients to become effective resource linkers for themselves. Resource linkers should also be able to show clients the resources they have within themselves and among their own group. Linking therefore is important not only for client-to-resourcer but also for client-to-client. Ultimately, the client is best served by a network of two-way contacts, contacts with other clients and also with a variety of resource persons, groups, and institutions.
Effective problem-solving and self-renewal over time requires multiple exchanges with inside and outside resourcers, each representing special knowledge, skill, or service relevant to 'different needs at different times. The linker therefore is not simply a one-time joiner but a network builder. His or her efforts at one point in time on one problem may seem trivial, but each link established adds to a growing client capacity for reaching out and pulling in relevant others to work collaboratively on problems.
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