Evaluation of facilitation


November 2nd, 2007

My friend Andrew Rixon asked the Australasian Facilitators’ Network a question about the myths of facilitation. You can read what emerged here.

One of my throw-away suggestions amongst some other myths I’d suggested was that ‘it’s possible to evaluate a facilitated workshop (or a facilitator even) with an end-of-workshop survey aka happy sheet’. It was more of a response to some feedback I’d received from a particularly difficult facilitation event where – shock horror! – some people hadn’t enjoyed it. Apart from the fact that I didn’t realise facilitation was a popularity contest, the impacts of facilitation are rarely realised during the event. It’s the ongoing impact that interests me more. Anyway, that’s what was behind my myth comment.

Lo and behold it created a tsunami of comments. Andrew and I were talking about it today and I reckon he threw a hand granade and he reckons I pulled the pin! I guess we’re both partly responsible for starting something, although I’ve resisted any urges to buy in to the ongoing discussion; mainly because, while all this was unfolding, I was actually training some facilitation types in participatory evaluation.

So what’s my take on evaluation of facilitation? I strongly believe that ‘happy sheets’ at the end of a workshop are a waste of time. Everyone knows (including me) if it’s been successful or not – whatever success means. If a cleint wants me to evaluate people’s experience I can do that in a far more active and participatory way than filling in a form. The very best evaluations are unintended – meeting someone months (or even years) after a workshop and hearing that something done then has had an ongoing impact; has influenced the way people work or interact or is indeed, just memorable.

And any facilitator worth their salt is going to use their skills as a facilitator to evaluate – not just at the end of an event, but all the way through. That’s what we do! We respond, in the moment to the needs of the group, constantly evaluating what’s happening and making micro-adjustments. For me, facilitation and participatory evaluation just go hand-in-hand.

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