A facilitator’s oeuvre


August 4th, 2009

Indulgence alert!

Do you think facilitation has been around long enough for us (read me!) to do a retrospective?

I was at the Ian Potter Gallery today in Melbourne, checking out the John Brack Exhibition. John Brack is famous for his paintings of everyday life, and most well known for his depictions of life in 1950s and ’60s Australia. Looking at the spread of his work – four decades worth – compressed into an hour visit, I was struck by the way he used colour, usually monochromatic, his sharp lines, use of space, and obvious patience. His later paintings I’d not seen before and they were, for me, the most memorable. Incredible patience, and interestingly, amazing use of colour. But as this is not an art blog, I’ll return to my original question: can we do a restropective of facilitation, in the manner of an artist’s oeuvre? (BTW, oeuvre means ‘a substantial body of work constituting the lifework of a writer, an artist, or a composer’. As far as I can recall, this is the first time in my life that I have used the word. It’s a great one to remember for Scrabble. Can we apply the term beyond the traditional arts I wonder?)

Let me indulge for a moment in my own ‘facilitator’s oeuvre’.

1950s & 60s – exposure to group process as a snotty-nosed kid running around the holiday camp where I grew up. Structured sports and games. Role of the group leader and first exposure to debriefing (although I didn’t know it then!)

1960s & 70s – experience of the limitations of traditional schooling and its capacity to stifle creativity and exploration

Mid 1970s – social living (at a residential campus) and immersion in group dynamics, conflict, negotiation, cooperation, manipulation and falling in love.

1980s – hierarchy, workplace bullying, rediscovering creativity, innovation, experimentation, inspiring colleagues and first steps into real facilitation. Structured, ordered, mechanical recipes. Robust processes. Self-awareness, and outdoor challenges (rock climbing, abseiling, canyoning).

1990s – branching out: open space technology, playback theatre, scriptwriting, action methods. A self-directed adult learning Masters Degree that opened doors to new ways of learning. Loosening my grip on processes and recipes, noticing more, greater understanding of self, starting own business (faith in facilitation as a way of making a living).

2000s – improv in business (a revelation, a tribe), improvised facilitation, letting go of planning, connection through the internet and social networking, collaboration…

Where to next on the facilitation journey, I wonder?

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