Rethinking facilitation training

December 30th, 2010

This 10-minute video is about school education and has some great points to make about letting go of past educational paradigms and rethinking how education is delivered. Watch it, and then come back and read the rest of this post about facilitation training. If you can’t see the video, here’s a link.

If you can google facilitation processes and get millions of result,  watch videos of facilitators in action, read facilitation blogs, articles and even books on-line, why the expense (in time and money) of coming together for training? It’s no longer necessary to come together to get the information you need to facilitate. This is influencing my current thinking about Facilitating With Confidence (the training arm of what I do). As much as I love providing facilitation training, I think it’s a good idea to reflect on how to best use the time when people are together.

Here’s what I think facilitation training needs to offer:

A ‘field’ in which to practice, fail, learn and develop
Less content, more doing. Valuable time in a training shouldn’t be used presenting information. Get straight into doing facilitation and learn along the way. The content will emerge. This means letting go of a traditional learning schedule of pre-determined topics.

The ‘field’ relates to the training group (participants + trainers + client + venue + community even). This provides a wealth of opportunities to allow real-world learning, failure and development.

An opportunity to experience being a facilitator and being facilitated
It’s easy to forget what it’s like being a participant. It’s easy for participants to not be aware of how difficult it can sometimes be being a facilitator. Shifting between doing and being done to helps build empathy – a key attribute for facilitators.

To move beyond what is on the internet by playfully trying out stuff
Playfully trying out stuff is the key here. Trying, failing, trying something else. Knowing what it feels like. Discovering that your body can tell you you’re about to make the wrong move before your brain has had time to process the inputs and tell you the same thing. Learning to know in different ways. Doing this together, playfully. Having fun while learning serious stuff.

To develop relationships with others who can support, encourage and challenge you
Bringing people together face-to-face and having a shared experience fast-forwards connection. It doesn’t guarantee it. And it’s not the only way. It does provide some strong and weak links that may be very handy when any of us get stuck and want some serious help or simply a friendly ear.

What else would you add? What do you think are the benefits of face-to-face trainings?

7 Comments so far

  1. Dwight Towers on December 31, 2010 9:00 am

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Hi Viv, I came here via Johnnie Moore’s link, and what you write is SPOT ON. I am so sick of seeing dozens of people come together and spend hours having the tops of their heads unscrewed and knowledge “poured from a jug” put into their heads. It doesn’t work, of course, but it’s what people seem to expect/be comfortable with, and it’s “easy” for the event organisers to do – slap together a few powerpoint presentations, maybe a couple of q and as. A warm up/mingler to show they Care about Connections. And if they’re really daring, some post-lunch ‘role-play’. But this “knowledge-transfer” aspect could all be dealt with as pre-meeting viewing on websites, possibly some reading, and then the valuable time together could be spent skill-sharing, asking for help with problems etc etc. A bit of open space technology etc.

    I think, aside from forcing people out of their comfort zones, and not giving them what they expect, one of the difficulties in what I’d like to see is that the ‘organisers’ of such events would have to give up a bit of ego (“I’m at the front of the room, guiding this process”) and also it would be harder for them to take the credit when things went really well (and if they want the client organisation to hire their services again, they need to be able to show that they were ‘in charge’?! Or am I barking (up the wrong tree?)

    All best wishes

    Dwight Towers

    PS I made a youtube video about top-down meetings where everyone is gathered together to hear great ‘experts’ and end up making no connections themselves…

  2. Tweets that mention Viv McWaters -- on December 31, 2010 11:03 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by comunidades, Viv McWaters. Viv McWaters said: Some musings about facilitation training inspired by @dlaufenberg [blog] […]

  3. Viv McWaters on December 31, 2010 1:22 pm

    Hi Dwight
    Thanks for your comments. I am often puzzled why people put up with the pouring knowledge in approach when there is so much potential in the room. I guess it comes back to control – being in control for the people up front, and comfortable with what’s happening (even if it’s awful) for the audience. And I think you’re spot on about egos. I’d go further and add complicity – a whole industry is complicit in keeping audiences passive. I see this with some facilitators too – wanting to be ‘seen’ to be in control, and doing the work so as they’ll get more gigs. Oh – and I love your video. Thanks for pointing me to it.
    Cheers, Viv

  4. Dwight Towers on January 1, 2011 4:50 pm

    Hey Viv,

    I think complicity is exactly the right term. So, how to get beyond it? Because if “the market” wants (or rewards) facilitators who keep ‘in control’ of proceedings and at the front, then those (like yourself, I suspect) will not get as many gigs…
    I propose – when you’ve done it using open space technology, and folks have had a great time, made connections and breakthroughs, then at the end of the session, call everyone back together, get them to articulate why and how they’ve had such a good and productive time, and then suggest to them that they ‘demand’ that (open space, mingling, setting own questions) as standard with whatever other training they go to. Get THEM to be the ambassadors/evangelists for what you are doing. Otherwise it looks like self-serving “I have a new gimmick, hire me, hire me”.
    Just a thought…

    I made a couple of other videos about group processes (especially in campaigning groups) that you might find amusing. The “animation” is equally crudely done, but just about bearable.

    Newbie at a meeting

    Newbie at a meeting in a parallel universe (How it could be done)

    There’s also this site, based on a wonderful book by Rosemary Randall…

    Best wishes!!

  5. Viv McWaters on January 2, 2011 10:07 am

    Hi again Dwight
    Thanks for the links 🙂 One of the things I’ve noticed about people experiencing open space and other participant-centred approaches is they often become advocates naturally. For some folk it takes a while for them to make sense of their experience, some others experience what I call ‘open space shock’ where they can’t make sense of self organising (or think they can’t) because they are so used to being told what to do. My strategy (as much as I have one) is simply do what I do and encourage others to try it too. Seems to be working OK so far. Word of mouth is even more powerful these days I think.
    Cheers, Viv

  6. Dwight Towers on January 2, 2011 4:13 pm

    My experience has been less fortunate (probably because I can easily alienate people!) – I run meetings that people are effusive about, and they say they’ll organise their next meetings on the same lines and then… they never do. Privately, I’ve been told by some folks that they lack the confidence/willingness to try (and perhaps fail.)

    There’s also the problem that facilitation is not regarded as a skill that can and should be developed. There’s this (false in my opinion) idea that it’s this spontaneous and ‘natural’ thing. Because when it is done really well, it looks effortless…

    This is why I’ve been so enthused by your posts, which I’ve been fwding on to people who I think could benefit from it, or will have interesting things to say (like Chris and Rhizome)…

    best wishes

  7. Viv McWaters on January 3, 2011 10:45 am

    […] McWaters – Facilitation+Rethinking facilitation trainingThe road to improvisation5 […]

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