What is the real work of facilitation?


October 8th, 2014

If you could draw a caricature of a facilitator, what would you include?

  • Covered in sticky notes, in multiple colours and sizes
  • Surrounded by butcher’s paper
  • Holding multiple marker pens
  • Trying to herd cats or catch clouds
  • Wielding a whip or cattle prod
  • Standing in front of, or at the centre of, a group of reluctant participants
  • Constantly donning a selection of interchangeable hats: party hat, policeman’s helmet, hard hat, artist’s beret, timekeeper’s cap

And so on.

What you probably wouldn’t see, is this:

Where's the facilitator?

That’s because the most powerful work of facilitation is that which goes unseen. It’s what the facilitator is not doing.

Letting go of control, enabling the group to do the work, and holding the space for whatever it is the group has to do. Sure, there may be some suggestions as to process, but inevitably the group will do the work themselves.

The facilitator’s role is to get out of the way while remaining present.

Sounds easy. Quite difficult.

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