Blog > Learning facilitation – what’s significant for you?

December 10, 2007

My friend Sri contacted me about a session he was running on the ‘challenges of facilitation’. He asked me to name 5 challenges faced by a facilitator. Being the generous soul that I am, I gave him 10.

1. Letting go – it’s their session after all

2. Accepting offers (is that the same thing maybe?) – be open to whatever the group offers, knowing that you don’t have to say ‘Yes’ to every offer

3. Understanding the ‘real’ brief as compared to the ‘expressed’ brief

4. Creating a suitable environment (physical and mental) for the work the group has to do – ie setting up the room in advance so that it makes the activities/discussion etc easy

5. Being flexible – with time, activities, etc

6. Responding to the needs of the group when that’s in conflict with the goal of the client/sponsor

7. Trying to be too clever by half

8. Using methods that get the group to generate, organise and analyse the data themselves – helps create ownership and means it’s less work for you to do afterwards

9. Keeping everyone engaged especially the louder people (maintaining their enthusiasm) while providing space for the quieter ones to participate

10. Recognising that participation isn’t always active

The next evening I attended a local gathering of residents. Following that experience, I’ve amended my list.

1. Make sure you introduce yourself as the facilitator

2. Provide a way for participants to get to know each other (and writing on a sticky label that says a cheery “Hello, my name is…” is not what I mean)

3. Context the session – tell us why we’re there, what we’ll be doing, why it’s important and how long it will be

4. Talk to all of the room – not just one side or, even worse, one person

5. Don’t ask closed questions with ‘right’ answers. Takes me straight back to feeling inadequate at school again.

6. Make the group’s data visible to all

7. Write down my comments using my words, not others that you might prefer – or even worse, say something like “I think what you meant was …”

8. At a community meeting, or any meeting that has an expressed purpose of ‘getting to know each other’, provide refreshments either as people arrive (gives people something to do) or at the end when they can mingle and chat

9. We don’t need to know what was planned but isn’t going to happen because Madge forgot to book some equipment or another. Tell us what we will be doing.

10. Smile.

Which got me thinking about what people new to facilitation want to learn. Over the next few days I might try and map my journey of learning about facilitation. What’s been your most important learnings around facilitation?

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