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Facilitation – a brief history

As an amateur student of the history of ideas, I have been curious about the origins of facilitation as a discipline. I realise now that this is a fantasy. Facilitation is more a loose collection of practices and concepts, rather than a neatly bounded subject. It is a ‘soft’ skill rather than a discrete body of knowledge . It does not have a specific and singular theoretical or practical origin. One can trace multipl
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But what about the Theory?

It is tempting. and perhaps misleading, to identify specific theories as generative of cultural movements and practical behaviours. Often there is a complex relationship between the two, and theory often emerges in response to practices and patterns that have become current or concerning. Note a useful caution from the German philosopher Hegel that “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at the falling of the dusk
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Neutral! Are you joking?

Professional facilitators are meant to be independent. They are not partisan participants in the difficult conversations they host. This independence translates as neutrality on the issues in contention. In circumstances where there are not necessarily polarised positions, this neutrality also means that the facilitator does not introduce her own ideas into the conversation. The role is to support the group to shape
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Circle of influence, circle of concern – A tool

There are times when individuals or teams get overwhelmed by concerns about looming events – restructures, change initiatives, job insecurity. People may be feeling powerless and demoralised. This activity aims to help focus people on aspects of work over which they have some control. And defuse unproductive concerns. It can take 15–40 mins depending on the scale and intensity of the concerns. 1. Prepare a large flip
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Keep a light touch

“Each time a facilitator does something for a group, he or she deprives others of a chance to be responsible.” – Janoff and Weisbord A number of times in this text, I have offered gentle advice about keeping a ‘light touch’. There are so many layers beneath the apparent simplicity of this advice. When teaching facilitation I often advise students to keep a ‘light touch’. There are so many layers beneath the app
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