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Facilitation

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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Managing Oneself – Lessons in and from facilitation

Managing oneself might be the greatest challenge in facilitation (and the most interesting opportunity for personal and professional growth).   When things go wrong it is never easy.  A woman in my training class, who had a persistent stance of opposition and bewilderment, commented that a good trainer should be able to pitch to the lowest skill level in the class. It was an attack and an invitation. The comment
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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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Facilitation Essentials – one day course

Course detail The ‘why’ of facilitation • The power of the group • Roles and skills of facilitators • The language of facilitation • A simple model – from conversation to dialogue • The fundamental distinction between content and process.Why facilitators don’t have to be subject experts • Balancing the known and the unknown Planning and preparation – the three P’s Purpose • Design for purpose – starting with th
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There are only three types of meetings in the whole wide world

There are only three types of meetings in the world and here is why. I invite you to join me in a bold exercise to get clarity and simplicity into the craft of meeting design. How do you create an appropriate agenda for diverse circumstances? If you haven’t go the patience to work through the steps with me, just skip to the table at the end of this blog. Dorothy Strachan, in her excellent book on Process Design for f
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Planning for facilitation – the 3 big P’s

PURPOSE, PEOPLE and PROCESS (and product, probable issues, power and place just to keep the ‘P’ thing rolling along)   1. Purpose – the WHAT and the WHY   Purpose is gold. And too-often hidden. Get it clear. WHAT are you aiming to achieve. Begin with the end in mind. Get the purpose sharp and available to the group. They should know exactly what they are coming for days before they arrive in the
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About facilitation – thinking big and thinking simple

The best place to start thinking about facilitation is from a very simple place. What makes a great conversation, one to one, or in a small group? In the course of this conversation, something shifts, for all parties. New meaning is created, future directions become clear, needs are met, and commitments are made. Good conversations always enter unknown territory. When you start, you don’t actually know how it will tu
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