When we enter into any meeting, we are bringing with us our life and work experiences, our agendas, our biases, our hopes and our viewpoints about what should happen and how. This can create undercurrents that make it difficult for people to work productively or converse effectively. A goal of facilitation is to acknowledge these dynamics and create a safe space for individuals to exchange thoughts, ideas and learning.
The steps of process design are part of the facilitation that doesn’t always get as much attention. A well designed process is the cornerstone of a successful facilitation and the primary reason an event achieves desired outcomes and gets the results both you and your client are looking for. Crafting an effective process design that works for the client can be challenging and often requires creativity, commitment and a strong focus.
Much can – and often does –go wrong during a planned facilitation. Unfortunately, even the most well designed event can have mishaps. While it’s easy to think about best-case scenarios, let’s understand a few of the things that can go wrong in a facilitation. Highlighting some of these common pitfalls will help you more effectively lead group discussions in a way that ensures you get the positive outcomes you’ve planned for.
#1 The Band Stander
Not every facilitation has one, but if you happen to have a band stander attending your event, you’d better be prepared. Band standers are people with one very specific goal– to push through an agenda no matter what. Band standers can be extremely damaging to a facilitation because they stifle compromise, diminish the ability to listen and detract from the process. In many cases, band standers will interfere, interrupt and make it difficult for anyone to be heard who has differing opinions.
This reflection was written by ABCD Researcher Dr. Gwendolyn Blue of the University of Calgary and Jacquie Dale.
Please find the original post on the Alberta Climate Dialogue blog.
Water in a Changing Climate was the third installment in Alberta Climate Dialogue’s community deliberations.
In partnership with the Oldman Watershed Council, ABCD designed and convened a one-day citizen deliberation on climate change and water. The event was held on February 22, 2014, at the University of Lethbridge. This facilitated deliberation consisted of a diverse group of 33 invited participants who, following an application process, were selected on the basis of gender, age, occupation, location of residence as well as views on climate change.
In today’s political, social and economic climate, there’s a real need to build competency in designing and implementing effective processes of engagement, dialogue and consultation. This is the case within all types of organizations and institutions (i.e. public, private and governmental). Many leaders, decision-makers and staff are either searching for more creative approaches to finding sustainable solutions to challenging issues and problems, or are being compelled, sometimes legislated, to engage a wider scope of stakeholders in defining, resolving and carrying through on important issues or problems. In an effort to contribute to such competency building, One World has frequently offered training in this area to specific groups and organizations. Recently we offered an open 2-day introductory workshop called, “Dialogue: Key to Productive Engagement and Consultation”. We were pleased to have been able to work with the very mixed group of participants working in diverse sectors who joined us for this workshop.
Much can go wrong during a planned group facilitation. Unfortunately, even the most well designed event can have mishaps. While it’s easy to think about best case scenarios, let’s understand a few of the things that can go wrong in a facilitation. Highlighting some of these common pitfalls will help you more effectively plan for and lead group discussions in a way that ensures you get the positive outcomes you’ve planned for.
Mention the word facilitate to people and it can stir up multiple images such as; teachers and blackboards, a conductor with baton in hand, or just someone making things happen. In fact a facilitator is a type of enabler and to a company undergoing major change, an NGO needing to re-align their vision and programming directions, a multi-interest group working to find new ways to address a pressing issue, and others, a facilitator can be an invaluable asset to draw upon. A skilled facilitator can help spark new ways of thinking and innovation, guide informed and effective decision-making, and bring out the best in people, an organization or a collective.
With meeting spaces at a premium at public, private and non-profit organizations, work teams and volunteer committees often have to make do by meeting in tight quarters. While this may be necessary for regular activities, when strategic thinking or challenging conversations are needed, it can be very important to provide a physical meeting space that will encourage participants to engage in respectful, productive conversations.
Studies have shown that the physical set-up impacts the outcome of a meeting. For example, a group of researchers from the American Psychological Foundation and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology conducted a study in 2011, in which they found that natural light can help alleviate headache, fatigue, and other symptoms associated with harsh artificial light, as well as to increase alertness and productivity.
When we watch a debate between political candidates on television, we know the purpose. Each side is trying to win. Each wants to sway the public to see his/her side of the issues. The candidates spar, trying to score points and undermine their opponents. They are certainly not trying to find common ground! Deliberative dialogue, on the other hand, is a distinct way of conversing that asks us to put aside our inclination or desire to win, to be right, or to have the other person be wrong. It is a method by which we can learn from one another and search for the common ground on which solutions often grow.
Identifying problems. Exploring issues and options. Making decisions. Sounds pretty much like what every successful organization does every day to address challenges and find a resolution to tricky problems. Whether you’re the CEO of a fortune 500 or managing the day-to-day activities of a not-for profit in your home town, the actual steps of identifying, exploring and resolving problems is usually the same. While that may be true, when confronted with tough issues and critical decisions, using the right kind of process to work through these steps is vitally important to ensure that decisions are arrived at in the most informed way for everyone involved. Assistance from a competent facilitator can greatly improve this process and ensure that the kind of meaningful dialogue that will lead to the most effective and efficient decision-making can take place.