I had the opportunity to write this up for a forming community that was wondering why they should spend $1,000 per day for a facilitator:
Here’s what to expect before the meeting:
· The facilitator interviews community members to find out what the issues are from various perspectives. If there is conflict, they need to speak with the people involved. They should also find out how meetings are usually run, what the groundrules are, etc.
· The facilitator make recommendations on what the agenda should be and confirms this with the community.
· The facilitator design the agenda and meeting formats. Whole group discussion is the typical fall back, but this is not the only form that a meeting can take. In fact, it’s good to mix it up. The facilitator should match the activities with the purpose.
· The facilitator set up the meeting space for maximum comfort and productivity.
· The facilitator makes sure all of the roles (notekeeper etc) are filled.
Here’s what to expect during the meeting:
· Opening, transfer in, agenda preview, closing
· Time, energy, and break management
· Make sure all of the voices and perspectives are heard
· Different learning styles and both “process” and “action” people get their needs met
· Help people find common ground, come to agreements, make decisions
· Help the group surface the individual and collective undercurrents
· Help the group process conflicts and come to at least some resolution
· Summarize frequently and help the group understand what they have accomplished so far
· Make sure that the next actions are clear and that all understand what needs to happen in the future
Here’s some of the expertise that you are getting:
· Most facilitators have a good understanding of the common issues that are a part of community life. They have seen these issues raised over and over again in the communities that they have worked with. So they can spot them quickly, when they are coming up for the community, and help the community understand what they are dealing with.
· They have also seen a variety of solutions that their clients have come up with to deal with these universal problems. They will not usually make “content recommendations” to the community about what solution to use, but they can give examples. The main thing is that they know that, no matter how bleak it looks, resolution is possible!
· They also know the methods that the communities used to come up with the solutions, and can build this into the meeting agenda.
· In addition, some facilitators also offer a separate service as a “process consultant.” This is where they do make “content recommendations” about the processes and structures that communities create and use to get things done. They can provide options, maps, and help you understand how your processes and structures influence people’s behavior, for good or ill. A lot of what seems to be interpersonal conflict is actually sourced at the structural level.
Here are some of the benefits of good facilitation:
· Meeting time is used efficiently. Meeting time is extremely expensive, when you consider all of the person-hours, travel, etc., so this is a high priority.
· Everyone feels heard. This increases “buy in” to whatever decisions the group makes, which increases the likelihood that everyone will do their part in the future.
· The group learns more about itself. This increase in consciousness enables the group to work together more easily.
· The group members deepen their connections with each other. They become more cohesive.
· The group learns new ways of working together. This is especially useful for new groups.
· The group gets closer to its goals. Information is shared, agreements are developed, decisions are made, next actions are clarified.
· The group develops its own capacity. It moves through the stages of “forming, storming, norming and performing.”
· The group learns about facilitation by seeing a different person model it.
· The group gains confidence in how they can run meetings that work well. People are more willing to meet when they believe it will be fun and productive.
In contrast, here are some of the costs of poorly run meetings:
· Time is wasted.
· People don’t feel heard and sabotage the decisions.
· People feel alienated.
· People withdraw and withhold vital information.
· People get frustrated and have unproductive conflict.
· People get hurt and the community is wounded.
· The group stalls in its process.
· People stop showing up, drop out, the project falls apart.
In my next entry, I will post from the facilitator's point of view.