Over the past few years I have been doing more work as a facilitator of meetings, workshops and community forums. I really enjoy facilitating these events, as people are asking me to become part of their team. Being invited into a team is a privilege, and I spend a lot of time prior to the event understanding why we are getting people together and what it is we are trying to achieve. For me, the most important thing about facilitating a meeting is that I create an atmosphere that is positive, supportive and enables people to be heard so that they feel they have contributed to something greater than themselves.
Facilitation isn’t necessary at every meeting, but I often hear people complain about the endless meetings they go to which never seem to achieve anything. I have provided a few links below to some excellent tips on how to run effective meetings and some elements of facilitation that you might like to think about when considering hiring a facilitator or taking on that role yourself.
In those cases where you might want to employ someone to facilitate your event, you are really looking for someone who can do the job Roger Schwartz summarises below:
“Group facilitation is a process in which a person whose selection is acceptable to all members of the group, who is substantively neutral, and who has no substantive decision-making authority diagnoses and intervenes to help a group improve how it identifies and solves problems and makes decisions, to increase the group’s effectiveness.” (Roger Schwartz, The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook)
Here are some of the situations where a facilitator might be able to help you to get your group working collaboratively and optimistically towards a shared outcome.
- The group is not sure how to tackle a particular question or issue. Facilitation starts well before the meeting, with an identification of the objectives and desired outcomes, and the design of a process to meet those objectives and outcomes. Facilitators, as experts in group process, can help groups achieve the desired results more quickly and efficiently than they might on their own.
- The convener of a meeting is either not neutral, or is not perceived as such by the participants. Facilitation, which by definition is neutral, provides the necessary credibility for participants to trust the process enough to participate fully.
- The group wants to improve how it solves problems or makes decisions. Through the diagnosis process, a facilitator can identify the group’s strengths and challenges, and provide processes and tools for more effective problem-solving and decision-making. This not only helps increase effectiveness at a given meeting, it also improves the group’s processes in the long term.
- All group members wish to engage fully in the discussions. By taking responsibility for managing the process, the facilitator frees group members up to engage in the content without having to worry about tracking time or ensuring that everyone participates.
- There is conflict between group members. While many people are skilled at collaborating when things are going well, few of us have the knowledge and skills to effectively deal with conflict in a group. A skilled facilitator has the training and experience to understand what is happening, and to select the right intervention to either resolve the conflict or prevent it from escalating further.
At the ARRC we have put together a great team of facilitators, with myself, Christine Ellis, Leith Boully and Lori Gould available to assist you run meetings and workshops that are fun and which meet the goals you want them to achieve. We are women who know what we are doing, and who have a great understanding of the natural resources environment and governance contexts we all work within. If you are interested in having us work with you, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in reading more:
Seven steps to running a effective meetings – Forbes
Six elements of facilitation – Intersol
The role of a good facilitator – Mind Tools
Why is facilitation important? – Intersol