Facilitation is a powerful tool to work with groups to reach their goal. It’s largely group-driven, while the facilitator manages the process so the group can focus on content. Think of the facilitator as the oil for the machine — the oil makes it easier for the pieces of the machine to work together, but the oil doesn’t do the machine’s job.
A facilitator can guide a group from brainstorming and idea-gathering to concrete action steps and results. By managing interactions between group members as an impartial party she creates a space for the participants to explore possibilities and reach solutions through collaboration and dialogue. So, quite literally, a facilitator is:
Someone who makes a process easier.
An impartial party that helps a group of people have a productive discussion or conversation about complex and — potentially — controversial issues.
Having an impartial party facilitate your meeting has several advantages:
- It enables the participants to focus on the issues and take ownership of the dialogue and its resulting actions.
- It levels the hierarchy of the group because the person usually ‘in charge’ can step down and be part of the creative process and not worry about running the meeting.
- By keeping an eye on the process, the facilitator can bring the group back on track and keep it from being derailed.
- Using conflict management skills the facilitator can help the group address conflicts and problematic issues in a safe space and assist the group in resolving them.
- The facilitator find creative ways to help groups get ‘unstuck’, for example by using visual methods like relational maps.
- And last but not least, the facilitator does not have a stake in the outcome. She’s impartial about the content, but not about the process.
When would you use a facilitator? Essentially, almost any group can benefit from being facilitated by an impartial party for one or even several sessions. You can use a facilitator to help you gather information and feedback from a group of community members or to discuss and resolve internal conflicts in your agency. Or you can work with a facilitator in team building sessions or story-telling circles, board retreats or staff meetings — facilitation is a very versatile field and we are happy to work with you to tailor and facilitate a session or meeting to your specific needs. In addition to the facilitation our services also include consultation & planning meetings, as well as a debriefing after the event.
We facilitate anything from decision-making and problem solving processes that can last several sessions to community conversations with 100 or more participants.
Groups and agencies we worked with include: New Haven Health Department, Hill Youth Action Team, New Haven Police Department, Evergreen Family-Oriented Tree Sober Homes, ElmCity Vineyard Church, Havens for the Future, Yale New Haven Hospital, Planned Parenthood, Whalley-Edgewood-Beaver Hill Neighborhood Management Team, The Consultation Center, Teach Our Children, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, and Green Haven Co-Housing.
If you are interested in becoming a facilitator yourself, check out our regular training schedule or contact Brenda Cavanaugh (firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.782.3504) to organize a training at your agency.