Johnnie Moore

Facilitation: the people are the content

Really valuing participants' experiences in facilitation work
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Facilitation needs to focus on what participants bring, not simply serving up content

Transcript of this video:

A few years ago, I was running a course with my friend, Rob Poynton, and he used the phrase to me, the people are the content. By which he meant that although on this course, we were presenting ideas and information to the participants, what was really more important than the stuff that we were telling them was their own experience and how they were growing and what they were growing in themselves and how they were developing, how they were relating to the material, rather than the material itself. 

Because so often on management trainings, you have this big ring binder that is reverenced as the content of the course that you must learn and take away and, you know, keep on hand. And so often you learn a year later that that big folder of information has been stuck in a cupboard collecting dust all the while. And what’s more important than all of that abstract content is the experience of the participants themselves. And they’re sharing with each other. They’re sharing of war stories and anecdotes, experiences. 

That’s when I think the real development, that’s when the real development happens. And in that sense, they are the content much more than the ring binder. And I now pair that up with a second phrase I like to use, which is that the people are the process. Now a lot of trainers and facilitators will often tell you that we need to ‘trust the process’. And I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable with that because it’s as if the process is the thing. 

Whereas I think it’s the people that are the thing and how they engage with the process, how they rub up against it, how they find friction with it, how they test it and challenge it and react to it and what they bring to it. And it’s in that interaction with your notional structure, that the interesting stuff happens. And that’s the real process. 

The process is what the participants themselves are bringing, so the people, the participants are both the content and the process. And that’s a sensibility I’m trying to bring more and more to my work with groups

Photo by Tijs van Leur on Unsplash

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