I’ve just completed my 13th day of training people in facilitation with my friend Viv McWaters. We spent two weeks in Bangkok and we’ve now come to the end of three days working with Solomon Islanders here in Honiara. The work has been pretty engrossing, which explains the very light blogging you’ve seen here lately.
The notion of training facilitation is fairly paradoxical as much of what Viv and I have in common is a desire to get away from being cast as the centre of attention or authority in a group. What I did predict was that I would learn as much about the work as the participants in our courses, and I’m pretty sure that’s true.
Viv and I are both in the same boat here, our heads buzzing with new insights that we mean to blog but haven’t quite found the space/enthusiasm/focus to do so.
So I’m begining with a few thoughts about time. We know that keeping stuff running to some kind of schedule feels like a must-do for facilitators, and this means a lot of them are very keen on detailed planning. In fact, when we go to facilitator conferences, Viv and I often feel like the naughty pupils on the fringes, because we don’t do much planning and are loath to attempt a schedule for our events. (I keep thinking of Tom Baker’s delightful performance as Captain Redbeard in Blackadder… “ahh there’s two camps, all the other captains and me”.)
We have spent quite a bit of time talking about the work and lobbing ideas to and fro, but we don’t make a formal plan. Until I am sitting in the room with the participants, I don’t really have a clear idea of what I want to do, moment to moment. Once I am in the room, I find the next activity usually suggests itself. And if it doesn’t suggest itself to me, it usually does to Viv.
Although we know the sorts of things we cover on this course, the mix and structure has varied considerably with each week. We try to pick the ideas and activities that feel right for the groups in the moment, and that changes a lot as the participants have changed from one week to the next.
This style of work requires some negotiating skills with sponsors in the run-up to, and during, the workshop. And some participants seem quite thrown when we give them an agenda that simply says when lunch and tea breaks are likely to happen.
But I think it’s worth it, because it liberates us to be flexible and come up with activities which we hope fit the enthusiasms, curiosities and energy levels of a group.
We see facilitators/trainers who let the order of their manual, or the clock on the wall, determine what to do next, regardless of how people are responding. We think the result is more time and energy spent/wasted trying to get people to do things they’re not up for. So this kind of planning doesn’t really save time… because these forms of rigidity sap the energy of the group and waste a lot of time.
More to follow…