Facilitator

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After reading this page:

  • you've learned what a facilitator is.
  • you've learned what type of facilitation is suitable for a session.
  • you've learned which skills are important for facilitating a session.
  • you've learned about the practical role of a facilitator during essions.
  • you've learned how the facilitator can use the Admin Interface.
FacilitatorLogo.jpg

What is a facilitator?

There is a variety of definitions for facilitator:
  • "An individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. He or she is a 'content neutral' party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group's work"
  • "One who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions. A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance"
  • "The facilitator's job is to support everyone to do their best thinking and practice. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facilitator
Based on the above, some important elements of the facilitator role should be taken in consideration:
  • The facilitator is content neutral
  • The facilitator is a process and structure advocate
  • The facilitator is an enabler of the group (process)

Types of facilitation

There are many types of facilitator roles, in different settings. Some common types are; business facilitators, training facilitators, conflict resolution facilitators, wraparound facilitators and small group facilitators. Often a mix of types can be required, however, the most common facilitator type for a project session is described for the Training Facilitator.

Training facilitators

Training facilitators are used in (adult) education. These facilitators are not always subject experts, and attempt to draw on the existing knowledge of the participant(s), and to then facilitate access to training where gaps in knowledge are identified and agreed on. Training facilitators focus on the foundations of adult education: establish existing knowledge, build on it and keep it relevant. The role is different from a trainer with subject expertise. Such a person will take a more leading role and take a group through an agenda designed to transmit a body of knowledge or a set of skills to be acquired.
Facilitators necessarily require authority to chair a meeting, or serve in mediator, moderator or arbitrator functions, for instance in managing a progressive stack in which some speakers are preferred over others because they are more affected by a decision or have generally less voice.
The concept of authority (of the facilitator) is one which can cause confusion. Literature (John Heron ea.) describes three alternates (initially in the educational context) as being:
  • Tutelary Authority - based on the competences and skills of the Tutor/Facilitator
  • Political Authority - involving the exercise of educational decision-making with respect to the objectives, program, methods, resources and assessment of learning. (This manifests particularly in the planning dimension.)
  • Charismatic Authority - influence by presence, style and manner. It manifests particularly through the feeling, confronting and valuing dimensions. However it is quite possible to draw from this the requirements for a facilitator to be clear how they are operating in any environment.

Skills of a facilitator

A session facilitator has to master a basic skill set related to good meeting practices: timekeeping, following an agreed-upon agenda and keeping a clear record.
Besides that, higher skills involve observing the group and its individual members; the group dynamics. Facilitators also need a variety of listening skills, including the ability to paraphrase, to stack a conversation, to draw people out, to balance participation and to make space for more reticent group members.
It is critical for a facilitator to have the knowledge and skill to be able to intervene in a way that adds to the group's creativity rather than taking away from it.

Facilitating a session

Main article: Project Session
For a session the facilitator has to perform multiple tasks. It is worth mentioning that not all tasks need to be covered by the same person. The role of facilitator can usually be shared between multiple people; one person takes care of the technical and logistic side, another person keeps track of time and the agenda, and a third person may be present for the actual interaction with the group.

Facilitator tasks before a session

  • research the session
  • find out the purpose and goal (if any) of the session
  • establish who needs to attend
  • draw up a draft agenda and design the group processes to attain the necessary results
  • share the agenda with potential attendees, changing it as necessary
  • ensure everyone gets fully briefed for the session and that everyone knows the purpose (and potential consequences) of the session
  • plan and set up the environment for the session (technical facilitation and logistics)

Facilitator tasks during a session

  • monitor the agenda
  • keep time
  • manage the group process
  • control the session (using the Admin Interface)
  • encourage participation from all attendees
  • help participants understand different points of view
  • foster solutions that incorporate diverse points of view
  • manage participant behavior
  • create a safe (social) environment
  • teach new thinking skills and facilitate structured thinking activities
  • record results for the debriefing
  • note unresolved issues for later debate
  • debrief the group
The facilitator may write up and publish the results of the meeting to everyone concerned including those who could not attend.

How to facilitate a session with the Admin Interface

Admin Interface panel
Main article: Admin Interface
The main tool for a facilitator to manage a session is the Admin Interface. This is a separate application that is started as soon as a multi user session is hosted in the Tygron Platform. With this interface the session can be controlled from the facilitator perspective; group members can be assigned to teams, levels can be selected, the session can be paused, the beamer application can be managed, etc.
A typical scenario could be that the facilitator speeds up the simulation time at the start of a session, as soon as it is clear that the group needs less time to familiarize itself with the Tygron Platform or the particulars of the project. This could create extra time later on in the session that can then be spend on the actual issues at hand. Another common facilitator task with this interface is taking care of the actions of non-playable stakeholders in the session, or the granting of loans and subsidies.