Case Study - The Craft of Facilitation
The need for facilitation is sometimes overlooked, particularly by those who don't really understand what a skilled craft it is. A good facilitator can make all the difference to the success of an event, managing not just information flow but also emotional responses and group processes that can build rather than undermine effective collaboration. Dr Mark Reed from the Rural Economy and Land Use (Relu) Programme's Sustainable Learning project shares some advice based on his experience of leading research on sustainable uplands.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good facilitator to bring people together and deliver high-quality outcomes.
The outcome of any participatory process is far more sensitive to the manner in which it's conducted than the tools that are used.
Highly skilled facilitation is particularly important where there's a high likelihood of dealing with conflict, for example between conservationists and resource users in the uplands.
Different facilitators can use the same tools with radically different outcomes, depending on their skill level. Such skills include technical expertise in the use of different tools.
However, it's sometimes the most seemingly simple of methods, such as informal group discussion, which require the greatest expertise.
A successful facilitator needs to be perceived as impartial, open to multiple perspectives and approachable. They need to be capable of maintaining positive group dynamics and handling dominating or offensive individuals, as well as encouraging participants to question assumptions and to re-evaluate entrenched positions and getting the most out of reticent individuals.
Such skills are difficult to learn and tend to be developed through years of experience, intuition and empathy.