Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Facilitators Demonstration Day: Bringing Together Supply and Demand

When engaging a facilitator to contribute to a critical process you're developing, you want to have one of the following: 1) A very strong recommendation from someone you completely trust, or 2) To have participated in/witnessed/appreciated that facilitator's work personally.

Well, our unit is able to give strong recommendations for people we know well, but even we are limited in the number of people we are able to recommend. Because we normally work together, Lizzie and I, we don't often get to work directly with many other facilitators. We may know people who belong to our local or international networks, but don't often get to fully experience people's work in order to be able to give a nuanced impression of it. So how can we increase our own, and our colleagues, exposure to great facilitation and the many styles and forms that that takes all in one go? We bring the facilitators to us!

Next week we are organizing a Facilitation Demonstration and Learning Day in our office.

This is a full day session, featuring 8 local facilitators, each of whom have 45 minutes to show us their personalised approach, tools and style. There are no wrong answers here; within a rubrique of 5 broad categories, we have asked them to facilitate a group of us (20+) through a short process, so we can get to know them better as potential facilitators. To help guide the day, we gave the facilitators 5 categories from which to choose: strategic planning and review, multi-stakeholder dialogue, partnership building, leveraging networks, and team development. This will help them get to know us better - we picked processes that are common for our organization, the substance and texture of which our audience will provide, giving good insight to our visiting facilitators into the kinds of issues and challenges we deal with every day in our organization (and that they would be dealing with when working with us).

The audience is us - we are the market, the demand, that is smart future buyers of good facilitation expertise. We invited our colleagues to participate so that they can see these facilitators work themselves. And they can then also recommend them to other absent colleagues, or at least help them triangulate opinions.

We had a great response to our invitation within the facilitation "supply" in the Geneva area. So much that we had to choose, and then were able to invite the others and a few guests to participate as observers. In this case, each of the 8 facilitators gets to decide how they would like the observers to participate - actively or silently. We will make a "fourth wall" behind which a gallery of observers can sit, or they can break through it and actively participate, if the facilitator has an approach that works with a larger group of diverse people and so chooses.

We will also be making a list of local talent, so that facilitators who could not attend can still be featured as potential providers of this service in the future. We have already had requests for that list.

We did not have a budget for this and didn't want to ask people to pay to participate, but we did not want that to stop us. So we are running this event at nearly zero cost, well, our unit is sponsoring coffee breaks for the group. We are using one of our institution's onsite meeting rooms, will use our self-service cafeteria for lunch, and both our colleagues and our facilitators are donating their time to this joint learning day.

We'll learn more about them, they'll learn more about us, and hopefully this day will herald some interesting collaboration in the future from matches between the local supply and demand that might not have otherwise occurred.