Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Connected Facilitator: What's in the Online Toolbox?

Full disclosure: I ran a workshop at the  International Association of Facilitators Europe Conference a little while ago on Facilitation and Web-based Tools. It went well, and the participating facilitators were enthusiastic users and happy to share. We did a quick mass collection of what and how people were using different tools - I diligently took down the flipcharts and promised to send out the results.

Well, in an office clean today I found those flipcharts, buried in a stack of papers. Hmmm, to keep my promise, I thought I would share the results. If any of you who attended read this post - I will apologize profusely and sincerely hope that "Better Late Than Never" is actually true. A sheep seemed to be the best picture I could use for this blog post.

So here they are, a list of tools that this group of facilitators reported using (I have checked, added some notes, and updated them where necessary). Some of these are obvious and some a little less so, in any case it is an interesting snapshot of what web-based tools are in a facilitator's online toolkit:

YouTube
  • Creating and posting video clips to be played in face-to-face events or a WebEx event when participants/speakers cannot attend live, or to save costs or carbon, or just for additional time-restricted content (e.g. you need an on target 5 min clip and not a speaker who will go over by 10 min);
  • Using video clips as an information and learning source for facilitation ("Facilitation" has 2,970 YouTube video clips available today);
  • Uploading videos of you in action for promotion of your facilitation work (and to answer the "What is Faciliation?" question as you would answer it);
  • Uploading videos of your work for funders as a part of evaluation or reporting process;
  • Uploading video for participants of projects and events in addition to or replacement of a written document (as in a final "video report").
Blogs (e.g. Wordpress or Blogger)
  • Sharing written blog updates relating to facilitation work and linking them to your company or institutional website as information about your work;
  • Blogging for knowledge sharing on facilitation;
  • Setting up a new blog to support a particular training or facilitated event (I also like http://www.posterous.com/ for this, as it is very easy to use it in sessions to share group work and keep real time track of products created, mainly because posting is done by email);
  • Creating an internal blog for a group of facilitators- for in-team learning, requests for help and challenging management decisions (sic);
  • As a place to connect to and share web-based facilitation resources (e.g. you could set up a blog to aggregate other blogs and online resources on facilitation, or you could simply connect up to relevant blogs through a dashboard, a reader, or using something like Delicious (one of a number of social bookmarking sites - Note: Delicious is owned by Yahoo and might be closing, so do some research if you want a good social bookmarking site - I personally just switched my Delicious links to Evernote). 
Ning
  • Setting up one to support specific training or facilitated events, for posting updates for a distributed community during an event, and community development more generally before and after a facilitated event;
  • A place to facilitate or join topical discussions related to any theme (there are 65 nings that are tagged with Facilitation);
  • As a support platform for building new organizations or networks (Note: This used to be free, and is now a pay platform).
Wikis
  • Creating an internal wiki in an organization to collect and record learning (such as pbworks);
  • Using other wikis as an information source and for sharing on things like games - such as the gaming wiki  WoWWiki to understand everything from "chat" to "bloodcurse" about how the game works (you might wonder about using World of Warcraft for learning - try a 30-day trial and see what you think - I enjoyed exploring it for examples of negotiation, teamwork, collaboration etc.) (Anyways, another facilitator put this down as being useful for him, so you don't have to take my word for it :-)
LinkedIn
  • Useful for promotion and business for facilitators (I have now had a number of requests come through LinkedIn and not email initially);
  • Helping to manage professional links - especially people who work with many different teams and organizations;
  • There are many functions for networking (e.g. slideshare, events, etc.);
  • As a place to tap into ongoing discussions through LinkedIn Groups - today in the Groups Directory there are 219 Groups that deal somehow with Facilitation and 8,280 with Learning. 
Twitter and Twitter-like tools
  • Can be used to generate energy around a project (keep people posted, update on activities, achievements, learning etc.);
  • A place to talk facilitation business with other facilitators ("Follow" other Facilitators - and see who they are following to find others);
  • To identify communities through hashtags (such as #Facilitation, #AppreciativeInquiry and #Learning and anything else you care to find);
  • Useful as a way to gather customer appreciation (what are people tweeting about your facilitation work?)
  • Using Yammer  (a private Twitter-like tool) internally in an organization to keep track of people and their work, ideas, etc.;
  • Using Backnoise in events for more audience participation.
Facebook
  • Maintaining "social" work contacts;
  • Using the Events (+CreateAnEvent) function for announcements and promotion of your facilitation work;
  • Starting a business page for your facilitation work (to inter alia "Invite your friends", "Tell your fans", "Post status updates" etc.)
Second Life (This dates us a little)
  • Useful for dialogue and storytelling practice;
  • Keeping in touch with the virtual world technologies;
  • Useful as an alternative to conference calls, to make them more interactive.
Others
  • http://www.doodle.com/ for meeting time planning and invitations (MeetingWizard is another);
  • Basecamp for project management and as a collaborative tool for teams of facilitators or facilitators and their partners;
  • Personal Brain (http://www.thebrain.com/) - Useful to develop self-managed learning applications or even as support for group mind mapping, brainstorming, and more;
  • WebEx and DimDim- video conferencing for facilitation and training;
  • Campaign monitor - for email marketing campaigns;
  • Zoomerang and Surveymonkey - free places to create and run surveys and questionnaires - useful for both demand articulation/needs assessment as well as post-workshop evaluation/feedback.
  • To this list I would add Evernote to keep track of the photos of flipcharts that I take, and I attach any other job aids I produce, I also have an image of all the visual facilitation icones that are standards that I might want to include on a flipchart, this is in addition to all my online links which have become a valuable on-demand resource for me (as mentioned above)
I think this list is interesting as a snapshot of what and how Facilitators are using web-based tools in their facilitation work, as well as a way to acknowledge that we all are using new media today in so many different ways. (Please feel free to add to the above!) I'll bet you are using something in each category above - before you read through this list did you realise how many online instruments were on your facilitator's dashboard?

Oh, and next time I hold a workshop at an IAF conference, I won't wait so long to report back (she said sheepishly).

4 comments:

Michael Randel said...

It's interesting what 18 months can do to a list like this...

As you noted,del.icio.us is supposed to be closing (I like your idea for moving items to Evernote, I think I will do the same)

Dimdim is also closing to current and future subscribers, as from March. So time to look for other solid and free/inexpensive web-meeting tools!

Michael

Michael Randel said...

2 other tools:

For planning online meetings, I use the Meeting Planner on www.TimeAndDate.com - it's very useful for visualising times around the world

For visualising meeting notes (also during an online meeting), I use Compendium and the issue-based idea mapping 'grammar' that it supports
http://compendium.open.ac.uk/institute/download/download.htm

And for connecting, don't forget about Skype and even old-fashioned telephones! Used in conjunction with web-meetings, they allow people to communicate with each other while still having a shared display.
(I ran a board retreat once where 3 people were attending remotely, so I treated them as a small group for breakout sessions, allowing them to talk to each other on the phone line)
I also wrote up an example of how I combined video-conferencing and web-meetings to allow a 'virtual retreat'
http://www.randelconsultingassociates.com/Working-with-Visuals-in-Meetings.html

SO there are lots of creative possibilities for facilitators who want to or need to work online.

Michael

Gillian Martin Mehers said...

Hi Michael, You are right that things change a lot in 18 months, what was new then is now either accepted practice or starting to fade (Delicious, DimDim - didn't know that one!) And there are new things all the time. Even Skype is starting to add more and more functionality to its conference calls (video and more people), maybe they will get into the webinar space too?

Thanks for sharing both TimeAndDate - useful for those of us who do international conference calls - and compendium, I had a look at this Open University tool and watched the video, I will have a look at your writing to see how you have used it - intriguing - thanks so much for sharing this!

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