Oct 21, 2019
Get in touch! We’re @IAFEnglandWales or @Fac_stories on Twitter.
Helene Jewell talks to Penny Walker Facilitator, Coach,
Consultant and trainer in change for sustainable development. She's
the author of two books and has contributed to a whole variety of
Connect with Penny on Twitter @penny_walker_sd or through her website https://www.penny-walker.co.uk/
Penny tells Helene about how she started working as a facilitator, through her work with Friends of the Earth, the environmental pressure group, as a campaigner and then moved across to managing the team of people who provide support to local Friends of the Earth support groups across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These were mostly volunteers and many of them came from a community development background. It was them that first introduced her to facilitation – meetings that were pleasant and got somewhere.
Penny became interested in the grey areas between people and organisations that were taking very positional attitudes towards different issues, disagreements between the organisations and the spokespeople representing the organisation and in what happens when you want to change something in an organisation from within, or when there are problems that need to be solved but there are a lots of different needs and concerned. Solving these problems took Penny towards facilitation.
Penny learned through Environmental Resolve, consensus building with Andrew Acland and Pippa Hyam. She also took an ICA course and read Robert Chambers' book Participatory Workshops as well as The Complete Facilitators Handbook by John Herron.
Facilitators have a role in holding complexity and allowing people to be braver, to talk about doubts, what they don’t know, enabling people to be a couple of layers more honest and to help us move towards the society we want to create.
What Penny enjoys most about facilitation: it’s an adventure, it's contributing to a better future and she seems to be getting good feedback.
Penny talks about two pieces of work: one she did recently with
a multinational fast moving consumer goods company that has a
leadership position in the sustainability sector and one with an
organisation that has a sustainability mission but not specifically
about climate change.
Penny takes a very eclectic approach to facilitation: some of her work is more task focused creating plans, going through documents. For example how to protect communities and areas against increased risk of flooding is more technical – engineers and technical experts who know about modelling, future likely climatic patterns, and others who understand treasury rules about funding. And then members of the public trying to give their views. So there is a set of challenges about bring these different groups together, finding the right level of language.
The conversation moves onto what is meant by sustainability. Penny cites the Bruntland definition Or Common Future report https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5987our-common-future.pdf – meeting the needs of the present without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Helene then asks the question,
As facilitators how can we green our own practice?
Penny addresses this in a range of ways, including that as an IAF member we can recommend people, being brave and imaginative about recommending colleagues who are local to where the event takes place we can cut down on our transport.
Finally, Penny talks about a course run by Belina Raffy “Sustainable standup” https://www.maffick.com/ after which she did a stand up gig for friends and family so a supportive audience. It was a great experience and you can read about it here:
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