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Welcome to Facilitation Stories, where we discover how facilitators ended up in the profession, and how facilitation methods, principles and techniques are used more widely. Brought to you by IAF England and Wales. For more information on our chapter, click here.

Jun 8, 2021

In today’s episode, Pilar and Helene both join a conversation with Vinay Kumar.  Vinay is Chair of IAF Global, based in Bangalore, India. He is a Certified Professional Facilitator, Coach, Organisational Development Consultant, Founder of C2C and host of podcast “Shiny Happy People”.

They start by discussing how in 2006 Vinay began calling himself a Facilitator and became interested in the IAF.  They talk about what changed in his practice as a result of starting to call himself a Facilitator.  He explains how he began to learn and design more for the human dynamics of facilitation, creating a safe environment and then using methods that enable equity for everyone to participate.  He also believes he became a better observer.

They then explore the impact of hierarchy and what Vinay puts in place to allow everyone to be involved.  Vinay talks about how he adapts the tools to the context, for example being very explicit that senior stakeholders speak last in brainstorming and reinforcing this through actions.  They talk about the role of the expert.  Vinay notes that there are 3 kinds of expert in a facilitation: process, content and context and that when working with clients he explains that he is the process and context expert. 

They then move on to explore how, as a “global nomad”, Vinay adapts his approach according to cultural nuances.  He notes that from a human dynamic perspective, there are lots of similarities, even if certain adjustments are needed.  In the case of hierarchy this can be stronger in some places than others but it’s rarely intentionally negative.  Vinay also shares a story which reminded him that humour doesn’t always translate.

Helene asks Vinay what he feels Facilitators working globally need to have front of mind.  Vinay advises never to portray oneself as a cultural expert in any culture and going into each environment from a space of learning, directly asking for feedback from the group on any cultural mistakes. 

Vinay explains that he’s often the only English-speaking person in a room and how he finds himself more at ease asking participants to write post-its in any language they’re comfortable with, meaning that he can’t understand what they’ve written and doesn’t get pulled into being the content expert and is purely the process expert. Pilar then shares a similar experience working in Spain.

The conversation moves to talking about the Facilitator community in India. Vinay says there’s an increasing understanding of what pure facilitation is, which he believes is behind the IAF India chapter being the largest in Asia, and growing.  He observes there’s a huge learning mindset, increase in CPFs and an increased client understanding of the difference between process and content experts but that the market is still maturing and Facilitators are still educating the market.

Next, they talk about how, given the size and spread of the IAF community in India, they can all connect.   There is a single chapter but with City Hubs, smaller communities of 30-40 people, supported with 2 WhatsApp groups.  The active community meets through a blend of national and local events and meetups which continued almost weekly online throughout 2020.

Pilar asks Vinay if he’s observed other areas of the world where an interest in Facilitation is really growing.  Vinay feels that it’s happening everywhere including new chapters and special interest groups.  The pandemic has meant that people have wanted community connections and broken up the concept of country chapters meaning that the “international” in IAF has never been truer.

Vinay then talks about his love of being part of the IAF and its Board.  He highlights the giving nature of the community and its international nature meaning that he can connect with people wherever he is working in the world.

Helene asks Vinay about the variations he notices across different chapters.  One thing he finds surprising is that in some areas volunteers pick up the mantle and run with it whereas in others, people are less keen to organise things.  He notes that if people don’t put in the energy they don’t get as much out of it.  He also describes how in parts of India and Malaysia small charges have been introduced to events in order that people recognise the value and the “energy contribution”.

Pilar next goes on to ask if there’s anything Vinay is experimenting with or thinking of trying in his Facilitation.  Vinay explains that pre pandemic he was beginning to experiment more with movement based facilitation within a room,  but since moving online he’s now beginning to try not using slides and breakouts but trying drawing, standing up and using different backgrounds.  He also tells the story of how he accidentally discovered “facilitation by absence” which he’s now beginning to use virtually.

Helene poses the issue of digital poverty and how Facilitators working globally have been working around it. Vinay suggests that Facilitators need to be particularly sensitive to bandwidths and digital “savviness”.  He recounts an example where he ideated with another Facilitator in India around using WhatsApp in parallel to Zoom, knowing that the audience was more confident with that platform.  He has also heard anecdotally of Facilitators working in an audio-based format using WhatsApp for sharing.

Vinay wraps up by thanking all IAF Members, encouraging non-members to join and giving a call to action to keep promoting the power of Facilitation worldwide.

Connect with Vinay, Helene and Pilar on Twitter: