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Facilitation Stories


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 the England and Wales chapter of the IAF. For more information on our chapter, visit www.iaf-world.org/site/chapters/england-wales

Sep 14, 2021

In this episode, Pilar talks to three of the co-authors of the book The Power of Facilitation, which was released this summer of 2021. Our conversation today is a little bit different, as it's an edited recording of the meetup that took place on 7 July 2021, a panel discussion with the authors, with contributions from the other attendees.

The three panelists you'll hear from are Martin Gilbraith, who co-authored The Power of Partnership Between Facilitation and Communication with Michael Ambjorn ,  Héctor Villarreal Lozoya who wrote The Power Of Facilitation For Team Development and Chitra Chandrashekar, who contributed with an illustrated summary to some of the chapters. And if you want to download the book, you can find it over at the book's website https://facpower.org/

Asking questions were Mike, Susannah, David Bishop, Jane Mitchell and Penny Pullan, who has recently published a book herself: Making Workshops Work, Creative Collaboration for Our Time. I hope she'll be able to join us soon here on the podcast to talk about her book - indeed, remember that one of the perks of being an IAFEW member is that you can promote your book if you have one, or a special event. Just make sure it gets to us with plenty of time by emailing podcast@iaf-englandwales.org or using the contact form over at facilitationstories.com

Pilar kicks off with a question about how the book came about. Hector talks about the fact that it was Kimberly Bain who was the “force of nature” behind the book and that she asked Hector to participate. The group that started was not the same group that ended up writing the book.

Martin recalls being stood next to Kimberley at the Ottawa conference in 2018 talking about the book, and how he invited himself to add something he had been working on with Michael Ambjorn about the power of facilitation for communicators.

Chitra talks about being introduced in 2018 to the IAF new Delhi circle and discovered that Kimberly was looking for people to illustrate the book and put in an application to do so.

Pilar quotes the introduction to the book which is a complication of 10 chapter authors, 4 visual practitioners across 5 continents and 8 time zones.

Hector talks about one of the first meetings being about the structure of the book as there needed to be a connection between the chapters. They started with the usual suspects – eg strategic planning and expanded from there.

The group looked at who was an expert in what for example several ToP (Technologies of Participation) practitioners, some authors working on big transformation projects and it played to people’s strengths.

Martin describes that from the beginning the intention was to have a diversity of authors, chapters and visuals. All continents except Africa are represented, and realised that there is a gap or an opportunity for volume 2 in that there is nothing about digital or online facilitation in the book!

Pilar quotes from the book “the team has sought to model a facilitative approach the project throughout” and asks what else comes to mind in how you modelled this approach?

Hector mentions how hard it is to facilitate facilitators, and that Kimberly kept everyone together.

Martin describes how Kimberly was the driving force and how she took a facilitative approach, also the risks of facilitators all trying to be facilitative!

He also talks about it being an experience of online facilitation, and the meetings were check ins and social with collaboration online in Basecamp and describes putting the book together as a “Basecamp memory”.

Chitra talks about being a witness to a whole part of the process and how she felt she was one of the youngest and least experienced and it was great to learn and observe.

Penny Pullan talks about having written books as solo projects as writing books with others and how editing a book with 27 contributors was much more fun. She asks what the process was like?

Martin talks about there being 2,3 or 4 phases starting with the submission of an abstract. They agreed that Kimberly would write the introductory and concluding chapter and shared first drafts and gave feedback, then a second draft for feedback followed by several iterations. He talks about not realising how much there was to do and how the process slowed down as people got busy and then picked up again, with final relief when it was finished.

Hector says they all had access to each others’ work but were each in charge of reviewing specific chapters, and everyone got feedback from the editor and at least 2 colleagues. And that as English was not the first language for many people this feedback was fundamental. They were also able to challenge ideas to make sure they were robust.

Mike asks about the design and layout and whether this was done by the team. Chitra then talks about the development of the layout and the joint design and an open and inclusive environment.

Martin added what a joy it was to discover the additional skills within the team on things like typesetting.

Pilar asks about content:

Martin talks about the idea for his chapter coming from a conversation with Michael when they were both chairs of the IAF and IABC and how they had started to discuss the interface between communication and facilitation and opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other. So the power of facilitation, communication and partnership which was something they had already been exploring, became the idea for the chapter. He describes how they went about it by interviewing people and the discovery of people who described themselves as hybrid professionals (communicators and facilitators). Martin talks more about what communication professionals do and how this was discussed at an IABC conference he attended and how each profession can add to each other and how he sees the two skill sets as being intertwined.

Pilar asks is anyone wanted to add to what Martin has said. Michael says that whatever profession we are in, for example communicators have a lot of facilitator skills and go and talk to people. And a lot of facilitators who are good communicators.

Pilar asks Chitra how she approached the visuals and how she captured this in one page:

She describes how at first there was a conversation about the 4 visual practitioners aligning themselves on style and what does the book need in terms of stylisation. They were told that it was going to be black and white, and given the dimensions of the book. Everyone wanted the approach to be not as an illustrator but as a graphic facilitator. They were given the time to read it, interpret it and present it as a visual doodle/sketch. Then they shared a first draft with the authors before creating a second draft. Martin and Michael’s chapter is all about exchanging stories and the key idea of personifying what communication is and what facilitation is through representative avatars. She shared my learnings in the first draft and Martin loved the idea of the personas and trusted her first impressions. Trust and cross communication is important.

Pilar asks how the process was was working with two authors of a chapter and Chitra giving her own interpretation, compared to working as a visual facilitator

Chitra responds by saying with a live event you don’t have the possibility to go back and erase something that has already been captured but it can be edited afterwards by digitalising it. But in the room there is a great sense of trust, and the need to make sure they use the right language and be mindful of that. But even in a live session there is a chance to have interaction with the facilitator. For this work they had the luxury of time, to allow words to sink in, unlike a live session which is spontaneous.

Pilar’s next question for Chirtra is when do you decide to use a graphic and when do you use words?

She says this is something they do intuitively and explains a bit about where she might use words compared to visuals.

Jane asks Martin about his comparison of a communicator facilitating and a facilitator communicating whether they applied the communicators brain in understanding the impact of the book and what you need people to do as a result of reading it?

Martin responds by saying that a lot of words didn’t make it into the book, and some were added to the appendices. Michael introduced OASIS (communications planning tool) to clarify purpose of the book and what we they wanted people to be inspired to do. The goal was to promote, inspire and enthuse people about facilitation.

 

Pilar asks Hector how it was working with someone outing his stuff into a different format (working with Chitra)

Hector talks about seeing how your own words are interpreted and how every person makes sense of the message in different ways, and has a mental image of the whole chapter. And that 10 different graphic facilitators may do this in different ways. Each chapter has a different style but all with valid interpretations.

Martin says that it was an enjoyable process and recalls conversations looking over the drafts and how it was very collaborative and co-creative, and awars that Chitra was able to provide something that he wouldn’t be able to provide on his own so he didn’t want to interfere too much. He hasn’t been involved in a written process like this but has worked with visual practitioners in live sessions and has always marvelled at their extraordinary skill.

Pilar looks at some of the other chapters

Hector’s is about the power of facilitation for team development and asks for a brief summary

The subject was recommended by Kimberley and Hector does a lot of team development type work. It took him a long time to get started and find a central idea, which was that facilitation can become part of team work for a group. Sometimes people are not aware that they can evolve as a group to become a team and facilitators accelerate the process of becoming a team.  He describes this in a bit more detail.

Pilar asks if anyone else has any comments about the aspiration of showing a group or a team what they can achieve?

David talks about the objective of not needing you anymore and that the power of facilitation is getting people into the attitude of facilitation being where the real power lies.

Pilar asks about the power of getting people to do things themselves and how this might look.

David talks about facilitation being contagious and that it looks easy and how our responsibility as facilitators is sometimes to say this works and give someone the desire to go and learn.

Martin talks about Trevor Durnford and Malin Moren’s Facilitating change and Transformation chapter when they talk about building capacity in large organisations and how the power of facilitation is much more powerful when it is more broadly dispersed and building capacity for others to facilitators which is the motivation for the book.

Pilar says that many groups might be being facilitated but not aware what the person in front of them doing is facilitation. And that there is something around naming what we are doing as facilitators.

Martin responds by saying that the vast majority of facilitation is done by people who don’t call themselves facilitators and that often they don’t realise that it is facilitation. He doesn’t want to suggest that everyone becomes professional facilitators or rely on professional facilitators. But the profession can help people understand what it is they are doing and provides a language and a framework.

David says that facilitation is a mysterious thing and full of secrets. He recollects a conversation with a magician who said that magicians are not keeping secrets for ourselves but for spectators. Facilitation is the opposite - it is full of secrets that we have to give away and have a duty to give them away.

Hector talks about a challenge in that more people are using facilitation in that one technique or framework is used for everything and that there is a richness to facilitation that you need to adapt.  Many people use conversation structures but is not only the process but also the people.

 

Pilar has another question for Hector – in his chapter he describes how the facilitator becomes a repository of trust and she asks how do you go about earning that trust? Can we hold the trust?

Hector says that the relationships in the groups can be stressed and without much trust. He suggests that we are in a position of power and the group gives you authority, then you have to earn it. You are allowing them to trust one another through you and through the process. By holding with the space – we are making a space for people to trust one another.

Pilar asks for any further questions:

Suzannah asks about version 2 and what topics they’d really like to cover?

Martin – online virtual facilitation, something to do with social inclusion and social change (there is a special interest group in both of these things).

Chitra –Something around being upfront when collaborating and the working out loud culture and something around how creative collaboration can work across domains and learning to work to each others’ strengths. Also understanding about the relationship between visual and a process facilitator works.

Hector – change management and facilitating in change management or in political change.

Suzannah follows on from Hector’s comment about working in the political space and says how she’d want to go into parliament and move around all the chairs!

Chitra sums up by saying - The power is within the group.