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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.

Mar 14, 2023

In this episode Pilar talks to Paul Kelly and Caroline Jessop about co-facilitation. 

Caroline is a facilitator based just outside Winchester. She describes herself as a creative facilitator and enjoys the things that leave people upbeat and energised.  

Paul is the founder of Pandek Group which is a Facilitation, Training and Coaching business based in the South West specialising in bridging the disconnect within organisations. He uses Lego Serious Play as one of his facilitation tools.  

Paul and Caroline have recently worked together on an away day that focused on the disconnect within teams in a professional organisation. They had already had a conversation about wanting to do some work together when this piece of work came up.  

Caroline describes herself as a born collaborator and how she and Paul have similar expertise but different styles. She felt this piece of work was quite serendipitous and had space in her diary to explore the “gritty” brief.  

It was also a learning opportunity for them each to experience someone else working and their different techniques. Challenging, questioning, evaluating and rationalising, and reflecting on their own practise. 

An example of this was in writing the plan and the level of detail, the order of the process.  

Paul’s way of thinking about co-facilitation is that: 

  • You can get someone to support you and for example get materials ready. Or they can act as a backup if there is illness or emergency 

  • You can have co-facilitation when you are taking turns to deliver even though there may be one person leading on contracting, delivery and design. 

  • Joint facilitation – includes everything that is co-facilitation but the design is done together too. 

  • Collaboration facilitation - All of the above including the contracting and even sourcing the work in the first place.  

You need to have an open and honest conversation about whose brand you are going under in the first place.  

Paul and Caroline’s collaboration followed the following stages 

  • Meeting with the client to pitch together – this was quite organic, and they both asked questions to get a broader understanding of the brief than they might have done on their own.  

  • Putting together a headline plan – Caroline was keen to use a particular methodology that she included. This was followed by some tweaks and discussions with the client.  

  • Paul then took the lead on making it come to life and they used SessionLab to add structure to the plan. 

  • They were able to ask each other probing questions to check the plan 

Prior to this piece of work, they were both on the IAF England and Wales conference planning team together and Paul also worked as part of a team of facilitators when Caroline brought in several facilitators for a piece of work. 

Caroline has co-created sessions with a number of people and says this broadens your perspective, and the diversity of experience teaches you things you didn’t know that you didn’t know.  

Creating the outline for them was okay but the client needed more detail and several iterations of the plan. It helped that two people were listening and gave clarity and confidence in what they were proposing.  

Caroline and Paul were on WhatsApp, behind the scenes during the meeting with their client and this created a good flow of conversation between them. Being listened to by multiple people by the client is always a good thing.  

They did the budget conversation live online with the client and they were able to use Whatsapp to do this. They had had a previous conversation about budgets and knew the suggested rate in advance.  

Throughout this project, Caroline and Paul learned that: 

  • You need a growth mindset if you are going to work in front of a peer and take the feedback. This is a good challenge to have.  

  • Balance of clarity over how you would do it and the benefit of doing it that way needs to be as ideal as it can be for the client and this can be tough to hear that someone else may do this differently.  

Because of the complexity of the piece of work it was important for them to have had a chance to recharge and share what they did and to discuss when it got really tricky 

Here's some advice for someone who is going to co-facilitate or work with another facilitator for the first time: 

  • Do it – you are learning as you are doing. 

  • Listen with positivity – there are different ways of doing things it’s your opportunity to share as well as experience them. 

  • Jump in and try it. 

  • Be mindful of what the client is asking for. 

Connect with Paul Kelly:  

Connect with Caroline Jessop: -  
And you can connect with your host, Pilar Orti on Twitter.