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Group Facilitation

Meetings, workshops and conferences bring people together for a shared purpose. However, organisers of such events all too often focus on the content and practicalities of the event – ‘Who should be invited? Where will it be held?  What will be discussed?’ – with little detailed attention given to the actual purpose in fostering such collaboration – Why are people participating? How diverse are our participants? Does the way this event is designed provide the best possible chance of achieving its original purpose?

 Perhaps this is not too surprising as such meta-processes are often unnoticed or undervalued. This is where iFacilitate excels - we are passionate about working with group process and enabling constructive group interactions. 

At iFacilitate, we work with you to agree purpose, design the event to ensure that it is fit for that purpose, and evaluate its achievements. We ensure that the event design enables all participants to interact constructively with each other, to engage fully with the subject matter, and to contribute productively. If needed, we can additionally take care of all the practicalities of managing the event. We are experienced in working face-to-face, remotely, or a combination of both.

The participants at your meeting, workshop or conference will leave your event feeling that their time has been effectively used, and having realised a number of tangible outcomes such as:

  •         development of new relationships and strengthening of existing ones;
  •         attainment of shared perspectives and learning on topics of common interest or concern;
  •         evolution of creative approaches to problem-solving and discovery of new ideas and projects;
  •         agreement on actions, plans, and ways to move forward.

Group Facilitation at work...

Collaborating and facilitating at a 4-day international workshop in Croatia

This 4-day international workshop, titled ‘Toward a Platform for Motivated and Gifted Youth’, was organised by the Science and Society Synergy Institute (S3I), Čakovec, Croatia in February 2012. It was financed by the Youth in Action programme of the British Council and attended by 50 participants from Croatia, Serbia, France, Hungary, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom. The meeting brought together participants from organisations that support the development of motivated and gifted young people, including educators, science promoters, educational researchers, and policy-makers. The aim was to share practice, learn from each other, and explore the potential for collaboration and for making joint funding bids.

 Elizabeth Mc Donnell of iFacilitate was invited to support the process and help in the facilitation of its sessions. In the preparatory phase, she supported the planning of the overall workshop, provided advice for the other moderators, and created a detailed design for the final day, concerning action planning.

 During the implementation of the 4-day event, with scheduled moderators unable to attend Elizabeth was asked to take over facilitation on Day 3. With little time to plan, a straightforward approach was needed – Elizabeth gave participants the opportunity to self-organise into small groups and select topics of interest to them, providing a framework and means for capturing key points emerging from the discussions. Meanwhile Elizabeth had made sure to record and compile the outputs that came out of presentations, discussions, and recordings from Days 2 and 3 so that they could be used by participants during the action planning day (Day 4). She was responsibility for facilitating this latter day and provided a compilation of all recordings to inform the final report.

Design and facilitation of the action planning day (Day 4)

Elizabeth drew up a detailed facilitator’s design plan for Day 4 in order to ensure the stated aims of the day were met and that actions were agreed upon. With not all participants able to stay for the final day, and with some new participants having arrived for the action planning only, the availability of Elizabeth’s recording in an accessible format was invaluable. 

The process was designed so as to allow newcomers to integrate and for the group collectively to form a cohesive working unit. Handouts were provided to support the process and pre-prepared flipchart templates helped to structure the discussions and capture feedback. Discussions included exploring shared and differing understandings of ‘gifted’ and ‘motivated’, and evaluating similarities and differences between the different organisations represented in the room. 

Ultimately participants identified and prioritised a number of actions for more in-depth consideration, and developed further ideas further on how they may progress them. 

Feedback from participants of the action planning day:

 "Today I feel that I found the way to enrich our project significantly."

 "I’m happy that we got some well-defined action ideas drafted."

 "You have really put a lot of effort into the preparation. It is nice to meet a professional facilitator." 

Organising and facilitating a workshop between academics and practitioners in the UK

In June 2012 Elizabeth Mc Donnell of iFacilitate designed and facilitated a workshop that brought together 25 participants from academic and practitioner backgrounds with a shared interest and involvement in the teaching and learning of peace and conflict studies. Elizabeth had secured funding from the Higher Education Academy (UK) to organise this workshop, which was hosted by the Open University in their London office. She was supported by a very able colleague and co-facilitator, Lesley Adams.

The opportunity to meet and discuss their work and roles was welcomed by those attending and considered very timely. All participated readily in the activities of the day, which included sharing personal perspectives of their perceived position on the 'academic-practitioner' continuum, a concept that in itself provoked some lively discussion. They then explored strengths, weaknesses, needs and opportunities of their roles and areas of work, as well as shared thinking on their approaches to teaching in the field of peacebuilding and conflict management. Participants addressed the question: 'Is there a need for a clearer definition of what peacebuilding is, and of the core competencies needed by professionals who work in the field?'

A strong recurrent theme that emerged from the workshop was the willingness and enthusiasm among participants for greater interaction and productive collaboration between academics and practitioners. Suggestions going forward included organising academic-practitioner exchange events, a shared forum for peer review, involvement of practitioners in academic course design and delivery, and joint research projects.

Comments contained within participant evaluations:

"Today I feel that I have participated in a very interesting workshop, and for the first time I dealt with the practice/academic research divide."

"Today I met very interesting people, become aware of a range of different viewpoints and approaches, and found the informal and formal aspects stimulating."

"This was a very well planned and participative meeting of minds. Enjoyable and clear in its intention."

"Thank you for putting this together. Very useful and more of these please."

  

 Article: Teaching pece and conflict in Higher Education (August 2012) [pdf]

Facilitating the Soliya Connect programme

Soliya is an organisation that strives to create opportunities for constructive dialogue though use of a virtual exchange platform. Elizabeth of iFacilitate successfully completed its advanced facilitator training programme, and subsequently facilitated the organisation's Connect programme during 2016’s Spring and Autumn semesters. Since 2003 Soliya has implemented the Connect programme in over 100 universities, covering 28 countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, North America, and South Asia.

Through online dialogue, Elizabeth worked with a co-facilitator in supporting students in their engagement with one other, committing two hours a week for a period of eight weeks. Students were spread across the globe and, with individuals coming from the Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Morocco, Turkey, and the USA. The process enables students to reach a deeper understanding of the perspectives of others on important – and at times contentious – socio-political issues, and to develop their critical thinking, cross-cultural communication, and media literacy skills.