Monday, February 13, 2006

Why facilitation? And what - if anything - is it?

Secondly: why facilitation? Concordance, I'm aware of that, is not easy. It requires, what Prof. Magala calls 'Cross-cultural Competence'. But most of the times, we've identified with our role, our position in the group. We try to blend in and cause no disturbance - consensus, you know. Culture can stiffle.
Every now and then, a group will have to stop and reconsider, see where they're going. Then we need to bridge the differences in opinion again. This is best done in, what I like to call, facilitated conversations.

In these conversations, these breaks, usually, there is an expert who gives his informed opinions, his insights, shares his knowlegde. Then the participants con-verse, they exchange their opinions on the expert knowledge, reflect. A facilitator usually only manages, guides, supports, moderates this process, the interactions and not the content, the subject of the conversation. In a not-facilitated conversation, the Lucifer Principle might kick in more easily, and the expert might take the role of the silver back or the leader might cut a discussion short or the leader is uncertain, but is unable to say so without loosing face.... Either way, the expert takes over the process, or he or she is being misguided by the bath of reflected glory.

Why use facilitated conversations? Because different opinions in a group do create tensions. We do not agree with each other, because we're alle different and have different objectives. A soon as the common means do not or no longer suit our particular goal, we tend to get frustrated. Tension will be released, it is an old law. I think that the Lucifer Principle is like the action - reaction type of release. Frustration builds and the energy is directed towards 'the other'.
There is a potential to use these tensions creativily, not destructively. These tensions can be channeled, guided towards a common decision, towards the goals and means we do have in common. Facilitators, in my opinion, are able to contain these tension, these energies, for a short while. Not unlike a catalyst.

Facilitator is a role, not a function, not a job nor a profession (although you can be a professional facilitator). Facilitator is another word for moderator, process consultant, coach, trainer, mediator. Even a consultant and a manager will facilitate now and then. Everytime you're more concerned with the process, the relations between people, than the content, the goal, you are facilitating. Facilitators are catalysts for conversation. A catalyst speeds up a (bio)chemical process - either splitting or bonding - , without being used itself. The same is true for facilitator: speeding up a process - of agreement or disagreement - , without being used herself. It is nothing, really, just a small service.


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