Facilitation Practice

Meeting design

To ensure meetings encourage both dialogue and participation requires careful planning and it is important to clarify with the client:

  • The purpose of the meeting,
  • The main questions and issues that are being considered,
  • The broad outcomes that are aimed for.
  • Who should be involved and,
  • What the best meeting format and structure will be.

From these considerations a meeting design will emerge that will create conditions for a productive discussion, debate or workshop.

Aims and benefits of participatory facilitation

My hope is to support the emergence of circumstances and ‘spaces’ in which people, meeting together, may find opportunities to listen and be listened to, so that mutual understanding may develop and group creativity can be harnessed.

Moreover, if all members of groups, strategy or planning workshops or democratic, community gatherings, are involved in discussions, outcomes are usually creative, wise, and robust. People commit to consequent decisions and implementation plans if they feel that they have been able to meaningfully contribute to them.

Practical tools

Every workshop is unique and I draw upon different methods for planning a meeting. However, I often favour the inclusion of some simple techniques that are taught by ICA UK including their famous “sticky wall”. This ‘tool’ is great for depersonalising input and ideas. People become very creative in their contributions and ideas are received well and given open consideration by other members of a group. I also draw upon methods promulgated by the New Economics Foundation, for example in their “Democs” kit, which can be used to aid open, thoughtful debate about complicated or controversial subjects.

Target sectors

Facilitation of participatory and democratic meetings can successfully support the needs of many people in organizations, businesses and the local community but, so far, I have found the greatest demand for such services in the public, charity, voluntary and community sectors.

Examples of my meeting facilitation experience

  • Review of ‘purpose’ for a local Forum supporting the elderly.
  • Strategic planning for a charity.
  • A deliberative forum for NHS staff and patient representatives to consider options for changes to local healthcare provision.
  • Community opinion surveys and large public meetings to develop community action plans.
  • Co-facilitated a participatory strategic planning day for staff of a homeless people’s charity.
  • Appreciative Inquiry (organizational development) intervention with the staff of a charity.
  • Community consultation group concerned with use and development of a local recreation ground.
  • One of five facilitators at a consultation held by a District Council to seek views about sustainable planning guidance.
  • Workshop facilitator within a large forum considering international development issues.
  • A participatory ‘values’ discussion for volunteers and staff of a charity.