Re: facilitation
From: Vivian Volz (
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 1997 01:56:45 -0500
Rob Sandelin wrote:
>I agree, but I also realize that facilitation takes practice. If a group
>rotates facilitators regularly (like every month) then individuals don't
>have a chance to improve and excel at facilitation. I suppose a group could
>assign facilitation to a core group of individuals. This would require the
>rest of the group to trust the core group's agendas.

The core group concept worked well in a women's group I was once a member
of.  The way that group worked (it was Women's Action Coalition, the
Houston chapter) was that there were two facilitators per meeting, and
those two people agreed not to participate in the content of the meeting
but only run it.  They were drawn from a core group who'd received some
kind of instruction beforehand.  Some were better than others, but everyone
was respectful of their authority over the meeting, no matter which of the
women was facilitating.  The nice thing about having two is that they
spelled each other; it could be a stressful job, and also sometimes one
facilitator would want to step down for one agenda item so she could
participate in the discussion.

>This group nevers sets the agenda, they just
>implement it, using planned and proven process techniques that they study and
>learn how to use.

The fact that they don't set the agenda is important.  A lot of trust is
placed in a facilitator: it's trust that everyone who wishes to speak will
be heard.

>> Stuff falling off the agenda is either because the facilitator is not doing
>> that job well, or because the group does not want to deal with that issue
>Or, the group has a LOT of issues that must be discussed deeply with the whole
>group present. In our case with Wasatch Cohousing, our biweekly general
>meeting is the time when most or all members converge to the same place at
>the same time. Those of us with e-mail access try to discuss proposals before
>dealing with them in meetings, but only half our households have e-mail
>As a result, many "discussion" items end up on the agenda, which often pushes
>some items off the agenda.

In WAC, the facilitators did prepare the agenda before the meeting, and
included times for all the *previously submitted* agena items.  The first
order of business was to accept the agenda as prepared; occasionally the
agenda itself had to be debated, and occasionally people added agenda items
from the floor.  The accepted way to put something on the agenda was to
call a voicemail box and give a topic, a presenter's name, and a requested
amount of time for the item.

This method did keep things from falling off the agenda by mistake: if
discussion was clearly not complete by the end of the allotted time,
someone would move to table the item for the next meeting, take it up again
at the end, send it to committee, or add more time.  It was just not
acceptable to let things run on and on, obliterating all that followed.  I
really appreciated that about these meetings.  They ended on time, too.

(I saw in another message that Wasatch's meetings last three or four hours;
the thought of a meeting that long makes me cringe.)

>Iam not just making all this up, I teach these techniques, they work.

They work well, and I'm so spoiled by them that unfacilitated or poorly
facilitated meetings make me want to run and hide.


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