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Facilitation skills

Training as a facilitator changed a lot of the ways I relate to life... not sure it was an epiphany… but it definitely created news ways for me to understand how my own behaviour impacted on others. And learned how no one person has all the skills required to plan… manage and deliver any single project… it always takes a team to do that… preferably with a good facilitator to hold an objective… non judgemental position.

Managing a team… needs support from someone with facilitation skills.

In my training I learned to offer and hold a space where people could share what they really felt… a space where we built mutual respect… unconditional positive regard… and bags of trust in ourselves and each other.

My training lasted for two years and involved an initial week long facilitation boot camp experience… and then being shadowed by trainers as I worked in the community where I lived.

There was no hiding in this on the job training… which suited me as although I love to study and read… experiential learning really helps keep me focused and embeds my skills in this real life.

At the end of this training I received a Master Enterprise Facilitator certificate from the Sirolli Institute.

The institute was set up and run by Ernesto Sirolli.

Ernesto is a character… and I mean that as a compliment… and as a warning… working with Ernesto kept me on my toes… he spoke his mind… gave no extra respect to others who considered themselves deserving of extra respect… and could see through bullshit… like… anyway… I feel really privileged to have worked with Ernesto and his team.

My main trainer was Linda… a Kansas woman who grew up on a farm… or the range as she called it… worked in prisons supporting people there to learn new life skills… ran an antiques business… and became one of the most important people in my working life.

The aim of this training was to help me practice and learn how to help others… without helping them… based on the belief that each individual knows what they want to do with their life’s work… has a passion to deliver this… and sometimes needs to find others to support them with the skills that don’t come naturally to them… to see their project through.

My role was to listen to them describe their passion… their project… identify where they might need support… and then to introduce them to others who may have different but complimentary skills that they would find useful.

We called the group of people that were needed by the person with the project… resources… and I spent a large chunk of my time getting to know as many people… resources… as possible… in the community of fifty thousand people where I lived.

I quickly learned that it can be difficult to acknowledge that we may need help with something… we are often conditioned to believe that we have to be able to do everything.

That to admit there are skills we are not sure about… or do not come easily to us… we may fear this is a weakness.

And I learned that when we have an empathic non judgemental listener, who is prepared to just hear us… it becomes easier to let go of these conditioned fears and be honest about what we really want to do… and where we may need support.

In Ernesto’s experience of working for the Italian government in Zambia… as a bright young thing… straight out of Rome University with a kick ass degree in economics… he naively thought that he was going there to teach these poor impoverished Zambians how to develop the ability to grow vegetables, market and sell them at a profit.

This didn’t go well… Ernesto quickly realised that his government were more interested in highly profitable copper extraction contracts from the Zambian government… than they were in making the local farmers wealthy.

His response to this difficult and humiliating learning was to find out more about how the “aid” that was being offered did the opposite of what is appeared to aspire to… impoverished the farmers and ruined the ecosystems they live within.

Ernesto read everything he could around the economics of international development… and when he came across Ernst Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful… he changed the way he understood… helping people… and one line in this book struck him as being crucial;

“Don’t offer to help someone… if they have not asked for your help.”

Ernesto understood this idea… offering to help without being asked… as a way of demeaning a person… suggesting that they were not only incapable of looking after themselves… but more importantly… incapable of asking for help if they needed it.

I also understood this from my lived experience… in my work and in my family life.

At the time I met Ernesto’s team… I had four daughters… the eldest in her mid 20’s… the youngest in her mid teens… leaving the space for them all to work things out for themselves… and to trust them to ask if they needed help… was a key part of offering them the chance to learn for themselves… learn from experience… and to trust me to be understanding and kind… if they needed to ask for my input.

So those two years of training on the job… with input there when I needed it… and following this with three years post qualified practice in the community that I lived and loved in… enabled me to develop the skills of becoming and being a community facilitator.

Since then… I trained in coaching and somatic coaching in particular… and I still enjoy facilitating for groups and communities around me.

Combining these skills helps me grow as an individual and engages me with others who share my belief in our capacity to work together towards a more caring… sharing world.

I love that so many more groups are recognising the power of good facilitation… I see it all around me these days… and this give me hope for a different future from the one we are often offered via the mainstream media.

Lots of the skills within this role have grown and expanded as a result of groups such as the Occupy Movement and Extinction Rebellion… who see the facilitator role as crucial to inclusive and progressive decision making… and I continue to learn from great facilitators such as adrienne maree brown… bell hooks… keeping my skills dynamic and responsive to this ever changing world.

I also love sharing these skills and am always happy to discuss with others who are interested in how we can as a community, encourage the idea of everyone having access to effective and caring facilitation whenever they need it.

So feel free to get in touch if you… like me… are enthused by the principles and outcomes of a well facilitated community life and want to share that enthusiasm.

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