A Guide to Facilitation

What is facilitation and why is it important?
The art and science of managing meetings and group processes, facilitation involves guiding meetings and groups while using a specific set of skills and tools.  Facilitation is a process of helping a small or large group increase its effectiveness and define specific goals and objectives.

Facilitators create an environment in which group members share ideas, opinions, experiences, and expertise in order to achieve a common goal.  A skilled facilitator smoothes the way for group members to brainstorm options, identify viable solutions, and develop and implement action plans. A facilitator does not take sides or express a point of view during the meeting.  He or she advocates for fair, open and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group's work.

The facilitator is the process expert for the group.  He or she manages the process of a meeting, which allows the meeting participants to focus on the substantive issues under discussion.  The facilitator works at the will of the group and part of the facilitator's role is to be responsible to the whole group and not to one member or interest.

Good facilitators possess a variety of qualities and skills.  Some of the qualities spring from such innate personality traits as being able to recognize one's own biases while remaining neutral, enjoying interaction with diverse groups, and inspiring trust.  Although some people possess a natural talent for facilitation, most develop the skills through experience and with guidance from experienced facilitators.

The skills include:

  • Making everyone feel comfortable and valued
  • Encouraging participation
  • Preventing and managing conflict
  • Listening and observing
  • Guiding the group
  • Ensuring quality
  • Ensuring outcome-based meetings

Facilitation is more of an art than a science.  A facilitator must be able to read not only individuals, but interaction between individuals, and the subtleties of group dynamics.  If the goal is to help a group become a team, the facilitator's job is to observe, give feedback, and ask questions that will lead to insight.  If the learning that is to take place involves experiential exercises, the facilitator helps the

participants process their experience, to clarify what they have gained from the experience and to help them gain additional insight from how others in the group may have experienced the same exercise.

The facilitator notices what is NOT said as well as what is said and points it out to the group.  The facilitator notices patterns in the group interaction and brings it up to the group for exploration.

Important Resources:

What does the facilitator do?

Characteristics of the Facilitator

Facilitation

Meeting Planning and Design

Agenda Goals and Objectives

Basic Process Interventions

Being Your Own Best Intervention

Keep Learning and Growing

Other Ground Rules or Guidelines