Good discussions depend on people being able to share their ideas and experiences and good facilitation is what helps this to happen.

Facilitation is about encouraging discussion which seeks to `include’ rather than `exclude’. In a group situation, it is rare to have a good inclusive discussion, where everyone joins in. The `art’ of facilitation is to encourage this participation.

The bigger the group is, the more likely it is that a few people will take up the space and be the talkative ones – whilst the others (often the majority) leave them to it and remain silent. Sometimes groups get stuck in how they work – with the same people taking on the same old roles – and this can make it hard to move on as a group. Listening and communicating needs working at – it doesn’t just happen by magic!!

There are ways and means to encourage people to discuss and share ideas and experiences – this is what facilitation is all about.

At changes:

  • we help people understand, discuss and develop common understandings
  • we start from where people are at
  • people tell us the most extraordinary things – this is because we build trust (and we honour that trust)
  • we encourage people to talk about and share ‘tricky issues’
  • we recognise that there are different types and levels of facilitation
  • we practice confidentiality and Chatham House rules as appropriate

We develop and work with resources for facilitators. These include ideas on methods to help groups work in participatory and inclusive ways, which support facilitators to recognise and challenge discrimination, and which outline different ways of learning.

Examples of changes facilitation

– a series of workshops with senior officers from cross-sectoral organisations to work through a change in the way services are commissioned to encourage more community-led providers to come to the fore. In this example, the participants all have different – sometimes competing – priorities, speak different languages and have different motivations

– an Away Day for the Board of a national charity to identify and plan the development of a new Strategic Vision following the appointment of a new CEO

– a one day workshop with Board members of an area based community forum to help them identify new ways of organising and priorities following the departure of the long-standing Chair.

– a series of action research sessions with public sector officers to explore and contribute to the development of the echo framework.

– two half day (evening) workshops to support cross sector partners to identify priorities to work on collaboratively

– a series of sessions on the theme of equalities with officers from voluntary and public sector agencies to explore how existing equalities codes can be used to improve working practices