Participants already knew each other which made for a good atmosphere with high energy levels from the very start. Participants already possessed a good level of skills and experience of facilitation so my challenge as a trainer would be to make sure that the course added to this.
The course provides a theoretical framework around facilitation. This helps participants reflect on their own strengths, identify areas for improvement, and locate their own facilitation style within a broader context. Above all though, the course focuses on developing practical skills and confidence, it is highly interactive with lots of opportunities to practice skills and techniques. A distinctive aspect of the course is the participatory techniques originating from the developing world; these are easy to use and flexible enough to be applied to many different situations and purposes.
The skills and techniques are useful in any setting where a facilitator is working with a group of people; from public events involving large numbers of people all the way through to small meetings of a staff team. The techniques may be used in many different ways, for example to structure discussion, elicit the views of participants, quantify qualitative opinion, or simply add energy to a discussion.
Day three, which takes place several weeks after the first two days, allows participants to demonstrate their learning by delivering a 25 minute facilitated session. I knew day three was going to be good when the first group members arrived and started telling me straight away about how they had already used different techniques in practice! During the demonstrations participants showed they could use the techniques appropriately and skilfully. They demonstrated value continuum exercises, ranking discussions and voting techniques including more complex “matrices” which allow a group to evaluate options against more than one criterion.
Several participants had adapted techniques for example one had turned the “target” technique into a more complex tool to assess people’s perception about their own cultural identity. It was also good to see participants applying simple lessons with confidence for example using a powerful image to increase engagement with a “brainstorm” exercise or creating an imaginative “energising” technique to start a session. There is no one correct way to facilitate a session so it was also good to see participants applying their own different styles with confidence. This was a great group to work with and their demonstrations showed clearly they were all very competent facilitators.