Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I have just read Stephen's blog and found the following point to note/consider in terms of a facilitator being a member of an (online) group (or is that network ???)-from Nancy White's guide:

Facilitators as Role Models
Facilitators are the most emulated members of a group -- no matter if they are modeling positive or negative behaviors. They are often the first members to be challenged. Integrity, patience, a good sense of humor and a love of other people will be valued in any host. And as virtual communitarian Howard Rheingold so aptly wrote, "One point of heart is worth ten points of intellect."

Sometimes the facilitator is also a "member" of the group. Keep in mind when playing multiple roles in a community that people may not know what role you are "playing" at any one time and react in ways you might not anticipate. Facilitators might see themselves as also "just members" of the community. Members may not. This distinction becomes critical when there is cause for intervention or problem solving. No longer will you be perceived as "just a member." And in some cases, you will never again be considered in that role. You are most often held to a higher standard.

I had just assumed that the Facilitator would be considered to be a member of an online group (or network or community?)- but this suggests otherwise. Already, connotations of the facilitator appear here as the "higher being", therefore the blurring of the role of teacher/facilitator comes to my mind again...and the need for the expectations of each role/part to play to be made clear. More to ponder...


Stephen said...

Your post has got me recalling situations with a variety of grassroots groups that I've been involved with over the years.

In one group many years ago, we decided everybody would upskill themselves as facilitators so we shared the task around. At fortnightly meetings some different would step forward to guide us through a decision-making process. This worked mostly okay as we were all tolerant of the learning process and accepted to some degree the notion of ownership by everyone of the facilitation process. Sometimes things could get tricky if somebody said, I need to take off my facilitators hat and share my perspective. Of course no-one can ever be values free or totally objective, but by declaring a bias it would have an impact on how their facilitation was percieved. Were they sub-consciously favouring one point of view?

This was terribly democratic of course, but experience was always respected, as was commitment (ie people who did what they said they would).

Having an external, neutral facilitator in meetings is very different. At various business planning meetings with government agencies I've worked with reputable/ established facilitators are sometimes contracted to run sessions. When I was part of these things, I never saw them as being part of the group they were facilitating. Whatever wisdom and enthusiasm they may have shared, their role was solely around group process.

I could talk about a few other examples but I've already rambled on enough. If I had to summarise, my point is that there are shades of grey in insider/ outsider or member/ non-member participation.

Sarah Stewart said...

Your post and the comments by Stephen have taken the discussion about the role of a facilitator outside the education arena - thank you - has given a slightly different perspective. Taking your slant on things, can how does facilitation work in an education context?

Stoneleigh31 said...

Hi Sarah

When I was writing on the blogs I was 'thinking' of educational context but maybe that hasn't come through clearly. I think Stephens comments here showed up some of the differences between "meetings" and "education" in that a meeting facilitator might be considered to be 'neutral' whereas in an edcuation setting, the facilitator would be involved (in the learning)- in the end I agree that there are shades of grey, again depending on the context etc etc.

willie campbell said...

well indeed. I'm fascinated by the one ounce of heart is worth x ounces of intellect. I am reminded of all those courses I went to around Groups Skills and the importance of setting agreed upon ground rules. I think facilitation is indeed a most particular skill set and the lack of personal ego need is critical in there. BUT also this facilitator is "percieved" as a kind of guru by the membeers.-so a real tension. I aspire to "elegant" work in the mode of John Heron in this regard, but you can't always manage it.
I find literature on mentoring helpful. One of those business mentoring people (can't rememebr who) talks about the human instinct to jump in and solve issues and then suggests a full round of Clarifying questions in every group meeting- try it- it is MOST difficult. Our instinct is to give advice to solve the problem.(make things better)
It is a great and important notion this facilitating.
Go well.

Sarah Stewart said...

Loving the idea, Willie, of the clarifying questions...that's a good topic that we've yet to discuss...how to ask 'facilitating' questions? Any thoughts?

Debra: hope to see you tonight to hear about your exploration of discussion forums.