I recently attended Facilitation Jam, a gathering of facilitators over a day and a half in London. There were seven of us – all experienced facilitators (me probably the least experienced) and not much of an agenda. So, it was all very free form and because of that provided the space for a lot of exploration of what facilitation is and how groups work.
I learned a lot and what to share some of that here.
Contracting is key
The group spent a lot of time contracting – setting out how the jam would work on a practical, professional and psychological level. Most contracting focuses on the practical (timings of the session, lunch, timings of fire alarms etc) and the professional (the content) but less so on the psychological (what’s not being said ie how people are feeling).
A key learning point for me was that facilitators need to keep clarifying their expectations and that of the group. This is not something that is done at the start of the session – you keep revisiting it. By doing so you can give people the space to reflect and share on how they are experiencing the session. Think about what you as a facilitator will need for the session to work and what the rest of the group will need to make it work. Think about the I and the we.
I also liked the idea of ‘checking in’ at the start of the session. This involves people saying where they are at and what’s happening for them. No one has arrived until they have checked in. For big groups, people can contract in pairs.
I liked a session we had on signature strengths – the ‘why’ of anyone, their purpose. I like the idea of exploring that ‘thing’ that you are passionate about and that drives you and is a constant in your life. By identifying that strength you can then play to it, which seems like an obvious thing to say. But, how many of us can identify and articulate what that key strength might be?
The 4 Ps
Groups tend to split into these four types of people (I thought this a useful categorisation despite the fact I don’t much like categorisation:
For a facilitator, it is useful to ask what makes people in the group a prisoner or passenger and how they can be helped along to become a performer or player. This is about how the individual and facilitator can help do that – again, this is about the I and the we.
These books were mentioned over the day and a half of the jam.
- Woman of the Edge of Time
- The Psychopath Test
- What’s your purpose?
- Time to Think
- The Year Without Pants
We also played a game and explored its mechanics at the same time. This was incredibly useful because it meant we hit the pause button several times to reflect on the mechanics and how we were responding to the game. I was fascinated but how differently people can experience the same thing. It was also fascinating to have a deeper exploration of the role/meaning of roles and goals.
A lot of my facilitation is digital and I was also able to explore the relationship between digital and face to face facilitation. Again, I learned that one task can be interpreted in many ways, which is why ‘checking in’ is so important.
PS The event took place in Greenwich, London and the image is one I snapped whilst there.