Facilitation: the art of enabling a group of people to achieve a common goal. IAF England Wales brings you a show by facilitators, for facilitators and anyone interested in using facilitation for change. We'll share guest stories, experiences and methods. Plus, we'll bring you up to date on what's happening at our Meetups.
FS44 Understanding How Neurodiversity Affects Workshop Participants' Experience
In today’s episode Pilar talks to facilitator Paul Kelly. He’s going to be running two sessions at the IAFEW Re-Facilitation conference on 13th-14th May 2022 in Birmingham and online. His first session will be on “Collaborative Consensus”and the second will be a facilitated discussion around neurodiversity.
(A note to readers on the website: we have some gremlins playing around with our text here. Apologies while we sort it out, and oh the irony given the topic of this episode...)
Paul first talks about how he got into facilitation and then about his interest in Neurodiversity.
"Neurodivergent" is used to describe a variety of conditions and Paul emphasises that having conversations with people, allows sessions to be more inclusive.
Paul shares some of the ways that people might engage differently from the starting point is that we all have different ways to interact with the world.
When facilitating, sometimes simple things can make a difference. This can include thinking about how to reduce anxiety for example by sending a photograph of yourself or the venue in advance so people know what to expect. With slides using off-white slides and using straightforward fonts and thinking “less is more”. Asking one question at a time is important and thinking about sensory overload including what you’re wearing, both clothing and fragrance.
Sometimes it’s about talking to someone about the adaptations they use to allow them to work the way they want to work. Paul always asks in advance if there is anything that can be done in to make a session more accessible and allows more than one way of working.
Paul talks about the approach to his session at the conference and the link between neurodiversity and social dynamics. Paul describes that some people see it as their superpower, for others they may term it as an inhibitor, for example being in distracting environments or experiencing challenges with social cues. When it comes to employment, employers need to understand the value of having people who think differently in an organisation.
Pilar asks Paul how facilitators can address the topic with direct clients. This can depend on the relationship but Paul suggests not assuming a client will understand neurodivergence. In which case starting with open questions and saying it’s OK not to know and to ask about the right terminology. He also talks about having conversations with clients but respecting confidentiality. Paul suggests offering an advance conversation with participants but then also observing the room and any adjustments once working with a group.
Paul closes with a reminder that it’s not possible to get everything 100% right for everyone but it’s about being willing to listen, adjust and sometimes to risk getting it wrong.
If you’d like to attend the conference on 13th and 14th May you can register here:
Details of the programme are here:
You can find out more about Paul Kelly through his website https://pandek.org/
And on Twitter he is @PANDEK_Group
Connect with Pilar on Twitter: @PilarOrti
FS43 Facilitation in the Agricultural Sector
In this episode of Facilitation Stores, host Helene Jewell is joined by guest Lisa Morgans Lisa is a vet, researcher and facilitator. She is Head of Livestock at Innovation for Agriculture – an independent knowledge exchange charity based in England that works to bridge the science-practice gap and support farmers as they transition to a more sustainable, resilient and productive farming system. Lisa has a PhD in participatory action research and before that worked as a veterinary surgeon in a mixed veterinary practice in Cornwall.
Lisa talks about the variety in her role, from project management to facilitating knowledge exchange activities and translating policy into information for farmers. Also, part of her role is training vets in facilitation skills as they are such good skills to have.
Over this episode Helene and Lisa discuss the methods used in Lisa’s workshops, which follow the principles of participatory action research and farmer led innovation. They discuss the similarities between Lisa and Helene’s sessions, which although Lisa’s can often take place in the farm itself often have the same type of activities and approaches. Lisa’s methods are often quite visual, and she uses different methods to engage farmers, like the use of ping pong balls for ranking.
Lisa talks about the change in communication skills training for vets, and the use of different methods to inspire their clients to change. Vets are looking at different ways in which they can use their skills, and so can see the benefit of facilitation to help with that. Helene asks Lisa how the facilitation community can help the veterinary community. Lisa talks about working with both the professional bodies in the sector, as well as individual vet practices to understand their needs, and how facilitation can help.
Helene and Lisa talked about the need in the veterinary sector for accreditation and professional bodies, and how that is different with the IAF who are encouraging more people to promote themselves as facilitators, to raise the profile and understanding of the role.
Lisa shared the challenge of moving to online with the projects that she was supporting at the start of the pandemic, as often they were focused on bringing whole farm teams together with other teams from across the country, or even other countries. However, Lisa was surprised at how quickly the farming community adapted to online tools. More recently, engagement has been more difficult as some people had become comfortable with online and so have struggled to come back to face-to-face sessions. Helene reflected on the same challenges, and how this has led to the IAF England & Wales conference in May 2022 being all about hybrid facilitation.
Lisa wraps up by talking about the opportunity for facilitation in the farming community, especially as farmers are coming together to work at a landscape scale to make changes, they want to learn from each other and there aren’t enough independent facilitators working in the industry. So if you’re interested, you can work in a fast paced environment with lots of policy changes and an engaged group.
You can contact Lisa on Twitter @LisaMorgansVet and Innovation for Agriculture on their website https://www.i4agri.org/ or via Twitter @innovationforag
Designing the Space for Others to Learn in Conferences
In this episode Pilar welcomes two guests.
First she talks to Adrian Ashton. They start talking about Adrian’s relationship with facilitation and how over time he’s become more involved with the IAF and hosts the North of England meetup. He talks about some of the highlights of running the group. They’ve experimented a lot with location, themes, topics and guests. Adrian highlights the variety of people that join the meetups but that it’s always a safe and relaxed space to reflect together. Topics have ranged from dating to cows to spreadsheets to props.
Adrian sometimes gathers notes on the themes discussed and shares them on social media. This amplifies and captures the learning for themselves and facilitators of the future.
They go on to talk about Adrian’s awards. One with current pride of place is “non employee of the week” from a Facebook community “Being Freelance Friends”.
Next Pilar and Adrian talk about the IAF Conference taking place in Birmingham, UK on 13th and 14th May. The Leadership Team recognised how important the conference is to facilitators and that many have been wanting to reconnect and spend time together physically. They also realised the facilitator profession has changed significantly in recent years and that hybrid is likely to become the norm so they decided to do the conference as a hybrid. Most of the sessions will be structured to be delivered in some model of hybrid to give people a chance to decide which methods to add to their ”toolbox”.
They’re still putting the programme together and are open to proposals for running sessions. While some will be hybrid, some will be all in person/ all online and some audio only as this might be something facilitators need to work with in future, if people can’t get online.
Adrian makes a parting offer to facilitators to have a conversation to share stories and ideas as he recognises how valuable that has been for him in the past.
Next Pilar talks to Ana Neves about “Social Now”, a conference taking place in Lisbon. Ana is a Management Consultant and Founder of KnowMan and the host and author of KMOL. Social Now is in its 9th edition, taking place on 19th and 20th May 2022.
The conference came about after Ana attended a conference in Paris about using social tools inside enterprises. After talking to another attendee Ana realised there was a need to run an event to help people understand the tools and how they can be a part of the way organisations work.
The format is based on a fictitious global company that experiences the “pains'' of real companies . During the conference both vendors and consultants “advise” the fictitious company. Vendors do a live demo following strict rules including no slides and no sales pitches. Participants have flags that they can raise if they feel vendors are going into sales mode - two flags and they have to go off stage. Pilar observes how this brings real accountability to the audience.
She next asks how the conference has evolved and how peer learning is facilitated. Ana reflects that as a consultant she focuses on making it a really good learning experience for participants. This starts with sitting at round tables, with lots of natural light. Ana feels much of the learning happens between speakers and during breaks so they take long coffee and lunch breaks, have good food and go out for dinner together at the end of day one.
They also have a live “peer assist” where Ana poses as one of the employees in the fictitious company and asks peers to share their experiences and ideas for a project her character is starting. After this there is a table exercise to collect a list of dos and don’ts for the fictitious company which the participants can take back to their own companies.
Pilar reflects that the fictitious company means there are no consequences of testing creative ideas and Ana acknowledges that the particip
FS41 Making Workshops Work with Penny Pullan
In this episode Pilar talks to Penny Pullan, Director of “Making Projects Work” and author of “Virtual Leadership: Practical Strategies for Success with Remote or Hybrid Work and Teams”, just out in its second edition, and in 2021, “Making Workshops Work: Creative Collaboration for Our Time”.
Penny explains that Making Workshops Work was originally contracted and due to be published in 2016 but then the pandemic hit and she focused on writing the book to help people, not necessarily certified professional facilitators, who needed to collaborate.
Penny talks about seeing her role as a catalyst for collaboration, making it easy for groups to do the best work they can do.
They move on to talking about when Penny first called herself a facilitator. Penny explains that it began when she was running a session for a group where a Senior person said in front of everyone, they were going to leave at lunchtime if the session didn’t improve. Penny opted to give the group a break and admitted to this senior person that she felt out of her depth. They gave her some hints and tips that worked and Penny realised that there is such a thing as facilitation.
Penny recalls that what changed in that workshop was that whereas she had always been in a position of giving her perspective as an expert, in facilitation the focus is always about the group and that’s where the spotlight is. The experience of that first workshop was helpful as she realised the importance of learning facilitation skills.
They move on to talk about why Penny wrote “Making Workshops Work”. Penny explains that while she’s written other books, she realised that a book for those that come to her facilitation skills courses would be useful.
Next they talk about how Penny got into virtual and hybrid facilitation. It began when Penny was working as a Global Programme Manager. The kick off meeting in her first programme was due to be in New York but then 9/11 happened, planes were grounded and the kick off moved to virtual. Penny had just been training in facilitation meaning that she could focus on how to apply the principles of facilitation virtually. Penny ended up writing guidelines on virtual facilitation in the company and then leaving to set up her own company including helping people work in virtual and hybrid ways.
Pilar asks about the principles Penny focuses on most that can be applied in person, virtual and hybrid. Penny feels many of the principles are the same, what differs is thinking about the environment and technology. In any session, you need a clear purpose, shared understanding of the goals, a time plan, knowing the roles of the people taking part. In person but more so in virtual is knowing “how are we going to work together today?” and working out what’s right for that session.
In hybrid the key challenge is that it’s not a level playing field and as a facilitator it's thinking about how to adjust to that.
Pilar asks how Penny decided what to include in the book. Penny says that as she has worked with so many people over the years they helped her to understand the things that other people find tricky and the things they find most useful. She’s recognised the things that develop confidence as well as competence.
They talk about real rather than fake confidence. Penny says she didn’t put facilitation in the title of her book as the people she works with are people who need to run workshops but don’t have training in facilitation. For them, building competence builds confidence.
Pilar pulls out from the book a list of things great groups have. Penny explains she did some work with Dale Hunter’s company Zenergy in New Zealand. The list is in Dale Hunter’s book “Handling Groups in Action” (UK title). In it they bring out 16 qualities and Penny realised they are the things that great groups have. It starts with simple things like Purpose, Culture, Safety and Trust but t
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FS40 The Endorsed Facilitator programme and the Challenges of Inclusivity
In this episode, Pilar talks to Anish Hindocha, who has recently taken the IAF Endorsed Facilitator assessment process. They talk about Anish’s experience through the process and then move on to talk about the challenges of being truly inclusive.
(You can check out an earlier conversation they had, in episode 08 of Facilitation Stories. https://facilitationstories.com/fs08-what-happens-at-our-meetups-and-first-steps-in-facilitation )
Anish is a change consultant with a passion for culture transformation. He started using facilitation through his work as a business analyst, bringing teams together. He progressed to bringing different people together, with different opinions and helping them to solve problems together. At the same time, he created a Meetup for Spanish speakers wanting to practice English and viceversa, which also brought in another level of facilitation.
Anish started looking at the IAF's endorsed route when he became freelance. He realised that a lot of the proposals he was putting out to clients had more to do with facilitation than anything else. Around that time he came across the IAF, which he considers the “gold standard” of facilitation.
The Endorsed facilitation process (https://www.iaf-world.org/site/pages/become-iaf-endorsed%E2%84%A2-facilitator ) consists of a written submission and a multiple choice exam. The questions are mainly based around the core 6 competencies of the IAF.
The written submission is less rigorous than the CPF (check out more about this in our last episode where Helene describes her experience https://facilitationstories.com/fs39-growing-as-a-facilitator-through-the-cpf-certification-process), and you have to describe a recent experience, guided by their questions.
Anish shares one of the sessions he talked about, with its objectives, how he designed the session, the tools he used (SessionLabs), an icebreaker, the ground rules he had, consideration of different types of participants, listed his open questions (like, how would you like to be me during the session? How will we keep our attention going during the session) etc.
The work then goes to an assessor who creates a feedback report - something Anish wasn’t expecting and he really appreciated, turning the assessment process into a learning experience.
Finally, Anish feels that the accreditation also brings credibility to the freelance facilitator.
In the second part of the conversation, Pilar reflects on a session led during Facilitation Week by Helene and Hilary. Usually, you know the kind of behaviour to to expect in the IAFEW meet-ups https://www.meetup.com/IAF-facilitators-and-friends/ , and in this occasion, a person turned up who had a very different presence to that expected.
Pilar noticed that she felt threatened by this unexpected presence, although it helped that it was online, rather than in person. This led to some curiosity to understand what was going on, until she noticed that the person was as engaged as everyone else, in a slightly different way to what she would expect, but in line.
How would this have played out in a face to face environment, and how aware is the person of the impact they might have on others?
Both Pilar and Anish would love to hear from listeners who’ve had similar experiences where their values have been challenged.
You can connect with Anish Hindocha through his website https://www.jigsawconsulting.co.uk/ or on LinkedIn.
Twitter: Anish: @hindocha_anish
Facilitation Stories: @Fac_Stories
Thank you for listening. You can find out all about us and how to contact us over at https://facilitationstories.com/
A really good insight in to the lived in experience of being a facilitator. The hosts (Pilar and Helen) interview a wide range of facilitators to get their thoughts and insights in to a growing field that covers teams, people dynamics, technology and psychology. I love hearing the different voices on facilitation topics. And highly recommend giving this a listen if you are at all curious about the subject.