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An experienced Facilitator from Re:Solve Mediation Services South Surrey is available for all your Facilitation needs;
A meeting Facilitator can help increase the effectiveness of your important meeting, engage all participants regardless of their comfort level in the process, and make the most of your time, financial investment and help you achieve goals – whilst reducing stress and the potential for conflict.
Using a Facilitator allows for greater communication and participation within your group, and ensures that the team stays on time, in focus, and on task.
Hiring an external Facilitator allows all members of the group to participate, and work towards the meeting’s objective.
The definition according to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, is that "Facilitate" means "to make easier."
This is then what a Facilitator does: A Facilitator makes it easier and more likely for people to accomplish the goal their meeting has been called for. More specifically, a Facilitator helps people think in terms of shared interests, not individual positions. According to common definitions, by statute or otherwise, "facilitation" is: The use of a neutral third party to help multi-party work groups accomplish the content of their work by providing process leadership and process expertise in a meeting scenario.
This emphasis on "process" is probably the clearest difference between Mediation and Facilitation, as whilst on first view Facilitation and Mediation may seem similar, when considered more closely they are substantially different: in that Facilitation is primarily used pre-conflict in a preventative role.
Ideally a meeting Facilitator should be involved before any conflict has materialized, to help avoid a conflict arising by guiding those present to work collaboratively toward agreement on their common goal and solution. That doesn't mean there isn't the potential for conflict, or that grounds for conflict haven't already surfaced, quite the opposite. If a meeting or meetings must take place for the purposes of reaching agreements in potentially conflictual circumstances – engaging the services of a professional Facilitator should definitely be a primary consideration as although Facilitation can be used in conflict situations an important characteristic of Facilitation is its primary use as a preventative measure – It should be considered especially useful to bring in a Facilitator in situations or meetings where conflict is likely between the parties involved in the meeting – perhaps there is a historic prevalence for conflict to arise, or perhaps the matters to be discussed and agreed upon relate to financial losses or gains within a company or family scenario.
Whatever the meeting is about, Facilitators can oversee the organization and progress of meetings to alleviate as much tension as possible so that people move beyond their individual agendas to focus on the group work that needs to be done. Facilitation is often a transformative experience, both for the Facilitator and the Facilitated, and a gratifying and exciting process in avoiding conflict and allowing the interested parties to simply get their work done in reaching an agreement based on a position of fair compromise.
An essential element of Facilitation is involvement with groups, small or large, and their processes, whether public in nature, such as a government agency, or strictly private concerns, such as a corporate board of directors, a family business or even the discussions leading up to the drafting of a pre-nuptial agreement. In this regard, Facilitations can range from a one-time meeting to a public policy gathering of governmental, civic, advocacy, business and geographic or ethnic parties that meet over several months or years to accomplish their tasks.
In considering Facilitation as a process, there are similarities to writing a good novel: There should be a beginning, a middle and an end. Facilitation is a story in collaboration and consensus, where to effectively Facilitate, attention must be given to the beginning in preparation (pre-meeting agenda, surveys, protocols); the middle (meeting guidelines for participants, using skills to keep meetings moving and on track, keeping the group focused on reaching a compromise acceptable to all parties) and the end (preparing of meeting reports and follow up duties).
Initially, the Facilitator needs to meet with the convener(s) of the meeting to establish exactly what is being asked of the Facilitator. Is the role to be more of a moderator, or a leader of the group? Is the Facilitator expected to run the meeting and guide the group in keeping to a strict agenda, or simply to keep an impartial and confidential record of the meeting and its outcome whilst keeping a softer yet guiding role? The possibilities are varied and should therefore be defined from the outset. This will help the Facilitator decide if this is the type of situation they are comfortable and/or experienced being involved in, and how to proceed, designing the agenda for the meeting and other "housekeeping" duties pertinent to their role.
It is during this preparatory meeting that the Facilitator will discuss where the group will meet, how often, who will handle administrative functions (meeting notices, survey preparation, mail-outs, typing of group memory notes, etc.), how participation is to be determined, who will represent different stakeholder groups, decision-making protocols, whether the media should be involved, deadlines and resources for work to be done (i.e., money and time).
The preparation ends with the setting of the agenda, which is developed with input from the conveners as well as possibly including input from participants. Participant input can be obtained through mail-out surveys, online questionnaires, telephone or personal interviews or meetings. The Facilitator must study the group and the work to be accomplished before attempting to design the overall agenda for the total of the meetings as well as specific agendas for each meeting if the matters are complex in nature.
The core part of the Facilitation process consists of holding the Facilitated meetings themselves. The Facilitator should structure the meetings to help everyone represented to feel included and encouraging active participation. This may involve helping the group identify common denominators and goals, calling on those who have not spoken, reducing the speaking time of those who might otherwise dominate, and helping to identify who may be missing from the participation at the table as the meeting progresses.
The Facilitator also ensures that group procedures are adopted and adhered to. Decision-making guidelines and protocols are developed with the group, group etiquette discussed and accepted, and discussion guidelines are agreed upon, the method of presenting theories, ideas, positions, etc., must be outlined by the group and the facilitator must obtain a "buy in" by the consensus of the group. If the group has a specific "objective" - such as drafting a written recommendation to a governmental entity on a specific subject - the group must decide how consensus will be defined and what the priorities will be.
Recording the collective Group 'Memory' in relation to the Facilitated meeting or meetings
One extremely important aspect of Facilitation is the keeping of the meeting groups "memory." This consists of keeping notes of the group's meeting in a written, audio or visual manner, which is important both during and after the meeting. During the meeting, if done in a “flipchart” form for example, it can provide an instant visual confirmation that the views of each speaker are being heard, discussed and considered by the group. After the meeting, these records provide the basis for the meeting report.
Accurate record keeping is essential, and at minimum must be:
Active Group Maintenance during Meetings
The Facilitator must facilitate group maintenance using several techniques:
Facilitators bring attention to how a group is working, a task that is best done delicately, usually with suggestions for a different process, or for opening the discussion to suggestions for a different process. This could also be a "heads up" that the group has moved away from its stated discussion item and a means of discussion on whether it wants to continue forward or go back.
These techniques require several additional skills. For one, a facilitator must pay attention to the body language of the members of the group: Are they paying attention? Do they need a break? Are there separate (and distracting) conversations going on? Is there outside noise that is interfering with the members' ability to hear what is being said?
A Facilitator is used to help, encourage and ultimately guide a group through frustrating times. This can be done by complimenting the group, putting frustration into perspective, recalling other times the group was stalled and succeeded in moving forward, and talking about the benefits of staying with the process to reach the common goal.
Finally, a Facilitator should "debrief" the group before it adjourns. This allows each group member to reflect upon and state how they are feeling about the group, the group process or the result of the meeting.
The Meeting Report
The last part of the Facilitators role is production of the report recording the items covered at the meeting. It typically includes a table of contents, introduction, background and an explanation of procedure, process and guidelines, as well as the transcription of all notes put into the context of the meeting. This is an important aspect of the process because it provides either a basis for what work will be included at the next meeting or a guide for what work must now be done by group members and by when.
Some Facilitated meetings do not require reports. For example, the purpose of the meetings may have been to accomplish the writing of a document as a group, and the document itself serves as the report.
Like Mediation, Facilitation is an important part of Re:Solve Mediations’ professional repertoire of skills and services. Having taken the time to learn the differences between the two, and to appreciate Facilitation as a unique process that can be used to help prevent the conflict that often requires Mediation to resolve, contact Re:Solve Mediation for an initial consultation about how their Facilitation Services in South Surrey & White Rock can help you…
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