Facilitation is the ability to guide effective group work. It’s a way to help move people move forward, harness contribution and create tangible impact.
Facilitators are found and needed in most aspects of society, from business to education to government.
Here's what you need to know about facilitation and how you can use it in your professional role.
The term facilis is Latin and means easy. Facilitation, therefore, is the act of making group work easier. There are many definitions out there for facilitation, here's ours:
Facilitation describes the use of techniques and methods to help a group of people to work better together.
Now that we have a common definition, we can also conclude what a facilitator is:
A facilitator is someone that supports and makes it easier for a group of people to work towards a common goal.
With a shared understanding we can now move further to why facilitation is important.
What is the Purpose of Facilitation?
Why do we need facilitation? Can we not just meet and talk?
Unfortunately, we are not made to collaborate very effectively by default. We get lost in discussions, some dominate the meeting, and some fade out. The cost can be a lack of engagement, lost opportunities, and little progress.
In order to be effective, group work needs structure and guidance. If someone in the group has the skillset to facilitate, contributions rise, ideas get challenged and informed decisions can be made.
The purpose of facilitation, therefore, is to use the available time and minds wisely and unleash the potential of the group.
When to use Facilitation?
Facilitation doesn't have to mean running a 2-day strategy retreat.
We believe it has a higher value when used in everyday work. You can bring a method to a 30-minute meeting or combine multiple methods for a short workshop. You can ideate the next steps, reflect on the past project, plan the upcoming month, resolve a conflict, come up with a strategy or make an important decision.
To give you a quick overview, facilitation can help you to:
- Make decisions
- Create consensus
- Share knowledge
- Solve a problem
- Generate ideas
- Reflect on a project
- Plan a time period
- Transform a conflict
Once you figure out the main goal, you have the starting point that lays the ground to think about the process.
What does a Facilitator do?
A facilitator can design and run any group session. This includes drafting the session, designing the exercises, setting up the technology, introducing activities, and helping participants to contribute and draw insights.
During the group session instead of being the sage on the stage, facilitators usually find themselves more as a guide on the side.
Like many other skills, facilitation thrives in combination. Many managers, team leads, project managers, educators, designers, researchers, consultants, and coaches use facilitation to help their groups to contribute.
Facilitation in Leadership
If you're working in a leadership or a team lead position you can use facilitation to align people, work together towards decisions, and co-create a new solution. This approach is called facilitative leadership and enables people to contribute and level up.
Facilitation in Education
Educators use facilitation to help students learn and apply knowledge and skills. Instead of lecturing, the learning facilitator accompanies and shapes the learning process together. Participants reflect on the content and create, discover, and apply insights themselves.
Facilitation in Transformation
Transformative facilitators help diverse groups across society to collaborate on regional and global issues. They may bring together politicians, community activists, business people, trade unionists, or academics. Transformative facilitation is a long-term approach that includes a series of gatherings for experiments, initiatives, and movements across society.
Facilitation in Consulting
When working with clients you can use facilitation to involve clients in the process, create consensus, and foster commitment. Facilitative consultants bring different stakeholders together and let the clients connect the dots instead of starting with their solution.
Remote and Hybrid Facilitation
Traditionally facilitation is practiced in a physical location with materials such as whiteboards and post-it notes.
Over the past years, remote work and digital tools changed how we work and learn. It got easier to bring people together who live and work in different locations. This made facilitation more present, accessible, and necessary at the same time.
With tools like Miro or Mural a lot of professionals learned to facilitate, not as a full-time job but as a complementary skill to their existing roles and different professions.
One can say facilitation is the art of understanding and designing collaboration. It goes into psychology, design-thinking, technology, mediation and presentation. It’s a way to grow personally, help others, create more impact, and it's very fun to learn.