Facilitating Footpaths

Last weekend Emily and I co-facilitated another round of Transition Leicester’s Footpaths project’s Facilitator Training. 13 volunteers had come forward to take on the facilitation of small groups of people wanting to explore reducing their carbon footprint. This was the 4th such weekend we’ve run and we’re definitely crafting a stronger training each time.

We had an added extra dimension this time around. A third facilitator joined our team – one of Transition Leicester’s volunteers who is very experienced in facilitating the Footpath groups and wanted to build her skills and confidence in facilitating the facilitator training as well.

It was useful challenge because it forced us to revisit and articulate the reasons behind choices we had made as long ago as 2010. It also made us look at things that were safe to assume about each other but not so safe to assume about the new dynamic of a 3-way co-facilitation. And of course a new perspective helps shift some of those little stuck spots.

We made changes and real progress with Saturday’s ‘bad meetings’ activity, as well as with Sunday’s process-work inspired roleplay on facilitating problem behaviour. Both worked so much better this time than before. Our exercise on framing and weather reporting is getting sharper and clearer, but still has a little way to go.

In our debrief of this latter activity we identified some interesting dynamics and some changes we’ll make for next time. One dynamic we observed was the tendency of participants to resist and critique the activity because the task they’re given is a hard one – externalising the difficulty into the exercise itself. Of course that’s not to say that the exercise is flawless. Hence the changes we’ve decided to make.

The evaluations were positive, though not entirely, of course. The training was perhaps a little fast paced for some, and Leicester’s EcoHouse not the ideal venue (but one of the few that works for the Footpaths budget due to Groundwork’s generosity at letting us use the space more or less for free). And, of course, a whole weekend is a lot to give up for busy volunteers. Once again we’re reminded of the dedication of the people who volunteer to facilitate Footpaths’ groups, and countless similar projects.