Facilitation training: the importance of practising your practice

My experience this week with members of the Detention Forum, working with fellow Rhizome member Hannah Clayton, crystallised some emerging thoughts about facilitation in general and facilitation training in particular.

First, I feel that some facilitation training sees facilitation as a discipline, as a body of knowledge to be passed on, albeit that that knowledge is about process and experience: it isn’t Latin. But I see facilitation as first of all a craft. Like all crafts, you can theorise about them. But no amount of theory will make you a decent potter if you never get your hands dirty. Facilitation is like pottery: it’s the getting the hands dirty that counts.

Second, most facilitation training starts with a syllabus. But most people, if they have tried out facilitation or are about to, have particular aspects that they want to feel more confident about and to improve. For the Detention Forum, for instance, we had a session on working with people with strong and opposing views, because that is what they asked for. One of the advantages of working with people all from the same organisation is that they are likely to have overlapping interests, making it easier to shape the agenda around those interests.

Thirdly, I have found that it is possible to set up role plays in the moment that give people a chance to practice ideas or techniques that have been presented and/or discussed. Using the Detention Forum again as illustration, members practised dealing with people with those strong and opposing views, on the one hand, and encouraging people who weren’t speaking, on the other. I’m fairly sure they learned more from such trials than from anything said by Hannah or by me!

Down with theory! Up with practice!