On a more ‘serious’ note though, the article highlights the observation that the best facilitation is often invisible.
Wow! February and March have been busy months at Evolve. I am recovering from a big week of festivities, where my partner and I celebrated birthdays that ended in 0’s. We combined the 0’s and had a centenary celebration on the weekend. During the planning for the festivities and the ‘big event’, I got to thinking: How much of our ‘facilitation skills’ do we consciously and sub-consciously bring to the fore in social events?
I believe that there is something unique about facilitation as a skill set and practice. It is both learned and innate. Its uniqueness is that there is opportunity for practice in every interaction, and also how we facilitate ourselves, inwardly and outwardly.
The ‘tie died’ theme party was held at our local surf club with stunning views across the beach, Montague Island and the magnificent headland and rock formations. It was, as you could imagine, very colourful. My first shock (and assumption – never assume in facilitation) was that nearly all of our party goers did not have tie-dye in their wardrobe. I have to admit, perhaps with retrospective embarrassment, that I had enough tie-die in my wardrobe to decorate the hall and dress most of the party.
Our first conscious piece of facilitation was the invite – setting the theme, and laying the picture of what people could expect (e.g. kids would be entertained for a couple of hours). Our second was to adopt some Open Space Technology principles – whoever shows up are the right people and when its over its over. Our third was to have a good look at the layout of the venue, where we placed food, drinks etc, how we could create a space that was easy, comfortable, that encouraged interaction and provided opportunities for dancing, group interaction and quieter conversations. Our fourth (and possibly more controversial) was to use name tags. To make the name tags less formal, we used the tie dye theme. We also had some of our practiced facilitators (e.g my mother) offering name tags as they met and chatted to people.
Luckily, many of our friends are natural born sub-consciously competent ‘facilitators’, who encouraged interaction between ‘strangers’. One of those was the children’s entertainer – the pirate. I was very impressed with the way that she seamlessly integrated into the party. As some parents remarked “Wow – where did you get this women – I did not see my children for 2 hours”. She wandered through like the pied piper (many times) gathering the children, entertaining them, they would then disperse for a while and she would regather them (particularly our daughter who is very much into the Open Space ‘law of two feet’ – wandering rapidly between activities). All in all, the pirate managed to entertain over 20 children for 2.5 hours – a very advanced facilitation skill set if I ever observed one.
While I am observing and dissecting the facilitation principles overtly here now – our goal was that any ‘facilitation’ was invisible – which I think the best facilitation, generally, is. And most importantly, my partner, daughter and I had a hoot, and enjoyed the only 100th birthday party that we are likely to have.
By Carla Rogers of Evolve Facilitation and Coaching. Please visit Carla’s web site at www.evolves.com.au for additional articles and resources.