We are good facilitators – having learned and honed our skills in the thick of the work. Facilitation is a group skill that is essential both to popular education and community development. And, of course, this skill is relevant to many other group contexts as well. Every organization and group has occasion for skilled outside facilitators. Whether to give respite to overworked or otherwise indisposed leadership or to come in and help with an important meeting or a delicate situation, Catalyst can offer a variety of types of facilitation and chairing. Our popular education approach prepares us to respond to a diversity of needs: applying Robert’s or Bourinot’s rules of order, facilitating self-organizing processes such as open space and world café, leading large and small group processes and more.
When Catalyst takes on a facilitation challenge we begin by assessing the situation. If we are being asked to apply a formal “rules of order” such as Robert’s or Bourinot’s Rules of Order, the challenge can be pretty straightforward (many non-profits and trade union groups are constitutionally-bound to use one or another set of rules of order). If our assessment is that a diversity of types of facilitation are needed we can then design a process that uses different methods. Our ethic is always guided by a combination of professionalism (respecting a client’s wishes and providing the best quality work we can) and popular education (creating opportunity for learning and capacity building on the part of the client).
Types of Facilitation: Catalyst can design unique combinations of facilitation processes to meet the numerous challenges of organizational work. Some of the methods we draw on include:
- Popular education facilitation: a participatory approach to group work that prioritizes the goal of collective learning. Popular education, with roots in radical education work in Latin America, is a process of learning that begins with the experience of participants and that applies processes of critical dialogue to share, challenge and inform that experience in order to create new knowledge.
- Open space: a well-known form of large group self-organizing, it can be used with groups of 30 to 300 (and more). When using Open Space the agenda for an event is created only once participants have convened (a theme will usually have been pre-identified). Participants make offers of sessions they wish to lead/facilitate and then everyone self-selects which sessions they attend.
- Robert’s and Bourinot’s Rules of Order: based on U.S. and Canadian parliamentary procedure respectively, these processes are used by many non-profits and trade union groups. They are comprehensive sets of meeting processes from moving, seconding and debating motions to how to keep minutes.
- Consensus decision-making: There are many forms of consensus-decision-making, formal and informal, that apply participatory group processes and can even include moving and seconding motions.
- World café and Conversation Café: these are two popular forms of public dialogue that include prepared presentations and self-selected small group discussions.