Skip to Main content

Facilitation – some thoughts from Chris Church

I have worked as a facilitator in many different circumstances over the last 30 years. Helping people get the best out of meetings is a challenging and satisfying way to earn a living. It astonishes me just how far people still put up with badly-run meetings, even though almost everyone has clear ideas about what a ‘successful meeting’ actually means. I have worked at most levels from small community groups to international conferences and senior civil servants. I have a good grasp of many social and sustainability issues (and can pick up a brief rapidly), but I am also very aware of when to stay quiet and purely focus on process.

I have run a one-day Facilitation course through Talk Action since 2008. It’s run about 25 times and remains popular, and is regularly updated. I also now offer shorter half-day courses and two hour ‘taster’ sessions. The focus of the course is very much on the facilitator’s personal practice as being a good listener and on working closely on understanding what is really going on in any meeting. There are tools and techniques within the course, but the emphasis is on the use of simple proven and effective tools rather than over-structured processes.

As well as running training sessions I do of course offer facilitation. I’m always happy to discuss needs and ideas for one-off events, structured processes or regular meetings. Please contact me direct (call me on 07710 409590).

Jan McHarry is also a skilled and experienced facilitator who has worked with very diverse groups across faiths and cultures. There are often times when a woman facilitator may be most appropriate.

Our fees are reasonable and flexible!

The art and ethics of facilitation

Everyone has a different style of facilitation (and the training encourages you to consider your own style) and any facilitator’s personal practice is as important as the techniques they use.

But there are perhaps some common principles. Facilitation should be an enjoyable and empowering process (for the facilitator as well as those whose work is being facilitated). Being clear on what the facilitated process can lead to or deliver seems to be essential, along with encouraging creativity while not creating false expectations.

Robert Chambers, of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, whose work informs and inspires my practice and the courses I lead, has suggested that any professional faces three challenges, which seem very relevant to good facilitation:

  • The Institutional Challenge: words like “participation” and “empowerment”, by and for communities demand change by us. Participation will not work unless we too are participatory.
  • The Professional Challenge: Normal professional values, methods and behaviour reinforce the dominance of the ‘expert’. The challenge is to learn to see things the other way round, to appreciate and grasp the reality of local people.
  • The Personal Challenge: The personal challenge is to give up power! It is to enjoy handing over the initiative to others, enabling them to do more and to do it more in their way, for their objectives.

(from ‘Poverty and livelihoods: whose reality counts?’

My blog ‘Sustainable Developments?’ includes some occasional updates on issues around facilitation.

Sidebar Content

Why the White Horse?

The White Horse on this site is the White Horse of Uffington, one of the oldest surviving pieces of art in the UK. It's a 70m long chalk carving. Its simplicity and flowing lines mark it out as a classic of design. Simplicity and clarity is at the core of my training and facilitation work – essential when training on complex issues! For more on the White Horse and sustainability download here.