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Global Flipchart


March 2017
| Issue #7

How to use the IAF Code of Ethics to make better decisions

By Jennifer Lumsden

How do the IAF Code of Ethics and the Core Competencies inform your business practice?

Ethics are moral standards we use to make decisions - they help us think about right and wrong. The IAF Code of Ethics recognises the complexity of the facilitator role and the impartiality needed by us in helping groups to be more effective. As the IAF Statement of Values and Code of Ethics says, “Our effectiveness is based on our personal integrity and the trust developed between ourselves and those with whom we work.”

IAF Code of Ethics - abbridged version
  1. Client Service: We are in service to our clients, using our group facilitation competencies to add value to their work.
  2. Conflict of Interest: We openly acknowledge any potential conflict of interest.
  3. Group Autonomy: We respect the culture, rights, and autonomy of the group.
  4. Processes, Methods, and Tools: We use processes, methods and tools responsibly.
  5. Respect, Safety, Equity, and Trust: We strive to engender an environment of respect and safety where all participants trust that they can speak freely and where individual boundaries are honoured. We use our skills, knowledge, tools, and wisdom to elicit and honour the perspectives of all.
  6. Stewardship of Process: We practice stewardship of process and impartiality toward content.
  7. Confidentiality: We maintain confidentiality of information.
  8. Professional Development: We are responsible for continuous improvement of our facilitation skills and knowledge.

The six IAF Core Competencies are the basic set of skills, knowledge and behaviours that we use in order to successfully facilitate. They form the backbone of the IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) credential. Competencies define what facilitators do and how we do what we do.

Whether you run your own business, freelance or are an employee, the IAF Core Competencies offer consistency, reliability and quality to the practice of facilitators, to the profession and to the IAF.

IAF Core Competencies (headlines)
  1. Create Collaborative Client Relationships
  2. Plan Appropriate Group Processes
  3. Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
  4. Guide Group to  Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
  5. Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
  6. Model Positive Professional Attitude


How can we keep Core Competencies and Code of Ethics real in our practice?

One way is to have a copy of the competencies and code of ethics visible in your office space and regularly check your own practice, behaviour and decisions against them. I also like to do a regular check with a trusted peer external to my work. IAF events and learning opportunities are excellent moments to talk about ethical dilemmas and how to best deal with them. Often, they are not black or white.

Ethical near misses are learning opportunities: When you get off track, get back on the right track and set the right example. Be honest about your dilemmas and the policies and practices that you’ve put in place: it is a facilitator’s role to model good behaviour.

Finally, a reminder from Red Clark, President of Metalforming Control, as he writes for Forbes: "When I find myself off track, it is rarely because I made a conscious decision to do something dishonest or marginally honest. Rather, it has been caused by a series of snap decisions made on the spur of the moment that gradually move you in a wrong direction. Living ethically is an ongoing effort."