Global Flipchart #14
January 2019 |
Global Flipchart #14
How’s your career going?
By Zena-Gabrielle Hailu
Facilitation as a career is like walking on an adventurous path which calls for continuous learning, including learning through experience, creativity, confidence, and the desire to serve humanity.
“Facilitation as a career” can conjure up a plethora of different meanings. When I started out as a facilitator over ten years ago, I remember how easy it was to find information about what it was that facilitators do and yet how challenging it was to comb through all the information in order to find what resonated with me and the contexts I was working in. Over time, I found that what helped me learn and grow the most was dialoging and collaborating with fellow facilitators. So, for this issue of The Global Flipchart, I asked a few colleagues to send me anecdotes and advice related to their careers as facilitators in the hopes that their stories might offer a few personal perspectives related to this issue’s topic.
Gerardo de Lutzenberger, Italy
“My work has changed over the years. When I first began working as a full time facilitator here in Italy around 2001-2002, I was mostly hired to manage single events. I found this to be a bit frustrating, because I was not involved in any other part of the larger processes the single events fed into. So, after a while, I decided to change my attitude. I approached every event I was involved in with as a project, with a “bigger picture mentality”. I still practice this attitude to this day. Interestingly enough, what has happened is that by changing my attitude, most of my work has moved from the management of a single event to supporting clients as they change the way they work. Nowadays, the most important part of my work is linked more to the process design of management. The single event is still an important moment within those processes, but it’s just an event. For me, what is really important is what happens before and after the event. I tell my clients that we won’t be doing something new or adding something to the things they’re already doing. What we will do is try to change the way they carry out the ordinary things in their organisations by using a more participatory approach.”
“When I first began my career as a facilitator fifteen years ago in Iran, understanding and appreciation of facilitation in general were virtually nonexistent. At that time, facilitation was mainly used by international NGOs. Iranian facilitators had to put a lot of effort into the promotion of facilitation and the creation of local success stories. Clients often were reluctant to pay for facilitators, and considered the work they provided to be a luxurious service. Gradually, with the increasing competition over providing creative and productive services to customers and target groups, organizations in Iran, whether public, private or non-governmental have started to benefit from facilitation. In most cases at the moment, marketing is done by word-of-mouth. Designing a marketing plan to promote facilitation is a necessary next step for our context. Facilitation as a career has not only been developing my external world. As I try to enhance my facilitation skills through experience and continuous learning in various projects, I notice the changes happening in my attitudes and behaviors towards the world around me. In other word, facilitation as a career is also facilitating my personal and social growth. That is why I really enjoy being a facilitator.”
“Seizing opportunities and creating solutions to the clients’ needs and issues help me as a facilitator to develop by business as a facilitator. Opportunities come in various forms: direct and indirect. What matters is how one transform them to showcase the plus that facilitation brings: memorable changes. Positive changes in situations, in personal growth for facilitator and the clients. Past successful experience with a client keeps the facilitator in business either with the same client or through referral to other clients. In my experience facilitating a mentoring and coaching programme for my organization, positive changes brought about in mentors and mentees’ personal and professional life guarantee the programme continuation.
To keep abreast as a facilitator the best step for professional development is striving to achieve cognitive diversity: a variety in feeling, thinking and acting to sharpen own personality to fit a variety of team roles characterized by proactivity, extroversion, positivity and intellectual humility. This is a professional path; Certification as a professional facilitator formalizes that path. Personally, I still need to pursue certification, extroversion and adventurous mindset by looking at a wider set of options.”
Despite having been a facilitator for many years, usually as part of a wider brief within the field of Community Development, with titles relating “Organisational Development”, “Capacity Development” or “Youth Development”, I have usually had to define my role as a Facilitator very more explicitly than it has been defined for me. In more bold moments, I have even re-written job descriptions and job titles to fit more closely with what I actually do as a Facilitator!
It has been an interesting journey since I discovered in my early 20s that for Training to be truly effective and have real impact then it was necessary to use participatory Facilitation techniques. Whilst it took a while to articulate it as clearly as that, I always knew that my path towards becoming a Professional Facilitator was set from then onwards.
I have been very passionate about “the power of Facilitation” ever since and have enjoyed so many great and inspirational times in the world of facilitation. It has been a pleasure to also support, mentor and train many other facilitators, whilst I have also learnt so much from others over many years. In fact, the “magic” of facilitation for me is there in every session, every creative moment and every group that experiences the positive energy that can facilitation consistently brings about. Fundamentally, it is through facilitation that groups get to experience the joy of participation, of having control over their own destiny, making their own collective decisions and to work together effectively in their diversity. For me, that is profoundly political and empowering, helping to bring about group and societal transformation, as we strive to build a more equitable and just world. What a pleasure and how lucky I am to be able to call Facilitation “my career.”
Mona Kananian, Iran
I established a working relationship with UNDP and FAO in 2000, and developed proposals on sustainable livelihoods and good local governance under the financial and technical support of UN bodies which were implemented in Iran.
I think facilitators in the field of sustainable development projects in Iran have experienced different models of contracting for facilitation work in the past. Many of us have come to the conclusion that the path to development in Iran should not only happen through the government and the United Nations. Sustainable development needs the participation of the local people who must be involved in the processes which, ultimately, will impact them. What’s needed here now is a paradigm shift from a reliance on oil income to creativity, innovation, and wealth creation. One aspect of our careers as facilitators means creating spontaneous networks with meaningful partnerships to foster a dynamic ecosystem between different circles of activists in order to support the fragmented work being done by diverse individuals and institutions in different parts of the country. We are currently identifying colleagues to establish the very first network of Iranian facilitators in the Iranian Chapter of IAF in order to define our rights and responsibilities, protect and support each other, and exchange knowledge.
How did facilitation merge with my career path? Well, I received formal facilitation training as part of my continuous education package in the business services unit of a large FMCG company almost 15 years ago. Facilitation was considered a must-have skill set for managers working in the strategy planning department and for those running the strategic project and programme portfolio. It was an instant match. I very quickly realized that I facilitate naturally, and I enjoy it. I was lucky enough to join a regional community of practice (CoP), which was and still remains vibrant and energetic. We learn a lot from our exchanges and help each other become better professionals. We co-design and co-facilitate events, as well as shadow each other, run periodical peer coaching sessions and round tables, and assign buddies to newcomers. I am a big fan of CoPs, and owe them a lot. At some point, I decided to become a freelance consultant. I provide custom-tailored consulting services along the lines of business transformation and change initiatives. In the process, I blend strategy execution with a facilitated approach to organizational dialogue. Group facilitation is central to my services. My first piece of advice to newcomers is to stay true to your most fundamental values, to be honestly and fully committed to remaining neutral, while still being aware of and catering to the group’s needs. My second piece of advice is not to forget that we all are human. We have our opinions and beliefs, we sometimes do get emotionally involved despite ourselves, and we might make mistakes. But we can learn from these experiences and become better professionals and human beings as a result.
What comes to my mind when I think of the phrase “facilitation as a career”? One core idea is the word balance in terms of work-life, energy, impartiality methods, risk taking, tempo and, alas, also the balance sheet!
What are the most important things to keep in mind?
Practice, learn, explore, collaborate, do not take yourself too seriously, play and use irony, stretch your limits. What else? It is worth it! A facilitator’s work is like walking on a rope. You have an idea of the purpose, process, methods and tools you intend to use, but you can never be sure of the outcome and impact, as many variables are involved, such as matching goals, resources, procedures with interests, context, spirit, background. Yet whatever happens, you learn as a facilitator, and you help others to learn. Sometimes you need to take on the role of a hacker, in the sense that you combine, add, invent. And it’s important not to forget risk-taking. It brings in a creative tension that catalyses energy and passion into your processes.
I’ve has just launched New Zealand’s first Master of IT Project Management with a strong focus on team facilitation skills. The Team Facilitation for IT Projects module explores through reflective practice the experiential facilitation skills and techniques appropriate to information technology projects. Masters students will develop their team leadership skills, cultural capacity and the ability to facilitate a group to meet its purpose. Topics focus on process guidance and the attitudes, personal qualities and presence that distinguish a group facilitator from other leadership and team roles.
John Cornwell contributed reporting.