IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator
The IAF CertifiedTM Professional Facilitator (CPF) is the professional designation for IAF members who demonstrate having IAF Core Competencies. The Core Competencies represent a fundamental set of skills, knowledge, and behaviours that support effective facilitation in a wide variety of contexts.
The CPF designation benefits both facilitators and their clients. Facilitators achieve a formal certification and undertake valuable self-reflection and learning. For clients, working with a CPF provides an assurance that the facilitator has met the internationally recognised standard for effective facilitation of group processes.
To learn more about the CPF and its principle advantages, please visit Benefits of the CPF.
“As an independent contractor, my certification is not only reassuring for my clients but provides feedback for me about my strengths and development needs as a facilitator.”
(Helen C, CPF 2007, Sydney, Australia)
To achieve the CPF designation, a facilitator needs to document their experience and must demonstrate both knowledge of, and skills in applying, the IAF Core Competencies.
This includes a written submission, interviews with IAF Assessors, an observed practicum, and feedback from the Assessors. The designation is renewed every three years through a follow up submission and feedback process.
To learn more about the CPF assessment process, please visit Becoming a CPF.
Is the CPF for you?
The IAF sometimes receives enquiries about certification from individuals whose job title or description includes “facilitator”, but whose work is in other fields such as the delivery of training, mediation, etc. A lack of understanding of what the IAF is certifying can lead to some people being deferred because they delivered training rather than facilitating a session. While the overlap between the skills associated with these fields is significant, it is important to clearly understand what the IAF is certifying before applying for an assessment.
The Facilitation/Training Spectrum
The IAF’s certification is built around a separation of Content and Process. This is often expressed as:
Content + Process = Result
The distinction between other fields, and what the IAF’s CPF assessment addresses, is in who fills the Content and Process roles in a group session. Think of this along a spectrum:
At the far left, the trainer comes to a session with both the Process and Content. They bring content expertise, have particular and specific content they must cover, and may test the participants on their understanding of the content. They also decide how the session will be conducted…the Process.
At the far right, the facilitator controls the process and does not provide content. The facilitator works with their client and/or group to define a session purpose and output. Session outputs are usually defined by a desired outcome (e.g. a strategic plan, a decision, ideas generation) but the specific content is the responsibility of the group.
Facilitators at this end of the spectrum can facilitate a session where they have no content knowledge. Their role becomes strictly one of helping the group manage the information they already possess, or can access, to achieve a necessary result in a timely and collaborative manner.
The IAF certifies those skills demonstrated by facilitators operating at the right of the spectrum.
There are, of course, many variations between these two extremes. While many practices may combine facilitation and training to various degrees, it is not appropriate to do so during the certification. Nor is it appropriate to list in your application, events which combine facilitation and training. The focus is on sessions where you have been a third party, assisting a group to come to a collaborative result on a topic that is important to them, and where you have not had a content role (even if you had content knowledge). The workshop session during the certification should be conducted along the same lines.
If your work includes a combination of training delivery and facilitation, and you are able to extract parts of a training program that were purely facilitated, you may be able to list those in your application. For example if, in the course of a training session, you facilitated a discussion to have the group identify their training needs without content input from you, that may be acceptable to list.
The key thing is for you to be able to clearly differentiate between what is facilitation and what is not. If you can satisfy the assessors you understand the differences, and not slip into a trainer’s role when you should be facilitating, then you have a reasonable chance of success.
When reviewing CPF applications, the assessors look for evidence of training delivery, and work in other fields than facilitation. The IAF takes care to avoid inviting anyone to a certification event who is likely to be deferred because of a difference in expectations, but the applicant has a responsibility to ensure they understand what the certification is, and is not, and whether what they do is a good fit to the certification.
If your practice does not include the required number of sessions where you have operated completely outside the content role (keeping in mind the IAF is interested in your best seven events, not your only seven) it is possible this certification is not appropriate for you. If you think that might be the case, it would be best to discuss your practice with the Director of Certification Operations, or one of the Association’s assessors prior to applying.