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Developing Facilitation Skills


A Handbook for Group Facilitators
Patricia Prendiville

Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook


for Group Facilitators is aimed at people
who are already working with groups, who

Developing Facilitation Skills


have some experience of facilitating and
who wish to develop their skills in this area
of work. The handbook outlines the theory
of facilitation and its links with group
development. It provides the reader with a
practical programme of skills development
and advises on creating realistic goals
in relation to particular areas of group
development, outlining throughout how
self-reflection and self-analysis are key to
this process.

The book is designed to be used over


a period of time by the reader who is a
trainee facilitator and keen to learn more.

A Handbook for Group Facilitators


Developing facilitation skills comes with
practice, self-awareness and an openness
to challenging ways of operating. The
questions and exercises in this publication
will act as a guide on this journey.

Combat Poverty Agency Tel: +353 (0) 1 670 6746


Bridgewater Centre Fax: +353 (0) 1 670 6760
Conyngham Road www.combatpoverty.ie
Islandbridge
Dublin 8 Price: €10
Developing Facilitation Skills
A Handbook for Group Facilitators
By Patricia Prendiville
Developing Facilitation Skills – A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 

Acknowledgements

Since Developing Facilitation Skills was first printed in 1995, it has been used extensively by
a very wide range of people who wanted to develop, enhance and expand their facilitation
skills. It is a great delight to know that the book is still relevant, useful and meeting the need
for which it was intended.

Many thanks to all the users and readers of the book for their feedback and
acknowledgement.

A special word of thanks and appreciation to the trainers in Meitheal who have worked
with the material and made it a live tool of learning and development. They are: Catherine
Dowling; Marie Harding; Annette Halpin; Mick Scully; Conor Rowley, and Anne Troy. Fran
Keyes and Joan Mooney, both former trainers with Meitheal, also contributed to the book’s
use and application by many people developing their facilitation skills.

This revised text has been informed by feedback from the current panel of trainers in
Meitheal and staff with Meitheal who have wide-ranging experience of providing training
in the use of these skills and in facilitation themselves: Helen White; Maeve Healy; Ann
Hegarty; Julie Uí Chróinín, and Annette Hannon.

My own group work and facilitation skills have continued to develop in the intervening years
and are always enhanced by each and every group I work with. I hope this book contributes
to the ongoing development of facilitation as a tool for participation, inclusion and positive
social change to support the development of a more equal and just society.

Finally, my thanks to all in Meitheal who, during the past ten years, have made the contents
of the book a reality in community development and social change settings.

Patricia Prendiville
Meitheal
May, 2004

© Combat Poverty Agency 1995


Updated December 2002
New Edition 2008
ISBN 978-1-905485-67-3

While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this handbook is accurate,
no legal responsibility is accepted by the author or the Combat Poverty Agency for any errors or omissions.
Developing Facilitation Skills – A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 

Contents

Preface 7 Chapter Six 55


Working Together
Chapter One 9 Developing participation – Positive participation
Using this Book – Poor participation – Barriers to participation
– Spotlight on the facilitator – Enhancing
participation – Boundaries – Spotlight on the
Chapter Two 13
facilitator
Working with Groups
What is facilitation? – Styles of facilitation Chapter Seven 65
– Principles and values – limitations –
The individual – The group – Spotlight on
Difficulties and Conflict
the facilitator Difficulties in a group – Warning
Understanding the group – Spotlight on the signs – Causes of difficulty
facilitator – Communicating with the group Handling difficulties in groups –
– Co-facilitation – Spotlight on the facilitator Confronting – Techniques for difficult
situations – Conflict – Warning signs
Chapter Three 27
of conflict – How to handle conflict
The aftermath – Spotlight on the
How Groups Develop facilitator
Stages of group development – Life cycles –
Models of group development – Spotlight on the Chapter Eight 77
facilitator – Roles in groups – Spotlight on the
facilitator – Norms in groups – Spotlight on the
Planning and Decision-Making
facilitator
Sessions
Facilitating a planning session – Sample short-
term planning session – Facilitating a decision-
Chapter Four 37
making session – Sample decision-making
Preparing, Planning and session – Spotlight on the facilitator
Designing a Session
Consultation – Consultation check-list – Before Chapter Nine 81
a session – Preparation check-list – Timing
– Planning a session – Sample plans – Spotlight
Evaluating and Assessing
on the facilitator What is evaluation? – Stages of an evaluation
– Evaluating content and process – Choosing an
evaluator – Facilitating an evaluation session
Chapter Five 47
– Sample evaluation session – Evaluation:
Learning to Listen Questions – Spotlight on the facilitator
Active listening skills – Pitfalls – Barriers
– Developing active listening skills – Spotlight
on the facilitator
 | Combat Poverty Agency

Chapter Ten 89 Chapter Fourteen 119


Working with Diversity and Useful Reading and Contacts
Complexity Issues Useful reading/written materials – Resource
Working with: People with physical disabilities packs for specific themes – Contacts for
– People with learning difficulties – Young/older facilitation, training and development –
people – Peers – Single or mixed gender groups Resource centres and libraries – Organisations
– Single or mixed social class groups – People that provide facilitation skills training
from varying ethnic or racial backgrounds
– People with differing sexual orientation Glossary 123
– Spotlight on the facilitator

Chapter Eleven 99
Choosing Materials and Methods
Factors affecting choice of materials – Factors
affecting choice of technique – Methods
and ways of working with groups – Visuals
– Spotlight on the facilitator

Chapter Twelve 105


Exercises: Selection and Samples
Criteria for selecting exercises – Name
exercises – ‘Getting to know people’ exercises
– Icebreaker exercises – Energiser exercises
– Awareness exercises – Listening exercises
– Touch exercises – Verbal exercises – Co-
operation exercises – Closing exercises – Group
hope exercises – Spotlight on the facilitator

Chapter Thirteen 115


Skills Enhancement Programme
Record
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 

Preface

Combat Poverty is a statutory advisory agency • management committee members of


that develops and promotes measures to community and/or voluntary groups
combat poverty in Ireland. • local government or HSE workers supporting
social inclusion initiatives
Developing Facilitation Skills was first published • trainers.
in 1995 as part of Combat Poverty’s role to
provide good quality information and practical Combat Poverty is very appreciative and
assistance to people working in the community delighted to acknowledge the expertise and
and voluntary sector on poverty issues. In 2003 dedication of the author, Patricia Prendiville.
a new and updated edition was commissioned Her rich experience of facilitation in various
to take account of the following factors: contexts is evident in the style and content of
Developing Facilitation Skills.
• new opportunities for people and
communities experiencing poverty to be December 2004
involved in activities promoting change
• ongoing demand for the existing title
• evolving good practice around facilitation and
group work skills
• social change since 1995.

Combat Poverty’s objective for this new version


of Developing Facilitation Skills is to support
and strengthen the capacity of people working
in community-based or anti-poverty contexts
to be involved in articulating, creating and
contributing to social change in favour of
people living in poverty. Facilitation skills are
an important tool of empowerment towards this
objective and towards giving expression to the
voice of the excluded.

Combat Poverty will promote this revised


edition to:
• community workers or activists, tackling
poverty and disadvantage in local, area-
based, regional or national contexts
• volunteers in community or voluntary groups
tackling poverty
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 

Chapter One
Using this Book
This book is about facilitation, working in for more people, it is a necessary method
groups and suggesting ways in which the that stimulates equality while also practising
reader can develop skills in facilitation. It is equality.
aimed at people who are working with groups
in some context, who already have some The experience of using facilitation methods
experience of facilitating and who, most of all, within communities to address issues of
are interested in developing skills in this area. poverty, social exclusion and disadvantage
has created a strong desire for people to
It briefly explains the theory of facilitation and develop the skills for themselves. This book
its links with group development and ensures will help trainee facilitators/readers to learn.
the relevance of the practical exercises, with
sections aimed at the practitioner called Developing a Skills Enhancement
‘Spotlight on the Facilitator’. Programme
The purpose of this book is to enable people
The various chapters look at aspects of
to develop their facilitation skills. A key
facilitation, using the theory of groups to
element in this is to direct attention to those
show the reader where the many aspects of
areas, skills, techniques and knowledge
facilitation may be used depending on the
that are specific and unique to each person.
development of a group.
Therefore it is highly recommended that a
Skills Enhancement Programme is developed.
Irish society has changed a great deal in the
Throughout the book there are sections which
past ten years – there is a broader diversity
focus on your own skills, values, beliefs and
of cultures, ethnicity, religions and beliefs.
experiences. These require you to undertake
There is also a much higher awareness of
some self-reflection and self-analysis,
equality and the lack of it, the inclusion and
neither of which is necessarily easy. It is
exclusion of certain groups of people, the
essential that the two elements are kept as
need for greater participation of people in
constructive and practical as possible. People
creating a society that addresses inequalities
learn in different ways and some techniques
and especially poverty and disadvantage.
and methods will be very useful to one person
but not at all to another. When setting up
Facilitation as a method has been
your learning programme, remember to pay
incorporated by many organisations
attention to the methods that work best for
and groups as a tool which will enhance
you. Not all intelligences respond to the same
the integration, inclusion, involvement,
stimulation, and it is useful to remember this
participation and equality of all members of a
for working with groups as well.
community.

While facilitation on its own cannot achieve


the level of social change that has been
identified as crucial to create a better society
10 | Combat Poverty Agency

A useful method for developing a Skills A key element of the Skills Enhancement
Enhancement Programme includes the Programme is to recognise the importance of
following steps: knowing and understanding your motivation
for using facilitation. Why do you think this
• Identify a person to support your is a useful tool? Secondly, it is important to
development, e.g. an experienced know what values and principles you bring
colleague, a supervisor, an external to group work. Working in groups is not
trainer. neutral and no facilitator comes without
• Agree a timeframe of work with this a set of beliefs, attitudes, opinions and
person – number, frequency and duration perspectives. What is crucial is to know
of meetings. yourself, to acknowledge your beliefs and to
• Obtain a notebook for documenting your work towards enabling the group achieve its
action plans and noting your progress. purpose.
• Set up a series of opportunities where you
can practise your facilitation skills. Many people consider that the role of
• Regularly review your progress with your facilitator is to strive for neutrality. Actually,
support person. the role of a facilitator is to work with all
shades of opinion within a group, to encourage
• Build in feedback exercises with every
discussion, honest expression, respect for
group you work with and use this data to
other opinions and to create an atmosphere
direct your next phase of learning.
whereby all perspectives can be included.
• Review your progress at the end of the
This does not mean that a facilitator doesn’t
agreed Programme time and create your
have any opinions, that the facilitator agrees
next steps for ongoing development.
with every perspective or that the group
• Stay practising and learning even after has to accept all opinions. Facilitators and
the Skills Enhancement Programme has groups must work towards expression and
formally ended. understanding and as much inclusion or
at least expression of diverse opinions/
The facilitator will frequently be asked to perspectives as possible.
analyse her/his function as a facilitator. This
enables the development of a strong positive Groups, obviously, are entitled to come to a
sense of self in relation to facilitation work. set of beliefs that characterise and define
Those elements of the facilitator’s work which that group. It is important for a facilitator to
need improvement will become evident as acknowledge if there is a conflict between
the reader/facilitator progresses through the their own values and principles and those
book and completes the sections ‘Spotlight on of the group as a whole. Both the group and
the Facilitator’ which provide an opportunity the facilitator may need to work on agreeing
for reflection and analysis. whether they can continue to work together
or not.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 11

The group work process described in the her/his plan and to enhance the awareness
book will vary in practice from group to and reflection of the facilitator practitioner.
group, but the overall picture of group work
presented will be visible in groups which the Finally, it is important to note that while
reader/ facilitator deals with. Some aspects facilitation and group work are multi-skilled
of a group’s development only emerge over activities with many responsibilities attached
long periods of time, others occur in every to them, they should be experienced as
meeting. Don’t assume that every group will enjoyable ways to use skills and get a task
have every single feature described here! completed.

The book is designed to be used over Developing facilitation skills comes with
a period of time by the reader who is a practice, self-analysis and an openness to
trainee facilitator and keen to improve her/ challenging ways of operating. The questions
his facilitation skills. It allows the trainee and exercises in the following chapters will
facilitator to create a Skills Enhancement act as a guide on this journey.
Programme with realistic goals in relation
to particular skills or areas of group work.
The practical exercises and ‘Spotlight on
the Facilitator’ questions will help to create
a relevant and achievable development
programme.

An experienced facilitator will choose an


approach to working with a group which will
suit the needs of the group members, the
stage of the group’s development and the
roles that have emerged. This book offers
information and guidance on how to improve
facilitation techniques so that facilitators can
adapt their skills effectively to most group
situations.

To support the continuing development and


professionalism of a facilitator, it is highly
recommended that regular and frequent
supervision is obtained for the work. As
mentioned above, the supervisor could be
a colleague or someone who is skilled in
facilitation or supervision, who will encourage
and help the reader/trainee facilitator keep to
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 13

Chapter Two
Working with Groups
Topics discussed in this chapter: • A community activist may use facilitation
• What is facilitation? skills to discover the needs of lone parents
in her/his area.
• Styles of facilitation
• Principles and values
Facilitation encourages greater participation
• Limitations
and responsibility for decisions. Through
• The individual facilitation, group members come to value
• The group and develop their own expertise and skills.
• Understanding the group Facilitation involves many facets of interaction
• Communicating with the group between individuals, such as clarification,
• Co-facilitation: working with a partner conflict management and planning. It can be
• Spotlight on the facilitator learned and developed through practice and
supervision. An openness to constant learning
What is facilitation? and development is necessary for anyone
seeking to improve his/her facilitation skills.
Facilitation is a way of working with people.
Facilitation enables and empowers people
A facilitator helps people to decide what they
to carry out a task or perform an action. The
want to accomplish, reminds them of their
facilitator does not perform the task, but
responsibility in achieving it, and encourages
uses certain skills in a process which allows
and helps them to complete an agreed task or
the individuals/group reach their decision/
activity. The facilitator ensures that the needs
set their goal/learn a skill. Facilitation is a
of individuals within the group are recognised,
developmental educational method which
acknowledged and responded to; this is seen
encourages people to share ideas, resources,
as an integral part of the task at hand and not
opinions and to think critically in order to
identify needs and find effective ways of superfluous to it.
satisfying those needs.
In some settings the facilitator plays an
Facilitation is a method that can be used in objective role, asking questions, encouraging
many settings. Although it is usually used responses and enabling group members to
with groups of people, individuals can be discuss, to respond and to reach a conclusion.
facilitated too. The following are examples of In other situations, s/he may be stimulating
where facilitation occurs: group members to create solutions to
problems they have identified by offering
suggestions or creating simulations which the
• Therapists may use facilitation with clients.
group can practise.
• Teachers may use facilitation skills to
encourage learners to think and develop
In facilitation there is an equal emphasis
opinions and ideas.
on achieving the task and on the process
• Career planners may use facilitation skills
involved in that achievement. Group members
to enable clients to chart a career path.
work together towards a defined end/goal
14 | Combat Poverty Agency

and, at the same time, focus on how they are For the task, a facilitator’s approach/role may
working together to ensure the development be one or a combination of the following:
and support of each other within the group
and throughout the process. • Directive: giving people information,
instructing them how to do something,
Inherent in facilitation are the principles such as: ‘This is how to develop a work
of equality, inclusion, participation and plan.’
affirmation. In group terms this means • Exploratory: asking questions,
recognising the value of each person’s encouraging people to voice their
contribution, encouraging the active experience and ideas, such as: ‘What did
participation of each group member in you find useful in the last community group
identifying and utilising her/his skills, you were part of?’
experience, creativity and analysis. This • Delegating: assigning tasks, roles,
understanding and sharing of skills functions to individuals. For example, in
enables individuals and groups to plan for planning a facilitation training session with
development and change. a group, some organisational tasks may
need to be shared.
Facilitation is influenced by principles which • Participative: taking part in discussion,
support the view that people should be sharing personal experiences and
actively involved in determining their own encouraging others to do likewise, such as:
lives, and that in this way a more equal ‘The first time I ever did a skills- sharing
society can be created. Facilitation has been workshop like this was . . .’
accepted as a good practice to be adopted
and used in the area of personal, group,
For the process, a facilitator’s approach/role
organisational and social development as well
may be one or a combination of the following:
as in the voluntary and community sector.

• Interpretive: putting other words on a


Styles of facilitation contribution or helping someone to find the
Facilitators use a wide range of styles with words to express what s/he means.
groups, depending on the task/activity and • Cathartic: encouraging and modelling the
people involved, time available and needs of expressions of feelings and emotions as
group members. The various styles enable they emerge by asking a question such as:
particular matters to be addressed most ‘And was that a very painful time?’
effectively, and facilitators should be able to
• Evaluative: assessing what someone says,
modify their style to meet the group’s needs.
providing a statement of value in relation
to behaviour, such as: ‘That seems to have
worked well for you.’
• Sharing: encouraging the sharing of past
and present feelings and those about
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 15

future events, with a question such as: • Agreed goals: members must share an
‘Does anyone else feel this way?’ agreed goal if they are to develop a belief
• Directive: guiding members as they in and sense of ownership of the group.
explore their feelings and begin to express • Group process: facilitation requires giving
them, such as: ‘Let’s take a few moments attention to how the group operates. This
to gather our thoughts and think about includes attempting to resolve conflict or
how this event has affected the group.’ any other difficulty that might arise in the
group.
Principles and values of facilitation • Trust and safety: to ensure maximum
participation, the facilitator must
Facilitators should demonstrate, verbally
encourage the development of trust and
and non-verbally, their commitment to the
safety.
following principles:
• Inclusion and encouragement: everyone
• Listening: facilitation means listening to in the group must be included and
what people are saying and tuning in to encouraged to participate, to share ideas,
what they are not saying. This includes suggestions, solutions and take initiative.
being aware of verbal and non-verbal • The importance of a positive/beneficial
means of communication. experience: facilitators must recognise
• Confidentiality: to participate fully, people that everyone is entitled to positive
must be confident that everything of experience in the group. This means the
relevance can be discussed freely without facilitator meeting realistic individual
inappropriate reporting outside the group. needs and/or being aware of and
Group members will normally decide what challenging unrealistic expectations of the
level of detail can be reported to those not group or the facilitator.
in the group. • Participation: facilitation succeeds when
• Respect: a facilitator must acknowledge there is a genuine belief in the value of
and respect each individual and prevent responding to stated needs in relation to the
other group members from undermining work of the group. Consultation with group
the basic respect that should be accorded members on direction, pace, content and
to each individual in the group. method with an openness to change is vital.
• Equality: each person is regarded as
having an equal right to contribute, to Limitations of facilitation
influence, to determine the direction of the Facilitation is not a panacea for all group
group as another. Equality also relates to work. It has its limitations. Facilitated groups
respect, valuing of personal experience are not therapy groups, although therapy
and participation. groups may be led by qualified counsellors/
• The value of personal experience: each therapists skilled in facilitation. Personal
member’s contribution to a discussion/skill- development groups may be led by facilitators
sharing activity is equally valid and valuable. who are also trained in the use of other
16 | Combat Poverty Agency

more specific skills, such as organisational • recognition and esteem


development or community development • task achievement, work and goal
and vice versa. Agreeing the purpose of each attainment
group is important so that appropriate and • becoming more fully known and accepted
relevant boundaries can be developed and as an individual
maintained. • celebration of achievement
• creating new goals and targets
Facilitating groups is not an easy task. Group
• letting go and moving on
members may focus on the facilitator as
the cause of their discontent or may use
When an individual joins a group s/he wants
her/him to avoid confrontation with other
to belong, yet to remain independent. S/he
group members. Chapter Four describes the
also may come along with a sense of having
joint process of deciding what will be dealt
a ‘territory’ – an area of unique expertise
with during a group session and provides
or knowledge which is hers/his and which
guidelines on how to avoid or curb unrealistic
s/he perceives to be particular to her/him
expectations of the facilitator.
and owned by her/him alone. This can be a
positive indication of a unique contribution to
Facilitation is a method of working – it is used
make to the group or it can be negative when
to agree goals, plans, actions which depend
it is jealously guarded and treated as out of
on the values and vision of the people being
bounds to other members of the group. In
facilitated for the outcomes to contribute to a
the early stages of membership, the need to
better and more equal society. But the method
belong to the group is usually stronger than
of facilitation is also used by people whose
the need for individual expression. Later, the
vision of society does not involve change in the
need for independence becomes stronger.
current situation. It is important to remember
that it is the values, principles and beliefs of
Conflicting needs may arise in relation to
the group members and of the facilitator which
realising a goal and the group process. For
can channel the outcomes to positive social
example, someone may want to continue a
change and not facilitation by itself.
discussion on a topic while others may be
anxious to get on with completing a practical
The individual and facilitation task. The facilitator must recognise the
Individuals within a group have various needs. importance of both goal achievement and
These vary widely depending on the group’s process.
stage of development. The following is a
list of some of the psychological needs of A facilitator needs a wide range of skills to
individuals within groups: intervene effectively and to encourage positive
development of the group. Being aware of the
• security, safety and clarity needs of individual group members, or being
• belonging and acceptance able to judge what those needs might be,
makes for better facilitation.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 17

The group and facilitation Spotlight on the facilitator


A facilitator must be conscious of her/his
own behaviour if s/he wants to promote the Ask yourself these questions and, after
group’s development. S/he must analyse reflection, write down your responses:
accurately the patterns of behaviour
developing in the group. S/he must recognise 1. Styles and process of facilitation
the roles assumed by group members and, • Which of the process/task styles do you
most importantly, be aware of how s/he use most often?
interacts with the group in general and with • Is there a style you do not use? Why not?
individuals in particular. • Is there a style you use frequently? Why?
• Is this helping the group?
People in groups have, according to Adair • Could you widen your repertoire of styles?
(Adair, 1986) three inter-linking areas of How?
need. These are the need to:
2. How do you rate yourself as a facilitator?
1. Achieve the task. It is useful, now and again, to check out your
2. Develop and be supported as an individual. definition of facilitation – the areas in which
This involves ensuring that group members you are using your skills and how effectively
are comfortable, feel involved, recognised you are using those skills. Make a list of the
and valued. This is sometimes called groups and settings where you currently use
‘maintaining’ which involves providing facilitation skills. The following questions can
support for individuals to ensure their help you to evaluate your performance:
wellbeing and comfort in the group. • What is the group task?
3. Develop and ‘maintain’ the group • How do you focus on the group’s working
as a group – an entity with its own methods?
characteristics or culture. • How do you feel about this group?
• What is the group’s future direction?
In recognising these three sets of needs, it
• Are there any difficulties in working with
can be seen how individual needs in the group
this group?
relate to all three areas. A good facilitator
recognises which needs are being expressed • What is going well with this group?
at any given time and decides whether a • How do you feel about the group’s
particular intervention is appropriate or not. progress?
• What skills are you using to enhance the
working and the work of this group?
• How do you feel about yourself as a
facilitator with this group?
• What might you do differently with this
group to better use your skills, or meet the
groups stated needs?
18 | Combat Poverty Agency

3. Feelings about facilitation 4. Motivation and benefits


In answering the following questions you • What motivates you in your work?
will articulate your beliefs, wishes, fears • How do you benefit from facilitation work?
and feelings about facilitation. This will • How do you think the people you work with
guide your future development and use of benefit from your use of facilitation?
facilitation skills. Take your time answering
the questions. Write down your answers and 5. Improving facilitation skills
talk them through with a friend, colleague or • What are your strengths as a facili­­tator?
supervisor.
• What areas do you need to develop as a
facilitator?
(a) Why do you use facilitation skills in your
work?
The list of strengths and areas needing
• How do you feel when asked to facilitate?
development in your work will be used
• What are your thoughts/words/reactions in
frequently in exercises in this book, so keep it
response to a request to facilitate?
close at hand.
• How do you feel before/during/after a
facilitation session?

(b) List the fears and anxieties you have about:


• facilitation in general
• facilitating particular groups of people
• facilitating in particular settings
• facilitating particular themes or topics

Your beliefs and values about facilitation will


inevitably change over time. The following
questions may be challenging and you may
find yourself giving different answers at
different times in your work.
• Describe what you consider to be a good
environment for learning and development.
• How does your work method reflect your
beliefs and values about people/group
work/development?
• How do you think facilitation contributes to
the achievement of a task/activity within a
group?
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 19

Understanding the group undesirable thoughts, feelings or reactions.


All groups have a dynamic, a way in which People project the undesirable feature away
the individuals in the group interact and form from themselves and highlight it in the other
a pattern of interaction. The study of these person so that s/he will be more comfortable
patterns, in a group setting, is called group with her/himself.
dynamics. A facilitator’s work in a group
can be explored through an examination of A better grasp of group dynamics means the
both content and process, that is, through facilitator can check on her/himself more
an examination of what s/he is working on easily and not confuse what is happening
(content), such as deciding on funding or for her/him with what is happening for
agreeing a programme for a women’s centre. group members. The ability to make this
distinction gives a facilitator a clearer view
An examination of process is done by of how certain conflicts or difficulties may
exploring how s/he is working with the group be resolved. There are books on the subject
and what is happening in the group, both for (see reading list), but one of the best ways
the facilitator and individual members. By of learning group dynamics is to be part of
exploring the work of groups at these levels, a as many groups as possible to explore the
facilitator acquires a more complete picture of process and structures inherent in them.
the group and its dynamic. An understanding
of this two-tier analysis can assist the Remember:
facilitator when s/he is planning sessions • The deeper the facilitator’s understanding
and involved in exercise design and effective of her/himself, the easier it is for her/
intervention. Recognition of both individual him to perceive where her/his feelings/
and group needs and the desire to meet them attitudes diverge from those of the group.
influences what is included in any session. • Be clear about where the facilitator’s
involvement and commitment to a group
The facilitator’s work is more effective begins and ends. In this way, the facilitator
when s/he recognises the needs, roles and takes care of her/himself as a group
resistance of group members. It also allows worker.
her/him to distinguish between what is • When considering the facilitator’s needs,
happening because of the facilitator and what it is important not to strive to fulfil
is happening because of the group’s make-up. unreasonable expectations which the group
may have of the facilitator.
Projection is a defence mechanism which • If the facilitator becomes aware of negative
people use from time to time in their projections within the group s/he should
interactions with other people. Projection make sure to challenge and work with
describes the situation where a person them.
recognises a feature in someone else which
they deny having themselves. Usually these
features are considered to be negative or
20 | Combat Poverty Agency

Spotlight on the facilitator Verbal interaction examples:


• Comments to people: ‘You‘re very brave to
Ask yourself these questions and after say that.’
reflection, write down your responses. • Expressions of values and attitudes: ‘I
really like strong women.’
1. Think of a group you facilitate and answer • Volume and tone of voice.
the following questions on content and • Revealing political agenda by excluding or
process: including certain beliefs: ‘The unemployed
have only themselves to blame’. ‘I believe
• What is happening to feelings and moods that while it is hard, we need to work
in the group? towards including everyone who lives in
• What differences do you see between your this community’.
earlier approach to facilitation and now?
• Are you more aware of group processes? Non-verbal interaction examples:
• How has this benefited your planning, • Facial expressions and posture.
exercise selection, interventions and the • Assumptions based on gender.
group? • Assumption of a person’s social class.
• Perception of a person’s racial or ethnic
background.
Communicating with the group • How and when a person chooses to sit,
move, or hold themselves.
When interacting with the group, the
facilitator must remember that a two-
How the facilitator interacts with group
way process of transmitting and receiving
members strongly influences the group
information is in operation. Both sender and
process. It is not only what the facilitator
receiver interpret messages in different ways,
says, but how s/he behaves that is important.
depending on a number of factors such as
People take in messages (verbal and non-
class, ethnic background, gender, sexual
verbal) from each other all the time. The
orientation and age.
non-verbal can either enhance or contradict
a point being communicated. Saying you are
A facilitator’s interaction with group members
not angry, while clearly giving off the body
is both verbal and non-verbal. The verbal
message of a stiff back and hurt expression
interactions are stated openly using speech.
are contradictory signals.
The non-verbal are not stated in speech but
are transmitted in other ways such as in body
language. Both have a powerful effect on the
group, and a facilitator needs to be aware of
the impact s/he can have as a result of the
position s/he holds within a group.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 21

Verbal messages A facilitator must also pay special attention


Tone of voice: tone is a powerful indicator to the primary spoken language of all group
to group members. Contradictory messages members. Given the increased numbers of
can be conveyed by adopting a tone of voice people involved in local communities who
which opposes the message, such as: ‘I’d have English as a second language, the
like everyone to participate’ – this said in issue of pace, accent, clarification and clear
a deadpan voice may lead to low levels of pronunciation are ever more important.
participation!
Non-verbal messages
Volume and pitch: can indicate various It is not only with words and sounds that
messages to people. High pitch often people communicate. Messages are sent
indicates excitement, fear or nervousness. and received through channels other than
Loud volume could be anger, frustration or speech and hearing. The facilitator cannot
fear. Altering the volume of one’s voice is know how someone will interact with her/
helpful to indicate a change of direction, to him but can be aware of the possible effects
generate enthusiasm or to gain attention. of her/his actions. Encouraging feedback
from participants about the behaviour of the
Interpreting: providing an interpretation of facilitator and how s/he presents her/himself
another’s behaviour or attitude is a powerful to the group can help the facilitator develop
interaction on the part of the facilitator. and deepen self-awareness.
Facilitators should offer suggestions of
interpretation rather than make pronounced Gender: people relate differently to women
statements of interpretation: ‘This is the best and men. All members of society have been
way to do that.’ The facilitator must be alert brought up to have expectations of behaviour
to the way her/his values and beliefs may appropriate to women and to men and with
influence her/his interpretation. experiences of women and men operating
in different spheres. Meeting women and
Language: the language a facilitator uses men who differ from these stereotypes can
enables others to understand her/his purpose. stimulate feelings that alter a person’s
Language must be clear and jargon free. behaviour. Some people might be more
People can feel very uncomfortable if they don’t comfortable in a single sex group with a
understand the language, for example the use facilitator of the opposite sex or in a mixed
of abbreviations/acronyms instead of the full group with a woman as facilitator.
name of an organisation – INOU instead of Irish
National Organisation of the Unemployed, ADM Social class: Irish society is divided along
instead of Area Development Management, lines of social class according to access to
or SE for Social Economy programme. Usage resources. The facilitator’s class background
of language in this way can be excluding. The is relevant for group members and will
facilitator should give a strong message of influence interactions and the perception
inclusion in her/his language. of her/him within a group. The class
22 | Combat Poverty Agency

background of the group members will also disabilities), will influence the interactions
influence these interactions and perceptions. of people within a group. Some disabilities
Social class background affects people’s are less evident than others. Facilitators
expectations, self-esteem, methods and need to ensure assumptions are not being
approaches of working, and their view of the made about people’s ability based on value
world. judgements about disabilities.

Race and ethnicity: everyone is raised in Sexual orientation: as with race and ethnicity,
cultural and ethnic groups which offer sexuality and sexual orientation may be
a specific and valuable awareness and conveyed non-verbally in groups. A facilitator
perception of the world. Some races and should be comfortable with the differences in
cultures are more dominant and pervasive any group in order to enable the group to be
than others. This influences how people comfortable with difference.
in both dominant and minority cultures
interact; this, in turn, impacts on a group’s Movement: distracting or abrupt movements
interactions. Travellers are the largest by the facilitator can distract the group and
indigenous ethnic minority in Ireland. Other upset concentration. Sudden movement may
ethnic minority groups include people from shock and distract attention. Fidgeting with
different African countries, Asia, central and jewellery, papers, chair, or going out of the
eastern Europe and the Philippines. room abruptly may be disturbing behaviour
and should be kept to a minimum.
Linked with race and ethnicity is the question
of religion as a cultural definer. Many people Body language: holding oneself with tightly
living in Ireland identify as Muslim, Hindu folded arms can indicate anxiety or fear to the
as well as Christian. Facilitators need to group. In turn this may inhibit participation
clarify their own understanding of how these and prevent a working atmosphere from
cultural elements can impact on their work. developing. A relaxed but attentive facilitator
For example, using the term first name rather sends out signals of being in control and so
than Christian name, or not assuming Sunday provides the group with a sense of security.
as the ‘holy day’. How and where a facilitator stands and
whether s/he stands while others sit (or vice
Age: assumptions are made about people on versa) will convey a message about equality
the basis of their age. These assumptions between the facilitator and participants. To
affect group interactions. These might be promote equality, sit with others as much as
in terms of suitability, ability, relevance or possible.
appropriateness of exercises, approach,
inclusion or equality of opportunity.

Disability: disabilities of all types, whether


physical or mental (including learning
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 23

Clothes: style of dressing conveys a message. Remember:


People have individual preferences; the • It can be difficult to eliminate the sets of
facilitator needs to dress according to her/his ideas, assumptions, beliefs of, and perhaps
own and the group members’ comfort. If a prejudices against, other people.
facilitator is dressed very differently from the
• It is the facilitator’s job to recognise how
group, this may distance her/him.
these assumptions operate, negatively and
positively, within the group.
Boundaries: in facilitation, a boundary is ‘an
• It is also the facilitator’s role to work at
invisible line’ drawn around oneself when
challenging and diluting the negative
working with groups. This line demarcates
impacts of any prejudice within a group.
the extent of the facilitator’s involvement.
It can also indicate to the group what it can • The facilitator’s ability and readiness to
expect in terms of personal disclosure, social challenge negative effects of social prejudice
involvement and work limits on the part of is an important indicator to group members
the facilitator. For example, if a facilitator is that this behaviour is not to be tolerated.
clear that the agreement is for a session to • The facilitator can encourage the group
end at five o’clock, then her/his boundary line members to create a group contract
will insist that s/he finishes at that time, even which excludes prejudices, stereotyping or
if the group wants to go on for another hour discrimination by agreeing that these are
and is pressurising her/him to do so. all to be challenged. This creates a safe
space outside of which members agree to
Group members also have boundaries leave their negative beliefs and values.
between themselves, each other and the
facilitator. It is important that people continue Co-facilitation: working with a
to have a sense of themselves as individuals partner
and are not overwhelmed by the group or The technique of working with a partner can
by over-identification with certain group be rewarding for a group and its facilitators,
members. but it is a practice which requires planning
and periodic evaluation with the co-worker,
People sometimes concentrate so much if it is to yield results. Co-facilitation has
on the group and the task/activity that they advantages and disadvantages.
neglect each other or group feelings. The
facilitator must remind the group that while Not everyone wants to or is ready to co-
the task/activity is important, so too is the facilitate. If a facilitator chooses to co-
group process and the wellbeing of all facilitate, it is crucial to plan how the two
participants. will share the work, how they can best
support each other and that they learn to
communicate effectively. It must never be
forgotten that the focus of co-facilitation
remains the group and its needs.
24 | Combat Poverty Agency

Co-facilitation may be used as a training Remember:


mechanism for one of the co-facilitating • Chose to work with someone whose values
pair. While this works well, care must be are similar to your own.
taken that the group does not lose out by
• Plan work together.
time/energy being directed towards the co-
• Decide how sections of the session will be
facilitators.
shared.
Advantages of co-facilitation: • Discuss how the session will be divided
• Eases the pressure of full responsibility. between two.
• Allows for joint planning, evaluation and • Decide who will take which section.
feedback. • Consider how to behave when the other
• Brings different experiences and attributes person is facilitating.
to the group. • Decide whether to leave the room,
• Means a greater sharing of skills, participate or remain silent.
resources and energy. • Plan to let the group know the session/
• Enables less experienced facilitators to programme will be jointly facilitated.
develop skills. • Decide what to do when one person wants
to interrupt the other.
Disadvantages of co-facilitation: • Allow some flexibility so that non-
• Joint planning, evaluation and feedback is threatening, non-challenging contributions
time-consuming. may be welcomed by the other partner (for
• Co-facilitators can be ‘played off against instance, if one facilitator has forgotten
each other’. something, or if one facilitator has a
different experience that could be usefully
• One co-facilitator may get on better with
shared).
the group.
• Support each other during the session
• Feelings of insecurity may arise for
– offer appropriate feedback and provide a
facilitators
second voice to the facilitator if you detect
• One co-facilitator may dominate.
resistance or dissent from the group.
• Rivalry between co-facilitators may
• Agree never to side with the group against
develop.
your co-facilitator.
• Vague definitions and unclear delineation
• After the session, evaluate both
of responsibilities may cause problems
performances jointly.
between co-facilitators.
• Give positive and critical feedback on how
the two facilitators might improve their
work together.
• Plan the next session on the basis of the
previous one.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 25

Spotlight on the facilitator Remember:


Do
Explore these questions for yourself, and
• Know how you can develop your own skills
with the person with whom you may be co-
• Have support and supervision for your work
facilitating. You don’t need to answer all of
• Gather and create relevant resource
the questions on each occasion – use them as
materials
probes for exploration.
• Cover topics you are competent and
• Do I like working by myself, and why do I confident with
want to co-facilitate? • Know the types and sizes of groups with
• Am I confident about my partner’s which you will work
facilitation and group work skills? • Understand your requirements and
• Have we a clear understanding of roles and limitations
responsibilities? • Know the times you will work
• What will my partner add to the group • Know the fee, if any, you will charge
process? • Take part in group processes to enhance
• What will it be like for me working in front your awareness of the feelings and
of a colleague? reactions that being a participant brings
• Do we co-operate efficiently at the • Give attention to speakers
discussing and planning stages? • Be aware of body language
• What works well between us? • Listen to your own body
• What doesn’t work well between us? • Accept responsibility for your reactions and
• How can we solve these difficulties? responses
• Do I feel safe about giving feedback on my • Accept your errors and mistakes
performance and that of my colleague? If
not, why not? Don’t
• How can we develop our joint technique? • Over-analyse
• How will I, and the group, benefit from co- • Allow one person to dominate
facilitating? • Take up too much time yourself
• How will I respond if the group seems to • Develop favourites or favour one opinion
prefer my colleague? within the group
• Allow verbal or physical violence within the
group
• Talk about a person in the group
• Pretend to be neutral
• Intimidate by use of language/jargon or by
constantly standing
• Bluff – if you don’t know what to do, say so
and ask for advice from the group
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 27

Chapter Three
How Groups Develop
Topics discussed in this chapter: of the beginning, the middle and the end quite
• Stages of group development simple. Other groups can exist with changing
personnel involved for years and decades,
• Life cycles
and there is no evident middle or end. But in
• Models of group development
cases such as this, it is clear that the group
• Roles in groups goes through phases, for example, where
• Norms in groups activity is low, good or high, where enough
• Naming norms people are involved.
• Working with norms and how facilitators’
values, beliefs and assumptions impact on The following models of group
groups development describe the groups that
• Spotlight on the facilitator have a particular timeframe that is easily
defined. Nevertheless, many of the phases
An understanding of how groups start experienced in open-ended groups can
up, develop and sometimes end, can help correspond to the phases of groups that end.
a facilitator considerably. This chapter What is important for a facilitator is to know
concentrates on group development. The what form of group s/he is working with and
ways to identify the various stages in a what phase the group is in.
group’s life are considered. Every group
has a life cycle during which various factors When people meet as a group, the group
influence its overall action, behaviour, goes through stages. These stages may occur
attitudes and character. even over one meeting. If the group continues
to meet regularly it will go through stages
A knowledge of theories/models of group which have particular characteristics. This is
development is useful for a facilitator. This sometimes called the life cycle development
knowledge can stimulate a facilitator’s of a group. In many ways, what happens in one
own professional growth, or enable her/ short meeting is a miniature reflection of what
him to initiate discussion with a group happens over time in an established group.
on the stages of its development and the
characteristic roles therein. This should Life cycles
further the facilitator’s understanding of The life cycle of a group has a beginning,
what is happening at group level. Having a middle and an end. The beginning stage is
bigger picture of what is going on in and for where group members work out what they
the group will ensure a more effective and will and can do together, and they establish
efficient use of time – both the facilitator’s boundaries or limits for themselves and the
and that of group members. group.

Stages of group development The middle phase is characterised by


Most groups have a life cycle that has a building on first impressions. Understandings
specific timeframe, thus making the naming are developed and difficulties that arise
28 | Combat Poverty Agency

are worked through because the group These may be useful when attempting to
recognises its work as valuable. characterise and pinpoint the particular stage
a group is at, in an effort to better understand
Finally, there is the end. This is characterised its possible needs. There are many variations
by saying goodbye, realising they’ve done on these models of group development.
what they could together, deciding to move
on, celebrating achievements, acknowledging Model A: The Action-Based Model
what is still to be done in the area/on the Five stages/phases depicting the needs of the
topic, and valuing the relationships formed group and associated behaviour of members.
during the group’s life. (Adair & Benson)

Models of group development 1. Forming stage


The ideas which inform the following models Members’ needs: to be comfortable within the
of group development should enhance the group, safe, to know and share information.
facilitator’s understanding of the group’s
process. Remember, as with individuals, all Behaviour evident: people are polite, nervous,
groups are unique. No group will correspond shy and tend to assess others at this stage.
directly to any model laid out in the pages Members try to understand the group ‘rules’,
of a book. All groups will move through the to determine the group task. Roles may
phases outlined below, but not necessarily be assumed, for example, an ideas person
in the same order. Groups can and do move emerges, that is someone who is good at
backwards as well as forwards. And within coming up with ‘this is what we could do’, or a
any one phase, a group might have an support person may emerge, that is someone
internal cycle during which it goes through who can organise a space, a grant or a facility
yet other phases or stages. for the group.

As a facilitator’s skill develops and s/he 2. Storming stage


becomes more proficient and experienced, Members’ needs: to belong and to be secure
s/he will notice that some categorisations in the group, to review aims and absorb
will be more useful for particular groups. material.
Experienced facilitators inter-mingle many
suggested systems/models and so achieve a Behaviour evident: possible combination of
broad analysis of what is happening in many non co-operation, resistance to agreed aims,
group settings. challenge to agreed aims, sabotage of group
work, or the facilitator may be challenged by
Being aware of the phase/stage of a group those reluctant to move on or re-define. This
is important so that the facilitator can may seem negative, but in fact it is a very
match her/his sessions to that phase and be useful way for people to begin to deal with their
prepared to make appropriate interventions. needs. Experiencing a ‘storming’ (a period of
Below are two models of group development. high energy involvement) enables a group to
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 29

move on to the next stage and to feel more Within this cycle, groups may revisit
ownership of and involvement with the group. stages depending on how long the group is
established, on individual needs and on the
3. Norming stage nature of the group task. It is possible that
Members’ needs: to be independent, a group will form, storm, norm and perform
recognised and to have self-esteem. several times over if they are together long
enough.
Behaviour evident: leadership roles may be
taken on, the task agreed. There may be Model B: Developmental model leading to state
positive challenges to other members and in of cohesiveness
relation to the task. Getting started
This preparatory stage is concerned
4. Performing stage with practical issues, such as numbers,
Members’ needs: individual maintenance location, structure of meetings/sessions,
for personal needs which re-emerge must responsibility, agreeing a common aim and
be recognised and met within the group. basic rules, finding out why members chose
Deeper relationships are established this group, naming hopes and expectations,
between members and the need to celebrate and establishing commitment to this new
achievement strengthens. group.

Behaviour evident: members get involved in Nurturing


group facilitating; realistic attitudes to and This is the stage where security and trust
about people emerge, and roles that people are established. It involves setting up a
assume in relation to the work of the group safe place for the group, both emotionally
and the development of new norms are and physically, creating conditions of
accepted. acceptance, understanding, mutual support,
confidentiality and nurturing. It relates to the
5. Ending stage emotional side of being in a group.
Members’ needs: anxiety and a sense of loss
will emerge among members as the group’s Individuating
life nears conclusion and the decision to This stage involves moving on from the
break up is taken. A strong need is felt to nurturing stage so that individuals can stand
mark this ending, acknowledge what has independently within the group. People find a
been achieved and look forward to new sense of themselves again. Members can and
beginnings and tasks. do confront each other and give and receive
honest feedback. People learn to analyse,
Behaviour evident: possible combination of to differentiate and separate at this stage.
blaming, refusal to let go, and anger with other It relates to the critical, intellectual side of
group members. These are a reflection of the being in a group.
sense of loss due to the ending of the group.
30 | Combat Poverty Agency

Cohesiveness
At this stage, people acknowledge both their
Spotlight on the facilitator
individuality and their commitment/belonging Ask yourself these questions and, after
to the group. This phase acknowledges the reflection, write down your responses.
inter-relatedness of each of the members
to one another. Each individual is equal, 1. Analyse any two groups with which you work
can lead and be led, is active in decision- by asking if they exhibit the characteristics
making, problem-solving and the work of the of the systems described above.
group generally. There is a balance of task
and process, with people expressing their 2. Using your knowledge of the stages and
interdependency and satisfaction with being life cycles, can you examine how you might
in the group. People will be able to move to move either group closer to its goals?
the end of the group well, or to continue by
renewing the group. 2. Can you try to pinpoint the period of
changeover from one stage to another in the
It is important that groups move through the two groups you have chosen from No.1?
various stages to cohesiveness. While some
people will be more comfortable at certain 3. Can you list the observed behaviour in
stages of group development, a facilitator the group on which you are basing your
will work to bring the group forward. judgement?
Cohesiveness reflects a maturity which
group members demonstrate in subsequent 5. How useful is this information for your
behaviour and group work. work?
Some groups may ‘get stuck’ in a stage or
phase, while others may move more swiftly
through each phase entering the stage of Roles in groups
inter-relatedness for long periods where the If groups can be divided into phases and
needs are met and the group is working well. stages, as demonstrated above, then in each
An alteration/variation in certain factors, phase members may adopt roles suitable
such as new members joining or new goals to that stage and to themselves. Roles are
coming on line, may cast the group back to sets of behaviour patterns that people have
the beginning of the cycle once again. when interacting with other people. They
can shift and change (transitory roles) or
be set (permanent roles). In terms of group
development and group dynamics these
roles are informal, that is people adopt them
– as opposed to the overt process of role
distribution which goes on formally at many
groups where chairperson, secretary or
treasurer is appointed.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 31

Transitory roles Commentating


Transitory roles involve individuals taking Co-ordinating
on behaviour and/or attitudes for short Initiating
periods within a group as it works towards Summarising
its aims. These transitory roles vary across Supporting
and between people and also over time.
For instance, a group member may assume Disruptive roles include the following:
a leadership role at certain stages in the Blocking
group’s life, but this role does not belong Avoiding
exclusively to her/him. It may be shared at Sabotaging
various points by others. People can also take Criticising
on multiple roles in any given group – many Dominating
roles are not mutually exclusive. Not participating
Doubting
Transitory roles can promote or disrupt group Being cynical
work. What is important for the facilitator, Undermining
is to be able to identify them. These roles Story-telling
emerge as the group develops. They can be Breaking confidentiality
divided into roles which are positive for the
group process and task/activity, or roles These and other roles may emerge and will
which are disruptive. Positive roles promote have to be faced by group members and
the work of the group and move it towards its facilitator. See Chapter Seven for advice on
goal. Disruptive roles adopted by members how to handle disruptive behaviour.
may lead to damage being done to the group
or to the group being hijacked from its agreed People sometimes get stuck in behaviour
task and falling into dysfunction. patterns, that is they may be seen as a joker in
a group and when they try to make a serious
Promoting roles include the following: point they are not taken seriously. Group
Listening members may find that roles assigned to
Questioning them by others are more permanent than they
Stimulating thought. Generally, this disrupts group-work
Mediating and must be challenged. The facilitator should
Peacekeeping be aware of roles in groups and to determine
Challenging her/his intervention, should examine issues
Timekeeping such as the length of time the group will
Risk-taking be together, the best time to challenge the
Evaluating behaviour, and whether the behaviour pattern
Encouraging is inhibiting the group or not. S/he must also
Harmonising be conscious of the task s/he was taken on to
Clarifying complete.
32 | Combat Poverty Agency

Permanent roles Some permanent roles include the following:


These roles involve behaviour and/or attitudes Scapegoat: members target one person or
adopted by individuals in all groups. They can vent their frustrations on one person, or insist
also be assigned to a person by other group on one person representing the views of a
members. For example, the group could group instead of allowing her/him to have an
assign the behaviour of listening well to one individual view. For example, the only woman
person or of entertaining to another. Work in an otherwise male group is expected to
must be shared if the group is to function represent all women.
successfully. It is important, therefore, that Leader: someone accepts the positives/
the giving or taking of a role is identified and negatives of being group leader.
challenged as early as possible. Encourage
group members to widen their repertoire of Nurturing figure: one person assumes or is
behaviour – role play (see Chapter Twelve) assigned the task of nurturing/supporting/
is an interesting way of allowing group encouraging others. These activities should
members to ‘taste’ different roles. be displayed evenly throughout the group
membership.
Particular roles frequently offer a reward or Independence promoting figure: one person
payoff, such as the status which comes from assumes or is given the role of promoting
always being the one to challenge the leader. It the group, developing its outside links,
is useful to discuss this. If a group is assigning encouraging group independence, and being
a role to one person, explore how the group task-oriented. These should also be displayed
feels it benefits from this: what is its payoff or evenly throughout the group.
advantage for the group? The answers to these Child figure: one person is denied
questions should clarify possible areas of action responsibility, acts as a child in the group or
to be taken by the facilitator in addressing/ continues with childish behaviour. They bring
intervening in the group dynamic. fun and play to a group. No expectations of
adult behaviour are made of this person.
Permanent roles often result from
Patient/client figure: responsibility and equal
unchallenged transitory roles or they may
participation are not expected of a member
result from a person’s life experiences and
because they ‘need help’ or ‘cannot be
have developed into personality traits. While
expected to take things on’.
the facilitator cannot undo a person’s previous
life experiences, at times it can be worthwhile
Members should be encouraged to explore
to challenge the patterns to ensure a
how role assignations occur. This awareness
smoother and more conscious group process.
enhances full participation and equality
As with transitory roles, permanent roles
between group members. Both permanent
may be positive and contribute to the group
and transitory roles label the behaviour,
process and task or may be negative and
not the person, so one person may exhibit a
cause disruption and dissatisfaction within the
combination of roles in one group over time.
group.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 33

This is an important distinction and one which


the facilitator must maintain. Taking on roles
Spotlight on the facilitator
is natural and normal; they are part of the Developing skills – role difficulties
development and movement of the group. Ask yourself these questions and, after
The facilitator’s work is to be aware of the reflection, write down your responses:
roles being taken on. S/he must also raise the
group’s awareness of these roles and help 1. What roles have you observed in a group
to evaluate the positive and negative control with which you work?
which the roles have on the group process
and the attainment of group goals. 2. How can you encourage group members
to take more responsibility for dealing with
Remember: disruptive behaviour?
• Some roles encourage and promote
development. Others disrupt it. Listening 3. How do you acknowledge the encouraging
promotes development while cynicism and promoting roles?
disrupts it.
• All roles are useful for the group. The risk- 4. How can more encouraging behaviour be
taker puts down challenges for the group. developed?
Even the negative roles can be turned
around at times. For example, the critic 5. What roles do you take on when in a
may raise some valid points. group?
• Disruptive roles challenge the facilitator.
6. How do you deal with disruptive behaviour
Non-participation by members can
sabotage the group process and make in a group?
a facilitator’s life difficult. They also
challenge the facilitator and the group to
find ways to work together and overcome
Norms in groups
these challenges. Norms or standards are commonly accepted
• When a facilitator can identify behaviour behaviour, attitudes, beliefs and values
patterns, s/he can devise ways of handling existing within a group. Norms in groups
them, and naming them for the group. By invariably reflect the norms that are
doing this s/he creates an atmosphere in current in a society – groups can be seen
which responsibility for promoting positive as microcosms of society, to an extent.
group work is shared more equally. But norms also reflect sub-groups and
communities within society. As a facilitator
striving to ensure inclusion and equality,
it is crucial to be aware of the norms that
exist within any group. Norms are not always
immediately evident, but what is certain is
that they exist! They can be about the task
34 | Combat Poverty Agency

and/or the process of the group work, or they The group contract is established when the
can be about the wider society, and they can ground rules of the group are agreed, usually
be constructive or destructive. in the very first meeting of a facilitated group.
It covers explicit norms of behaving and the
During any group’s life cycle, norms/ general positive hopes and aspirations of
standards emerge, become evident and members for themselves and the group. A
often change over time. Groups with a short facilitator’s task is to make all norms explicit –
lifespan have less opportunity to identify in other words, to name them (see developing
norms, but despite the difference in lifespan, a group contract in Chapter Seven).
both short and longer-term groups are
affected by norms and standards which Some norms relate to role allocation, some
emerge implicitly or explicitly in every group. to behaviour acceptable within the group, and
some to the group’s objective or work. Norms
Explicit norms: the facilitator or group may stifle group work, group development or
members propose/agree a particular way particular individuals within the group. This
of behaving. The group makes a contract/ means the facilitator must be vigilant and
agreement about acceptable/unacceptable intervene wherever norms hinder progress.
behaviour; the group reaches consensus on
beliefs and attitudes for its work and there Naming norms
is an exploration of the values held by group 1. Task norms
members as they affect the group’s work. The quality of the end result of the task, the
These norms are developed openly, clearly, level of work and the distribution of work
and with everyone’s agreement. tasks, or the ways of approaching the task,
may lead to explicit or implicit norms evolving
Implicit norms: the group begins to operate within the group.
in a set pattern (beliefs/attitudes/behaviour)
with no open discussion or agreement on 2. Behaviour norms
the validity of the pattern or its acceptability. How will members relate to each other?
Agreement may sometimes be implied, since Will they be friendly or distanced? What
nobody disagrees. At other times, norms level of physical contact is acceptable?
may be imposed by a strong individual, a Will fun or play-acting be allowed? How
clique or a sub-group within the main group. will the group manage what they consider
Lack of clarity, lack of agreement and low unacceptable behaviour? Norms can also
participation (the conditions under which influence language and the types of exercises/
implicitly developed group norms thrive) can energisers suitable for a group. Language and
cause difficulties, especially when the group fluency and understanding accents will also
tries to decide on standards for itself. be a norm about behaviour that facilitators
and group members need to work with.
Norms and standards often develop implicitly
after a group contract/agreement is made.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 35

3. Attitudes and values encourage individuality, freedom of expression


Attitudes can be normalised within a group. and a sense that the group can continue to
In other words, some political/social attitudes operate even when people are different.
may become acceptable while others do not.
Obviously, these will affect the group dynamic Working with norms and how
– the way the group interacts as it undertakes facilitators’ values, beliefs and
its task. This may also lead to some attitudes assumptions impact on groups
being pushed underground in a group When groups work well together, generally
because they are treated as unacceptable. accepted norms can add to a sense of
For example, strong public criticism of an unity and belonging. People feel safe and
opinion expressed in a group may lead to understand what is expected of them and
those holding that opinion staying silent. This others in the context of the group. Their
is especially true of attitudes and values that sense of partnership is strengthened – they
contradict the generally held view, the position are individuals with something to contribute
put forward by the media or by a very strong to the larger group. Simultaneously they
and vocal pressure group. In order to promote are an important part of that group. Norms
equality and inclusion, facilitators must and standards, therefore, contribute to the
strive to work towards developing attitudes atmosphere and can create a favourable
of inclusion, respect and equality. This might environment for individuals and for the
involve speaking against attitudes that would achievement of the agreed goals.
exclude, discriminate or be disrespectful
to some people in the group or in the Negative norms block creativity, for instance
community/society as a whole. when people are afraid to suggest something
different in the group or venture a differing
4. Emotional norms opinion. In this way, the group fails to
What emotional content will be acceptable benefit from active and equal participation.
within the group? Will it be sympathetic to Vagueness about what is expected of and
personal situations and individual feelings? accepted from members causes frustration,
How much support for each other can be non-involvement, the formation of sub-groups
expressed within the group rather than on and cliques, alliances or pairs – and these
a one-to-one basis? The answers to these inhibit development.
questions will determine the implicit and
explicit emotional norms in a group. Norms may emerge because one person (or
a clique) does not wait for the group to find
5. Appearance norms its own way but sets the tone. Norms can be
Clothes, make-up, hairstyle, size, skin colour, destructive if they fail to change and develop
jewellery can all influence the development of during a group’s lifespan. They should change
norms. Deviating from the norm can generate over time as group members work, interact
distrust, unease, or non-acceptance of the and develop. The facilitator must be aware
facilitator or group members. It can also of norms and standards as they emerge.
36 | Combat Poverty Agency

S/he must draw attention to the destructive • How much do you influence the
elements of emerging implicit and explicit development of norms in groups you work
norms while working with and developing with?
what is constructive. • Can a facilitator be neutral? Is this
desirable?

Spotlight on the facilitator


Ask yourself these questions and, after
reflection, write down your responses:

1. Consider two groups with which you are


working. Describe the norms that have
emerged in each in relation to: task,
behaviour, attitudes and values, emotions
and appearance.

2. Compare the norms observed in each


group. Suggest what has caused these
differences and similarities.

3. How do you bring norms to the attention of


group members?

4. How could you improve this technique?

5. Explore your own attitudes/behaviour/


beliefs/appearance and your influence in
generating norms within groups. Discuss
the answers to the following with your
supervisor:

• How appropriate is it to explore the norms


of groups?
• How much attention should be paid to a
facilitator’s appearance?
• Is it acceptable for a facilitator to touch
group members? In what circumstances?
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 37

Chapter Four
Preparing, Planning and Designing a Session

Topics discussed in this chapter: Consultation involves negotiating and


• Consultation, negotiating and contracting contracting the following:
with groups
• Consultation check-list • An initial contact to verify availability, cost,
suitability and interest of the facilitator
• Before a session
• A meeting with the group or representatives
• Preparation check-list
of the group to explore the task
• Timing
• Preparation of a proposal of the group
• Planning a session
work so that the group can input
• Sample plans
• Where necessary, a second meeting to
• Spotlight on the facilitator clarify the proposal, make amendments
and agree administrative details
Preparing, planning and designing sessions
and consulting the group at each stage of It can also help the facilitator to gather
the process are core considerations for the information from a variety of sources,
facilitator. Session plans and programmes including the following:
indicate how the facilitator intends to move
through various activities so that group
• Group members/organisation on aims and
members achieve their aims in a positive
objectives of the group
atmosphere.
• Group’s programmes or activities
• How the proposed session relates to
Consultation
other projects undertaken by the group/
When a facilitator is asked to facilitate a
organisation
group, a process of sharing information and
• Any underlying issues or difficulties with
formulating ideas begins. This is the initial
which the group may be struggling
consultation and involves negotiating and
contracting particular, specifically designed
pieces of work. Sometimes the person who Negotiating and Contracting
contacts the facilitator will not be part of the Check-list:
group. For example, s/he could be from the What should a facilitator ask?
group’s parent organisation. S/he may have
aims which contrast with those of the people 1. About the group
the facilitator will eventually meet in a group. • What needs are group members
Where possible the facilitator should deal expressing?
directly with a group member. • What is their overall aim and task?
• How many people will participate?
• What does the group want to achieve?
• Do people work together already or is this
a new group?
38 | Combat Poverty Agency

• Are people paid or voluntary workers? organisation, if they differ. Clarifying whether
• What is the gender ratio? the facilitator’s contract is with the group or
• What is the race and ethnic minority ratio? the organisation may help.
• What is the language to be used by the
group? 3. About the location
• What are the care arrangements for group The venue for the sessions should be checked
members? by the facilitator to ensure that it is suitable.
• Can chairs be moved about if necessary?
• Does the group reflect local community?
How/Why not? • Is there enough air and light?
• What is currently happening in the group? • Is it adequately heated?
• What is the relationship between the group • Is it accessible to all participants, both in
and the organisation of which it forms a terms of physical disability and in terms of
part? getting to the venue?
• Do any participants have any physical or
learning disabilities? (This is important 4. About equipment
when devising games/energising exercises • What resources does the organisation
that everyone can join in.) have at its disposal? (flipchart, paper,
pens/markers, photocopying, overhead
projector)
2. About the organisation
• What is the organisation’s need in relation • Check that the necessary resources are
to the group task? available and if not, arrange for them to be
provided.
• What is the aim of the work according to
the group?
5. About duration
• How long will it take the group to achieve
The facilitator should watch out for
its aim?
discrepancies between the needs identified
by the group and those of the parent • Is this to be a once-off session or the first
organisation. If there are any discrepancies, of a series?
s/he should point them out to both parties
and clarify the priorities for her/his work with The facilitator’s experience is important here
the group. The facilitator should also attempt in ascertaining the length of time it may take
to discover whether difficulties exist as a to achieve the overall aim and what can be
result of conflicting aims. realistically covered in any session. The time
available to the group will have to be taken
Sometimes a facilitator’s questions may into consideration and explored here.
reshape the original aims/needs. If this is
so, then the final decision on the group’s 6. About fees
objective should encompass the needs The facilitator should ensure agreement about
and wishes of participants and the group/ payment of fees before undertaking any project.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 39

7. About process cushions in a circle so that everyone can see


At a second meeting, the facilitator and the and be seen. Sometimes a horseshoe shape
group members will discuss the facilitator’s may be more appropriate so that people can
proposed plan. At this meeting, methods will see the flipchart/slide projector.)
be outlined and the facilitator will show how • Is there any equipment needed which must
s/he envisages the session progressing and be set up in advance so that no time is
fulfilling members’ needs. wasted during a session?
• Will flipchart notes or overhead stencils be
Before a session prepared in advance?
Preparation is vital, whether for a once-off • Are writing or other materials available
session or for a series of sessions. Some for the group members before starting any
aspects of preparation may be completed activity?
during the negotiating and contracting phases
but others must be addressed before detailing
Preparation check-list
the contents of any session. These include
the preparation of the room and one’s own The facilitator must know what s/he is doing
preparation. and must have the session designed and
planned so that s/he knows what is to happen
Room preparation check-list next. The facilitator should:
• Is the room bright and spacious with
sufficient fresh air? • Arrive early, allow time to prepare the
room/equipment, and to relax
• Is the room warm but not hot?
• Concentrate on the group and the task at
• Is the room large enough for the group to
hand
move around?
• Is there easy access to toilet facilities?
Some facilitators use deep breathing, others
• Are there sufficient and suitable chairs?
do stretching exercises, or have a cup of tea.
(High-backed chairs are preferable while
Whatever method a facilitator chooses it is
floor cushions can also be used for some
important that s/he focuses on the aim of the
types of group work.)
session.
• Is the room needed by any other group?
• Will there be interruptions? Timing
• Is the room as soundproof as possible?
Getting the timing of a session right is one
• Does the room meet the needs of any group of the issues which concerns people who are
member(s) with a physical disability? beginning to develop facilitation skills. Too
• Will the room be set up each time the much time can be frustrating when carrying
group meets? (Arrange to have it set out an activity. Too little time can be equally
up by someone – this is the facilitator’s so. When a facilitator decides how much time
responsibility and it may include moving to allocate to any exercise it is wise to propose
tables and desks to one side, placing chairs/ this to the group. If more or perhaps less time
40 | Combat Poverty Agency

is requested, a revised time may be agreed. or reported to the facilitator prior to the
Participants must know the consequences session
of taking more time to complete an exercise:
other aspects of the session may have to be (ii) How long to give each part of a session
cancelled, deferred or at least, curtailed. If this Deciding how long to give each exercise may
happens in a session, the facilitator should be daunting when the facilitator is starting
remember to evaluate the session plan in out, but as s/he gains experience in group
terms of estimated times – perhaps s/he didn’t work her/his instincts will be sharpened and
allow sufficient time to begin with or s/he was her/his confidence will grow.
over-optimistic about what could be achieved in
the time allocated. Common fears about time and group work
include:
For the purpose of planning a session, there
are two considerations: firstly, when to do • Giving too much time to one person and
what and secondly, how long to give to each running out of time for others
part of each session. • Running out of material because members
took less time than anticipated
(i) When to do what • Failing to cover everything because
Deciding the sequence of events in a session members took longer to do the exercises
is an important aspect of the preparation for than anticipated
any session. Active participation is what every
facilitator wants, therefore enough time must Remember:
be allocated for this to happen. Exercises
• Do listening/trust-building exercises (see
should be scheduled so that there is no rush
Chapter Twelve for samples) at the start.
and as many people as possible should be
• If a session is long (more than two hours),
involved in each part of each session.
take a break or do an energiser, play fun
exercises, do self-massage, or movement.
Remember:
• Employ a variety of working methods so
When planning the time sequence, keep the that people change partners, groups or
following in mind: techniques regularly.
• Don’t leave major items for discussion until
• The agreed task of the group
too late in the session. People have more
• The number of people in the group energy at the outset.
• The period of time the group has been • Don’t pack too much material into a session.
together Negotiate the workload: how much is it
• The nature of the exercises and the type of possible to cover? How many sessions might
activity in the session this take?
• How people are working together • If people are talking in pairs, allow 5-10
• Any points of resistance or conflict evident minutes per person, depending on the
subject.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 41

• If people are working in small groups (3- Planning a session


4), allow 5 minutes per person. If small By using the information gathered during
groups consist of five persons or more, the negotiating and contracting phase and
give 3-4 minutes per person. This will vary considering the guidelines and information
according to the topic and activity. given above, the facilitator is now in a position
• Opening a programme/session, including to plan a suitable programme for a specific
introductions, the opening round and group. The following framework may be useful:
reminding people of the ground rules, can
take up to 15 minutes. Plan framework
• Be clear with the group how much time The following framework may be used by
is being allocated for any exercise or a facilitator when planning any facilitated
discussion and remind them of the time a session or series of sessions. The facilitator
few minutes before they must return to the should begin her/his plan by working under
larger group or end the activity. Remind each of the following headings:
them again one minute before they break
up. Overall aims
• Speed up the small group feedback to the What group members want to achieve – both
larger group by appointing one person as task and process. (For example, to create a
recorder and one as reporter before the plan of work for a year)
exercise is begun. These tasks may be
performed by one person. Specific objectives
• Encourage the recorder to write notes, Details of the aims of the session(s). It helps
preferably on a flipchart. Alternatively, to break the aims down into constituent
the notes may be read back and the parts. So the plan might read as follows: ‘To
facilitator may write them up. Only write establish the group’s needs; to establish the
up the different ideas to avoid duplication. group’s priorities’.
Acknowledge where each idea came from.
• Plan extra activities to take care of spare Method
time. Allow some flexibility in the plan so The techniques, exercises and materials to
that omissions and additions may be made be used. (For example, group discussion, role
as needs dictate. play, games)
• Some exercises may come with
recommended times – follow the advice Contents
given, otherwise as much time as is (a) Opening slot (usually called a round where
thought necessary should be allowed. If members get to say their name)
the group finishes an activity sooner than (b) Introductions (to each other)
anticipated, don’t panic. Move on with the (c) Session outline (according to planned
programme and add something in later. objective)
(d) Each exercise, question and group
formation showing allocated time
42 | Combat Poverty Agency

(e) Next step slot (chance for group to plan Sample plans
what they want to do next)
(f) Evaluation slot (opportunity for feedback
SAMPLE PLAN 1
on session and assessment of achievement
Designed for the first encounter of a working
of stated objectives)
group that will continue to meet.
(g) Closing slot (particular space to finish the
session and close the group)
Aim
• To get to know each other
Remember:
• To begin working together as a group
Before starting any session, the facilitator
must read over the plan and check the
Objectives
following:
• To discuss the group aims
• Does the plan meet the agreed aims and
objectives? • To agree on a time-frame for the work to
be done
• Is there a sufficient variety of methods
so that concentration is stimulated, not • To agree the tasks and divide them out
dulled? between members
• Does the plan include situations where
people interact and participate actively? Methods
• Name exercise
• Is the timing reasonable? Does the plan
allow for running over or under? Are break • Icebreaker exercise
times appropriate? Do they interfere with • Creation of group contract
the flow of a session? • Getting to know you exercise
• Does the session follow a logical sequence • Trust-building exercise
from beginning to end? • Brainstorming
• Does the plan have an identifiable • Group discussion
beginning, middle and end? (Examples of each of the above exercises and
• Does each part of the session follow on games are outlined in Chapter Twelve.)
from the one before? Do techniques vary in
the plan? Detailed contents plan:
• Will individuals be encouraged and Time Activity
supported by the planned programme? 8.00pm Starting time
5 minutes Introduction of facilitator and of
session plan.
5 minutes Name game: ‘I got the pen from .
. . who got it from . . .’
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 43

\10 minutes Introductions/icebreaker exercise 1 minute Remind group of the time, place
– in pairs say your name, why and duration of the next meeting.
you came to this session.
10 minutes In the large group, each person 10.00pm Close meeting.
introduces her/his partner to the
group. Examining the components of this plan:
5 minutes Establish expectations of the Introduction slot
group. When the facilitator introduces her/himself
Brainstorm on what they would and the session/programme to the group, the
like to achieve in the session. introduction should include information on:

15 minutes Establish what they need to


• Her/himself, experience, way of working,
work well together as a group.
and statement of how initial contact was
Brainstorm on good ways of
made with her/him as a facilitator
working. (This forms a group
• The aims and objectives of the session
contract by getting agreement on
the items listed.) • The topics to be covered
• The duration of a session, break times, lunch
9.00pm Break (10 minutes)
• Any other housekeeping details, such as
30 minutes Large group discussion.
location of toilets, refreshments, telephones
List the jobs/work involved
in achieving the aims. (Small
The facilitator chooses how much information
groups could be used for 10
to give. It should include enough information
minutes and then return to the
for the group members to accept the
large group to feedback findings.
facilitator, but not too much information
Create a time-frame for these
which has no relevance to the task of the
tasks in the large group. Ask
group, or to the session. Remember the
people to propose the division of
session is for the group’s benefit.
work for the different tasks.)
10 minutes Recap on the agreements and SAMPLE PLAN 2
see that all agree. Designed for workers’ support group having
10 minutes Evaluation. its third meeting.

Do a round of completing the sentence: ‘What Aims


I got out of this session was . . .’ and ‘What I • To support each person
did not get from this session was . . .’
Objectives
5 minutes Closing round. • To explore particular situations
Each person makes a wish for • To examine issues involved
the group. • To begin to devise strategies for dealing
with situations arising at work
44 | Combat Poverty Agency

Methods 15 minutes Feedback ideas and further


• Energiser insights to the large group.
• Continued trust-building exercise 14 minutes Closing round: ‘What would I like
• Listening exercise to achieve in the next three-week
• Large and small group discussion period at work?’ and ‘What do I
• Brainstorming need to do this?’
1 minute Group hug to close (if it seems
Detailed contents plan: appropriate). Remind everyone of
Time Activity the time and venue for the next
8.00pm Starting time session.
10 minutes Opening round of: ‘How have you 10.00pm Close group.
been since we last met?’
5 minutes Energiser:
Body sculpture (see Chapter
Twelve): ‘How I’m feeling
about being in the Group.’
20 minutes Checking in with one other
person. (Take 10 minutes in
pairs to explore what has been
happening in your work life.)
10 minutes In the large group: brief input
from everyone on current work
issues.
25 minutes Agree to spend time on two
issues arising – brainstorm
all possible effects this issue
can have on the individuals,
their work and their work
relationships.(Let the person/
people for whom this is a live
issue relate further details as
they have recently experienced
them.)
20 minutes If appropriate, break into two
groups of four persons (explore
the issues more deeply).
Encourage people to seek ways
of dealing with the issue.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 45

Spotlight on the facilitator


Ask yourself these questions and set yourself
the two tasks at the end as part of your
reflection on this section.

• Look at two of your session plans in detail.


• How do they reflect the consultation
between you and the group members
during the negotiating and contracting
phase?
• Did you find yourself in situations where
there are misunderstandings over aims?
• Why do you think this is?
• How can you improve your negotiating and
contracting with groups?
• Did you keep to your timed contents plan?
If not, why not?
• Did you go over or fall short on time?
• Did you make realistic time-plans for the
exercises you’ve chosen to meet the aims
of the session? What are the difficulties?
• Design a session and contents plan for one
or two groups you will be working with,
using the guidelines given.
• Implement these plans and evaluate
yourself and the plans.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 47

Chapter Five
Learning to Listen
Topics discussed in this chapter: or boundaries between what is happening
• Active listening skills in the group and what might be a more
appropriate response for a counselling
• Pitfalls
session (see Chapter Six for more information
• Barriers to listening
on boundaries).
• Developing active listening skills
• Spotlight on the facilitator The facilitator should keep in mind that
s/he is not acting in a counselling role as
Good communication is a two-way process: a group facilitator, nor should s/he expect
one person transmits a message and another to counsel. Although there are features in
receives it. Both participants are involved common (attending, listening, empathising) the
in the communication process. Effective facilitator must never confuse the two roles.
communication is crucial in group work for The overlapping conditions of a well-facilitated
both the facilitator and the group. When session and a good counselling session,
people perceive their ideas or feelings or however, provide an environment where an
experiences (or all three) are valued by the individual feels respected and valued.
group and the facilitator, they contribute
more, and this leads to a shared sense of the When people are actively listened to, they
group acting together. Active listening is the feel involved and as a result, are more open
key to effective communication and a core and participative. For facilitators, therefore,
skill for facilitators who should spend time developing and employing the skill of active
developing this skill. listening helps to create an atmosphere in
which members feel they are an important
This section is about developing listening part of the group. When people experience
skills and is primarily focused on the active listening, they are more inclined to
facilitator, but active listening should also be bring their skills, experiences, expertise and
promoted among group members. ideas into the group relationship.

Active listening
Active listening is more than simply listening
to someone. It is absorbing what is being
said and letting the speaker know that s/he
has been heard. It is about ensuring that the
speaker feels ‘listened to’.

The technique of active listening is also used


in counselling and consultation settings. As
a result, group members may sometimes
respond as if they were in those situations.
It is up to the facilitator to clarify the limits
48 | Combat Poverty Agency

Active listening skills Explaining Giving an interpretation of


Active listening skills fall into two categories: previous statements. This is
verbal and non-verbal. helpful if someone is unclear
about the meaning of what s/he
Verbal listening skills: is expressing.
Skill Explanation Example: ‘It could be that what
Summarising Drawing together several happened was . . .?’
things a speaker said to make
one statement. Check that the Open-ended Asking the speaker questions
summary is accurate. which will encourage further
Example: ‘So, the three things disclosure.
you are saying are one . . ., two Example: ‘What happened then?’
. . . and three . . .?’ or ‘How did that affect you?’
Notice the difference between
Clarifying Checking that what was said these open-ended questions and
is understood. Such as facts, these which require only a ‘yes’
opinions, decisions, order of or ‘no’: ‘Were you frightened?‘
events. ‘Did you leave then?’
Example: ‘So, what you’re
saying is that you won’t Encouraging Includes thanking the person
be available on that for her/his contribution and
Friday because of other offering praise.
commitments.’ Example: ‘That was a really
useful contribution, thank you.’
Reflecting Picking up on the explicit or or
implicit feelings expressed by Using sub-speech to indicate an
a speaker and demonstrating ongoing understanding of what
an understanding and is being said. These serve as
acceptance of these. indicators to continue, that the
Example: ‘It sounds like that listener is prepared to listen a
was a very exciting time.’ little longer.
Example: ‘Mmm . . uhuh . . .
Paraphrasing Repeating back to the um.hm . . .yeah . . . yes . . .’
speaker a little of what was
said either in her/his own or Silence Allowing some time between
similar words. This ‘prompt’ what a person says before
encourages people to continue. the facilitator speaks. Silence
Example: ‘So, what was can encourage a speaker
happening at work was to continue, can indicate
confusing.’ absorption of what was said.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 49

Linking Statements/questions/ open hand while questioning


comments can be linked by the or clarifying; a reaching-out
facilitator using short sentences gesture supports a speaker; an
indicating interest, support and open hand or palm towards the
encouragement to continue. speaker says ‘over to you’. Head
Example: ‘And then?’ nods encourage someone to
continue talking.
Non-verbal listening skills:
Non-verbal listening skills are rarely used by Personal Leave a comfortable distance
themselves. They work in conjunction with between the speaker and
and enhance verbal skills. the listener. Lack of space
or intrusion into someone’s
Skill Explanation personal space can cause
Facial discomfort. If intruded upon,
Expression Our face expresses our someone may begin to move
emotions. Allow it to do so back to maintain her/his
during a session. The facilitator personal safe space and many
needs to be able to quickly people get distracted when
decide which emotions s/he will/ a non-intimate enters their
won’t express, always keeping in personal space.
mind the safety of the group.
Timing Do not interrupt a speaker
Eye contact Expresses interest, encourages unnecessarily. By using a
a speaker to continue and offers combination of verbal and non-
support. verbal active listening skills, a
facilitator can judge when best to
Body interject.
language The way a facilitator stands,
sits, and holds her/his body There are cultural and gender variations in
transmits a message of interest how non-verbal language is used and in the
or boredom. When listening to meaning assigned to different movements.
someone, the facilitator should Watch women and men operating in groups,
lean towards that person slightly, to learn the gender variations (for example,
turning her/his body towards the women more so than men tend to reach over
speaker, indicating a relaxed and and touch someone when they are engaged
attentive stance. in dialogue). When working with people from
different cultural backgrounds, take extra care
Gestures  Helpful gestures include open- about getting these messages accurately (for
handed circular actions which example, some age groups or ethnic groups
encourage participation; an may find mixed sex groups difficult). Body
50 | Combat Poverty Agency

language messages may be clarified with the Exaggerating Intensifying the feelings
sender; for example, ‘You’re sitting with arms expressed, or the importance of
folded and look very cross, are you ok?’ what was said.
Result: The speaker may have
to repeat or contradict the
Pitfalls of active listening skills facilitator.
Active listening skills are very valuable and,
with practice and supervision, a facilitator Underscoring Under-estimating the intensity
will learn to avoid some of the pitfalls listed of the emotion expressed.
below. Result: The speaker may feel
unimportant or that s/he made
Pitfalls Explanation an irrelevant contribution.
Over- Interpreting the speaker’s motives.
analysing Result: Prevents the speaker Rushing Anticipating what the speaker
discovering her/his motives will say next and saying it for
independently. The facilitator may her/him.
be seen as a ‘know-all’. Result: This prevents the
speaker from working at her/
Parroting Repeating parrot-like what the his own pace and s/he may feel
speaker said. manipulated.
Result: This can be frustrating and
insulting for group members and Lagging Failing to move on with the
can indicate that the facilitator is speaker to the next item.
not really listening. Result: Members may feel
the facilitator is not leading
Over- Adding on to what was said or them or is failing to recognise
expansion generalising the content of a their real needs, and they may
contribution to the group. become frustrated.
Result: The speaker may feel
misheard.
Barriers to active listening
Omitting Ignoring relevant facts, feelings or There are a number of barriers to active
events. listening. These include:
Result: The speaker may feel
misheard. • Poor environment: Lack of privacy,
distractions, noise, unpleasant
surroundings.
• Judgemental attitude: In either listener
or speaker. Critical negative comment on
what is said prevents true listening.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 51

• Solution-seeking: If a facilitator is trying to • Praise the positive features of the patterns.


find solutions to problems or concentrates • Repeat the exercises to begin
on deciding on what s/he is going to say, s/ implementing changes.
he is not paying attention to what is being
said.
• Listener’s needs: A listener’s own needs/
feelings can block active listening. The
listener may be so caught up in her/his
needs that s/he is unable to get past them
to listen.

Developing active listening skills


To develop listening skills, the facilitator must
continuously monitor and work to improve
them. There are three stages to developing
these skills:

1. Awareness and analysis of current


technique
2. Recognition of areas requiring work
3. Developing and implementing a realistic
programme of skills development

Improving skills means getting feedback on


progress. A facilitator may use video or audio
tapes or ask colleagues to constructively
criticise her/his work. When giving or
receiving feedback, the following guidelines
may be useful:

• Be specific.
• Give examples of technique.
• Remember, it is the behaviour that is being
assessed.
• Choose a good time and place for giving
feedback.
• Suggest possible ways of improving or
altering the technique.
52 | Combat Poverty Agency

Spotlight on the facilitator Score 1


Summarising n
2
n
3
n
4
n
5
n
Ask yourself these questions and after Clarifying n n n n n
reflection write down your responses. Reflecting n n n n n
Paraphrasing n n n n n
Verbal Listening Skills
Focus on a group you are currently facilitating Interpreting/
and answer the following questions: explaining n n n n n
Open-ended
• Do you use the full range of verbal/ questions n n n n n
listening skills? (see the list in this Encouraging n n n n n
chapter) Following n n n n n
• Are your interactions taken as part of the Silence n n n n n
flow of the discussions? Do they disrupt Linking n n n n n
that flow?
• Count how many times you interrupt a Non-verbal listening skills
speaker. Was each interruption necessary? • Observe yourself or ask someone to give
• Do you finish people’s sentences for them? you feedback on your non-verbal gestures.
When do you do this? Why do you do it? • Are these gestures appropriate? Do they
• Go through the list of pitfalls in this agree with your verbal statements?
chapter. Are you making any of these • Are any of your gestures or facial
mistakes? How often? What is the cause of expressions giving the message ‘stop’ to a
this behaviour? speaker?
• Using the chart below and your • Is your eye contact appropriate?
performance at a recent session, rate your • Rate your non-verbal skills on the
verbal skills on a scale of 1-5, using the following scales. Be as realistic as
following ‘scores’: possible. It might be helpful to work on
these scales with your supervisor, to give
1 = stops the speaker (damages you a second perspective.
communication)
2 = causes a pause (interrupts) Use the same scoring system as before, circle
3 = interrupts slightly but doesn’t stop
the appropriate number below:
session/exchange
4 = encourages (speaker continues)
Facial Expression
5 = enables (the speaker goes on more clearly
1 Blank
and directly)
2 Neutral
3 Some feeling
Tick the appropriate box
4 Uses face
5 Very good
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 53

Gaze/eye-contact Devising a skills development programme


1 None Examining your current bank of skills and
2 A little assessing them is an important part of the
3 Some process of developing facilitation skills. The
4 Good following steps may be helpful when devising
5 Excellent a programme for developing your own skills:

Body language • List the skills to be developed from the


1 Closed – formal information gathered doing the above
2 Stiff – ill at ease exercises and from feedback from
3 Fairly open – welcoming colleagues.
4 Open – encouraging • Propose concrete ways in which you can
5 Appropriate work on these.
• Suggest who and what will help you in this
Personal space provision work.
1 Very poor • List what might hinder you.
2 Slightly better • Give yourself a realistic time frame in
3 Adequate which to achieve your set aim.
4 Enough • Set a date to evaluate your progress.
5 Right • List the areas requiring further
development and plan for them.
Timing/Interpretation of talk
1 Always inaccurate Exercises for developing active listening
2 Often skills:
3 Sometimes
4 Rarely
• Ask a friend or colleague to work with you
5 Never
in a group setting or while watching a video
of you at work in a group. Focus on the
The previous exercises give you some insight
active skills listed in this chapter. Ask for
into your style and technique as a facilitator
a reaction to your interactions in the group
and enable you to target areas which would
setting.
benefit from more work. Make a list of these
• Tape a radio/tv programme. As you watch/
areas and see if a pattern emerges.
listen to the programme, note some of
the techniques you feel were appropriate.
Analyse your interventions in a group.
Compare your style with that of the
programme presenter.
54 | Combat Poverty Agency

• What messages are you giving non- • Practise clarifying statements which help
verbally? (If you do this on videotape, the speaker make her/his meaning clear to
turn down the volume and interpret your the group:
gestures without sound. This can be more – ‘Would that mean . . .?’
revealing.) – ‘Are you suggesting . . .?’
• Try communicating the following to a – ‘Would that help the other situation?’
friend or colleague, using only non-verbal – ‘Is that what you would suggest?’
gestures:
– ‘I’d like you to finish what you’re saying These exercises may be repeated at intervals
now.’ as you feel the need to check or improve your
– ‘I’m very interested/surprised/shocked listening skills.
at what you’re saying.’
– ‘I understand you’re hurt / angry/
frustrated/ furious about what
happened.’
– ‘What you’re saying is boring me/
making me angry/really stimulates me.’
– ‘I’m glad you’re here/are participating.’
– ‘You’re not making yourself clear.’
• Practise using the following phrases which
enable you to reflect a feeling expressed by
a group member:
– ‘That must have been satisfying’
– ‘It seems you were quite angry/sad?’
– ‘If that had happened to me I think I’d
feel . . .’
• Practise asking open-ended questions
which encourage further contributions
from the speaker:
– ‘What happened when . . .?’
– ‘How did that work out?’
– ‘When are you . . . ?’
– ‘Where did you discover . . .?’
– ‘Why is that the decision . . .?’
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 55

Chapter Six
Working Together
Topics discussed in this chapter a focus on each individual developing is only
• Developing participation part of the response necessary. Institutional
barriers can include laws, rules governing
• Positive participation
social welfare, access to educational
• Poor participation
opportunities, public and private services and
• Barriers to participation more subtle barriers connected to attitudes
• Enhancing participation about race and ethnicity, age, social class
• Boundaries or class background, sexual orientation,
• Spotlight on the facilitator and gender. Personal barriers can include
confidence, language, self-esteem, access
Good facilitation is about encouraging information, access to services (which
individuals to join in group activities and can also be an institutional barrier), and
to co-operate in the achievement of the education. There is a very strong interplay
group’s agreed aim(s). At the same time, a between personal and institutional barriers.
facilitator must maintain certain boundaries.
A boundary is a limit, imposed and upheld Historically certain groups of people have had
by the facilitator. Agreed by the group, it may greater access to the resources of a society.
be about keeping time, sticking to certain And by default, there have been groups of
topics or reaching set aims. For example, the people excluded from full participation as
facilitator focuses on the overall objective and equals in society. Excluded groups include
ensures that all activity moves towards it and women, working class people, people with
is not side-tracked. disabilities, younger/older people, people of
colour (in the western world), lesbians and
Encouraging individuals and setting gay men, ethnic minority people. It has been
boundaries is based on the core principle of found that as a rule, people from the excluded
equality. Facilitation, by definition, should groups are more likely to experience personal
promote equality. If a facilitator fails to barriers to participation than people from
recognise the institutional and personal the dominant or included groups. Facilitators
barriers to genuine participation (and working to create a more equal society need
therefore equality), then it will be difficult to to be aware of these social factors that
generate a climate of equality in the group. impact on the individuals within the groups.
This requires a level of self, community and
social awareness on the part of the facilitator, Individuals and groups reflect the
so that s/he can bring this knowledge into communities and society they live in and
the sessions. The institutional and personal facilitators must incorporate awareness of
barriers to participation are further explored the social factors at play as well as the group
in this chapter. and individual factors that are impacting on
participation and equality within any group.
Institutional barriers serve to further
reinforce some personal barriers – such that
56 | Combat Poverty Agency

With all groups, it is important to clarify the individuals will develop and the group may
the aim and purpose, to check out the disintegrate.
assumptions being made about who might be
interested in being involved and ensuring that Remember, participation does not mean that
all can be involved if they want to themselves. everybody must say or do something at every
meeting. Over a series of meetings, however,
It is important to note, however, that when each person is entitled to an opportunity to
a group is set up to achieve a certain goal, contribute and it is the role of the facilitator to
it invariably excludes some people from create these opportunities. In particular, the
the outset. For example, the aim may not facilitator must watch out for the subtle ways
be shared by or suited to some people who in which a person can be excluded.
will then not participate. To participate is
a matter of choice rather than a deliberate For example: if they are difficult to
denial of the right to be involved. On the other understand, perhaps because English is
hand, there is often deliberate exclusion of not their first language, or the person has a
some people on the basis of prejudice and speech disability, or if they find it difficult to
inequality, which is not acceptable. When express themselves, or if they speak slowly
facilitating groups, ensure this is not the and others are impatient, or if they don’t feel
reason for the inclusion of some people confident about what it is they are suggesting
and the exclusion of others. Be aware and perhaps because they are new to the group or
clear about the rationales offered by group the area, or if they feel inexperienced relative
members for inclusions and exclusions, and to others in the group. The facilitator needs
be prepared to challenge any prejudices or to be aware of the many ways exclusion
assumptions, where necessary. and non-participation can occur and create
situations throughout a meeting that
Developing participation challenge these.
The facilitator’s job in developing participation
is to encourage participation and challenge Positive participation
behaviour which inhibits it. The facilitator is A sign of healthy participation is when all
not responsible for what a member chooses members of a group have particular tasks,
to say or withhold in a group – people will not functions, work or roles within the group.
be forced to participate. What a facilitator can Good participation is also recognisable by
and must do is create an environment in the the types and number of interactions each
group where people can choose to contribute person has with other members of the group.
and where it is safe for them to do so. The facilitator may devise a sociogram,
which is a graph that indicates the types and
Good participation keeps the group together numbers of interactions. It can also indicate
and signals that all is well. Without it, the who interrupts, who asks questions and who
group task may not be achieved. People will builds on the ideas of others.
become dissatisfied and neither the group nor
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 57

Facilitators also use their observation skills • gossip and talk outside the group
and experience with other groups to get a • no new recruits where they would be
‘feel’ for their current group. In long-term expected
groups, a facilitator can build up a picture • failure to record the information and
of participation levels by monitoring those history of the group
entering and leaving the group, asking • the group membership not reflecting the
why people are leaving and watching how make-up of the wider community or of
newcomers integrate. society. This barrier to participation could
go so far as to have rules that deliberately
The facilitator may complete the participation exclude some people, thus preventing their
picture by asking members periodically how full participation, for example clubs for
they feel in the group and how they assess the men only, apartheid rules
group’s work together. This should also occur • the dominance of certain approaches to the
at the end of sessions and programmes.
work of the group
Developing this type of picture of the group
will be much more difficult and less detailed
depending on whether the group is a once-off Barriers to participation
group, a short-term or a long-term group. There are external barriers to positive
Whatever its type, participation is a vital issue participation and there are barriers within the
for all groups. group dynamic itself which may cause poor
participation.
Poor participation
Any of the following features occurring in a External barriers operate outside the
group suggest that action is needed to redress group and prevent access or ease of
the balance and improve participation: access to the group. Examples might be
a lack of motivation for getting involved
• people dominating a discussion because of poor information about the
• people excluded from decision-making nature of the meeting, or a sense that it is
a closed meeting because no invitations to
• existence of cliques, sub-groupings and
participate are made, or because of a fear
caucus groups
in people that they would not be welcome/
• frequent interruption by certain members
appropriate. At the very least, there must
• failure to build on ideas from certain
be an awareness that these barriers exist,
people
along with a willingness and commitment to
• dissatisfied members leaving the group eradicate them in the interests of the group.
• new members having difficulty integrating For example, stereotypes about people,
• few opportunities to discuss how the group institutions or organisations may impose
works limits on who can participate, and it is the
• formal modes of communication which facilitator’s role to challenge these.
inhibit people from becoming more involved
58 | Combat Poverty Agency

Physical barriers include inadequate Social barriers operate when certain groups
heating and lack of facilities such as signers, of people are excluded for example, when
interpreters and wheelchair access for people Travellers, older/younger people, women,
with disabilities. Access barriers also include religious, working/middle-class people are
challenges about actually getting to the venue deliberately excluded. It is insufficient to say
for able-bodied people. Does the venue meet a group is open to all if, in reality, it fails to be
the other needs of some people, provision of a so and actually excludes people. Deliberately
crèche, for example? The following questions excluding groups of people is generally illegal
may help a facilitator to spot specific physical now in Ireland, but there are some exceptions
barriers: to the law (equality legislation based on
preventing discrimination on nine grounds
• Is the meeting place accessible? was introduced in 1998 and 2000).
• Is it served by public transport?
• Is it in an area where people, especially But it is not only deliberately or intentionally
women, feel safe? that people exclude others – it is through
• What other activities take place in the the norms and customs of the community
building or surrounding buildings? These and society, and these may need more
might he intimidating to some people, or challenging and change than the group
they might be giving a false message about members recognise. It is often difficult for
the group itself. people who are included to imagine the
experience of feeling shy or intimidated about
Hidden barriers may include unchallenged approaching their group. We have all heard
assumptions which hinder group progress. the saying, ‘but everyone is welcome’, and yet
They include unsuitable meeting times, lack newcomers to an area are still not involved.
of child care facilities, lack of costs for child- Deliberate welcoming actions may need to be
minding, hidden costs such as refreshments, taken to check out any formal rules within the
or an assumption that the meeting will constitution of the group, and invitations of
continue in the nearby pub. These unwritten different sorts created to reach out to include
codes are obstructive, since they exclude, but people who do not usually participate in the
not explicitly. There may be general agreement group. Or it may be necessary for a group to
that everyone is welcome to a group but those look at its membership and ask whether it is
who do not ‘fit in’ will feel troublesome or reflective of all the people in the community.
unwelcome and their days of participation Noticing who is missing from a group is often
are numbered. These hidden barriers may the first step to developing a solution so that
be unconscious or deliberate – either way a people do not continue to be excluded.
facilitator should raise people’s awareness
about the effects that barriers have on Sometimes, raising the issues of implicit
participation. exclusion operating in a group brings a
strong reaction from the participants, which
can require further work on exploring their
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 59

attitudes, assumptions, values and from this,


creating an action plan to be more inclusive.
Spotlight on the facilitator
Read and reflect on the following and share
Internal dynamics as barriers your findings with your supervisor:
Within any group, there will be factors which
inhibit or prevent full participation. These Developing participation in groups
include the following: The first step in attempting to improve
participation in your group is to establish its
• Lack of trust among group members current level. To do this, construct a
can lead to clique-formation with people graph/table (a sociogram) of the interactions/
operating from hidden agendas where interconnections within the group. Ask the
there is a lack of genuine communication. group’s permission to observe and analyse
• Ill-defined and badly divided tasks give their behaviour and use the resulting
newer members no sense of where their information for the development of your skills
involvement is leading them. Unfairly and the improvement of participation in the
divided work means not all members have group. Use the example below as a guideline:
the chance to develop skills. This is a loss
both to the group and to the individual. Sociogram
• Lack of confidence may restrict more Name Speaks Idea Interrupts Builds Listens Encourages
to whom
reserved or shy individuals from coming
John
forward with ideas and suggestions. Lack
Patience
of formal experience in a task heretofore
Mary
may inhibit some people from volunteering Pat
for jobs or positions on a committee. Mya
This can be changed through an agreed Michel
development plan for all members to Ellen
address skills, confidence and experience. Miha
• Formal structures for communication may
make imparting information/ideas difficult (Other headings might be volunteers, praises,
and complicated. expresses feelings, clarifies, questions,
• Over-emphasis on task achievement to diffuses and so on.)
the exclusion of personal well-being and
comfort can lead to individual frustration Choose a session which you think will best
and to poor patterns of participation. suit your purpose. Select the behaviour you
• Group members’ fears about their ability want to examine in the group and include
to participate, about gossip, and about each member’s name in the left-hand
the existence of cliques/sub-groups may column.
contribute to a general unease in the
group, thereby inhibiting their own and
other’s participation.
60 | Combat Poverty Agency

During the session, observe the targeted Sociogram of interrupting other’s speech,
behaviour and put a tick opposite each name who was talking and who interrupted
in the appropriate column when a member Once = Talker Interrupter
displays that behaviour. You will need help Twice = Talker Interrupter
with this work – ask either a colleague, 3 times = Talker Interrupter
supervisor or a group member to help you. For example: Pat interrupted Dave three times.
Otherwise, rotate the role of observer among
participants. Enhancing participation
Once the facilitator has a clear idea of
The frequency of the behaviour on the part
participation in a group, s/he may use a
of each individual may then be displayed in a
combination of the following techniques to
diagram. Use a colour code to illustrate the
enhance it at an individual or group level:
difference in frequencies, for example, black
for once, red for twice, and so on.
• Ensure a contribution from each person by
asking her/him for an opinion, statement,
A more complex sociogram would include
feeling.
marking in on the column sheet, and later
in the diagram, the person to whom the • Assign tasks in such a way that the same
behaviour was directed. The end product people do not volunteer for all the jobs.
would then include a colour coding for • Form smaller groups and assign people to
frequency and a directional arrow. This these groups so that they do not work only
sociogram allows the group to see who with friends.
receives what type of attention in the group. • Get the group to work in pairs at different
Such information may be used to explore times so that people can learn more about
participation within any group. each other and participate more easily.
• It can be difficult for some people to work
Sociogram of frequency of speech in the in a large group (6-8 and more) so design
group by each participant the session to break into small groups at
Black = once times.
Red = twice • Include trust and confidence-building
Grey = three times exercises throughout the group’s life (see
Chapter Twelve).
Sociogram of building on ideas • Include exercises where members
Black = once can reflect on their own and others’
Red = twice participation. Use participants’ suggestions
Grey = three times and proposals to improve overall
participation.
• Include co-operation exercises (see
Chapters Ten & Twelve).
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 61

• Try to eliminate any external barriers that For example, the time that sessions end,
inhibit participation. division of work between task and process,
• Challenge behaviour and attitudes which and each person’s contribution are issues
inhibit participation. which may be negotiated on an ongoing basis.

Prepare for the arrival of new recruits to the Some practical boundaries, sometimes
group. Follow this with activities which will called ‘housekeeping arrangements’, are also
stimulate the formation of this new group very important to establish and maintain,
(see Chapters Ten and Twelve). such as timekeeping, attendance, smoking
and breaks. The following list consists of a
number of boundaries which operate to a
Boundaries greater or lesser extent in groups:
Drawing the line
‘Boundary’ is a technical term for a dividing • People boundaries: Sometimes
line drawn around various features of a group participants identify with the group so
in order to define limits. Boundaries which strongly that they lose a sense of their own
affect how a group will work are described identity. The boundaries they experience
below, and refer to a limit which exists around between themselves and the group are
people, time, space, the group and the work ill-defined. A facilitator must provide
of the group. It is often easier to understand opportunities for both individual and team
where a boundary exists when it has been development to ensure these boundaries
broken. Individuals operate daily out of their become more defined.
personal space. Depending on the intimacy • Particular people boundaries: Someone
and trust which exists between people, may identify exclusively with one or two
incursions into that physical space will be persons in a group. Again, the sense of
accepted or rejected. For example, if someone self is vague. The facilitator works to
stands so close that it is uncomfortable, the ensure that people exhibit a wide variety of
discomfort or unease felt is an indication opinions and skills to encourage as wide a
that a boundary has been broken. It is a variety of identification between members
facilitator’s responsibility to protect the as possible.
boundaries in a group. • Task and process boundaries: Members
frequently merge the functions of task and
Ill-defined boundaries foster poor process, so much so that the distinction is
participation. It is up to the facilitator to lost. Thus, the task may not be achieved or
ensure that boundaries are maintained the process of the group may be ignored.
properly and adequately. Some boundary The facilitator draws the group’s attention
issues will be discussed and fixed during to both task and process to clearly
the initial negotiating and contracting phase, maintain boundaries and the balance
others will emerge as the group develops,
needed between them.
and yet others will always remain as issues.
62 | Combat Poverty Agency

• Ingroup/outgroup boundaries: Each Remember:


participant brings her/his experience of Techniques to maintain boundaries within
community and relationships to the group.
groups:
It is therefore possible that the group
will reflect external divisions which exist
in the community/local area from which • Encourage individuals to speak with ‘I’.
members originate. If these are brought • Get people to work with those who differ
directly into the group, similar divisions from them in some way.
and splits may occur. On the other hand, • Demonstrate clear demarcation lines
events outside the group may be ignored between the task and the process work.
while internal events are too highly valued. • Encourage members to recognise a
A balance and awareness of in-group/out- contribution, a value, a point of view or the
group boundaries, and how they impact on presence of other groups, communities
the group, will be kept by the facilitator. and different methods of working.
• Time boundaries: Time boundaries are • Maintain strict timekeeping. Make sure the
important for the smooth operation of group knows the time limit to any exercise.
any group. The facilitator must keep to Encourage joint timekeeping responsibility
the designated time so that members between facilitator and group.
are ready for the close of a session and • Monitor the material suggested for use
understand how the group has progressed during each session. Is there an attempt to
through the session. This includes cover too much? Is there enough?
timekeeping on the part of participants so • Remind the group periodically of its
that each may participate fully. contract on working practices and methods
• Facilitator/group member boundaries: (if they have agreed one).
Views differ on this relationship. It is up to • Introduce rules about taking turns to
the facilitator to decide whether or how s/ speak, if required.
he wishes to socialise with the group when • Analyse your own behaviour in the group
a session is over. S/he must also decide to ensure that there is no misuse of your
how much s/he wants to disclose to the position in the group or breaching of
group and if s/he meets members outside boundaries.
the group setting. This boundary will vary • Bring the question of boundaries to the
depending on whether the facilitator is group’s attention and ask members to
a peer of the group members, has been share responsibility in maintaining them.
asked in from an outside organisation, or is
an internal facilitator, that is a member of
the group.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 63

Spotlight on the facilitator • How would you rate the maintenance of


confidentiality in the group?
Read and complete the following exercise 1 Very poor
to help focus on boundaries and how to 2 Poor
maintain them. Share your findings with your 3 Average
supervisor. 4 Good
5 Very good
Identify the boundaries in a group using the
following exercises to prompt your analysis of • Can an individual express an opinion or
the group: exhibit a value that is different to the group
norm?
Circle the number appropriate to your response. 1 Never
2 Rarely
• Do you complete the material prepared? 3 Sometimes
1 Never 4 Often
2 Rarely 5 Always
3 Sometimes
4 Often • How easily does the group take to new
5 Always ideas?
1 Never
• Do you run over time with some exercises? 2 Rarely
1 Never 3 Sometimes
2 Rarely 4 Often
3 Sometimes 5 Always
4 Often
5 Always • Can you gather members into sub-groups?
How would you describe these sub-groups?
• Do some people get more time in your
group than others? Why? • Who supports whom in the group? Is there
a pattern of support and support building?
• How comfortable are people about leaving
the group when it is time to go? • Does the group spend equal time on its
1 Uncomfortable task and on its process?
2 A little comfortable
3 Fairly comfortable • If members had a choice would they prefer
4 Just comfortable to work on the task or on analysing the
5 Very comfortable process?

• What level of importance is attached to


events outside the group?
64 | Combat Poverty Agency

• Do you socialise with group members?


1 Never
2 Rarely
3 Sometimes
4 Often
5 Always

• How comfortable are you with self-


disclosure?

• How does the group react when you disclose


something of your own experience?

• How do you use your own participation


within the group?

• How do you use self-disclosure in the


group?

• How do members react when you keep a


boundary or check somebody for breaching
one?
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 65

Chapter Seven
Difficulties and Conflict
Topics discussed in this chapter: Difficulties in a group
• Difficulties in a group Difficulties can centre on the task or the
• Warning signs process of the group’s work. At times it may
• Causes of difficulty centre on one individual, between group
• Handling difficulties in groups members, or on the facilitator. Whatever the
• Confronting difficulties difficulty, it will help the facilitator to know
the source of the problem to enable her/him
• Techniques for difficult situations
to employ an appropriate method to resolve it.
• Conflict
• Warning signs of conflict
Warning signs
• How to handle conflict
Groups operate on the two levels of task and
• The aftermath
process. There are, therefore, two levels at
• Spotlight on the facilitator which difficulties may be encountered and it
is the context of the behaviour that defines
Sometimes even the idea of difficulties the difficulty. For example, a challenge to
and conflict produces anxiety for both the the authority of the facilitator may be a
facilitator and the group members. As a sign of an individual coming to a sense of
result, problems in a group may be ignored confidence, but ten challenges in a session
until it is too late or there has been a major from that individual would be a warning sign
confrontation in the group. that something is wrong. While problems
may be turned to advantage, any group
It is important to realise that when members experiencing several of the following patterns
of a group genuinely interact, clashes or will provide an uncomfortable experience for
difficulties may arise. These reflect that the all concerned.
group is living and growing. Difficulty or
conflict merely testifies to that fact. These Signs of task difficulties in a group include:
are natural features of group interaction • not making decisions
which the facilitator must learn to handle • not settling to the task
constructively. In turn, the group learns to
• going over the allocated time
resolve them. Difficulty/conflict then becomes
• failing to reach aims
a point of growth from which participants and
• not doing what was agreed
the group benefit. Group members must be
encouraged to take on responsibility for what • ill-defined aims and tasks
is happening in the group. Difficulty in a group • losing sight of the task
is often felt as awkwardness or a discomfort. • programme targets missed
Difficulties and conflicts should be resolved • unequal distribution of tasks
so that the group may proceed towards its • thinking the group is not working/is ‘stupid’
agreed goal. or unnecessary
• unable to find common ground
66 | Combat Poverty Agency

Signs of process difficulties in a group individual interactions. Thus, feelings can


include: have a negative or positive impact on the
• resistance to group work, people, facilitator group.
• dependency on facilitator
• challenging authority Competition
• questioning Competition between group members can
encourage greater effort and achievement,
• not expressing feelings
but can also create problems with equality,
• opting out of the group
consensus and group cohesion. For instance,
• silence
members may compete with each other for
• domination by one person or a few people attention from the group or the facilitator
• imbalance of power for status, for jobs, or for time to discuss
• being stuck at a stage/task personal issues. The facilitator’s leadership
• not participating may be challenged, so may her/his expertise,
• marginalisation of troublesome people, of experience or status within the group. Other
issues people in the group may want to be the
• judging others leader. Competition about the task can lead
• testing and pushing group norms to conflict over who is to do what, exactly
what is to be done and to disagreement about
• not listening
priorities.

Causes of difficulties Dynamics


Causes are not always easy to discover. Very In groups, people need to feel they belong and
often, there are many reasons why a difficulty that belonging will enhance them in some
has arisen and it is the facilitator’s job to way. They also need to retain a sense of their
untangle and distinguish them. Only then is own identity. Problems may arise over the
s/he in a position to develop the strategy most following:
suited to resolving the difficulty. The facilitator
is not a fixer. S/he may use various methods • encroaching on other members’
and strategies to help people confront a responsibilities, checking on their work,
difficulty but s/he cannot fix it for them. commenting on their contribution
• having too many people do one thing
Feelings – the sense of achievement and personal
Group members have all sorts of feelings contribution of each person is disallowed
about themselves, each other, the task, the • feeling jealous about attention, status,
group, their lives in general and the world power, position or perks of another
around them. The spectrum of emotions in
• being uninvolved in decision-making – this
a group at any given moment, therefore, is
can result in the emergence of sub-groups
immense. Some of these feelings will be
and lead to ill-feeling.
incompatible and may hinder group work or
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 67

Inexperience example, precarious funding for a group will


Variation of experience can be a bonus affect all members, or a sick partner may
for some groups. For others it can distract one member.
create difficulties in assigning tasks and
responsibilities. This is especially true where Lifecycle of a group
some members have little or no experience of Certain difficulties emerge at certain times in
working in groups. This can lead to unrealistic a group’s life, for example when people leave,
expectations, needs and confusion around the when newcomers arrive, and so on.
level of participation.
Pairings and groupings
Lack of clarity Inevitably, some people will get on better with
When tasks, aims and methods are vague, each other and may try to work together all
members will likewise be unclear about what the time. This may result in the formation
is expected of them. of cliques or sub-groups and should be
discouraged through actively creating the
Individual aims working pairs/ small groups.
People join groups for all sorts of reasons;
some join because of the group’s aims, Wider society
others join for personal reasons. People are Events that occur in the community or wider
sometimes assigned to a group and do not society will always impact on a group and on
necessarily choose to join it. This, too, will group members. People will have reactions
influence their individual aims. The facilitator to events which will take different forms
deals with both the personal /individual and – emotional, critical, political, intellectual – and
the group agenda, and sometimes these will these should be at the least acknowledged
clash. within a group. Some events, and the
responses to them, create difficulties or conflict
Previous experience within groups, and understanding how outside
When people have experience of having events impact on group dynamics is essential
worked in groups they carry this into the so that the facilitator deals appropriately with
current situation. A facilitator should try the presenting behaviours and issues.
to discover the previous experience of
participants. If it was a positive experience, Handling difficulties in groups
then the person might be well disposed to Before deciding how to handle a difficulty or
having another positive experience. Negative its causes, the facilitator must identify the
experiences can disrupt people’s perceptions
key individuals involved and devise a possible
of what is currently happening.
approach before moving into any action.
Outside events
The approach described here uses a problem-
Events and relationships outside the group
solving technique and involves two stages:
will very likely affect those inside; for
68 | Combat Poverty Agency

(a) working out the situation as the facilitator, with a colleague or supervisor. Does this
and explanation feel right?
(b) exploring the situation with the group. • devise a way of confronting or dealing with
the situation
In difficult times the facilitator must be: • decide how to explore the issue with the
• calm group.
• prepared to confront issues
• unafraid of anger (b) Exploring the situation with the group
• resistant to and aware of the possibility of Some facilitators hesitate about taking time
being manipulated by group members from the ‘real work’ of a group to address
• mindful of the need to be objective towards issues of conflict, difference or difficulty.
each group member and their position, While understandable, it is better practice
holding own opinions aside initially, and to work with the group in getting agreement
working for the group’s development. At a about how to progress through this difference,
later stage, it may become appropriate to difficulty or conflict rather than assuming the
voice an opinion, but the facilitator’s role is full responsibility for the decision. Facilitation
to focus on the individual group members and group work both emphasise the
and the group as an entity. importance of keeping the three inter-linking
spheres in focus at all times – the individuals,
With experience, a facilitator’s confidence the task and the group as a whole. Difficulties
grows and her/his ability to handle problems and conflict impact on the satisfaction and
develops. progress of all three. It is thus part of the role
and function of a facilitator to draw attention
(a) Working out the situation to ‘stuckness’, difficulties or conflict.
The facilitator asks her/himself the following
questions: Time is taken from the other work with
• What is the situation? the group and permission is sought by the
• How is this reflected in the group? facilitator to deal with the issue. The facilitator
• Who is involved? makes a clear statement of what s/he thinks
• Who is affected and how? the issue is, why s/he is raising it, and what
s/he would like to do now. Members are then
• When did this situation emerge?
asked how they think the group is functioning.
• What are the possible causes of the
difficulty?
People’s reactions to the facilitator’s
• Where and how does the problem present statement are requested and feelings are
itself? identified. The facilitator must maintain
what s/he has seen or can see happening,
Reflecting on these questions the facilitator avoiding the temptation to guess at the motive
should: or cause of behaviour or reactions. The
• check out the diagnosis with others, facilitator helps people to listen during this
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 69

exploration, making sure people are heard. most useful. This is called ‘confronting’
If it is appropriate, it may help to break into but it does not have to be confrontational
small groups so that everyone has a chance or argumentative. Confronting may simply
to speak and be listened to. indicate the willingness to name and bring
issues to the surface in a group. Its purpose
The issue involved is explored, the facts, is to express feelings and to challenge
events and realities of the situation examined. behaviour, to clear up misunderstanding,
A record is made of how the situation arose to keep issues in the open, and to ensure a
and everybody is encouraged to remember. clarity and openness in the group.

The situation is defined with the group. Confronting difficulties


Summary points are made and possible To be effective, the facilitator must:
underlying issues discussed. • choose the time and place, ensuring
privacy and sufficient time
Solutions are generated within the group. • be specific about the behaviour
Once everyone is clear on the issue and
• express her/his feelings about the situation
has an opportunity to express an opinion or
• use ‘I noticed’ or ‘I observed’
feeling, generating realistic solutions will
become easier. • describe the person’s behaviour and its
effects on the facilitator and the group
A course of action is suggested using the • ask the listener for her/his reaction, listen
proposed solutions as a basis for that action. to this, acknowledge that perspective
• ask for particular behaviour changes
When agreement is reached, the solution is • deal with one issue at a time
devised and a realistic deadline set, upon • when the receiver/listener responds, the
which an evaluation will take place. facilitator must not be defensive
• ensure the person has heard properly. If not,
In some situations, group members may raise comments and requests should be repeated
the problem. In this case, the facilitator will • be fair – a facilitator may not have the full
either handle the situation immediately by picture, s/he must be prepared to modify
facilitating a process similar to that described or abandon her/his position when s/he
above, or s/he could ask for some time to hears more details.
think about the situation and to deal with it
later. If a group raises a difficulty, then it is Techniques for difficult situations
usually more appropriate for the facilitator to
• Encourage silent, non-participating
handle it there and then.
members.
• Focus on the continuing development of
In trying to resolve difficulties, a direct and
trust, commitment and co-operation within
open approach, which involves members
equally in the search for a solution, is the the group.
70 | Combat Poverty Agency

• Work together by grouping people into Establish ground rules with the group.
pairs or small groups, where appropriate. Refer to the contract of behaviour whenever
In order to break down barriers, share necessary. The ground rules are usually
experience and build up trust. This can created in the first session, and are written up
also help to lessen the influence of cliques on a flipchart from contributions by the group
or sub-groups. members on what they as individuals require
• Clarify roles, responsibilities, expectations of the group to work well together. Everyone
and the group’s agenda. This sometimes agrees to the different rules drawn up at the
allows people to change or develop their session and at intervals. This contract can be
positions/roles. renewed according to the changing needs of
• Model an open, honest and risk-taking group members.
approach to handling difficulties. The risk
in being honest and direct is that one will Conflict
be isolated, ridiculed or ignored. This is When positions become entrenched a
very real for people, and you help others difficulty in a group may develop into a
to take this risk by modelling it. When problem. An example of escalation would be
members recognise these characteristics where two people fail to communicate and, as
in you, they will be encouraged to behave a result, two camps develop within the group.
similarly. Entrenchment is where a difficulty might
• Build on the support and positive feelings involve one person refusing to discuss further
within the group. a perspective that differs from other group
• Talk to a member outside the group- members. Conflict may also be an indication
setting in cases where a personal difficulty of competition between people which has
is causing problems in the group, or where surpassed a healthy level.
a person has consistently ignored other
methods to handle the difficulty.
Warning signs of conflict
• Develop support networks within the
group. For example, perhaps pairs might Conflict can be seen in:
work together regularly to support each • the development of elaborate sets of rules
other. Before each session, ask how people and regulations
have been since the last meeting. • the development of norms and myths
• Clarify the facilitator’s role; ask what about the issue
members can realistically expect of the • devising rules about how it can be handled
facilitator and set the facilitator’s limits. and what will work
The facilitator must be clear in responding • shifting responsibility for conflict
to requests from the group. resolution to outside bodies or to people in
• Use body language to convey that you will other sections of the organisation
lead, take care of the group and facilitate it • intense level of difficulties in the group on
to achieve its task. an ongoing basis.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 71

How to handle conflict Spotlight on the facilitator


Most conflict can be handled by employing
one or more of the methods outlined for Read and after reflection on the following,
handling difficulties. With bigger issues or share your findings with your supervisor.
problems, the process of resolving the conflict
will take longer. Conflicts and difficulties Difficulties:
don’t disappear immediately. Addressing the 1. Examine two groups with which you work
root causes often entails changes, which take and name the causes of difficulties which
time and negotiation. Developing facilitator’s have arisen in the course of your work.
and group members’ skills of confrontation 2. What has been the impact of these
will be an effective approach. When raising difficulties on the group?
the issue with the group the facilitator may 3. What impact have they had on you?
use different techniques (see Chapter Eleven). 4. What do you think is the pay-off/advantage
Running a simple, direct and open session for any individual or sub-group who brings
will more than likely yield the best results. their difficulties to the attention of the
Always allow ample time so that the issue is group?
fully dealt with. 5. How do other group members react to
individuals or sub-groups who bring up
Conflict: the aftermath difficulties within the group?
Once the conflict/difficulty has been raised
and resolved, there will be a need to
Skills development plan
It is useful to have a plan/schedule to develop
encourage and re-establish trust and safety.
your skills in resolving conflict. With a
The facilitator should use exercises where
supervisor, decide on the areas of work that
people can express their feelings about what
you need to develop, set realistic targets,
has happened, preferably one which will
and then review your progress at a set time.
enhance positive feelings about the group,
Working with a colleague or supervisor
or individuals within the group (see Chapter
enables you to build a more accurate picture
Twelve). It is also useful to take a look at the
ground rules for the group to see if there is a of your skills and their development.
need to revise them. Any decisions taken in
To help you decide the areas you want to work
conflict resolution must be implemented and
on, rate yourself on the following items on
it is the facilitator’s role to see this is done.
a range of 1-5, going from least difficult to
most difficult. Of the items scored 3, 4 or 5
list these in order of least highest to lowest
priority. The results of the following questions
will provide you with a personal skills
development programme plan.
72 | Combat Poverty Agency

Sample skills development: Plan A For each situation, ask yourself:


What do I find difficult? • What exactly is the difficulty I have with
1 2 3 4 5 this situation?
Extremely Very Quite Easy No
• How do I feel when faced with such a
problem
Questioning
situation?
Undermining • Why does this issue/situation/difficulty
Challenging bother me?
the task/plan/ • What do I gain by not dealing with it?
self • How will I gain by dealing more effectively
Silencing with it?
Over-talking
• What steps can I take to handle it better?
Storytelling
Joking
Interrupting
Gossiping
Confronting
Fixing
Ignoring
Vagueness
Idealism
Giving feedback
Cliques
Pairings
Latecomers
Dominating
Arguing

Working from the top of the list, target those


situations you would like to handle more
effectively. Re-read the relevant sections of
this book to help you. Develop an action plan
to enhance your skills.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 73

Sample skills development: Plan B


Read the following statements and then fill in the blanks as honestly as you can, using this
handbook as a resource.
Think of at least three alternatives to every answer and try implementing these alternatives in
your work.
After a period of time, review your progress.

When someone is angry in a group:


I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If one person dominates:
I usually (a).........................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
When one person is talking too much:
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
When there is disagreement in the group:
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If someone disagrees with what I have said:
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
When a pair needs to be split up:........................................................................................................
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If a sub-group forms in a group:
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
74 | Combat Poverty Agency

When there is resistance to getting the task done:


I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If people are not talking to each other in a group:
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
When someone brings up inappropriate material:
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If someone gives advice to another group member:
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If someone hasn’t done what s/he undertook to do:
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If ground rules are broken:.......................................................................................................................
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
When someone breaks the confidentiality of the group:..........................................................................
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If someone is leaving the group:...............................................................................................................
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
If newcomers join the group:....................................................................................................................
I usually (a) . ......................................................................................................................................
As an alternative, I could try (b)........................................................................................................
Another alternative is (c)...................................................................................................................
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 75

When you have tried some of the alternatives


you identified, answer the following questions:
• What is it like to use these new/alternative
methods?
• Are you comfortable with them?
• Did you find them useful? Which ones?
Why?
• What do you now need to work with these
alternative responses?
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 77

Chapter Eight
Planning and Decision-Making Sessions
Topics discussed in this chapter: Facilitating a planning session
• Facilitating a planning session The aim of a planning session is to draw up a
• Sample short-term planning session realistic plan, within agreed time limits, which
• Facilitating a decision-making session a group may put into effect. Time devoted to
• Sample decision-making session each of the following steps depends on what
• Spotlight on the facilitator is being planned. The facilitator will carry out
each of the following steps in consultation
with the group/selected members of any
Facilitators are frequently asked to work with
group.
groups on planning, decision-making and
evaluation. These requests are followed by
the usual negotiating and contracting process • Clarify what is being planned.
during which the group’s aims/objectives • Define the aims of the proposed activity.
are defined. The facilitator then uses that Assess how they fit into the group’s overall
information to devise a strategy which aims.
will enable the group to meet those aims. • Assess the need for what is being planned
The following guidelines will be useful for by gathering relevant information about
facilitating such a session. needs, how they might be met and the
people who may be affected. Ask who else
Planning provides similar services and how this
Plans and planning are integral to the overall relates to the group’s activities.
work of a group. They involve allocating • Define the specific objectives of the activity.
resources in the most effective and efficient For example, ask what exactly the group
manner possible in order to achieve agreed will do.
aims and targets. Plans last for different • Check the costs, materials, premises and
lengths of time: they can be long-term (five to staffing implications of the activity.
ten years), medium-term (three to five years), • Devise an action plan to cover: who will do
or short-term (one to three years). On the what, where this will take place, how and
basis of this, organisations then make yearly, when it will be completed, and decide on
monthly and weekly plans. Within these time- the priorities within the plan.
plans groups make arrangements for specific • Assess the impact of this action plan on
events, activities or programmes. people’s work and time schedules.
• Decide how to monitor and evaluate the
When facilitating a planning session, it is vital activity. Decide who will do this and when it
for the facilitator to check with the group will be done.
exactly what is to be planned, the resources
available, and who will be involved in the
process. Sufficient time must be allowed for
the objectives to be met.
78 | Combat Poverty Agency

Then: • Remind people of tasks undertaken,


• Agree the plan with the group. If further the time limit on the tasks, and work
research is needed, decide who will do it. outstanding.
• Put the plan into action. • Close the session.
• Review the results at an agreed date.
Facilitating a decision-making
Sample short-term planning session session
This planning session is to devise a three- When a group of people work together
year plan and may actually take place over towards a common aim, they must make
two or three meetings. joint decisions, for example how to allocate
funds. There are times when decision-
• Introduce the session and an outline of making requires all, some or only a few group
the proposed planning process (give time/ members to be present. Alternatively, groups
schedule of meetings). may ask an outside facilitator to help them
• People introduce themselves and each reach a decision, or the group may nominate
other and express their hopes for the one of its members to facilitate a session.
session, listing any concerns. List these on Having a facilitator who takes on the role of
a chart. enabler and helper frees each individual to
• Group recaps on its aims and objectives participate fully in the process.
and explores the likely context of its work
and probable resources. • During the negotiating/contracting stage
• Brainstorm all possible activities, events with the group, the facilitator clarifies what
and ideas that could be implemented in the decision-making issue is. If this is not
the next one to three years. List these on a clear, possibilities are discussed.
chart. • At the beginning of the session, reach
• Group selects the probable activities from agreement on the question/issue to be
this list in small group work. decided.
• List is divided among group members; • All facts, opinions and feelings about the
each group of three works on more decision are gathered.
detailed plans for the activities listed. • Examine who will be affected, who should
• Plans are reported back to the large group. be consulted, and what the financial,
Encourage comments, suggestions and legal, practical and organisational issues
ideas for each plan. are. Find out how people feel about the
decision: this can be done by asking the
• Prioritise plans/activities.
group members or using various group
• Decide what can be done to further each of
formations to help the process.
these plans. Decide on a time-frame and
• Brainstorm possible options.
allocate responsibility.
• Either in the full group or in small groups,
• Recap on decisions taken during the
discuss and evaluate these options. Decide
session.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 79

which provides the optimum solution. who then distributes them according to their
Decide whether the option agrees with the preference between the different options
group’s overall policy/aim/values. Does available. This method facilitates people being
the option meet the needs of the people able to identify the benefits of a number of
involved? options open, and who do not want to have
• Make the decision. This may involve taking to dismiss all other options for one which
a vote or reaching a decision by consensus. doesn’t fully represent their opinion.
Reaching consensus can take a long time.
It involves allowing the group members to Develop an action plan for the implementation
talk out all the pros and cons, preferences of this decision. A date for informing the
and problems about each option. With group of the outcome of the decision must be
consensus, the objective is that everyone agreed, along with a date for evaluating the
agrees with the final option chosen. outcome.

Voting is quicker, decisions can be taken The question of power within the group and
earlier and each person has an equal vote. the differences between group members in
But it involves winners and losers. Choosing terms of influence and power held requires
to decide by voting requires a number of particular attention and focus from a
other decisions prior to the ‘real’ issue being facilitation when the group is trying to make
decided upon! decisions. In this setting, the participation,
inclusion, equality of regard and respect for
A decision must be made on whether the vote all members becomes even more crucial
will be secret or by a show of hands. The group so that the decision genuinely reflects the
must decide whether the vote will be by simple wishes of all the members. A facilitator may
majority or by two-thirds, also whether it will need to draw the group members’ attention
be in secret or by a show of hands. to these issues of power, or s/he may just
organise the session in such a way that these
A third technique to enable decision-making considerations are built in to the plan in
is to have a double vote where the first step is terms of enabling participation and inclusion
that people identify what their least favourite of all opinions.
option is, and then, having eliminated some
of the options, everyone votes for their most If it is not possible to reach consensus or to
favoured option. This is useful if a wide array have the wishes of all members of a group
of options are available, for example, ideas for reflected in a decision, a facilitator will need
education courses or for items in the summer to change the focus of the discussion so
project. as to generate some movement. A number
of useful techniques to generate different
Finally, there is the very useful technique conversation can be used to explore what is
of creating a ‘preferendum’. This involves acceptable to everyone even if this is not the
giving a maximum of 10 votes to each person first preference. The question could be, ‘What
80 | Combat Poverty Agency

can you live with?’ or ‘What can you absolutely • Create a revised list of options from those
not live with?’ Both these questions shift the ranked (1) in individual rankings.
focus away from choosing between options • Gather information about each option
and can enable group members move closer on this list, including cost, availability,
to a decision. accessibility, previous experience with the
option, feelings of the group members.
Sometimes, taking a break in a decision- Chart each option, with information noted
making process can help a group. Staying at a beside it on a flipchart.
point of decision when none is appearing can • Explore the options.
be counter-productive after a time. Changing • Decide on an option, using either a
the atmosphere by taking a break can re- consensus or a vote. Agree this before the
energise. session begins.
• Check on feelings about the decision; move
Sometimes, a facilitator is asked for his/her on to creating a plan around implementing
opinion as to what the group should do. Be the decision.
aware of the power involved in this in terms
• Recap on the decision and the action plan,
of supporting a particular opinion within the
including the date for its evaluation.
group and, therefore, potentially silencing
some other opinion. The time of giving • Close the session.
your own opinion and examples from your
experience is a fine judgement, and with
awareness and experience it can be done. Spotlight on the facilitator
While the decision rests with the group, the
facilitator may have experience to add and Consider the following and share your
to speak from which could be helpful. Being findings with your supervisor:
silent is not always appropriate either!
Look at one planning session you have
Sample decision-making session facilitated.
• List the things that worked well for you.
A group wants to decide which of its activities
• List the things that could have worked
will attract a grant from an external funding
better.
body. This will involve writing a proposal.
• Suggest ways in which you feel you could
improve this session if you had to do it
• Outline the steps of the decision-making
again.
process with the group.
• Identify the dilemma. For which activity
does the group think it should apply for
funding? List preferences on a chart.
• Brainstorm possible options. List these on
a flipchart. Individuals rank these options
in terms of preference or needs.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 81

Chapter Nine
Evaluating and Assessing
Topics discussed in this chapter: will vary. There is another more informal
• What is evaluation? internal form of assessment/evaluation that
a facilitator does continuously when working
• Stages of an evaluation
with a group. An evaluation of how things are
• Evaluating content and process
going is carried out while observing, directing
• Choosing an evaluator and facilitating the session. This internal
• Facilitating an evaluation session evaluation informs the facilitator’s next steps.
• Sample evaluation session
• Evaluation: Questions A formal evaluation is one completed with
• Spotlight on the facilitator the group members and possibly involves an
independent person who will make a written
A good facilitator plans, implements and evaluation of the work.
evaluates her/his work. This critique informs
the planning and implementation of future The model of evaluation used in this chapter
programmes/sessions. This chapter briefly is a very basic one – most suitable for short-
explains evaluation and advises how to develop sessional analysis. Evaluation of a major
evaluation techniques, emphasising that the project which has been operating for a long
crucial benefit of evaluation for the facilitator period of time will obviously be a more
lies in the ability to use the outcomes of an complex and time-consuming task.
evaluation to improve content and process for
participants and facilitator alike. Evaluation procedure
An evaluation is an exploration of four areas:
What is evaluation?
Evaluation is about critically examining two 1. Acknowledging what has been achieved
specific areas of group work which have 2. Recognising how outcomes relate to the
taken place. Firstly, it is about examining initial objectives
the process by which a group has or has 3. Agreeing on what could have been better/
not achieved its objectives. Secondly, it is different
about looking at the individual and collective 4. Making plans or suggestions for the future
performances of the facilitator and group based on the lessons learned
members and assessing how they have
contributed to achieving the original aims. The process can be a sensitive one. As a
The information gleaned from an evaluation result, the questions which the facilitator
informs future plans or proposals. asks will depend on group members, how
long they have worked together, the nature of
Evaluation should be an in-built feature of the group, and the purpose of the evaluation.
sessions, and while it usually takes place The facilitator ensures good listening by
at the end of sessions and programmes in each person, encourages validation of each
a long session or over a period of sessions person’s opinion, and encourages people to
the timing of actually checking progress be honest in their feedback.
82 | Combat Poverty Agency

Stages of an evaluation 3. Modifying and Adjusting – learning from


the collation and assessment and from
1. Collating – gathering information, written insights into the successes and the areas
or oral, by listening and through exercises. needing improvement.
The following questions are useful ones to
consider when gathering information from 4. Making Plans – the facilitator draws up
the group: for her/himself a list of ways in which the
• What was achieved? process and content of the session could
• What went well? have been improved. For the group, a list
• Were objectives met? of outstanding areas to be addressed or of
• What was learned/developed/changed? future areas of work to be considered is
• How did the group feel about the/each drawn up.
session?
Evaluating content and process
The facilitator’s role is also monitored at this Evaluation is about observing what
stage: works well and what is learned from the
• Did the facilitator keep things running group experience. Evaluation involves an
smoothly? examination of content and process.
• Did s/he attend to process and task in a
balanced way? Questions for examining content:
• Did participants feel included and valued? • Did the overall content help achieve the
aims?
2. Assessing – taking time to examine and • Was the content relevant and useful?
discuss the information gathered and • Did the material (that is, what was written
referring back to the original aims and and discussed) clearly make the points it
objectives. The following questions are was supposed to cover?
useful for this stage of the evaluation of • Was the material accessible?
the session/programme: • Were there any outcomes?
• How useful, relevant or valuable was the
experience? Questions for examining process:
• Did the process work? • Did people feel good during the session?
• What were the benefits to the group? • Did people feel more informed?
• What didn’t work well? • What did people consider to be the benefits
• Were the original aims and objectives of the work?
achieved? • What were people uncomfortable with in
the group?

Chapter Five elaborates on the group process


which can be taken into account during
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 83

evaluation. It is also important to note that in which type of session is under scrutiny.
a once-off session only one or two questions Programme-end evaluations require more
may be asked or be necessary for an effective time, detail and number of questions/
evaluation. The facilitator’s performance is exercises than ongoing assessment/checking-
evaluated separately by the facilitator and in which takes place throughout any well-
also with the group (see Chapter Four). planned and well-executed session. (See Jane
Clarke’s Guide to Self Evaluation, and Alan
Choosing an evaluator Barr et al’s Community Development Evaluation
Skills for more information and details about
A group may wish to use an outside facilitator
undertaking more in-depth evaluations.)
to enable it evaluate a programme of work.
Alternatively, a group member may be
When choosing what sort of evaluator will be
selected to run a session on evaluation.
most useful and effective for any group, the
A facilitator may be asked to facilitate
following pros and cons should be considered:
the evaluation of the group s/he has led.
Choosing who evaluates is an important
Pros and cons of choosing an independent
decision and, whether it means bringing in an
/outside evaluator
outsider or using the existing facilitator, there
are pros and cons to be considered.
Pros:
• Will be objective
There will be two perspectives on the group
experience: the facilitator’s and the group • Will be experienced
members’. Evaluations often include and • Will make time to devise evaluation
highlight both perspectives in order to give a • Will meet with and clarify objectives for
comprehensive picture of any session. evaluation
• Will write up and present the evaluation
The process of including all viewpoints can
vary. The facilitator gives her/his opinion from Cons:
the perspective of one who has a particular • Will need to be identified and agreed
‘providing’ role in the group. Any evaluator’s • Will need to be briefed thoroughly
views should be objective and independent of • Will need to be given time by the group
all subjective reflections of group members.
• Will need access to files/notes/members
Comments should focus on information which
is useful to the group, avoiding anything
potentially destructive to the group or to any
individual.

Some evaluation sessions are part of a


programme and others exist in their own
right. Evaluation questions and time devoted
to the exercise will, therefore, depend on
84 | Combat Poverty Agency

Pros and cons of choosing internal/existing Facilitating an evaluation session


member to evaluate • Following the consultation and briefing
process, set the context of the session.
Pros: Explain what evaluation is and agree on
• Will be familiar with the objectives and what is to be evaluated. Agree on how this
operation of the group can be done, and ascertain how much time
• Will know her/his way around the is available.
organisation/group • Having chosen an agreed criteria, suggest
• Will not be seen as an intruder evaluation questions and put these in the
form of exercises to the group (see section
Cons: on ways to ask questions below).
• May find objectivity difficult • Establish what was achieved, and what
• May already have a heavy workload went well.
• May not have a lot of experience • Explore whether objectives were reached.
• May not have writing skills/analytical skills • Decide what could have been better; name
necessary what didn’t work well.
• Make suggestions for change for the next
Remember: or for future programmes.
In evaluation, allow plenty of time for
asking and answering questions. A formal Sample evaluation session
evaluation should be included at the end of Task: Complete year-end evaluation of a
every session/programme. Avoid rushing this women’s group as part of a community
activity in an attempt to get on with other development project.
work. This part of a session requires as much
attention as any other. Introduce the session
• Establish the aims and guidelines, the
• Let people know from the outset that validity of each person’s opinion, the time
evaluation is part of the programme. available, the sequence of questions.
• The facilitator should employ her/his active • Conduct a group round of hopes and fears
listening skills to achieve maximum group for the session.
participation. Clarifying, reflecting and • Briefly comment on what is needed
paraphrasing encourages contribution. to allay fears, for example, trust and
• The facilitator must choose her/his confidentiality. (Gather this from the group,
questions carefully, keeping in mind if appropriate.)
whether this is an end of session or an end • Divide the group into sub-groups of three
of programme evaluation. and ask them to make a list of what went
• Do not ask too many questions. well during the past year. (This could also
be done in the full group setting.)
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 85

• After twenty minutes, get the sub-group Ways to ask questions


to move on to what could have been better Complete the sentence
during the past year. Choose a number of the following sentences
• Ask the sub-group to report its findings to and write them up on a flipchart, or have
the large group. (Record these responses them on individual sheets for each member
on a flipchart.) of the group. Ask members of the group to
• Conduct discussion of reactions from the individually complete the sentences. Ask
full group to the list above. participants to read their responses aloud in
• Enable the group to explore what can be the group:
done to change the ‘not done so well’ list.
• Lead the group to develop plans and I learned . . .
commitment around each of the proposed The best aspect of the session . . .
changes. What I least enjoyed was . . .
What I gained from the session was . . .
• Agree plans for change.
The highlight for me was . . .
• Recap on the session for the group.
The low point for me was . . .
• Do a closing round of: ‘How I feel about the I would have liked more . . .
group following the evaluation? What I’ll remember from this session is . . .

Evaluation: Questions Draw a picture/use paints to create symbols/


The facilitator should be thoroughly familiar depictions. Use collage either, but do
with the following exercises before using remember to have lots of magazines available
them in a group situation. A facilitator’s for use. Give participants paper and coloured
evaluation skills include having a variety of pens/pencils or paints and ask them to
questioning techniques at her/his disposal. capture their experience visually. Drawings
can be explained in pairs or by individuals to
Remember: the group.
When choosing evaluation questions for the
end of a session, keep in mind: Rating scales
• The length of time the exercise will take Use some or all of the following headings and
• Activities already used during the session ask participants to rate the session on a scale
of 1 to 5 ticking the appropriate space.
• What is to be achieved with a particular
question
(1 = very little 5 = a lot)
• That each participant gives feedback to the 1 2 3 4 5
group Enjoyed
Relevant
Useful 3
What I expected
Interesting
Varied
86 | Combat Poverty Agency

Body sculptures of feelings One word or sentence


Ask participants to adopt a body pose that Ask each participant to select one word or
expresses their feelings about the session/ sentence which describes what s/he feels,
programme/group. Ask participants to what s/he has gained, what s/he will take
adopt body poses in answer to the following away with her/him, or what was most relevant
questions: for her/him.

• How do you feel now? This exercise is useful for evaluating a once-
• What is your sense of the group? off session. Be prepared for strong responses
• How did the group work together? to this. If evaluating an entire programme,
• How do you feel about the session? participants may see this exercise as an
opportunity to release negative comments not
The above questions deal with group feelings previously made in any session.
and process and this exercise may be used in
many situations. The facilitator/evaluator could use a rating
scale to ascertain satisfaction with practical
‘Round’ the group details or use a drawing exercise of ‘How I
Choose a question and ask each participant to see myself now’ and ‘How I saw myself at
think about her/his response. Ask each person the start’. Alternatively, a list of future needs
to answer the question within the full group. could be compiled by asking each person to
This exercise demands everyone’s attention state his/her future needs in a group round.
and focuses the group on the variety and range
of individual responses to the same experience. When a programme comes to an end,
Examples of questions for rounds could be: it is important to stress what group
members have achieved and to celebrate
• What do you think of this group? this achievement. A round of ‘What I have
achieved/gained from this course’ may prove
• How do you feel about being in this group?
useful. A party or ceremony to mark the
• What changes would improve the group for
occasion is also worthwhile to mark the end
you?
of a programme.
• Is everyone equally involved?
• Is everyone listened to? By the end of the evaluation session, the
• Is anyone dominating the group? combination of methods and questions should
• How honest do you think group members provide enough material to spot areas of task
are? or process which need more work, areas
• Are you achieving the agreed aim? Why is which worked well and improvements which
this? could be made to the facilitator’s technique.
• Can you describe the atmosphere in the The facilitator should keep a record of
group? feedback so that it can be added to a final and
• How does the group deal with difficulties/ perhaps written evaluation.
differences?
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 87

Spotlight on the facilitator Devise an action plan for using evaluation


within your work:
Consider a recent evaluation which you have • Set out objectives.
facilitated. Reflect on the questions below • Decide on a time-scale.
and share your findings with your supervisor. • Decide when and how you will check back
As a facilitator you may have dilemmas with your supervisor on your progress.
around using evaluation within your work.
The following questions will help to explore Look at one evaluation session you have
your feelings towards evaluation and how facilitated:
evaluation in your work could be developed: • List the things that worked well for you.
• Why do I use evaluation? • List the things that could have worked
• Is there someone with whom I might better.
discuss the feedback from participants? • Suggest ways in which you feel you could
• Is this useful, relevant or breaking improve this session if you had to do it
confidentiality? again.
• What are my feelings during a feedback
session?
• What questions do I ask at the end of a
session?

List all the questions you have asked recently.


Ask yourself:
• Why did I ask that question?
• What answers did I get?
• Did I alter my methods/content as a result
of the response?
• What methods do I use to evaluate
sessions?
• What other methods could I use?
• How could my use of evaluation be more
effective?

When it comes to altering plans based on the


results of an evaluation, how flexible are you
on a scale of 1 to 5?
1 = not at all flexible
5 = totally flexible
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 89

Chapter Ten
Working with Diversity and Complexity Issues

Topics discussed in this chapter: principles. These structures reflect economic,


• People with physical disabilities political, social and cultural spheres of life
and are then recreated by each generation
• People with learning difficulties
through the set of beliefs and values of that
• Young/older people
society. These beliefs usually suggest that
• Peers the structures and divisions within society
• Single or mixed sex groups are ‘natural’ or even ‘god-given’. It becomes
• Single or mixed social class groups difficult to question these beliefs, even though
• People from varying ethnic or racial they support inequality and unfairness.
backgrounds
• People with differing sexual orientation To create social change to bring about a
• Spotlight on the facilitator more equal society requires changes in the
structures, the political, economic, social and
To contribute to a more inclusive and quality- cultural institutions and practices and, very
focused society, we all need to be aware of the importantly, in the interactions between people
issues and needs affecting all people in society being based on a set of beliefs which values
and not only those of our own geographic everyone equally and which welcomes diversity.
or social community. Generating inclusive
participation in the group setting is a key As facilitators working to contribute to a
element of the role and function of a facilitator. more equal society, the task is often at the
A second key feature is to bring an awareness level of personal interactions, challenging
of these equality and non-discrimination issues discriminatory comments and behaviours, and
to all work and social interactions. In this working to increase people’s understanding of
way, we contribute to a culture which is more how exclusion and marginalisation operate to
inclusive. Positive action measures can then be the detriment of everyone in society.
developed to enable all people contribute as a
matter of principle rather than exception and/ Facilitators will usually have a double-faceted
or favour. task in any group. One facet will be to work
with the dominant set of beliefs and attitudes
In most societies there are differences between and challenge those that are discriminatory
people, which have resulted in some people or excluding. This will require work with
being treated less favourably than others, and individuals who express those beliefs and
some people benefiting from those differences. attitudes that reflect prejudice.
The differences are naturally occurring
between people, but structures in society have The second facet of the work will be to
been created so that these differences result work with particular individuals who have
in discrimination, inequality and lack of equal experienced discrimination, exclusion,
opportunity. These structures and ways of marginalisation, and who may require
grouping people are maintained both by laws additional supports to fully engage equally in
and rules and by attitudes, beliefs, values and group settings.
90 | Combat Poverty Agency

In any group there may or may not be session or whether interpreters are needed. (If
individuals who come from a group that the session needs to be conducted through two
has been traditionally excluded. Regardless languages, then remember extra time will be
of whether a particular excluded group is required.)
represented in a group or not, a facilitator
should work to increase awareness of There has been an historical bias in favour of
the needs that group might have, so as to certain groups in society, for example, white,
contribute to a shift in thinking about the male and middle class. This is being addressed
beliefs, attitudes and possible prejudices in in community development and equality
relation to that group. settings. One factor which has emerged from
this redressing work, is the danger of ‘reverse
Within the current equality legislation discrimination’. This is a situation where a
framework, the grounds on which people can person from what is traditionally perceived as
not be discriminated against are: gender; age; a discriminating group is assumed to reflect
marital status; family status; religion; sexual the attitudes of that group and is therefore
orientation; race; membership of ethnic group excluded from involvement. For example, a
(including Travelling community), and disability. middle class person may not be considered
These grounds reflect the reality that people for involvement in a community development
are discriminated against and individuals and group, or a settled person in work on including
groups of people are excluded from fully equal Travellers in a community. A facilitator must
participation in society because they are older, be aware of over-compensating for the power
lesbian, disabled, etc. imbalances that operate in society.

Facilitators will frequently be asked to facilitate Situations discussed in this chapter include the
groups whose members may have specific following:
needs. This section deals with situations
requiring specific facilitation skills to meet • Working with people with disabilities
such specific needs and suggests additional • Working with people with learning
preliminary questions that might be asked to difficulties
ensure that the facilitator performs effectively. • Working with young/older people
These considerations should be included in the • Working with peers
facilitator’s everyday work so that s/he is not
• Working in single or mixed gender groups
making assumptions about people that inhibit
• Working with mixed or single social class
their participation. (See Chapter Six.)
groups
Learning difficulties, language considerations, • Working with people from varying ethnic or
literacy and attention spans are important racial backgrounds
considerations for all groups. For example, the • Working with people with differing sexual
facilitator must ask her/himself if everyone will orientations
understand the language used throughout the
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 91

It is rare that a group will not be a mixture Working with people with learning
of a broad range of people who reflect difficulties
the diversity in society. A facilitator may,
• Do methods of work accommodate the
therefore, be working with a very complex mix
literacy and numeracy abilities of all
within a group of people with different needs
members?
– perhaps even, needs that might seem to
• Are methods available which are less
be in some conflict. Secondly, people are not
reliant on writing, reading or counting?
one dimensional – there may be individuals
who reflect a number of different needs
simultaneously, such as a lone parent with Working with younger/older people
a disability, or an older gay man, or a young • Does age composition influence use
man with a learning disability. of materials, methods and techniques
employed in group work?
Facilitators will be working in more complex • Do resources or materials reflect the age
situations as society continues to be more group and abilities of the group?
aware of the various needs that are inherent • Do facilitation methods suit the age group?
in any group. While the work can be more (Channel the high energy of younger
complex, accurately reflecting the diversity people into exercises or games rather
and realities of society contributes to a more than trying to contain it. Older people
useful outcome from any facilitated work. sometimes have a gentler rhythm.)
• Does the pace of exercises allow for
Working with people with disabilities the varying attention spans? This is
The facilitator should check the games and particularly relevant when working with an
exercises selected and ask the following age group that is new for the facilitator.
questions:
Working with peers
• Are they appropriate for this group? Peer means the facilitator’s friends,
• Is there a need to make alternative neighbours or colleagues. It is her/his choice
arrangements so that everyone can whether or not to opt to work with peers.
participate? Some facilitators find that ready-made
• Is a signer needed for those with hearing links mean less work in creating an open
difficulties? and trusting environment; others find this
• Is modified equipment needed? more challenging when trying to overcome
• Are toilet facilities and access to the room difficulties that may emerge. The facilitator’s
suitable for everyone? role in this situation will be different from the
role s/he might have with these same peers
in other situations.
92 | Combat Poverty Agency

Boundaries If difficulties arise in relation to sex (such


Setting boundaries between the facilitator as negative comments being passed about
and the peer group could raise questions of someone’s sex or gender), then address them
confidentiality, favouritism, comfort level and immediately. Do not allow them to become
acceptance. The facilitator needs to maintain problematic. Having one woman or man
a strong boundary between the previous in an otherwise all male or female group
relationship s/he may have had with a peer and brings its own difficulties. Being treated as a
the new relationship which takes place within representative of one’s sex can be isolating.
the context of the group. When the facilitator is alert and aware of what
is happening in the group s/he can have a
Rivalry positive influence on the group dynamic.
To boost their self-esteem, some people
criticise others. Working with peers may It is important that the facilitator knows
provoke jealousy in group members, leading whether it is best that groups work in either
to covert/overt questioning of the facilitator’s single or mixed gender settings. The following
ability. guidelines should enable the facilitator to
weigh up the pros and cons of working in
Payment either grouping:
If a facilitator decides to work with friends,
s/he should make sure from the outset that Expectations and roles
the amount and method of payment are clear. Social conditioning has led many of us to
There can be a tendency to overlook payment expect different behaviour from women and
which may indicate an undervaluing of the men. The facilitator should check her/his own
facilitator’s work. attitudes and watch what is happening in the
group in terms of the norms and attitudes
Lack of support about gender issues.
Familiarity and lack of awareness may permit
members to dismiss the facilitator’s proposals Analysis of roles in mixed and single gender
or plans. groups reveals that women and men behave
differently depending on which group type
Nervousness they are in. The facilitator should focus
The facilitator may feel more nervous or on her/his own behaviour as facilitator.
anxious than usual when working with Concentrate on giving balanced attention
colleagues because her/his status and role is to both genders and be wary of casting
different. members into stereotypical roles or allocating
tasks that may not suit them.
Working with single or mixed sex groups
No one is neutral when working in groups. The Task and process
facilitator’s gender, her/his gender in relation Research shows that women and men
to that of members’, and the composition of the differ in how they approach the task and the
group in general all influence the process and maintenance of a group. Women may be seen
task in progress. as ‘doers’ and men as ‘planners’. Try to avoid
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 93

reinforcing these attitudes within the group by Social class descriptions also refer to
varying role and responsibility allocation. educational aspirations, experiences and
opportunities, access to social institutions
Difficulties and conflict and agencies, to health and welfare services,
Women’s way of acknowledging difference to social networks and aspirations, and to
revolves around one-to-one exploration, while type and location of housing and material
men frequently acknowledge through the possessions.
group. The facilitator must bear this in mind
when attempting to have full participation of While there is discussion and debate about
all members. the absolute purity of social class definitions,
differences nevertheless on the basis of type
Energy of work, training, educational aspirations and
Each group displays its own characteristic social culture do continue to exist and have
energy. Some facilitators prefer the rhythms major impacts on individuals and groups of
of single sex groups where it can be easier people.
to generate trust, openness and a common
bond. Historically, working class people have
experienced disadvantage in these areas
Women and men often set different values in comparison to their middle-class
on their contributions in a group setting. counterparts. Positions of power and
Sometimes women undervalue their decision-making, the control of and access to
contribution. them, as well as the distribution of resources,
have been disproportionately accessible to the
Attractions middle and upper classes.
Group members can be attracted to each
other in either single or mixed gender groups; The facilitator must recognise this social
members will also strike up friendships. reality as it manifests itself in the group.
The facilitator should be mindful of this in While class difference can cause difficulty,
allocating teamwork tasks. it is not an automatic result of working
with mixed or single class groups, or of the
Working with single or mixed social facilitator’s differing class background. The
class groups facilitator should use her/his awareness
Class background describes our social origin. and knowledge of class issues to encourage
Traditionally ‘working class’ and ‘middle participation in the group.
class’ differentiated people according to their
paid work. Today, however, these definitions In particular, facilitators must work with
do not hold as strongly and class most awareness of people who experience poverty
often refers to the background of a person’s and how this has impacted on their lives
parents, which would have been defined more – lack of opportunity, access, equality, and
by the nature of the paid work, e.g. doctor, participation in community and society.
plumber, hairdresser, teacher, shop owner.
94 | Combat Poverty Agency

Stereotyping Working with people from varying


Stereotypes exist of people from different ethnic or racial backgrounds
classes. In the group this may cause problems,
Groups may replicate the social and economic
or these differences can be put to good use
dominance of certain groups in a society.
to widen the range of approaches adopted to
For example, in the northern hemisphere,
achieve the group’s aim. Stereotyping inhibits
white, middle-class, male, heterosexual
genuine interaction and may manifest itself in
values dominate. This leads to negative
the group through snobbery, trouble-making,
and damaging stereotypes of values other
putting down or dismissing some people, or not
than those that conform to this norm.
being interested in listening to others who are
Prejudices, discrimination, inequalities and an
not from the same class background or gender.
undervaluing of any value outside the norm
will occur where negative attitudes are not
Values
dealt with. With equality as a core value the
Class background can determine the value
facilitator must challenge such stereotypes.
set on certain events, people or activities.
Obviously, differing sets of values will affect
In Ireland, Travellers are an indigenous
group decision-making and planning but if
minority group affected by this discrimination.
addressed adequately, will not inhibit the
The dominance of the settled community
achievement of the group’s aim or goal.
has led to the exclusion of the Travellers’
perspective from most issues. While the
Social mix
settled community will always be numerically
Mixing social classes can inhibit some and
larger than the Travellers community, an
encourage other types of behaviour. Both
equal society would recognise the particular
facilitator and members must acknowledge
social and cultural factors of both groups,
class difference where it exists. Only then can
would accord equal treatment to both
strategies be devised to counter the negative
and would ensure that Travellers are not
effects of a class clash and enable the group
discriminated against because they belong to
benefit from the broader experience of all class
a minority group. Numerical dominance and
backgrounds.
socio-cultural dominance are not equivalent,
although they do sometimes go together. For
Self-esteem
example, while there are more women than
A middle-class person in a predominantly
men in the world, women are discriminated
working class group might question her/his
against and face inequalities in relation to
contribution and a working-class person may
men.
not be as confident about her/his contribution
in a predominantly middle-class group. But,
More recently, many other ethnic minority
given the status placed on middle-class
groups have moved to Ireland. White, settled,
values, this person may be less worried than
Christian and western beliefs and values may
a working-class counterpart in a similar
contribute to the exclusion of these other
situation. perspectives also.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 95

There has been much development in the past the aims of the group, or with acceptance of
ten years to counter this prevailing cultural contributions.
set of norms and most facilitators will find
an openness among some members of their Discrimination
groups to inclusion and embracing perspectives Stereotypes and prejudice lead to behaviour
different from the dominant culture. that actively discriminates against people
who are perceived as being different. This
In the group situation, inter-connections behaviour may take the form of verbal,
between minority and dominant cultures psychological or physical abuse, exclusion
require special consideration. The facilitator and/or unequal treatment.
should discuss these at the consultation stage.
Working with people with differing
The following factors will exist even if the sexual orientation
facilitator or a single group member is the only People often make assumptions about others
member present from a different ethnic or on the basis of their own life experience. This
racial background: relates to all the issues discussed in this
chapter. People may presume they know the
Equality and inclusion sexual orientation, lifestyle or aspirations of
Regardless of whether Travellers or people others.
from other ethnic groups are present in a
group, equality and inclusion are still relevant. Exclusion of other sexual options
Access, openness and the awareness of all/ Heterosexuality is the dominant sexual
other perspectives are steps towards ensuring preference in society, but lesbianism/
equality regardless of whether anyone in a homosexuality and bisexuality are also
group is of a minority group in the dominant preferences for a large number of people.
culture. This is so that the set of beliefs of the Not naming these as possibilities results in
dominant culture can be challenged and made perpetuating the silence around the issue and
to be less dominant! the invisibility of lesbians, gay men and bi-
sexual people.
Stereotypes
Members of minority ethnic groups are Homophobia
frequently stereotyped. The facilitator The expression of fear/dislike of lesbians/
encourages the recognition and challenging of gays/bisexuals through negative comments,
negative stereotypes. Similarly, people from behaviour and decisions must be challenged
ethnic groups will also stereotype the dominant and explored with the group by the facilitator,
group and this will also need to be challenged. if and when it occurs.

Expectations Assumptions
These will differ according to ethnic Assumptions about the sexual preference or
background and could lead to different levels lifestyle of people in the group can result in
of participation, cohesion, identification with
lower participation, conflict and hurt.
96 | Combat Poverty Agency

Remember: people living in poverty, those living in


In the group: an urban setting, people with physical
• Where appropriate, challenge stereotypical disabilities, lesbians, gay men, married
comments. people, single people, separated people,
parents, older people, people with large
• Encourage women and men to become
families.
aware of and understand traditional roles
and behaviour. • Explore how gender, class, ethnic and
racial background have influenced your
• Use anti-sexist and gender neutral
life.
language.
• Explore your class background and identify
• Focus on patterns of interaction and
its inherent beliefs and value system. What
behaviour and name them for the group.
impact have they these beliefs had on
• Ensure that equality and inclusion are
you? Can you express your current beliefs
emphasised within the group.
and value system? Is there any difference
• Encourage examination of attitudes, beliefs between your current values and the ones
and values in relation to people from from your background?
‘other’ class backgrounds.
• Do you prefer working in single/mixed/or
• Develop an awareness of the positive and opposite to you sex groups? Why?
negative features of different backgrounds
• Do you prefer working in the same, mixed
and impart this awareness to members.
or different to you class groups? Why?
• Bring issues of sexuality/sexual orientation
• Do you prefer working in the same, mixed
to the notice of the group.
or different to you ethnic groups? Why?
• Challenge discriminatory remarks or
• What are the benefits and losses to you
behaviour.
(and to a group) when working with any of
these groups?
• Are there any differences in how you treat
Spotlight on the facilitator people who are older, younger, of the same
or different sex, sexual orientation, social
Take your time when working through any class or ethnic group, or who have physical
necessary changes in your work. If you are abilities or disabilities?
open to challenges, you will find yourself
• Observe and get feedback on your verbal
developing your awareness and skills.
and non-verbal interactions with group
members.
Recognising difference – skills development
• Using the answers to the questions
• Compile lists of some positive and negative
above, decide how you can develop your
images, assumptions and beliefs you have
awareness and behaviour.
of women, Travellers, people from Africa,
people from Eastern Europe/ Asia/ the • Work with a colleague or supervisor on
Phillipines, working-class people, middle- this. Devise an action plan. Put it into
class people, those living in a rural setting, effect.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 97

• If your gender, ethnicity, class, sexual • How can you avoid being too formal, strict
orientation is different from the groups you or distant with the group as it attempts to
work with ask yourself why do you think achieve its task?
you were asked to work with them. • How can you avoid being over friendly?
• Is there anything you could discuss with
Working with peers – skills development group members or the organising body
Before you meet a group ask yourself: before the group begins to meet?

• How do you feel about working with your When the group session has ended, ask:
peers?
• What issues might emerge in this • How can you ensure that confidentiality is
situation? maintained?
• Have you worked with this group before? • If a group member asks you to talk about
• What did you learn from the experience? what happened in the group after the work
• What do you think might be the issues for is finished, how will you respond?
each of the group members? • How did you find working with your peers?
• How can you and group members maintain How did you feel? What issues emerged for
adequate boundaries? you?
• What will the relationship between you • What have you learned from this
and your peers be like when the work is experience?
completed? • How will you handle requests from
• How can you ensure that confidentiality is the organising body for a post-session
maintained after the group has disbanded? analysis?
• What are your expectations of your peers?
(Think in terms of group behaviour, roles,
participation and support).

During the lifetime of the group ask yourself:

• How can you ensure maximum co-


operation and support?
• How can you safeguard and develop
confidentiality within the group?
• If someone breaks a boundary (or appears
to do so by, for example, refusing to take
part in a session because you know what
they think, or they arrive late because
they know the facilitator), how might you
respond?
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 99

Chapter Eleven
Choosing Materials and Methods
Topics discussed in this chapter: Aims
• Factors affecting choice of materials The facilitator must choose exercises and
methods which meet the aims of both the
• Factors affecting choice of techniques
task and process.
• Methods and ways of working with groups
• Visuals
Ability
• Spotlight on the facilitator The facilitator should check the literacy
and numeracy levels of every group. Are
There are many factors to consider when there people with particular physical or
attempting to select appropriate methods and learning disabilities present? Is it possible
materials for sessions or programmes. to experiment with song, dance or drama?
Would a more traditional method suit?
Factors affecting choice of materials Tapping into the creative side of people can
People have different intelligences which empower, break barriers and shift energy.
are stimulated by different learning styles,
techniques and methods. For example, Resources
some people learn best by doing, others by The facilitator should discover what materials
following examples, yet others by using trial and resources are available and match these
and error, and others again by reading and with what the facilitator might have, such
discussing. as flipchart paper or markers. If there is a
dearth of resources or materials, participants
To stimulate people’s different approaches may be asked to help out. If there is money
to learning, facilitators and trainers need to available from the organisation or from
use different techniques, for example, visual, the group, there are some pre-packaged
verbal and practical methods of presenting exercises, board games, paints or music
material. As a facilitator, it is important to which are purpose-built for working with
include a broad range of techniques in your groups – see the reference section at the
repertoire so that the work undertaken back of this book.
with groups can stimulate the different
intelligences of the group members. Culture
Some activities may be culturally
Accessing the strengths of all of the group inappropriate for particular groups and
members by attending to the methods and the facilitator should be aware of this. For
materials used also contributes to a fuller set instance, touch exercises in some settings
of outcomes from the group’s work. Language may not be appropriate.
and culture are two other elements to attend
to when selecting materials, exercises and Experience
designing a session, as discussed earlier. Methods and exercises should be tested
out by the facilitator with colleagues or
friends before s/he uses them with a group.
100 | Combat Poverty Agency

A facilitator must never ask a group to do Methods and ways of working with
what s/he would not do, or to participate groups
in an activity or exercise that s/he has not
There are many ways a facilitator can
previously completed/tried out. introduce material or gather information,
ideas and thoughts from members. The
Challenge
following list of techniques can be viewed
Using a variety of techniques ensures that
as tools which enable the facilitator and the
boredom does not feature in any session
group to move nearer to achieving the agreed
and that repetition is avoided. People are
aim. They are not an end in themselves
stimulated and challenged by variety. and must be structured into an appropriate
contents plan.
Factors affecting choice of technique
New techniques should be introduced gradually Brainstorming is a quick listing of first
by the facilitator. If there is resistance to a thoughts and reactions to an idea. Have a
method, it should be sparingly used to begin large sheet of paper and marker ready to note
with. With the group’s permission the facilitator these down. Encourage spontaneity. This is
may gradually introduce it more and more into useful at the beginning of a session to initiate
the programme. thoughts to be worked out more fully by the
group members.
Stages
Some exercises will be more effective at Small group discussion involves people
particular stages of the group’s development. examining an issue. Decide on an issue.
The facilitator should take advice on this matter Assign a reporter to each group. Set the time
from her/his supervisor. For example, role limit. The facilitator may choose to sit in on
play can cause great resistance to the group groups or not. Small group discussions are
process if introduced too early in a session/ useful for further exploration of identified
programme, or introduction exercises are not issues, practical decision-making, action-
necessary when a group has worked together planning or full discussion by a small number
for a long time. With group members possibly of people. Encourage people to respect one
new to the facilitator, a better technique would another and to stay with the discussion topic if
be a simple name exercise for the sake of the using this method.
facilitator rather than a more complex exercise.
Small groups give everyone a break from the
Back-up large group and help to generate discussion
In any facilitation setting, there should be and stimulate participation. There are various
a store of games and exercises which the techniques for assigning people to small
facilitator is ready to draw upon in the course groups. Working in pairs is useful for in-depth
of a session or programme, in the event that work, for personal exploration and for self-
some free/spare time arises. analysis. Ask people not to always work with
the same person, or with someone they know.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 101

Small groups generate discussion and ideas and see what is going on. Plenary session
and help develop strategies for action. Assign formation can allow the facilitator to lead into
people to small groups by calling letters, a large group discussion. This method is most
numbers, fruits or animals. Ask the same useful as a reporting back method.
letters (numbers, fruits or animals) to work
together. So if you want three groups, call As, Simulation exercises are where people
Bs and Cs (or apples, oranges and ears). All complete a task and then discuss how they did
As work together and so on. it, how they worked, what went well, what they
need to improve. An observer may be used
Fish bowl is a seating arrangement where to provide an ‘objective’ perspective on what
half the group sits in a circle and works happened in the simulation. A facilitator can
together on something. The other half sit design a specific simulation exercise, or use
outside this circle, observing the inner available pre-designed exercises. The purpose
circle. The fish bowl is useful for listening, of simulation is to have a common group
resolving conflict, discussion, observation and experience which is then analysed according to
supervision exercises. Some people might the developmental needs of the group.
find this a threatening seat formation. It
should be used carefully and with groups who A team-building exercise may be used, such
are ready for this method. as pretending to be the last five people on
earth faced with room for only two people in
Large group discussions are useful for the last spaceship heading for safety before the
holding general discussion, airing views, planet explodes. The group simulates coming
giving information, seeking proposals, to a decision about who gets to go in the ship.
agreeing plans, generating energy, building Looking at how people operate together and
trust and exploring expectations/hopes. separately when completing a team exercise
Encourage maximum participation. Make sure can be informative and fun.
everyone has an opportunity to contribute.
The facilitator should not spend too much Case study is where the facilitator brings in the
time in this formation, as attention spans are details of a real situation and asks the group
short in this setting. members to address their inquiry towards
the dilemma outlined in the case study. This
Plenary sessions are when the full group is a very useful method for getting people
hears what went on in smaller groups or when to concentrate the focus on a real situation.
information is imparted or an input given by The facilitator needs to ensure no details are
the facilitator/speaker on an issue. This gives included that would identify any person or
a sense of what is happening in the overall groups, as these form part of the confidentially
group. Each small group has a reporter and that is to be maintained at all time.
recorder who outline the conclusions of
the group within an agreed time limit. The Role play is where people act out a situation.
facilitator ensures that everyone can hear When the ‘drama’ is over, the main person
102 | Combat Poverty Agency

in the role play hears how effective s/he is supply of pens, paper and places to write
from the other ‘actors’. The role play can be are available. Enough time must be allowed,
performed again or until the main person is particularly when exploring creative writing.
satisfied with her/his behaviour. Role play
requires a level of preparation and de-briefing Skills practice is where individuals use a
afterwards, and this must be considered newly acquired skill and get feedback from
in terms of time-planning a work session. the group or from another individual on their
Role play is very effective as a technique performance. This can be done in small groups
for practising skills, trying other options, or in pairs. For example, the skill might be
exploring resistances and developing a practising saying ‘no’ to someone’s request.
broader understanding of other perspectives.
It can also be inhibiting to some people Visuals
who don’t find it ‘real’, and can stimulate Slides or photographs provide information
strong emotional responses towards other about other people or situations, or they
group members. It is essential to de-brief can record the group’s work, activities and
or de-role and to spend time in relating achievements. Visuals can be used to tell
awareness that people were ‘acting in role’ personal and group histories or may be part
and not necessarily themselves. It is useful of an evaluation.
to have people say their own names and be
recognised as themselves by everyone else Flipcharts enable the facilitator and the
in the group before moving on to the next group to chart the progress of a particular
element of the session. session. Make sure the writing is clear and
legible. Any instructions or flipchart notes for
Role reversal is where the main actor takes the group session should be prepared before
on the role of another person in a chosen the session. The facilitator should face the
scenario. This helps the actor to experience group and ensure that everyone can see. This
an event or issue from another perspective is a very popular method especially for taking
similar or different to her/his own. The feedback from group work, combining visual
exercise can broaden perspectives and and participatory methods.
deepen understanding. For example, a group
member is told to play the part of her/his Overhead projectors are useful for large
mother and to tell another actor s/he will not groups (over 15) for giving information to
be able to visit on Christmas Day. Thus, the groups and in a lecture/large seminar setting.
member gets the opportunity to act out being The equipment should be checked before the
her/his mother. session and the facilitator should be familiar
with its operation.
Written exercises, when used, pre-suppose a
solid knowledge of the group’s literacy level. Powerpoint is another commonly used
If using handouts, the facilitator must make visual tool. It is useful for giving information
sure that there are enough and that a plentiful to groups and in a lecture/ large seminar
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 103

setting. Ensure you are familiar with the Quilts are collective or individual visual
technology and also that you have a back-up representations of events, feelings or stories
prepared, just in case! made up from materials, sewing stitches and
sometimes patches of cloth. Groups can come
Videos and films stimulate, inform and together to create a quilt using the time to
entertain. For group work, they should not discuss, analyse and share experiences while
be too long. Anything over thirty minutes being creative and active.
will challenge concentration. Structured
discussion is required afterwards. Poems/songs/stories can be fun, creative
and energising. Encourage everyone to write
Leaflets or information sheets are useful for one of the above, either by her/himself or
dissemination of information to those who in groups. These methods can be used for
wish to keep such information in a permanent evaluation or for exploring hopes and dreams,
format. Material may be read through and the or for creative expression.
contents discussed.
Mime/dance/movement can be introduced
Drawing can be good fun. It releases to groups in short exercises, such as body
creativity and allows people to express sculpture (where members adopt a pose to
themselves in a way other than through express a feeling or attitude). Try exercise
words. Ask people to describe their drawings routines to music. These methods shift the
to other group members. Use this to explore energy within a group and can be useful in
hopes, expectations, fears, present situation, breaking down barriers and boundaries that
fantasies and evaluation. limit the group’s cohesion or development.

Collages made out of magazines and A number of movement programmes are


newspapers, which represent members’ available where people use music and
images of themselves, or expectations, or movement to explore particular features or
fears, can facilitate personal and group
aspects of themselves. This can be quite
exploration or evaluation.
specialised and in-depth, or can be taken
at a more introductory level as a means of
Graffiti boards are blank sheets of paper,
card, or board on which people can write
accessing information that can be slower to
comments on group issues. These may be emerge through talking or other methods.
signed. Graffiti boards can be useful to allow
group members to express themselves in Drama and sketches are powerful tools of
a concise way. They can use cartoons or learning, change and expression. Within all
drawings or words which when brought back group settings, drama and sketches can be
into the larger group can generate discussion. used to explore and then express any insights
or new understandings reached.
104 | Combat Poverty Agency

Using creative techniques requires a level of


skill and knowledge in a facilitator in order
to be able to be confident about introducing
the method. Nevertheless, this confidence
can be developed and most people are able
to be open to new approaches, if introduced
adequately and appropriately. Symbols,
depictions and indicative drawings are all
very useful in stimulating conversation and
dialogue while allowing for access to the
broad range of reactions and responses.

Observation by group members entails group


members giving feedback on observations. It
is often used with other methods such as role
play, simulation, and skills practice. Members
must be clear that this is not an opportunity
to denigrate or criticise. Observers must
know what to look for and in the feedback,
say what the person did, what they did not do,
and discuss their overall impression.

Spotlight on the facilitator


Explore the following and share your findings
with your supervisor:

When planning your next session choose one


of the above methods which you have not
previously used.

• How effective was it?


• How did you feel about using it?
• Would you use this method again?
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 105

Chapter Twelve
Exercises: Selection and Samples
Topics discussed in this chapter: • Choose an exercise with which group
• Criteria for selecting exercises members will feel comfortable.
• Exercises for different situations • Don’t use an exercise unless it has already
been tried out on colleagues or friends.
• Spotlight on the facilitator
• Make sure the exercise relates clearly to
the topic at hand.
While some people freeze when a facilitator
says, ‘let’s do a brief energiser exercise’, • Where appropriate, explain beforehand why
others have no problem and get involved. a particular exercise is being used. Allow
Between these two reactions lies the key people to opt out if they wish.
to the advantages and disadvantages of • Consider people’s abilities to do an
including games and exercises in group work. exercise (pregnancy, weight, mobility,
dexterity, and so on). Do not assume that
Games provide an opportunity to relax, to people cannot do an exercise – some
move from one activity to another, or to get to people like to be challenged.
know co-members in a different way. They can • Develop a wide repertoire of exercises.
also help break down barriers and produce • Create some exercises of your own from
a common reference point for all members. your experience and knowledge of what is
Some people resist the word game, as they needed.
feel it indicates that the exercise is silly/ • If a chosen exercise is not working,
childish and stimulates inhibitions in group abandon it. Non-participation, slow or
members. Throughout this chapter, ‘exercise’ sluggish involvement, negative comments
is used instead to promote the continued use or an uncomfortable atmosphere are
of these techniques and methods to generate indicators that a game is not working.
involvement, participation, inclusion and • Some exercises are competitive – there
achieving the task of the group. will be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. (If using this
type of game, stress the fun and enjoyment
Members may resist the group facilitator of it and underplay the importance of
because they dislike the exercises, think they competition. Do this by rewarding the
are pointless and silly, and are a diversion ‘losers’ in some way.)
from the real work. This chapter gives the
facilitator concrete pointers on the best ways Name exercises – possible options
to introduce and apply exercises.
These exercises are used at the beginning
of a session to allow people to learn each
Criteria for selecting exercises other’s names and a little about each other.
When choosing suitable exercises, the Unless otherwise stated, it is best to form a
facilitator should consider the following issues: large circle to run these exercises:

• Is this the group’s first meeting with each • Everybody sits in a circle. The facilitator
other or with the facilitator? selects an object (pen, ball, book, sweet).
106 | Combat Poverty Agency

She says her name: ‘I’m Joan’ Then she once. Then the first person says her/his
passes the object to the next person who name plus the name of the person to
says: ‘I got the pen from Joan and my name whom the ball/cushion is being thrown.
is Michael.’ Michael passes the pen to the Continue until people have a good grasp of
next person and s/he says: ‘I got the pen the names. Check this with the group after
from Michael, who got it from Joan and my two to three minutes. People are not ‘out’
name is Betty.’ And so on. The last person if they don’t get the name of the person
must remember all the names. With more they’re throwing to. The person fills in her/
than fifteen people this might become his correct name and the game continues.
pressurising and too difficult. Perhaps the
facilitator might organise to be the last • Stand in a circle. Everybody says her/his
person and thus, take the pressure. name once or twice in a round. One person
calls out a name and moves to the place
• Each member chooses a positive adjective where that person is standing. This second
which describes her/himself in some way person immediately says another name
and which starts with the same letter and moves into that person’s space. S/he
as his/her name, for example Positive moves on, calling out a fourth name and so
Patricia. Positive Patricia introduces on.
herself. The person next to her says: ‘This
is Positive Patricia, and I’m Marvellous ‘Getting to know people’ exercises
Mary’. And so on around the group. These exercises are used to help group
members to get to know each other:
• Each person takes an animal whose name
begins with the same letter as his or her • Write a list of five to ten items on a
name. First person says: ‘I’m Monkey flipchart (favourite food or tv programme,
Maurice.’ The second person says: ‘This song, holiday). Ask each person to write
is Monkey Maurice, and I’m Penguin Pat.’ down this list. Alternatively, have a
This continues around the group. handout of the list for each member. Ask
them to find three people in the group who
• Ask members to name themselves and can ‘sign their autograph’ to each item.
give a little information about her/his People have to ask each other whether a
name. Why was s/he called by that name? particular item applies to them or not. If
After whom is s/he called? Does s/he have it applies they can autograph the item, if
a nickname? Does s/he like her/his name not they must move on to the next person.
or not? Is there any name s/he would like Encourage people to move on to another
to be called? person once they get a signature. The
search for signatures through talking to
• Have a cushion or ball to throw to group each person in the group is the object of
members. Everybody says her/his name the exercise.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 107

• Make sure there are sufficient crayons, Icebreaker exercises


pens, markers and paper for everyone. These exercises are used to encourage people
Ask participants to draw their favourite to begin talking to each other and to begin
activity/hobby. Each person describes her/ the work of the group. They may also be used
his activity/hobby to the group, explaining to re-start a group after a lunch break or if
what s/he gets from it and how long s/he the facilitator senses that the group needs to
has been involved. If everyone agrees, the break from its current activity for a moment.
posters can be pinned up around the room.
• Ask each person to tell the group how s/he
• Provide blank cards of various sizes, is feeling at that moment, or since the last
as well as crayons and markers. Ask time s/he was in the group, or about being
each person to make a name badge for in the group.
her/himself, with his/her name and a
cartoon or image to express a positive • Ask each person to think of the colour that
characteristic s/he has. When ready, each would best describe her/his feelings at the
says her/his name and describes her/his moment, and explain why.
badge and why s/he chose the colours and
symbols used. Get her/him to pin this on
• Get participants to describe themselves in
for the duration of the session.
terms of a weather forecast and to explain
why they would be that type of weather.
• Prepare a handout for each person, listing
questions which are to be put to everyone
• Ask people to relate a positive event they
else in the group. If there is a large group
have witnessed or have been part of since
(over twelve), have people ask four or five
the last session. Variations on this could
people only. Alternatively, make a list of
be:
questions on the flipchart or overhead
projector or blackboard. These questions – ‘Something I’m proud of since . . .’
should elicit information from people – ‘A decision I’ve taken in my life . . .’
without being too personal:
– ‘What tv programme do you hate?’ • Stand in a circle. When the facilitator calls
– ‘What film do you like best?’ out a body part, each person must find a
– ‘What is your favourite food?’ partner to touch that body part with her/his
– ‘Where did you go on your last holiday?’ own. For example, knees, elbows, heads,
Encourage people to identify and express shoulders, backs, fingers, and so on. Each
their differences/similarities with other member may have an opportunity to call
people and to say if anything surprises a part so that everyone takes a turn at
them. getting people to touch.
108 | Combat Poverty Agency

• Move furniture out of the way and get will move out of their seats, and in the
everyone to walk around the room, slowly confusion she can sit down in someone’s
at first. The facilitator calls ‘faster’ and space. For example: ‘Anyone who drank
members respond. The call goes out again, tea at breakfast, move’, or ‘Anyone who
‘faster’, and eventually, the group is running. is wearing red/blue/green socks, move’,
Slow down the movement by calling out, or ‘Anyone who has curly hair, move.’
‘slower’. Eventually, the group is in slow Whoever is left standing, chooses another
motion. (This is good to warm people up.) feature and tries to get a seat.

• Work in pairs, one leading and the • Musical chairs


other mirroring every movement, facial Use a radio or tape machine or create a
expression, or action of the leader. After a rhythm by clapping hands or beating a
few minutes exchange roles. No talking is surface. Everybody sits in a row. When
allowed but laughter is acceptable. the music/rhythm is played, everyone
stands up and moves. The music stops
Energiser exercises and people try to get a seat. In this version
These exercises can be interspersed only the chair is removed. Eventually all
throughout a session or used as warm-ups. group members have to seat themselves
Ideally, they increase or change energy and somehow on the remaining chair.
focus attention on a topic. They also provide
fun and give members a rest from other work. • Shake out
The group stands in a circle. The first
• Fruit salad person stretches/dances/jumps and
The object is to get a seat for the person everyone repeats this movement. (Choose
who is standing. Everyone sits on a chair the movement to match the energy
in a circle, except the facilitator. S/he then you wish to create.) The second person
designates participants as either apples chooses a movement and so on, until
or bananas. S/he calls ‘apple’ and all the everyone has selected a movement and
apples move. Similarly when s/he calls everyone else has repeated it.
‘banana’, all the bananas move. When she
calls ‘fruit salad’, everyone moves. The • Chain massage
person left ‘seat-less’ calls the fruit the Participants are asked to stand one behind
next time to reclaim a seat. If the group is another and form a circle, facing the back
big, take three types of fruit. of the person on their right. They will need
to stand close to each other so that they
can massage the shoulders and back of
• Cornflakes for breakfast
the person next to them. Encourage people
Everyone sits on a chair in a circle, except
to relax and to think about the person they
the facilitator. The facilitator calls out
are massaging. This can be done in pairs
various common features so that people
with the couple swapping roles.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 109

• Word puzzle choosing to call the instructions, or they


The facilitator says s/he will go on a can begin calling the instructions to those
picnic and bring something with her/him. remaining in the original line.
Participants suggest other items for the
picnic and the facilitator says whether they • Islands
can be brought or not. The determining Clearing a space in the centre of the room,
factor is a rule the facilitator knows but put three or four cushions or sheets of
others must work out. It could be that only paper on the floor. Give each a name:
items that begin with the first letter of the spring, summer, autumn, winter. These
facilitator’s name are acceptable or only places are designated ‘safe islands’ to
vegetarian items can be brought or that it which people can run for to when they hear
is a fruit only picnic. Choose a rule that will the instructions. Participants must not
be easy enough to figure out. leave a foot, heel or toe on the floor as the
waters are shark infested. The facilitator
• Word magic calls out options for each of the islands
Two people facilitate this exercise: one under various headings and people move
is a magician, the other a colleague. The to the island that represents their choice
colleague exits and participants pick an as quickly a possible. For example: foods,
item in the room which the magician t.v. programmes, types of toothpaste,
promises the colleague will know when birthdays, position in the family, holiday
s/he comes in. The colleague returns and destinations. For example: ‘All those who
the magician lists possible items. The clue like Coronation Street, go to spring island.’
for the colleague is that the chosen item is
one mentioned immediately after an object • Follow the leader
with an agreed adjective. For example, Everybody, except one person, sits in a
if the agreed adjective is ‘small’ the circle on chairs. The person without the
colleague knows the item chosen by the chair wants to get one and does this by
group is the one following the description walking around the outside of the circle,
of something as ‘small’. The group has to making some action or noise. To get the
decide how the pair work. others to leave their seats, s/he taps
some or all of them on the shoulder and
• In the river, on the bank they follow her, walking outside the circle
Participants stand in a straight line. The copying the action or noise the facilitator
facilitator calls two correct instructions: ‘In makes. When the facilitator takes a seat,
the river’ (everybody stays in position) and all the others scramble into the circle to
‘On the bank’ (everybody moves forward reclaim a chair for themselves. The person
one step). To confuse things, the facilitator without a seat then repeats the walking
says ‘On the river’ and ‘In the bank’. People outside the circle, making a different action
who move incorrectly are out. ‘Out’ people or noise.
then form a second line with one of them
110 | Combat Poverty Agency

Awareness exercises discuss what it was like having to speak


Techniques and exercises to encourage simultaneously, and what it was like not to
people to take responsibility for how much be listened to. Feed back this discussion to
they speak within a group are useful. the large group. Discuss strategies people
use to keep talking and to avoid listening.
• Some people are asked to be silent while
others are asked to speak. • Make a story
Sitting in a circle, a story is made – one
sentence at a time. Each person repeats
• An object (ball, pen, stick) is held by the
the sentences of those before her/him and
speaker and everyone must listen to the
adds one more. For a change, get people to
speaker who holds the object. The object
say more than one sentence. This exercise
must be passed to the person who wishes
is most effective in small groups.
to speak next. No-one may speak without
being in possession of this object.
• Drawing a picture
Supply pens and paper to the group.
• Each person is given an agreed number of Work in pairs, with one person calling
counters. Members ‘spend’ their counters instructions to the other and then
whenever they contribute to the discussion. switching roles. Alternatively, everyone
No counters left means no more can draw while the facilitator instructs.
speaking. The facilitator might say: ‘Choose a design,
such as a circle, two inches in diameter
Listening exercises with a diamond shape in the centre. Place
• Introductions your pen in the centre of the page. Draw a
The group is divided into pairs. People are two-inch circle. Directly underneath your
asked to work with someone they do not original starting point, draw a 45- degree
know. One person in each pair introduces angle line to a point a quarter way around
her/himself (name, origin, hopes for the circle. From here make a similar line
the group, why they joined the group). to the original starting point’, and so on.
They switch roles. The other person now Discuss the exercise in terms of listening
does the same. Back in the larger group, and communicating. See what people come
partners introduce each other. The person up with and applaud the variations.
being introduced can help by adding in any
relevant information. Touch exercises
• Hands recognition
• Babble-babble Divide the group into two, A and B. One
Working in pairs, both partners speak half, A, stands in a circle facing outwards.
simultaneously on a theme given by the The other people, B, remove rings and
facilitator, such as ‘everything you’ve done other identifying jewellery and move
since getting up this morning.’ The pairs around the circle. Group A lets each person
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 111

examine and touch hands, with the idea • Pass the person
of learning to know each pair of hands. One group member volunteers to be
Once group, A, have learned the hands passed around the group. Stand close
of the people in B, they close their eyes together. The volunteer stands in the
and those in B again give their hands to A middle, closes her/his eyes and falls into
for recognition by touch only. If someone the arms of whoever is behind her/him.
correctly names the owner of a pair of The volunteer is then gently passed around
hands, the owner identifies her/himself. the group from hands to hands. Discuss
If this guess is incorrect the other person later the level of trust needed to do this
says nothing. Continue around until all of and the difficulties, fears or feelings that
B have presented their hands to A. Repeat, arise when it is being done.
reversing the positions.
• Fall back
• Knots In pairs, people choose to be the catcher
Standing in a circle, participants move or the faller. The catcher stands behind
closer to one another. With closed eyes, the faller and holds the faller when s/he
members reach forward their right hand allows her/himself to fall back. The faller
and catch someone else’s hand. Keeping shuts her/his eyes and signals when s/he
their eyes closed, they then reach forward is ready to fall. Discuss the trust needed to
their left hand and catch another. When do this. Focus on fears, inhibitions, or any
everyone opens their eyes they will see other feelings people noticed.
themselves in a tightly caught knot. Now,
they must untangle themselves to form an Verbal exercises
unbroken circle of people holding hands, • What I’ll need, what I’ll give
without breaking the circle. This game is Ask each person to say what s/he needs
useful for team building. from members so that s/he will work
well. Participants then say what they will
• Blind walk give to the group to enable people to work
Blindfold everyone (with scarves or pieces well together. If possible, record these
of material), except the facilitator. S/he statements and encourage members to act
leads the group along a path through the on them throughout the session.
room and gives the person next to her/
him instructions on how to move or avoid • Life stories
obstacles. This information is passed along People can be encouraged to tell a story
the line. Change the leader. Alternatively, about their lives using one of the following
work in pairs with one person blindfolded formats. These exercises can take quite
and the other leading, giving accurate a long time, so allow sufficient time for
instructions around a set of obstacles. everybody to share her/his story:
Swap roles.
112 | Combat Poverty Agency

– Lifelines. Each person draws a line positive about herself and then throws
representing her/his life on a large sheet the wool to another member, saying
of paper, marking in various important something positive about that person. The
events. The facilitator could also ask second person wraps the wool around a
participants to recall specific events. Each finger, says something about her/himself,
person then shares her/his lifeline with the throws the wool to another person and
full group. says something about that person.
– Tree of life. Participants draw a tree Continue around the group until everyone
on a large sheet of paper. The roots has had a turn. To unravel the web the
represent family of origin, where they last speaker throws the wool back to the
were reared, and some family details. person who threw it to her, repeating the
The trunk represents their current lives positive statements this person made
– people, work, hobbies. The branches about her. And so on back to the facilitator.
represent their supports, the leaves are for
successes and achievements and the buds • Appreciations
are for future hopes. Participants spend Sit in a circle. Ask each member to give an
time drawing their tree and filling in the expression of appreciation to the person
appropriate details. Drawings are shared on her/his right. Name the starting place
later in the full group. and continue around until everyone has
– Past, present, future. Participants draw received an appreciation from the person
aspects of their past, present and future next to her/him.
(symbols, cartoons, colours, whatever
visual representation feels right). When • Honest sentence completion cards
everyone is ready, each participant shares Make a set of cards with a sentence on
the drawings with the whole group. each one. For example:
– One thing about me. Participants write ‘When I am older I will . . .’
down one thing about themselves that no ‘My favourite music is . . .’
one else in the group knows. All pieces ‘I’m good at . . .’
of paper are placed in a container in the I’d like to . . .’
centre of the group. One by one, each Ensure that the sentences take the needs
person picks a piece of paper, reads it and level of experience of the group into
out and the group together try to decide account. Place all the cards face down in
together to whom it refers. Once a person the centre of the circle. Each person picks
is named, the true referent identifies her/ a card and completes the sentence as
himself. honestly as possible.

• Web
Sitting in a circle, the facilitator holds a
ball of wool with the open end wrapped
around a finger. S/he says something
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 113

Co-operation exercises Closing exercises


These games can promote discussion on These are used to bring a session to a close,
how well the group works together, what to acknowledge what has been achieved
communication is like, who listened to and to enable the group to say goodbye on a
whom, who tries to lead, the feelings people positive note.
have during the exercise, and how a group
feels towards a facilitator. Achieving a task, • Rounds of appreciation
no matter how small, builds trust and Participants receive positive feedback on
communication within a group and permits their contribution to the group process
discussion on trust and communication levels from group members. These appreciations
in the group. may be written in a notebook or written on
a sheet of paper for each member, or they
• Thirty-inch circle may be spoken in a group circle.
Draw a big circle (about 30 inches) on
the floor. The group must devise ways for • Unwrapping a present
everyone to stand inside it (suitable for Buy sweets (at least three per person) and
groups of up to twelve or fourteen). around each sweet wrap a message. Place
all sweets in the centre and ask someone
• Tower building to begin. The person unwraps the sweet,
Give the group a sheet of A4 paper, a pair reads the message and gives the sweet to
of scissors, a ruler, a pencil, a cassette and the person the message most applies to.
two 1-inch-long pieces of cellotape. The The receiver then picks another sweet and
group must build a 12-inch paper column gives it to the person s/he feels fits the
on which the cassette can be balanced for message on that sweet. Keep going until
one minute. all sweets are gone.

• Broken squares • Group affirmation


Distribute various pieces of card which Engage the group members in making up
actually make up five identical squares. a song/poem/sketch/dance. Use a popular
Ask members to make five squares as a tune. The dance or poem should express
group without talking. They can share the what has happened for them in the group.
pieces of card but cannot take pieces held They then perform for each other.
by others.
• Advertisements
In small groups (or the entire group,
depending on size), draw up an
advertisement to encourage others to
do the course, join the group, or take
part in the programme. This could be a
newspaper, radio or tv commercial which
114 | Combat Poverty Agency

should highlight the benefits of being • Reflections


in the group. It can be hung up in the In turn, each group member says what the
workroom or acted out. group has meant to her/him.

• I’m taking with me • Leaving the group


Participants state one thing that they are Stand in a circle with eyes closed and
taking with them from the group. This focus on the words of the facilitator. The
could be a friendship, a new skill, or an facilitator takes members back through
insight. the life of the group, highlighting special
events or stages. When s/he reaches the
• General comment present, members are asked to focus
On big sheets of paper, write open-ended on their feelings, now that the closing
sentences such as: moment has come. The facilitator moves
‘What I gained from this group is . . .’ to the future and asks how the group
‘What I most enjoyed in this group is . . .’ experience will influence their lives in
‘What I would change in this group is . . .’ the days and weeks ahead. S/he asks
There will be one sentence per sheet. the group to turn around slowly and face
Members move around the sheets and outwards. They are asked to leave behind
finish the sentences. anything that belongs only to the group
when they feel ready to walk away from the
Group hope exercises group towards the rest of their evening or
day.
• Wish for the group, wish for myself
Standing in a circle with arms around each
other, everybody in the group expresses
a wish for her/himself and a wish for the Spotlight on the facilitator
group.
Examine your response to certain exercises
• Group hug and share your findings with your supervisor.
Standing in a circle, arms around • Which are your favourites?
each other, members hug the group. • Why?
Alternatively, the group breaks the circle • Which do you dislike using?
to fold in on itself like a swissroll. Then in • Why?
this tight circle they hug each other. This
exercise will be more appropriate for some (These exercises are variations of a widely
groups than others, depending on their available number of games.)
experiences together and the work they
have completed.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 115

Chapter Thirteen
Skills Enhancement Programme Record
These sheets can be used to record your personal skills enhancement programme, your
identified areas for improvement and your progress on these. You could also copy these pages
and use them to refresh your skills on a regular basis.

Who might you choose to work with you to support your development? ....................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................

What skills, experience and qualities do you want them to have?................................................


...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................

Agreed timeframe with the identified person: ..............................................................................


Number of sessions: ........................................................................................................................
Frequency of sessions: .....................................................................................................................
Duration of session: . ........................................................................................................................

Action plan for your development:


(Use the Spotlight on the facilitator sections throughout the book to identify which skills you
particularly want to improve and develop.)
Skills:.................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
Group settings – membership of the groups:...................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
Experiences of different types of session to facilitate:.....................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
Where might you find opportunities to practise your skills?...........................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
116 | Combat Poverty Agency

Review your progress on each session:


What did you do well?........................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
What would you change?...................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
Why do you think facilitation is a useful tool for your work?...........................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
What values and principles underpin your work?............................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
What do you see as the role of a facilitator? ...................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
How can a facilitator contribute to greater equality? ......................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
When do you think you should stop working with a particular group? . .........................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
What are the situations that you find difficult to stay in? Why? ......................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
How can your work be improved? ...................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
What steps can you take to undergo these improvements?.............................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
What are the challenges to you?.......................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
What improvements do you notice in your work?.............................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 117

Feedback from the group?................................................................................................................


...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................

Reflections on the experience:........................................................................................................


...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................

Comments and material that emerged during the supervision session:.....................................


...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................

Next targets:.....................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
...........................................................................................................................................................
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 119

Chapter Fourteen
Useful Reading and Contacts
The following books and resource packs are Hope, Anne & Timmel, Sue, 2000 second
all useful for different types of situations edition. Training for transformation. A
where you might use your facilitation and Handbook for Community Workers (Vols 1-3).
group work skills. Many of the issues raised Mambo Press, Gweru.
in the books are relevant to all situations,
even if one particular group is being Johnson, David and Johnson, Frank. sixth
described. edition. Joining Together. Group Theory and
Group Skills. London.
Useful reading/written materials – general
group work and facilitation skills books: Kemp, Tim & Taylor Alan, 1990. The Groupwork
Pack. A Groupwork Approach to Problem-Solving
AONTAS, 1991. Women’s Education Group. and Change. Longman, Harlow.
From the Personal to the Political. Attic Press,
Dublin. Kretzmann, John and McKnight John. 1993.
Building Communities from the Inside Out. A Path
Algar, Jill, 1990. Better Meetings. Open Toward Finding and Mobilizing A Community’s
University, Milton Keynes. Assets. The Asset Based Community
Development Institute. Evanston. Illinois.
Barr, Alan et al., 1998. Community
Development Evaluation Skills. Scottish Murray, Barbara, Faughnan, Pauline and
Community Development Centre. Glasgow. Redmond, David, 1994. Undertaking an
Evaluation. Sociological Association of Ireland,
Benson, Jarlath, 1987. Working More Maynooth.
Creatively with Groups. Tavistock Publications,
London. Whyld, Janie, 1992. Equal Opportunities in
Group Work and Training. Whyld Publishing
Brandes, Donna & Phillips, Howard, 1984. Co-Op, UK.
Gamester’s Handbook No. 1 & 2. Hutchinson,
London. Resource packs for specific themes:
Browne, Jacqui, & Browne, Sharon &
Butler, Sandra & Wintra, Claire, 1991. Fitzgerald, Helen with O’ Duffy, Molly, 2000.
Feminist Group Work. Sage Publications, Quick Guide to Handouts of Progress Through
(Gender and Psychology Series), London. Learning Course and Making Progress Together.
People with Disabilities Ireland, Dublin.
Clarke, Jane, 1996. Guide to self Evaluation.
Combat Poverty Agency. Dublin. Caherty, Therese, 1994. Making Connections.
Women Developing Links for Change.
Houston, Graham, 1993. Teambuilding. The Banúlacht Handbook for Community Trainers.
Industrial Society. London. Banúlacht, Dublin.
120 | Combat Poverty Agency

One Family, 1999. Moving On. A Resource National Youth Council of Ireland, 2004. Sugar
Manual for Working with Single Parents. One and Spice A Resource Book for Working with
Family, Cherish House Dublin. Young Women. second edition. NYCI. Dublin.

Combat Poverty Agency, 2001. An Anti-Poverty Contacts for facilitation, training and
Training Resource for Local Government. development:
Combat Poverty Agency, Dublin. Meitheal Development Ltd
35 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2
Community Women’s Education Initiatives, Tel: (01) 6719803
1998. Truslog na mBan. Personal and Social info@meitheal.ie
Awareness. A Training Manual for Working
Class Women. Cork. Adult and Community Education Department
National University of Ireland
Coughlan, Susan, 1995. Far Out! The Why, Maynooth, Co, Kildare
What and How of Outdoor Education. NYCI, Tel: (01) 708 3757
Dublin. Fax: (01) 708 4687
Email: adcomed.centre@may.ie
Gallagher, Fiona, 2000. Steps to Effective www.may.ie/academic
Participation at Local Level. Clondalkin
Women’s Network Ltd., Dublin CAFE (Creative Activity for Everyone)
10/11 South Earl Street, Dublin 8
Jenkins Jon C & Jenkins Maureen R, 1997. Tel: (01) 4736600
The Social Process Triangles. Groningen, The Fax: (01) 4736599
Netherlands. Email: cafe@connect.ie

LOT, 1999. Lesbian Information and Resource Combat Poverty Agency


Pack. A Learning and Development Tool Bridgewater Centre,
Towards Inclusion. LOT, Dublin. Conyngham Road,
Islandbridge, Dublin 8
Healy, Grainne, 1994. Mothers and Tel: (01) 6706746
Breadwinners. Parents Alone Resource Fax: (01) 6706760
Centre, Dublin. Email: info@cpa.ie
www.combatpoverty.ie
Women’s Aid, 1999. Violence Against Women in
Intimate Relationships. Women’s Aid, Dublin.

Taylor, Maeve, 2004. Economic Literacy. A


Facilitator’s Guide to Facilitating Economic
Literacy. Banúlacht. Dublin.
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 121

Community Action Network Partners


24 Gardiner Place, Dublin 1 24 Northbrook Square,
Tel: (01) 8788005 Dublin 6
canadmin@eircom.net
Triskele
Comhairle 1A Parnell Street,
7th Floor, Hume House, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 Carrickmacross,
Tel: (01) 605 9000 Co. Monaghan
Fax: (01) 605 9099 Tel: (042) 966706
Email: comhairle@comhairle.ie
website: www.comhairle.ie Resource Centres and Libraries:
Carmichael Centre for Voluntary
Framework Organisations
Unit 1, Village Business Centre, North Brunswick Street,
Upper Patrick Street, Kilkenny Dublin 7
Tel: 056 64328 Tel: (01) 8735702
Email: frameworkpj@iol.ie Fax: (01) 8735737
website: www.carmichaelcentre.ie/
Holywell Trust
10-12 Bishop Street, Combat Poverty Agency
Derry Bridgewater Centre,
BT48 6PW, Northern Ireland Conyngham Road,
Tel: ++ 7126 1941 Islandbridge, Dublin 8
Fax: ++ 7126 9332 Tel: (01) 6706746)
Email: holywell.trust@business.ntl.com Fax: (01) 6706760
Email: info@cpa.ie
Irish National Organisation for the website: www.combatpoverty.ie
Unemployed
Araby House, Community Workers Co-operative
8 North Richmond Street, First Floor, Unit 4,
Dublin 1 Tuam Road Centre,
Tel: (01) 8560088 Galway
Fax 01 8560098 Tel: (091) 779 030
Email: inou@iol.ie Fax: (091) 779 033
www.inou.ie/ Email: info@cwc.ie
website: www.cwc.ie
122 | Combat Poverty Agency

Irish Family Planning Association Organisations that provide facilitation skills


Solomons House, training:
42A Pearse Street, Meitheal Developments Ltd.
Dublin 2 35, Exchequer Street,
Tel: (01) 474 0944 Dublin 2.
Fax: (01) 474 0945 Tel: (01) 6719803
Email post@ifpa.ie Fax: (01) 6719573
website: www.ifpa.ie Email: info@meitheal.ie

Irish National Organisation for the Triskele


Unemployed 1a Parnell Street,
Araby House, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan
8 North Richmond Street, Tel: (042) 9663706
Dublin 1 Fax: (042) 9663707
Tel: (01) 8560088 Email: triskctd@iol.ie
Fax 01 8560098
Email: inou@iol.ie LDTI (Local Development Training Institute)
website: www.inou.ie/ Summer School operating in UCD, Dublin.
LDTI
National Youth Federation 81 Upper Georges Street,
20 Dominic Street, Dublin 1 Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
Tel: (01) 8729933 Tel: (01) 2300640
Fax: (01) 8724183 Email: info@ldti.ie
Email: info@nyi.ie website: www.ldti.ie
website: www.nyf.ie Some individual trainers undertake facilitation
and group work training.
Women’s Education Research and Resource
Centre FETAC module developed by Meitheal and
University College Dublin, available from:
Belfield, Dublin 4 FETAC
East Point Business Plaza,
East Point Business Park,
Dublin 3.
Tel: (01) 8659500
Fax: (01) 8650067
Email: information@fetac.ie
website: www.fetac.ie
Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook for Group Facilitators | 123

Glossary

Facilitation: A way of working with people, Closing round: The final part of any session
facilitation enables and empowers people to when each person in a group gets a chance to
participate, discuss, decide, carry out a task participate actively in some way.
or perform an action.
Check-in: When the facilitator makes a point
Group dynamics: All groups have a dynamic of finding out how everyone in the group is
– a way in which the individuals in the group feeling.
interact and form a pattern of interaction. The
study of these patterns, in a group setting, is Confronting: Bringing out into the open and
called ‘group dynamics’. naming underlying or hidden conflicts.

Projection: Persons recognise and identify Boundaries: A boundary is ‘an invisible


a feature in someone else which they deny line’ drawn around a person when working
having themselves. with groups. Everyone within a group has
boundaries between themselves and the
Task: The action or desired end/goal of a others. This line demarcates the extent of
group, the ‘what’ of a group. the person’s involvement. It can also indicate
to the group what it can expect in terms of
Process: The way in which a group moves personal disclosure, social involvement and
towards its goal – the ‘how’ of things. work limits on the part of the facilitator in
particular.
Peer: The facilitator’s peer, that is friends,
neighbours, colleagues of the facilitator. Evaluation: An opportunity to examine the
progress of both task and process of any
Maintaining: Being aware of the individuals in group.
a group and of how the group is all together,
so as to provide support for individuals to Energisers: Short activities which help to
ensure their well-being and comfort in the raise the flagging energy levels of any group.
group.
Icebreakers: Short participatory exercises
Brainstorm: A quick listing of first thoughts which help group members to get know each
and reactions to an idea. other and to get involved actively in the group
process.
Opening round: The introductory part of any
session when each person in a group gets a Active listening: More than simply listening
chance to participate actively in some way. to someone, it is absorbing what is being
said and letting the speaker know that s/he
has been heard. It is about ensuring that the
speaker feels ‘listened to’.
124 | Combat Poverty Agency

Norms or standards: Commonly accepted


behaviour, attitudes, beliefs and values
existing within a group.

Roles: How we interact with the group in


general and with individuals in particular.

Simulation: Use of situations, real or


imaginary, to practise skills, demonstrate a
technique or show an interaction.

Group contract: An agreement made by all


members of a group; names the types of
behaviours and expectations of each other
which are acceptable for that particular
group.
It usually includes issues such as respect,
confidentiality/listening and timekeeping.
Group contracts help to maintain safety
for group members. They usually require
refinement after an initial period of time
working together.

Stuck: A term used to refer to a situation


in a group where the process or the task
is literally unable to be moved in any
direction. People can be ‘stuck’ in positions,
in an emotion, in a reaction. A facilitator in
this situation needs to find a technique or
exercise that will help people move out of the
‘stuckness’.
resources
Developing Facilitation Skills
A Handbook for Group Facilitators
Patricia Prendiville

Developing Facilitation Skills - A Handbook


for Group Facilitators is aimed at people
who are already working with groups, who

Developing Facilitation Skills


have some experience of facilitating and
who wish to develop their skills in this area
of work. The handbook outlines the theory
of facilitation and its links with group
development. It provides the reader with a
practical programme of skills development
and advises on creating realistic goals
in relation to particular areas of group
development, outlining throughout how
self-reflection and self-analysis are key to
this process.

The book is designed to be used over


a period of time by the reader who is a
trainee facilitator and keen to learn more.

A Handbook for Group Facilitators


Developing facilitation skills comes with
practice, self-awareness and an openness
to challenging ways of operating. The
questions and exercises in this publication
will act as a guide on this journey.

Combat Poverty Agency Tel: +353 (0) 1 670 6746


Bridgewater Centre Fax: +353 (0) 1 670 6760
Conyngham Road www.combatpoverty.ie
Islandbridge
Dublin 8 Price: €10