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EAF Steps

Consultation tools

Purpose

Group facilitation plays a critical part in getting people to contribute to the identification of issues and the resolution of problems or generating solutions which are critical parts of all the steps in the EAF planning process. It is used in all parts of the EAF processes, such as a group of resource users, fishery and coastal managers, interests from outside the fisheries sector and environmental NGOs trying to decide upon management or policy objectives at a national workshop.

The facilitator is responsible for ensuring the group (big or small) works in a cohesive manner to reach a workable solution as quickly as possible. Improving facilitation skills will assist in the efficient and effective running of these meetings and workshops and should generate better overall outcomes.

Overview

The websites listed below all have extensive material on facilitation and how this can be increased. The appendix includes a summary synthesis of some of this information and can be used as a quick starting point.

EAF Tool Tips

Good facilitation is extremely valuable to have to get through the EAF process. It is so easy for meetings to get lost in unnecessary detail or to have individuals hijack the process for their own purposes. The facilitator should not be a subject matter expert (which is different to being a process expert) who is critical to the outcome. Subject matter experts can dominate the discussion and drive the meeting to their own solution but also they will not have enough “brain space” to think about their contribution to the subject matter, and how to keep the meeting progressing towards a conclusion.

It is often important to have a trained facilitator, who:

  • Distinguishes process from content
  • Manages the client relationship
  • Prepares thoroughly for planning
  • Uses time and space intentionally
  • Evokes participation and creativity
  • Maintains objectivity at all times
  • Reads underlying group dynamics
  • Releases blocks to the process
  • Adapts to the changing situation
  • Shares responsibility for process
  • Demonstrates professionalism
  • Shows confidence and authenticity
  • Maintains personal integrity

EAF Tool Pedigree

There are many on line descriptions of how to improve your facilitation skills but many of these are posted by companies wanting you to take their course. What is presented below is merely a subset and a Google search will generate a large number.

EAF Tool Synergy

Facilitation skills outlined here will work very well with many of the other EAF tools – e.g. brain and card storming, component trees, risk assessment etc. – many of which rely on a good facilitator running these exercises.

EAF Tool Usage

Easy

Cost

Low

These tips are all free on line. They will only require the time to read and also to practice.

EAF Tool Capacity

Low

They are designed around improving skills in individuals so no previous training is required. The most important attribute to have is the confidence and right attitude to act as a facilitator.

Background Requirements

Low

No formal knowledge is needed to start applying these skills.

Participation

Moderate

These skills can be applied to a wide group.

Time Range

Short

The material can be read and applied in a few hours.

Source of Information

Facilitation skills workbook Internet resource
Facilitation Skills Portal Internet resource
Facilitation Skills Description Internet resource
10 Tips to Boost Your Facilitation Skills Internet resource
Facilitation Tools and Techniques: Internet resource
Basic Facilitation Skills Internet resource

Appendix

Summary of Tips to Improve Facilitation Skills

Preparation

  • Ensure there is a suitable venue available, not too big or too small.
  • Materials such as a whiteboard, computer projector and paper should be available.
  • The appropriate people need to be invited.
  • In discussion with key participants, work through scenarios that may arise, and develop contingency plans. For example, is someone going to talk over everyone else? Is there a hidden agenda? Are there personality conflicts in the group? Does the facilitator need to discuss behaviour with individuals?
  • The rules of the meeting need to be established. Is the meeting to start on time if everyone is not there? How long should topics be discussed before they are taken out of the meeting? Who is taking minutes? If there is an impasse, how will it be resolved (By vote? By escalation?)

Introduction to Participants

  • The facilitator should start the meeting by stating the purpose, the process, and the expected outcome. They should cover the timeframe and the key issues to be addressed.
  • An agenda should have been developed and distributed in advance and this should be confirmed or amended.
  • Have very clear instructions and focus for each session.
  • Keep it as simple as possible.
  • Be very time conscious; don't be over ambitious about what can be achieved.

Group Interactivity

  • The facilitator should ensure as far as possible, everyone is starting with a common level of understanding. Just because a document was circulated in advance, does not mean it has been read. The meeting should start by bringing everyone up to speed.
  • The facilitator should also ensure there is no dissention about the background, or that important information has not been shared. This may require a briefing from someone at the start of the meeting.
  • Use activities to create an atmosphere that breaks down barriers between people and reduces the feeling of threat.
  • It is important the facilitator is maintaining equality in the input. Nobody should be allowed to dominate the meeting. Equally, nobody should be sitting quietly in a corner. The facilitator should be ensuring everyone has a chance to contribute. The order in which contributions are made can also influence the meeting so the facilitator should be cognisant of the pecking order and ensure ‘follow the leader’ is not the name of the game. Try to have the opinion leaders hold their views until others have been encouraged to take a stand.
  • The facilitator should test the views by posing a contrary view. If nobody disagrees, it may be because nobody is thinking it through, or is grasping the obvious solution. If the facilitator plays devil’s advocate, it can often lead to a better result.
  • Sometimes, issues that are controversial are buried. As the independent voice, the facilitator needs to drag out the issues nobody wants to talk about – the elephant in the room syndrome.
  • Alternate between small groups and plenary sessions, but don’t overdo it.
  • Build a common language.

Recording

  • Record all material on flipchart paper and stick finished sheets to the walls.
  • Unless it is a small meeting or dot points are used, the facilitator cannot do this and record.
  • Have helpers to write up discussions in detail.
  • Write up the workshop as soon as possible.

Involving others in facilitation

  • When working with larger groups, have assistant facilitators who are trained in the techniques being used and well prepared for their role.
  • Delegate roles and responsibilities.

Dealing with Frustrations and concerns

  • It is often useful, if someone is struggling to communicate a point, for the facilitator to crystallise what is being said. “If I understand what you are saying, we need to go from A to B via C. Is that right?” This will focus the person talking, as well as the meeting.
  • Be responsive to people’s concerns or frustrations when conflict arises, the facilitator can keep the views away from direct confrontation. They can elicit opinions from conflicting points of view in a rational manner and work through a resolution.
  • Give people time to relax and unwind.
  • Frustration and conflict are healthy parts of a workshop, learn how to manage them and don’t be frightened.
  • Take risks with workshops and don’t worry too much about getting it perfect. People like to talk together and share their ideas; if they have had this opportunity, the chances are they will have found the workshop worthwhile.

Summarizing

  • The facilitator needs to be able to collect the outcome as it evolves and feed it back to the group at the end of the meeting.
  • They need to state the decisions reached, and actions to follow. Ideally, as the independent party, they should prepare the minutes.
  • They also need to confirm with the participants what actions are to be taken, who is responsible, and due dates for the actions to be completed.

 
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