As facilitation has moved beyond being only a tool to becoming the way that individuals and organizations are using to create change in life and work, the world is calling for something more from facilitation and from facilitators. Increasingly, we talk about “facilitative” process – with the emphasis on results and change in human development – rather than just “facilitation” – as a business and a practice.
That was a key conclusion when we gathered in Taipei in July to look at how we have used facilitation in the past and how we may all be using facilitation in the future – in Taiwan, Asia, and the world. For our exploration, we used the “wall of wonder” or “historical scan”, one of the potent participatory tools developed and used by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) over the past three decades – ICA’s Technology of Participation.
- Facilitators are, through their own lives, demonstrating transformation all the time. Any moment, and any method, is a chance for profound learning, sharing, and personal reflection.
- We have moved from applying a concept, to exploring its application much more deeply, and we believe there are no boundaries for using facilitation in terms of disciplines, countries, cultures, or generations.
- People see the need for facilitating conflict resolution and collaborative decision-making. Citizen participation in public affairs is increasing, and facilitation competence is becoming a standard.
So, if we are moving beyond facilitation as a tool towards facilitative process as a way of life, what does that look like? We see these trends:
- Moving beyond using only ICA practices towards multi-disciplinary collaboration;
- Moving from facilitating single events to partnerships that cross sectors and functions
- Moving from “following authority” to “expressing individual views”
- Moving from “sharing sound bites” to dialogue that transforms emotions in a healthy, mature way
- Moving from “divergent voices” to “convergent voices”
- Moving away from “professional facilitation” towards a much greater public understanding and application of facilitative process.
There are, however, some challenges. We identified three concerns for facilitation as a practice and for ICA as a key promoter of facilitative process.
- Virtual facilitation is growing in terms of capacities and flexibility. While it has not replaced face-to-face consensus-building, gaps in access to the technology and the internet mean some people are being left out – both across the ICA network and the world.
- For ICA, the challenge is to find a balance between sharing facilitation and methods as widely as possible in order to support transformative change across the world, and supporting those who want to build and refine their professional skills and competencies through certifying ToP (Technology of Participation) facilitators and recognizing ToP trainers.
- While public understanding of the need for facilitation and community participation is growing, transparent and open facilitative processes may worry some politicians and political systems.
Lawrence Philbrook, director of ICA Taiwan, is a facilitator and organizational transformation consultant who has been designing processes for teams and leaders for over 20 years. The image shows the author (centre) with participants of ToP facilitation training held in conjunction with the ICA Asia Pacific regional gathering hosted by ICA India near Pune, December 2016.