Echoes from Mountain and Sea:
Reflections from the 2016 IAF-Asia Conference
The 19th International Association of Facilitators (IAF) conference reached a successful conclusion on Sept 4th. The uniqueness of Hualien and the Conference theme: “From Mountain to Sea: Perceiving Systemic Change and the Transformative Role of Facilitation” attracted 244 participants from 17 countries. The five day conference was packed with 41 diverse sessions and 43 dedicated presenters; supported by the presence of 4 IAF board members (including Chair and Vice chair). This is the second time Taiwan hosted the IAF－Asia conference. The conference was engineered by volunteers: 6 core team members, 18 volunteers, 7 proposal reviewers of 6 countries. The 2016 IAF Asia Conference was a fun event jam-packed with learning opportunities, thanks to the cultural diversity of participants, the variety of facilitation skills they bring to the table to share, and the deep connections they form with each other.
IAF president Noel Tan said “At the heart of facilitation is a deep shared belief that the complex challenges that confront organisations, communities, societies and indeed our world can be solved through dialogue, trust, understanding, and created with good group process.”
So what is facilitation? What does a process facilitator provide? We will use 4 questions to introduce the What, the When, the Why and the How of facilitation (excerpted from Four Ways to Introduce Yourself and Your Work as a Facilitator by Barbara Mackay)
1. The "What" of Facilitation
Fran Rees in The Facilitator Excellence Handbook describes facilitation as “any meeting of a group of people at which a facilitator structures and manages group process to help the group meet its goal.” She adds, “It is a form of leading and communicating with the intent of achieving maximum creativity, involvement, and commitment to the task at hand.”
2. The "When" of Facilitation
When the group needs to access their needs and create plans to address the needs, such as strategic planning (dialogue on vision-current situation-challenge and action), issues to increase organization effectiveness and efficiency or muti-stake holder conversations on complicated issues (policy making ,sustainable city, etc). The role of facilitator can ensure that assumptions are surfaced and tested; help the group communicate effectively; help to achieve productive communication; help to clarify goals; help to decide on next steps; help to plan and evaluate projects; and contribute to organizational effectiveness
3. The "Why" of Facilitation
Facilitation can help overcome some of the inherent difficulties of working with groups. It will help people cooperate together. The skills that the facilitator brings will capitalize on the synergy of the group and gain support and buy-in for important efforts. It will capitalize on differences and diversity and work through factions and conflicts. Other benefits include: motivation to support the decisions made, better results than individual efforts, maximum participation, develops leaders in the organization, increases flexibility of teams and organizations, speeds up decision making that has maximum buy-in, encourages people to think and act for the overall good of the team and organization, and reduces attitudes such as, “it’s not my job” or “just tell me what to do”.
4. The "How" of Facilitation
Although each one of us has a particular gift and stance as a facilitator, there are essential and generic styles that facilitators bring to the situation, such as
equanimity and neutrality, stewardship for the group process, profound respect for the participants, courage to inquire, stay present with the group. The following are IAF Core Competencies for the Certification.
- Create collaborative client relationships
- Plan appropriate group processes
- Create and sustain a participatory environment
- Guide group to appropriate and useful outcomes
- Build and maintain professional knowledge
- Model positive professional attitude
During the conference, looking at the mountains the valleys and the sea, we found different approaches, different beliefs and different gifts. To survive in these times, we need support from each other to build strong communities and networks as we move forward. At the same time, we celebrate our diversity and our unity. This gives hope to facilitation practitioners that we can perceive the parts of the human systems we are in where we can leverage and effect actions that might lead to transformation.