This week's article guest authored by Foresight's Fall 2017 Intern, Elizabeth Hossink.
Meetings happen everywhere, all the time. They have the capacity to be the most efficient way of collaboration, but oftentimes end up failing. We call upon facilitators to maximize the potential of meetings, but what does facilitation even mean?
According to Merriam-Webster, to facilitate is “to make easier”. In the context of meetings or group events, facilitation is the process of designing an agenda and managing the conversation to meet a group’s objectives – to make their end goal “easier” to reach. A facilitator is not the “boss” or the person who makes the final call, but a neutral figure who uses a variety of tools to encourage honest participation from everyone involved, assure the group members reach a mutual understanding, and funnel the conversation toward the desired outcome. Facilitation is indifferent to the type of objective of the meeting – it could be to understand a concept, brainstorm ideas, bring a group to a consensus, or construct an action plan – all it focuses on is achieving that goal.
In becoming more aware of the value of systems thinking and collaboration, increasingly diverse groups of stakeholders are getting together to think about and solve complex problems. Diverse opinions and perspectives can both enrich a meeting and create tensions within it, increasing the value of a strong facilitator.
Whether it is a board meeting discussing a failed event or a city council developing a strategic plan, to reach effective and efficient outcomes, one will need to employ the art of facilitation.