International Association of Facilitators
Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal
Tables of Contents and Abstracts
Inquiries regarding the appropriateness of submissions can be directed to the Editor, Stephen Thorpe.
2011 – Contents of Issue 11:
Editorial: The Inner Practice
Community Facilitator Education:
This study describes the positive impact of training citizens as skilled community facilitators. When citizens are thrust into facilitation roles, they know they need more practice and skill development. A needs assessment by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension faculty confirmed this and led, in 1999, to Extension faculty designing a program and training citizens using a Foundational Facilitation Competency model. Pre-assessment training data showed that participants generally overestimated personal skill and knowledge before training. Post-training quantitative data from 41 training participants combined with qualitative data collected from 17 research subjects demonstrated that all participants strengthened group facilitation skills and behaviors needed to make meetings more effective and efficient. Strengthened skills led to positive impacts at the personal, group and community level. This study’s results are useful for individuals who are interested in opportunities for building community capacity. Skill enhancement, role modeling opportunities and increased confidence, for both the community facilitator and the groups they are in, are impacts of community facilitator training.
Keywords: facilitation training; facilitator competencies, capacity, citizen, education, training
Passing the Baton:
A recurring dilemma for organizational clients who use external facilitators is sustaining the positive results of an intervention after the facilitator leaves. His/her departure can raise the specter of the organization’s capacity to incorporate new perspectives and approaches into the culture. At another level, the transition also poses the problem of organizational accountability; the intervention needs an internal champion or champions to carry the changes forward. In this paper we present empirical evidence about this transition. Our analysis is drawn from first hand experiences with team-based quality improvement interventions in primary care out-patient medical offices. Using qualitative data from the ULTRA (Using Learning Teams for Reflective Adaptation) (Using Learning Teams for Reflective Adaptation) study, we show that the successful interventions that hold promise for sustaining positive change share three characteristics: (a) receptiveness to facilitator coaching; (b) an organizational culture with stable, supportive (but not perfect) leadership, and (c) a recognition that effort must be made collectively to engage in sustaining change. We show how client teams can become effective and empowered agents with skills for identifying and resolving organizational problems and extending quality improvement efforts. Based on our work we describe the key ingredients of apprentice facilitation, supportive leadership, and collective agreement. Key words: facilitator coaching; internal facilitator; organizational change; sustaining motivation to change; team building; quality improvement intervention; primary care.
The Use of Storytelling in the Facilitation of Online Groups
Eighteen facilitators from the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) came together to collectively research the effectiveness of storytelling in the facilitation of online groups. The group undertook a Co-operative Inquiry (Heron, 1996) investigating storytelling across a variety of online media including: email, audio, telephone, video and web conferencing, instant messaging, chat, blogging and in the 3-D interactive world of Second Life™. The research revealed a number of ways that story can be a useful means for aiding groups in identity creation, sharing perspectives on conflict, the recall of significant learning situations, and in articulating personal learning edges. The inquiry further confirmed that software tool selection was critical for ensuring full participation and buy-in to online group decisions, while the 3-D, avatar-based medium of Second Life™ assisted with emotional connections between participants and provided a strong sense of place online.
Keywords: online facilitation, online groups, storytelling, co-operative inquiry, virtual teams, computer supported cooperative work.
Collaborating for a Sustainable Water Future:
This paper describes the planning and implementation of a national sustainable water resources collaboration effort that began in 2008 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps led the initiative as facilitator, coordinator, integrator and convener in order to better articulate the roles and align the objectives across water agencies, stakeholders, interests, sectors, and levels of government. It encompassed facilitated conferences (3 regional and 1 national), interviews of state and Federal agency representatives, and assessments of existing water plans. The approximately 350 conference attendees represented stakeholders from 40 states, 17 Federal agencies, 4 tribes, 5 universities, 12 interstate organizations, 22 non-government entities, and members of the House of Representatives. At the conferences, teams of facilitators used a variety of techniques to gather and prioritize information concerning key water resources challenges, best practices, roles and responsibilities, and opportunities to improve dialogue and collaboration to promote a sustainable water future. Conference participants were asked to complete a written evaluation indicating importance and satisfaction on various elements that included rating the small group facilitated discussions. Facilitators who work with both small and large groups to seek collaboration amidst strong and diverse opinions should find this topic of interest.
Keywords: case study, collaboration, evaluation, facilitation, fish bowl, importance, interviews, nominal group technique, outcomes, satisfaction, water planning, worksheet.
Classics for Facilitators:
Fairy tales and script drama analysis.
The Handbook for Working with Difficult Groups:
2010 – Contents of Issue 10:
'In the moment':
Facilitators frequently act 'in the moment' – deciding if, when and how to intervene into group process discussions. This paper offers a unique look at how facilitators impacted eleven primary care teams engaged in a 12-week quality improvement (QI) process. Participating in a federally funded QI trial, primary care practices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania formed practice-based teams comprised of physicians, nurses, administrative staff, and patients. External facilitators met with each team to help them identify and implement changes aimed at improving the organization, work relationships, office functions, and patient care. Audio-recordings of the meetings and descriptive field notes were collected. These qualitative data provided information on how facilitators acted 'in the moment' and how their interventions impacted group processes over time. Our findings reveal that facilitators impacted groups in multiple ways throughout the QI process, rather than through a linear progression of stages or events. We present five case examples that show what acting ‘in the moment’ looked like during the QI meetings and how these facilitator actions / interventions impacted the primary care teams. These accounts provide practical lessons learned and insights into effective facilitation that may encourage others in their own facilitation work and offer beneficial strategies to facilitators in other contexts.
Keywords: facilitator impact, group development, quality improvement, primary care
Facilitating Problem Solving:
Numerous facilitative procedures have been developed and used by facilitators to assist groups with solving problems and making decisions. Working with a new student services work group at a university in Denver, Colorado, USA, I employed the devil’s advocacy approach, which programs conflict into a problem-solving procedure through alternate recommendations and critiques of possible solutions by two subgroups. Use of the procedure helped group members to develop a deeper understanding of an important problem—motivating the academic administration and faculty to set and publish accurate course rotations in a timely fashion—and to articulate a series of actions to solve it. This facilitation case study revealed several enabling and inhibitive facilitator behaviors that further the understanding of how this technique can be most effectively used. An agenda for research and application of the devil’s advocacy technique is provided in this paper to stimulate further use of it as a group problem-solving procedure.
Keywords: facilitator impact, group development, quality improvement, primary care
The Negotiated Performance Appraisal Model:
Classics for Group Facilitators:
Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited
The purpose of this review was to examine published research on small-group development done in the last ten years that would constitute an empirical test of Tuckman's (1965) hypothesis that groups go through the stages of "forming," "storming," "norming," and "performing." Of the twenty-two studies reviewed, only one set out to directly test this hypothesis, although many of the others could be related to it. Following a review of these studies, a fifth stage, "adjourning," was added to the hypothesis, and more empirical work was recommended.
Facilitating Multicultural Groups:
2008 – Contents of Issue 9:
The Theories and Practices of Facilitator Educators:
The study described in this paper explored the theories and practices facilitator educators use to help novice facilitators to develop their skills, knowledge, and experience. Data were collected in 2005 and 2006 through semi-structured interviews with facilitator educators, participant observation of facilitation training courses, and qualitative surveys of facilitator training course graduates. The conclusions for the six primary research questions used in the study are presented and the dimensions of facilitator education model was shown to be effective in describing the important elements of a facilitation training program. Two signposts that will demonstrate a growing maturity of the facilitation field in the future will be a reduced presence of stand-alone technical facilitator education and more careful consideration of values within the facilitator education process.
Keywords: facilitator education, facilitation training, and facilitation.
From 'A Meeting' To 'A Learning Community':
In the fall of 2005, an event was organized for
individuals from development organisations in the Netherlands to learn
about new tools for collaboration at a distance, which grew into an
inter-organizational, hybrid learning community about
Keywords: Community of Practice, facilitation, Inter-organizational Communities of Practice, group facilitation, online and face to face learning, facilitator interventions.
Evaluating Group Interventions:
This article presents a framework for group facilitators to assess needs for interventions, select and/or design the interventions, and evaluate the effects of the interventions over time. The purpose is to help facilitators use existing intervention theory and research to guide their practice. Examples of interventions and related research are presented for the facilitation of group relationship development, idea generation, capacity building, performance reflection, and opportunities for change. A guideline is offered for using this knowledge to diagnose, implement, and evaluate group interventions.
Keywords: group facilitation, group interventions, needs assessment, outcomes evaluation.
A Proposed Model for Effective Facilitation
This article outlines a model of Effective Facilitation resulting from the author’s recent study of Managers’ and Facilitators’ Perceptions of Effective Facilitation (2006). The results of in-depth interviews of 20 managers and 20 facilitators in Australia indicated that effective facilitation focuses, not surprisingly, on sound planning, the facilitated event(s) and achieving satisfactory outcomes. However, the study also revealed that facilitating an implementation phase and considering the context within which the facilitation takes place are factors that improve the effectiveness of facilitation. This article will be of interest to all facilitators and in particular to facilitators working within an organization. Internal facilitators may have greater opportunities to be involved in an implementation phase and may have a greater appreciation of the context within which the facilitation takes place.
Keywords: facilitation, effectiveness model, external facilitator, internal facilitator, managers, planning, intervention, outcomes, implementation, transference, context.
Classics for Group Facilitators:
Achieving Change in People:
Published in 1951 in Human Relations, this article by
Dorwin Cartwright draws on early work at The Research Centre for Group
Dynamics established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by
Kurt Lewin in 1945. The group at the research centre was interested in
the scientific study of the processes that influence individuals in
group situations, and the center initially focused on group
productivity; communication; social perception; intergroup relations;
group membership; leadership and improving the functioning of groups.
Today the article continues to raise some interesting thoughts about
the role that group facilitators and group process play in the change
process within our wider society.
Facilitating Multicultural Groups:
Community: The Structure of Belonging
2007 – Contents of Issue 8:
The Use and Documentation of Facilitation Techniques
Groups often rely on the expertise of facilitators to support them in their collaboration processes. The design and preparation of a collaboration process is an important facilitation task. Although there is a significant body of knowledge about the effects of facilitation, there is a dearth of knowledge about the ways in which facilitators design collaboration processes. Increased understanding in this area will contribute to the effective design and use of collaboration support and to the development of collaboration process design support. The research reported in this paper explores how facilitators could benefit from libraries of facilitation techniques and what is required to support facilitators in selecting and using new facilitation techniques, we sampled perspectives on the use of facilitation techniques from a large number of professional facilitators using a survey. We found how facilitators use and document facilitation techniques and offer suggestions for the documentation of facilitation techniques.
Keywords: facilitation, facilitation techniques, collaboration process design, Collaboration Engineering, design and preparation, Group Support Systems.
Report on the 2006 Survey of Australian Facilitators
A survey was conducted of facilitators working in Australia and New Zealand in 2005-2006. The purpose was to gather information about the background, training, experience, practice and expected remuneration of the respondents. Key findings were that there were some differences between female and male facilitators particularly in relation to their desired daily pay rates and education levels. Women respondents valued themselves less highly than male facilitators. The results also showed that more respondents identified their skills to be in the training and planning areas, rather than the areas of conflict resolution or consensus building on difficult and contentious issues. This is the first survey of this type conducted in Australia, and it provides an interesting set of information for practicing facilitators, and a platform for future research in the area.
Keywords: facilitation, education, training, remuneration, gender, training, education
Examining the Effect of Marginal Members in Information Sharing Groups
Not all members of decision-making groups necessarily contribute to the task. In the present study, we examine the effects of group size (four or eight person groups) and decision type (intellective or judgmental decisions) on the number of members who drop out of the decision-making task. These non-contributing group members may be viewed as marginal group members. Both group size and decision type influence the number of marginal members in groups. Furthermore, marginal group members negatively affect the proportion of shared and unshared information pooled by group members.
Keywords: functional group size, group decision-making, information sharing, marginal group members
Classics for Group Facilitators:
Functional Roles of Group Members
I am looking at a handout I preserved from a group
facilitation workshop I attended some time ago. It lists the various
“roles” or “behaviors” of group members, presenting them in three
categories: those related to the accomplishment of the group’s task,
those aimed at building and maintaining the group per se, and those
aimed at satisfying individual needs that are irrelevant to the group.
It is a handy checklist, but without much context or explanation. Many
of the books on my shelf, some very recent, have similar lists,
characterizing group-member behaviors as the initiator, the encourager,
or the blocker. Many of them cite the original source for these
insights, an article entitled, “Functional Roles of Group Members,”
published in 1948 in the Journal of Social Issues by Kenneth Benne and
Paul Sheats. Paul Sheats, who died in 1984, and Kenneth Benne, who died
in 1992, were both professors of adult education, Sheats at the
University of California and Benne at Boston University. They
collaborated, with others, in the early development of the “T-Group”
and were instrumental in founding the National Training Laboratory, now
the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. This article,
reprinted with permission of the publisher, is one of their legacies.
The article, which provides context for the often-used list of
group-member roles, is best understood in yet the larger context of
group effectiveness and democratic ideals. Kenneth Benne, with his
coauthors in The Improvement of Practical Intelligence, expressed it
this way: The ideal goal of democratic cooperation is a consensus in
the group concerning what should be done—a consensus based on and
sustained by the deliberation of the group in the planning, execution,
and evaluation of the common action of the group. No other method …
depends so crucially on the deliberation of the whole group … [nor] so
centrally upon the responsible discipline of all of its members in
conscious, habitual methods of deliberation, discussion, and decision
(Raup, Axtelle, Benne, and Smith, 1950, p. 35). In that context, the
following article is not simply about training leaders or training
members, but highlights the functional roles that are needed in, or
detract from, group effectiveness, creating consensus, and fulfilling
Coaching in Depth: The Organizational Role Analysis Approach
The Art of Facilitation: The essentials for leading great meetings and creating group synergy.
2006 – Contents of Issue 7:
This article offers a practical approach to facilitating difficult conversations. The Authentic Communication module is more than a tool; it is a state of consciousness that helps people communicate honestly and openly. This approach expands emotional intelligence by developing awareness of the connection between feelings and universal human needs. Distinctions between observations and judgments, feelings and thoughts, needs and positions, and demands and requests are clarified. Authentic Communication provides a method of resolving difficult conflicts so that people feel heard. By deepening awareness of needs, we contribute to trust, safety, and improved communication. When people are understood at a deep level, they're able to release their attachment to their positions, explore options and make requests that meet everyone's needs.
Keywords: authentic communication, authenticity, nonviolent communication, needs, awareness, emotional literacy, difficult, conversations, language of compassion, real conversations, challenging conversations, understanding, conflict, harmony, teamwork
This paper reviews the group counselor education literature and considers implications for the practice of facilitator education. In contrast to the facilitation literature, the literature from the field of group counseling, group psychotherapy, and group work is more explicit about the strategies that can be used to train, develop and educate practitioners in these fields. The use of didactic teaching, observation, experiential participation, and experiential leadership are discussed and implications for facilitator education practice and future research are identified. These include the need to: help emerging facilitators to establish an explicit theoretical orientation; encourage explicit discussion about facilitator education strategies; close the researcher-practitioner gap.
Keywords: facilitation, facilitator education, group counselor education
Exploring the language of facilitation
Whilst language is the means by which facilitation is realised, there has been little research to date investigating language use in facilitation. Through the design of an online reflective practice survey, this paper explores facilitators' perceptions of language use in facilitation. The paper presents results from the online reflective practice survey involving 140 facilitators from around the world. The paper establishes that like the language of business, or the language of politics, there may be an emerging language of facilitation, with facilitators implicitly understanding what it means to "speak facilitatively". Indeed, speaking facilitatively appears to be based on respect and can be characterised by the use of linguistic politeness devices. While spoken language plays an important part in facilitation, our survey participants strongly indicated that body language is as important as spoken language, and that spoken language is only a part of the 'complete facilitation package'. Finally, the use of metaphor for investigating facilitator styles is found to be a useful tool for revealing core facilitator values.
Keywords: speaking facilitatively, politeness, metaphor, spoken language, body language
Classics for Group Facilitators:
Facilitation: Catalyst for Group Problem Solving
This article defines groups and their function in society and points out the need for training in group processes. It distinguishes between task, therapy, growth, and training groups, defines a group process facilitator as a catalyst to the processes through which a group performs its task, separates the process-facilitation role from other facilitative roles dealing wi the content of a discussion, and looks at the history of group process laboratories and the training of facilitators. Also discussed are the role and requirements of the leader-trainer-facilitator, the function of power in the facilitator role, the nature of intervention, the preparation of facilitators-intervenors, and the paradox of facilitation and facilitator intervention strategy. It points to the variations in the concepts of the role of the facilitator and to the weaknesses in the preparation of facilitators at the present time , and calls for further research in the facilitator role.
The 9 Disciplines of a Facilitator: Leading Groups by Transforming Yourself
2004 Contents of Issue 6:
Governmental decision makers, politicians, civic groups, and other stakeholders in public decision making are seeking mechanisms for engaging citizens in public policy decisions. The size and visibility of “Listening to the City,” the largest face-to-face public participation event ever held, and the political, social, and emotional needs that it responded to, provide an attractive opportunity to draw attention to broader issues regarding public engagement, group facilitation, and the future of democracy.
This special issue provides an in-depth case study of “Listening to the City” and uses it as a departure point for broader discussions of the role practice of public participation. Reflecting the diverse backgrounds and experience of the 25 contributing authors, which include both academics and practitioners, the content is descriptive, evaluative, and speculative.
The first three articles present a thorough description of the underlying philosophy, organization and implementation of “Listening to the City,” a large-scale public participation event involving 5,000 face-to-face and online participants. The design was purposefully “high tech” and “high touch;” these articles make clear how this was accomplished.
The next eleven articles present a variety of perspectives on the event, based on the experiences of facilitators who worked with groups of participants. Some are personal reflections on the role of facilitating public participation; some offer practical advise for working with diverse groups, some are evaluative.
The remaining eight articles take a critical look at public participation, examining its purposes and effectiveness.
I hope the professionals who advocate for, design, and implement these types of processes and events—group facilitators and public participation practitioners and advocates—will gain from this special issue detailed knowledge about how to organize these types of events, and what to be prepared for during their implementation on both the personal and organizational scales. They will find here a variety of methods that might be used to accomplish similar purposes, as well as their relative strengths and weaknesses, and can use this issue as an opportunity to learn about and reflect on the societal applications and implications of group facilitation.
Other readers might include educators—in areas such as political science, public policy and planning processes, public involvement and consultation, and communication—as well as the more than 5,000 participants in the “Listening to the City” events. I hope these readers will profit from this “behind the scenes” look at how the event was organized and implemented and be in a better position to understand the rationale and motivation for such events.
The authors and reviewers of this volume deserve our collective thanks. Not only did the authors draft and revise their own articles, they also peer-reviewed each others work. An additional cadre of reviewers lent their special expertise to this effort. My personal thanks to al of you for your dedication to extending the meaning of "Listening to the City" beyond its original scope.
Listening to the City:
Keywords: deliberative democracy. deliberation, deliberative democracy consortium, citizen engagement, public engagement, AmericaSpeaks, Listening to the City, World Trade Center, 21st Century Town Meeting, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, democratic renewal, social capital
Rebuilding Ground Zero with Democracy:
This article introduces readers to the principles guiding the development and planning of a 21st Century Town Meeting™ using Listening to the City as an example. First, the article outlines AmericaSpeaks’ Taking Democracy to Scale™ model, on which the 21st Century Town Meeting™ process is based. Then, each element of the Taking Democracy to Scale™ model is described in detail using specific examples from Listening to the City. The article concludes with a brief analysis of the impact of Listening to the City and the potential of the 21st Century Town Meeting™.
Keywords: AmericaSpeaks, town meeting, public hearing, feedback
Listening to the City Online Dialogues:
This paper describes the planning and creation of the Listening to the City Online Dialogues that took place between July 30 and August 13, 2002, shortly after the face-to-face event at the Jacob Javits Center. The participants in the 26 dialogue groups were residents of New York City and its immediate area. The dialogues focused on two things: the plans for redevelopment of the World Trade Center site and the surrounding business district and neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, and the creation of a permanent memorial for the victims and heroes of 9/11. The dialogues took place in small groups using a message board interface in which participants could read and respond to each others’ comments whether they were online at the same time or not. The “asynchronous” system allowed members to participate when it was convenient, and to spend time deliberately composing their responses. Half of the small groups were assigned an active facilitator and half were not. This paper describes the context of the event, how its producers prepared for it and how it actually played out, concentrating on what was learned about online facilitation techniques.
Listening to the City, NYC: One Facilitator’s View
An overview of and reflections on the event by one of the facilitators
Keywords: Deliberative Democracy, facilitator, facilitation, rebuild, community, dialogue
Helping the Masses Find Their Way
By Wendy Lowe
“Listening to the City” - A Powerfully Personal Affirmation
A personal account of the inspirational impact of AmericaSpeaks’ “Listening to the City” meeting on July 20, 2002 in which Moss voices her learning, her commitment and her hope for communities all over the world to work collaboratively with leadership to find creative solutions to complex issues and problems.
Listening to the City and the Public Process:
Personal and group challenges in facilitating the event. Implications of LTC and other public participation efforts.
Listening and Learning:
This paper examines the Listening to the City event from a social-psychology perspective. Ethnocentrism and xenophobia are discussed as barriers to effective human interaction. The author identifies aspects of the 21st Century Town Hall Meeting event that work toward breaking down barriers between people with different perspectives toward the goal of mutual understanding and solution-building.
Keywords: ethnocentrism, xenophobia, town hall meeting, facilitation, Listening to the City
Tips for Facilitating a Group Dialogue When You Don’t Speak the Language of the Participants.
In the majority of instances, save for an exceptional few, community dialogue facilitators take for granted the ability of forum participants to communicate proficiently in English. Given the meteoric rise in the numbers of Spanish-speaking Americans, however, those of us working with the public who are English-speakers can no longer assume that we have the ability to choose to partner exclusively with all English-speaking citizen groups. More than likely, the field will increasingly experience opportunities for language exchanges. The purpose of this essay is to illustrate one way that language diversity can impact the facilitation of a community forum event.
Keywords: Hispanic, translator, Spanish-speaking, foreign language
The 21st Century Facilitator at “Listening to the City”:
This article describes how the 21st century facilitator conquers the immense challenge of planning and facilitating largescale, one day public meetings characterized by short, pre-event planning windows and compressed discussion timeframes. Through the use of a corresponding real-time set of highly effective rapport-building tools and a new 6 step Facilitator Planning Methodology, a facilitator can understand and evaluate a facilitation's design and pitfalls in real-time during a short pre-event orientation and then rapidly build group cohesion in a one day facilitation which allows no margin for error. This paper provides an overview of the "Listening to the City" town hall meeting used to test this methodology. Then, a facilitator toolkit of rapid rapport-building techniques is presented. This toolkit is comprised of Active Listening tools, Applied Behavioral Modeling tools, and a multi-faceted view of conversation called "the Three Streams of Communication". These tools are highly effective in developing rapport quickly between the facilitator and the group and among group participants. A 6 step Facilitator Planning Methodology is described in detail; this planning mechanism aids facilitators in identifying potential design problems before these problems impact the facilitation and rapport-building process and prevent or limit the quick summarization and capture of discussion data. The methodology also emphasizes the importance of establishing facilitator credibility at the beginning of and throughout a facilitation. Finally, the article provides a summary discussing the challenges and tasks facing facilitators planning to lead real-time public citizen summits occurring in compressed timeframes.
Keywords: active listening, AmericaSpeaks™, applied behavioral modeling, city planner, citizen summit, communication, facilitator, facilitator credibility, facilitation, facilitation planning, Listening to the City, Lower Manhattan, New York, orientation, planning, public forum, rapport, World Trade Center, 21st Century facilitator
From Honolulu and Albuquerque to New York City Table 98:
Behind Open Doors:
Listening to the City is a valuable blueprint for planning and facilitating future meetings. This paper is divided into two sections, public participation and small-group facilitation. Each section discusses best practices that emerged from the event. In the area of public participation, three best practices include create a climate that encourages input; clarify the parameters and impact of involvement; and provide information to participants about the proposed topic. In the area of small group facilitation, three best practices include recruit participants from a range of demographics to encourage diverse viewpoints; provide training for facilitators despite their experience; and make available additional resources during the event.
Keywords: public participation, group facilitation, leadership, lessons learned, training, involvement, best practices, decision-making
Listening to the City on the M34
This article describes a unique experience of spontaneous public participation following the Listening to the City event. The authors, facilitators at Listening to the City, found themselves experiencing that event from an entirely new vantage point as they rode a bus filled with participants from the event and non-participants across New York City. They share their reflections on the power of positive public engagement in which they participated during that cross-town bus ride.
Keywords: public participation, facilitator, participant, Listening to the City
“Listening to the City” Why Is It So Important?
Using anecdotes from her experience as a volunteer facilitator, the author shows why she thinks that “Listening to the City” (LTC) offers an important model of civic engagement. LTC is helpful for anyone interested in this field in, at least, three ways: (1) LTC showed that it is possible to address complex and emotionally charged issues on a very big scale; (2) LTC reaffirmed that there is a significant group of people interested in volunteering their time and efforts to support citizens in that endeavor; and, (3) LTC constitutes a good example of the importance of careful design and implementation. In other words, “Listening to the City” offers several sources of learning and motivation to those interested in supporting citizens’ engagement; not only in the United States but also in other countries around the world.
Critiquing AmericaSpeaks’ Process and Alternative Approaches as Paths to “Collective Intelligence”
Listening to the City and the Goals of Deliberative Democracy
Listening to the City is critically reviewed from a participant-observer perspective. The event is placed in the context of four key goals of the deliberative democracy movement. Comparisons are made to a Deliberative Poll, a similar, but much smaller event. Listening to the City was a very powerful event, a landmark in the deliberative democracy movement. However its success in influencing policy outcomes somewhat masks its unrepresentative nature and the limits of its ability to promote the civic education goals of deliberative democracy.
Keywords: deliberative democracy, Listening to the City, representation, Deliberative Poll, civic education
In the case of many public involvement processes, participants’ feedback can be marginalized by missed opportunities to identify underlying interests due to lack of time provided for dialogue or to develop commonly held views due to the premature use of ranking exercises and the structure of small group reporting. The AmericaSpeaks meeting design used at the “Listening to the City” events provided for reporting of both shared and minority views as captured by participant recorders followed by the immediate synthesis of 500 small groups’ outputs by a “theme team” that identified shared, strongly held views from this data and developed key themes and subsequent polling statements for participant voting. This essay explores the meeting design’s methods for assuring that participant interests and shared views were accurately represented in the themes, polling statements, and final findings.
Keywords: accuracy, design, interest-based dialogue, minority perspectives, reporting, theme team
Reflections from Down Under on the Biggest Deliberation in History
This paper is a personal and cautionary reflection on the Listening to the City project, from an uninvolved, distant observer. The author examines the problems inherent in large-scale consultations and the impact of scale on representativeness and deliberativeness. She does so from her perspective as an Australian practitioner and researcher, hoping to draw upon the best of US participatory experiences. She speculates on an alternative to large-scale face-to-face consultations that would suit the Australian political culture: using small scale consultations, coupled with e-democracy, simultaneously, across the breadth of the vast Australian continent.
Keywords: deliberation, random selection, representativeness
Public Participation after 9/11:
This article examines how and why public participation influenced decisions on the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11. Public officials used a number of different types of public participation, which varied in terms of breadth of citizen involvement and in terms of influence on the decision process. The most successful approach were the Listening to the City forums, where small-group facilitation and innovative technologies combined to provide a clear statement of values and preferences that public officials could not ignore. However, despite the success of the Listening to the City forum, the influence of public participation would later decline as public officials sought to conclude and control the decision process.
Keywords: participation, New York, planning, decision-making, World Trade Center
Creating a Hearing for the Listening:
In this paper, we use some of the experimental interventions in the decision-making processes surrounding the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan (New York City) and the design of public memorials after the terrorist activity which took place on February 26, 1993 and 9/11 (September 11, 2001) to examine several new participative processes. The intent is to begin understanding when such collaborative governance might be effective, what the key components of these processes are, and—most important—why public and private decision makers might wish to use them. We offer some preliminary views of criteria and welcome comments and suggestions from others interested in participatory governance and collaborative processes.
Keywords: 9/11, America Speaks, facilitation, feedback, governance, Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, LMDC, participatory democracy, participatory process, public participation, memorials, urban planning
2003 - Contents of Issue 5:
Information Technology for Groups
The aim of the workshop, underway in a classroom at the State Teachers College in New Britain, Connecticut, was to achieve a practical understanding of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act. As the session proceeded, the workshop facilitators recorded the group's ideas on the classroom chalkboards. They were delighted with the productivity of the group, but soon became frustrated as the few chalkboards filled up with notes. To preserve the older notes they quickly transcribed them onto notepaper and then erased the chalkboards to make room for more. Desperate to maintain a visible record for use by the group, two of the facilitators—Ron Lippitt and Lee Bradford—hurried off after the day's session to the local newspaper and acquired the remains of a roll of newsprint. They spent the evening unrolling the newsprint and cutting it into usable-sized sheets. Using masking tape, they attached the sheets of paper to the walls and chalkboards of the classroom. The next day, instead of writing with chalk on the boards, they used grease pencils on the paper, and everyone was able to see the complete record of ideas. The year was 1946. Two facilitators, adapting information technology to meet the needs of groups, invented the first flip charts (French and Bell 1999, 33-34; Benne 1964, 81).
Cam Peterson, a consultant at Washington, DC-based Decisions and Designs Inc. (DDI), found himself working with customers whose problems were sufficiently complex as to benefit from "back-room" analysis typically performed by decision theory experts using computers running sophisticated software. He was asked by Westinghouse to apply these analytical approaches to the design of their new technical center. Cam asked Westinghouse for just a few experts to attend a two-day meeting to develop a framework for the design, and brought in his DDI colleague, Ken Kuskey, to be on the consultant team. Instead of just a few experts, the entire executive team attended the meeting! Adapting to the situation, Cam facilitated the group discussion while Ken ran the IBM 5100 and conducted the analysis. The "decision conference," combining group facilitation with computer-aided decision analysis, was born. The year was 1979. Decision analysts and group facilitators, adapting information technology to meet the needs of groups, were the first to bring computers into the conference room (Ring 1980; Kuskey 2003).
Group facilitation is dependent on information technology: blackboard, whiteboard, flip chart, paper roll, sticky paper, sticky wall, overhead projector, teleconference, videoconference, computer projector, Local Area Network, Internet … This Special Issue on Online Facilitation examines some of the more recent technology innovations that continue to shape the ways groups work and the ways group facilitators try to help them. Our thanks to the editors of this special issue, Daniel Mittleman and Robert Briggs.
Theory and Research:
Voting Before Discussing: Electronic Voting as Social Interaction
A field study is presented which used voting before discussing (VBD) as a means of social influence and communication in a computer supported group interaction, rather than using voting as the final stage in a rational decision making process. The approach is based on a cognitive, three-process model of group interaction, which proposes that group cohesion and agreement arise primarily from normative rather than informational or personal influence. This initial investigation found that the VBD technique can result in higher agreement of group members with the decisions of the group, higher satisfaction with the computer-mediated interaction, higher satisfaction with group performance, and higher group awareness. The voting before discussion method may be useful in situations where agreement is an important group output, or where interpersonal conflict is creating problems in meetings.
Keywords: agreement, cognitive, CSCW, conflict, group interaction, GDSS, normative influence, CMC, social influence, voting
The Journey of Meaning at Work
The quest for meaning at work is a topic that occupies the attention of a growing number of writers. It is a familiar quest recognized by most people who are employed, whatever their profession. As facilitators we strive to find meaning in our own profession, and like everyone else at work, we need ways to do so. We also see the question arise among our clients. Hardly ever are we retained to address this question of meaning, but it is central in almost every organization we serve. Being clear about authentic approaches to the journey of finding meaning at work may provide us insights for addressing it effectively. By “meaning at work” we mean the worthwhileness of an undertaking, a sense of importance in a larger framework.
“Meaning at work” is the contribution of a particular undertaking to a larger context that the meaning-seeker values. Work that contributes to nothing beyond itself is often considered meaningless. “Meaning at work,” then, is the relationship between a particular undertaking and a larger framework in which it exists and to which it contributes. This article provides a “road map” of the journey of meaning as it is experienced at work. It is important, because we do not serve our clients by offering unachievable poppycock. To find meaning at work requires neither a quick fix nor a simple solution. It is profound, dealing with the depth of your self and your work, and it is complex, including a variety of pathways and phases. Having a map provides a realistic view of the shape of the journey.
The search for meaning in work can take one of three possible pathways: the way of Significance, the way of Professionalism, and/or the way of Purpose. There are three discernable phases to finding meaning at work. In Phase One, you are subjectively fixated on the broader context of your work. In Phase Two, your attention reverts to the particular situation in which you are immersed. In Phase Three, you experience attraction to the relationship between particular and universal. Another way to put it is that in Phase One, you have a na´ve attachment to a grand cause; in Phase Two, the cause shows up as finite, fallible, or fraudulent, wholly unable to allay the awareness of spending your life in trivial particulars. In Phase Three, you “see through” to the ultimate unworthiness of all that is and therefore its objective value as a connected interrelated whole. The article provides approaches that facilitators and coaches can use to assist clients to deal with their position on their own journey.
Keywords: meaning, significance, professionalism, purpose, coaching
Application and Practice
Multiple Roles of Online Facilitation: An Example of Any-Time, Any-Place Meetings
Facilitating meetings of virtual teams—with members who are geographically dispersed and who often communicate electronically with considerable time lags between messages—is a recent specialization. This article describes eight facilitator roles that can lead to the improved effectiveness of these “any time, any place” (ATAP) meetings. Evidence from a recent evaluation study of three ATAP meetings suggested that virtual team members especially appreciated the value added by a facilitator to their meeting process. Keywords online facilitation, virtual teams, asynchronous meetings, distributed group facilitation, virtual meetings, electronic meeting system, any-time, any-place meetings
Facilitation Through Online Scripting
As business interactions go online, so do facilitation and agenda design. Most electronic meeting system (EMS) applications replicate the contemporary meeting paradigm, including the presence of a facilitator. Addressing both online and self-managed work, the Microsoft Lead Line prototype uses standard browser technology and scripting to guide same-time interaction in a text chat environment. Facilitators design process scripts for groups of three to seven participants. Together these design elements make it possible to simultaneously facilitate an infinite number of small groups in a meaningful task. Lead Line offers ease of user access, balance of structure and creativity, and clarity of group goals and roles.
Keywords: computer supported collaborative work, electronic meeting system, facilitation, online facilitation, process design, scripting, social interaction, text chat, virtual meetings
Requirements by Collaboration: Workshops for Defining Needs
Principles of Facilitation:
2002 Contents of Issue 4:
Believe in Doubt
Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. -- Andre Gide
We live in a contentious world. Diversity of beliefs and values is the norm and we can expect to encounter conflict more frequently than consensus. The presence of conflict often stimulates each party or interest group to impress its version of reality on the others in an effort to achieve a change of mind and win agreement. However, even when agreement is reached there is no means for assuring that it is right.
One's understanding of the world is not based on careful reading and unequivocal interpretation of technical manuals but rather on socially derived and communicated knowledge and values. In the words of Peter Checkland, "Social reality is the ever-changing outcome of the social process in which human beings, the product of their genetic inheritance and previous experiences, continually negotiate and re-negotiate with others their perceptions and interpretations of the world outside themselves" (Checkland 1981, 283- 284). Giovanni Battista Vico said it more succinctly, "To know the world, one must construct it." (Shrage 1990, xvii).
Too often in the search for truth, too many are too sure too early. Most of us are too comfortable with our views, our status quo, and are reluctant to change. Our truth, our internally consistent system, supports and sustains us. Few understand, as did Anais Nin, that "We don't see the world as it is; we see it as we are." This insight leads us to a key paradox: because the truth in which we believe is unique to who we are, we should not trust its generality.
If we should not believe in truth, then in what should we
believe? We could say, "believe in doubt." Indeed, in this world of
multiple, conflicting realities we need far more individuals who
willingly exercise doubt, cultivating more openness, more questioning,
more learning; people who listen carefully to each and every
perspective—to understand fully but to believe doubtfully—even to doubt
that they really understood at all! Still, it is critical to strike a
balance between believing and doubting: too much belief and there is no
learning; too much doubt and there is no action. So if we "believe in
doubt," on what shall we base our action? Perhaps we could "believe in
groups"! Let's give this a try by making explicit two key premises and
examining their implications:
The problem is that we rarely know which individuals are more expert at which tasks. There is no objective way to distinguish between one good contribution and another to determine which is better, or to know how to combine individual contributions to produce results that are better than any of the individual contributions taken alone.
Although we often rely on one person to integrate the group's thinking, this may result in that person's views dominating all others— and that one person might not have it right. Alternatively, we can allow the group to decide how best to make use of the contributions of each of its members. This requires that we help group members learn from one another, so they can correct one another's errors, enabling—at least theoretically—the group to perform better than even its most capable member. (Although this potential exists, such performance is rarely documented. For example, see Reagan-Cirincione 1994.)
To reach conclusion requires consensus, because this requires that everyone must come to terms with each and every person's unique contributions. We have no better potential for attaining the best possible outcome. A critical proviso of believing in groups is that groups be representative of all pertinent perspectives, interests, and expertise. Since it is so much easier to reach consensus with a homogeneous group, members are often selected for the similarity of their views.
To believe in the efficacy of groups to solve our most complex and conflictual problems, we must select group members for their diversity, for their unique constructions of reality. While we might believe in groups, we nonetheless should doubt whether the group is fully representative of all relevant interests, beliefs, and values. Consistent with this concern, we must keep in mind Norman Maier's admonition, "Reaching consensus in a group often is confused with finding the right answer." (Maier 1967, 241). Let's strive to bring together people representing all relevant points of view. Let's fully put to use group interaction methods that encourage tolerance and respect, listening and questioning, independent thought and group conversation. Believe in doubt; believe in groups.
Learning organizations, five disciplines, dialogue, Quaker tradition, consensus, Participatory Rural Appraisal, coherence, electronic meetings, caucusing, mediation, values and ethics: these are the things that this issue is made of! The discussions of IAF's Ethics and Values Think Tank have precipitated a number of controversial issues. Among them is a fundamental question about whether consensus is a fundamental part of group facilitation, or is it just one of the options for making decisions. In this issue's Essays on Consensus, Freeman Marvin, Consensus is Primary to Group Facilitation, and John Butcher, Consensus is Situation Dependent, explore this issue in depth.
Authors Kai R. T. Larsen, Claire McInerney, Corinne Nyquist, Donna Silsbee, Aldo Zagonel make the assertion that “…not only do facilitators possess exactly the values and intrinsic skills required to help facilitate the transformation needed for organizations to become learning organizations, but that most successful transformations will indeed be conducted by external facilitators.” In Learning Organizations: A Primer for Group Facilitators the authors review the “five disciplines” at the core of learning organizations and provide insights particularly useful for group facilitators.
In conjunction with the growing interest in “learning organizations” so also has there been increased interest in “dialogue” as evidenced by a number of recent books on the topic. Finding Clarity in the Midst of Conflict: Facilitating Dialogue and Skillful Discussion Using a Model from the Quaker Tradition, by Malcolm Burson, integrates contemporary thinking about dialogue in organizations with traditional practices in the Quaker tradition and provides an illustrative example. In Participatory Rural Appraisal: A Brief Introduction, Lance Robinson explains the origins and application of this facilitated approach to community development. The author emphasizes the participatory nature of PRA, the importance of facilitators' attitudes, biases, and behaviors as well as the tools that are typically used.
Coherence in Face-to-Face Electronic Meetings: A Hidden Factor in Facilitation Success by Pak Yoong and Brent Gallupe focuses on the relationship between the activities within a meeting as well as between the meeting and other activities. The authors report on a study involving conventional meeting facilitators who were trained to become electronic meeting facilitators. “What is the difference between mediation and facilitation?” is a question that arises repeatedly. Gregorio Billikopf-Encina takes us for a closer look into the world of mediation in Contributions of Caucusing and Pre-Caucusing to Mediation and enables us to ask the question, “does caucusing have a role in the practice of group facilitation?”
First published nearly 25 years ago in A Manual for Group Facilitators, What We Mean by Facilitation by Brian Auvine, Betsy Densmore, Mary Extrom, Scott Poole & Michael Shanklin provides a fundamental statement about the nature, values and purpose of group facilitation. It suggests a code of ethics for group facilitators, highly pertinent as the International Association of Facilitators considers formal adoption of its own statement of values and code of ethics. This book chapter is reprinted here in our Classics for Group Facilitation section.
Each issue of Group Facilitation: A Research and
Applications Journal represents two major activities. First, developing
the content: working with authors and reviewers, providing feedback on
manuscripts, accepting completed papers. Second, changing that content
into a presentable form and distributing it to our subscribers within
our financial constraints. The first is the responsibility of the
Editorial Board, while the second is that of the Publisher. With this
issue we extend our welcome and thanks to Bill Staples, who has
valiantly taken on the role of Publisher. He brings years of experience
in publishing, including his work as publisher of Edges magazine. In
addition we welcome Ronnie Seagren, Copy Editor. We look forward to
working with all of you.
Theory and Research:
Contributions of Caucusing and Pre-Caucusing to Mediation
Drawing on his work as a researcher and practicing mediator in interpersonal organizational conflict, the author argues that pre-caucusing a separate meeting between the mediator and each of the stakeholders before they are ever brought together into a joint session can not only overcome many of the negatives often associated with caucusing, but has the potential of becoming a pillar of conflict management. This is especially so when pre-caucusing is integrated into a transformative mediation framework.
Pre-caucusing affords stakeholders the opportunity to vent and be heard at a critical time in the mediation process, when it can reduce defensiveness and increase creativity. Once in the joint session, stakeholders communicate with each other with less mediator interference.
Keywords:caucusing, pre-caucusing, mediation, conflict resolution, alternative dispute resolution, conflict management skills, conflict management mechanics
Coherence in Face-to-Face Electronic Meetings: A Hidden Factor in Facilitation Success
Planning and designing are considered essential to the successful facilitation of face-to-face electronic meetings. However, relatively little is known about how to perform these pre-meeting activities. To illustrate how the planning and design of face-to-face electronic meetings might be improved, this paper uses the concept of coherence in meeting processes. A grounded action research study illustrates how new electronic meeting facilitators use two types of coherence, internal and external, in planning and designing their initial electronic meetings. Implications for meeting researchers and practitioners are considered.
Keywords: electronic meetings, meeting facilitation, Group Support Systems, grounded action research, IS research methodologies.
Finding Clarity in the Midst of Conflict: Facilitating
Dialogue and Skillful Discussion Using a Model from the Quaker
Consultants and facilitators increasingly use formal approaches to dialogue as a means to build the capacity of groups to engage at deeper levels of collective understanding. For example, the contributors to The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook propose the application of dialogue techniques to the practice fields of "mental models" and "team learning" as ways to build the skills of inquiry and reflection into the day-to-day activities of groups of all kinds.
Combining the work of William Isaacs and the Dialogue Project at MIT with a model from the Quaker tradition, this paper suggests a tool for skillful discussion that can allow a group to deal with conflict by stepping back into a shared silence that generates critical questions, and describes a case example of its use.
Keywords: conflict management, facilitation, dialogue, clearness committee, learning organization
Learning Organizations: A Primer for Group Facilitators
Learning organizations are able to grow and successfully adapt to changing environments, and group facilitators have a key role as change agents in the process. This paper draws heavily from the work of Peter M. Senge (1990a, 1990b, 1994, 1999), who describes learning organizations as consisting of four core disciplines: personal mastery, mental models, team learning and shared vision. In addition, Senge introduced a fifth concept of systems thinking. The work of several other management scientists is discussed in relation to the learning organization attributes identified by Senge, and the role of facilitators in creating organizational change is highlighted.
Keywords learning organizations, organizational change, change strategies, organizational development, personal mastery, mental models, team building, teamwork, team learning, systems thinking, system dynamics, group dynamics, group model building, decision conferences.
Application and Practice
Participatory Rural Appraisal: A Brief Introduction
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) is an approach to facilitating community development whose family of techniques such as Venn diagrams, matrix ranking, and matrix scoring rely heavily on visualization and diagramming. However, what distinguishes PRA more than any of its techniques is its emphasis on participation.
PRA practitioners generally believe that only when participants are in full control of needs assessment, goal-setting, planning, policy-making, implementation, and evaluation can a process be considered fully participatory. PRA, which emerged first in the global South, is increasingly being used in developed countries, and it is in this commitment to participation that PRA has the most to offer facilitators practicing in the North. Facilitators using any approach are encouraged to ask themselves reflective questions such as, Are my actions and methods as a facilitator contributing to the ability of the participants to take control?
Keywords:rural development, appraisal, community meetings, matrix, community, participatory rural appraisal, rapid rural appraisal, participatory learning and action
Classics for Group Facilitators:
What Do We Mean By Facilitation
As the International Association of Facilitators engages in developing a statement of values and code of ethics for group facilitators, it is enlightening to review this introductory chapter to A Manual for Group Facilitators, first published nearly 25 years ago. In it the authors define the term facilitation and explicitly incorporate "The Values We Stress" and a "Code of Responsibilities: Ethics for Facilitators."
Essays on Consensus- Freeman Marvin and John Butcher
By Julianna Gustafson
My favorites comprise a trio of complementary books: William Zinsser’s On Writing Well (the process of writing nonfiction), Elizabeth Rankin’s The Work of Writing (specifically for professional and academic contexts), and Joseph William’s Style (a guide about the craft of writing, regardless of context). While all three are valuable resources in a writer’s library, the kind of book you need depends upon the kinds of problems or pitfalls you tend to encounter when you write.
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
The Work of Writing: Insights and Strategies for Academics and Professionals
2001 Contents of Issue 3: Special Issue on Group Development
A Superlative Task
One can hardly contemplate the passing scene of
civilized society without a sense that the need of balanced minds is
real and that a superlative task is how socially to make mind more
While some might say that group facilitation is just an ordinary task, I believe that group facilitators tend to think of it as an important task, or even an extraordinary task. But who among us has the chutzpah - the self-righteousness - to assert that group facilitation is a superlative task? Better to turn to a venerated and impartial authority who can issue this bold proclamation!
Chester Barnard is such a person, a preeminent mid-twentieth-century corporate executive often called the "father of organization theory." His classic The Functions of the Executive was required management school reading for many decades following its 1938 publication. Though still in print, Barnard's occasionally impenetrable prose has limited the use of his book to only the more rigorous graduate programs, replaced elsewhere by more recent and easily-read authors. Nonetheless, Barnard still challenges us with pertinent ideas that have retained, if not increased, their relevance. In the concluding paragraph of this renowned book, Barnard highlights four very salient points.
Society is increasingly complex and organizations are more elaborate.
Even more true than in 1938, the idea that society is increasingly complex now is accepted axiomatically. Organizations are greater in number, size and geographical scope. We are more dependent than ever before on elaborate technologies and the equally elaborate organizations that create and rely on them. We are interconnected and interdependent; yet distinct and diverse.
The increasing specialization necessitated by such a society brings with it a diversity of methods and purposes that may be inconsistent and foster misunderstandings.
To manage our complex, technological world people must be specialized - in roles, expertise and skills. This makes effective communication, sharing of knowledge, and interpersonal understanding more difficult. This difficulty occurs not only at the level of substantive issues but also at the underlying levels of method (how people think about issues) and purpose (why they think about them). Misunderstandings occur between individuals, of course, and even more crucially between large groups of people.
What is needed are balanced minds that integrate feeling with reasoning, sense the net balance, and perceive the parts as well as the whole.
The difficulties brought on by the effects of complexity and specialization can be addressed. How? By incorporating the views of multiple stakeholders with diverse interests and perspectives; perceiving the specific parts of the system, as well as the system as a whole; and clarifying the expected results and desired ends. We need to integrate analysis and intuition, facts and values, objective and subjective, thinking and feeling.
Meeting these challenges-which will help groups to be more effective cognitively and socially-is a superlative task.
To meet these challenges we must be address the intellectual, analytical and cognitive demands of the situation. This is necessary but not sufficient. At the same time, we must help groups engage interpersonally, politically, emotionally and spiritually. As group facilitators we must, in Barnard's words, strive "socially to make mind more effective." Toward this accomplishment we devote ourselves as group facilitators and dedicate Group Facilitation: A Research & Applications Journal. Working together, we aim to strengthen our understanding - in organizations, communities and societies - of group facilitation, a superlative task.
* Barnard, Chester (1938). The Functions of the Executive Thirtieth Anniversary Edition (1968). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. The full quote:
"One can hardly contemplate the passing scene of civilized society without a sense that the need of balanced minds is real and that a superlative task is how socially to make mind more effective. That the increasing complexity of society and the elaboration of technique and organization now necessary will more and more require capacity for rigorous reasoning seems evident; but it is a super-structure necessitating a better use of the non-logical mind to support it. "Brains" without "minds" seem a futile unbalance. The inconsistencies of method and purpose and the misunderstandings between large groups which increasing specialization engenders need the corrective of the feeling mind that senses the end result, the net balance, the interest of all, and of the spirit that perceiving the concrete parts encompasses also the intangibles of the whole."
Introduction to the Special Issue on Group Development
Group development is a recurring topic of discussion among group facilitators. It has been the subject of research since the 1940s and continues to be an active area of inquiry. What have we learned about group development in the past 60 years? How can we apply that knowledge in our work as group facilitators? What questions remain unanswered? The articles in this Special Issue on Group Development help to answer these questions.
Were we to conduct a survey to assess the present state of knowledge regarding group development I suspect that the response we would receive most often would include something about forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. We owe this memorable characterization of stages of group development to Bruce Tuckman who introduced this oft-cited naming scheme in 1965. With his permission, and that of the American Psychological Association, we are pleased to reprint his hallmark article, Developmental Sequence in Small Groups in our Classics for Group Facilitators section.
The development of a group is often viewed as occurring in a step-by-step progression that takes a group from one stage to the next. Alternatively, group development can be viewed as shifting back and forth from one phase to another and back again, or in a repeating cycle of development and redevelopment. Yet another view is that a group's development does not occur in any particular pattern, but is contingent at any point in time on contextual factors. In Group Development: A Review of the Literature and a Commentary on Future Research Directions George Smith reviews the literature on group development, highlighting the similarities and differences between various perspectives, summarizing the current status of thinking, and pointing to needs for future research.
Complicating any view of group development is that group membership can change. How do changes in membership affect group development? Focusing specifically on new members, Marie Cini applies the accumulated research and provides interesting insights and specific suggestions for group facilitators in Group Newcomers: From Disruption to Innovation.
In Facilitating Team Development: A View from the Field John E. Jones and William L. Bearley show how they have come to terms with various views of group development and present their own framework. They provide numerous examples to illustrate how they facilitate team development. A Critical View of Facilitating Labor-Management Collaboration, by Grant T. Savage and Chadwick B. Hilton, calls our attention to external processes -- what happens between meetings and relations with parties outside the group -- as well as internal group processes. The authors' place the role of the facilitator in the context of Habermas' theory of communicative action and provide examples of facilitator interventions in labor-management collaboration.
We hope you find these articles informative and helpful in
your own practice, teaching, and research. The Editorial Board and
staff are themselves experiencing some "group development." On their
behalf I extend appreciation and thanks to five individuals who were
instrumental in founding the journal and gave years of dedicated service
during its long gestation period and early years of publication: Mark
Fuller, Editor-in-Chief; Peggy Runchey, Managing Editor; Beret
Griffith, Book Review Editor; Vicki Wharton, Design Editor; and Jean
Watts, Associate Editor. As they move on to other priorities we
acknowledge that our current success is a tribute to their early and
prolonged efforts. We thank Eileen Ruete, Copy Editor, and wish her a
complete and lasting recovery. Lynda Lieberman Baker, whose service as
Associate Editor is much appreciated, will assume the post of Book
Review Editor. To Michael Sabiers, who recently joined us as an
Associate Editor, we extend our welcome and look forward to working
Theory and Research:
Group Newcomers: From Disruption to Innovation
One of the ways that groups change over time is through the introduction of newcomers. Until recently, group research has primarily focused on the attempts of the existing group to socialize the newcomer, whereas the effect of the newcomer on the group has been relatively less explored. However, research on newcomer influence suggests that newcomers can influence the group under certain conditions. Research on the power of the (numerical) minority in groups has also uncovered some intriguing findings regarding the positive effects a newcomer can have on a group. For groups seeking to be more innovative and effective, newcomers may be an overlooked source of innovation. Group facilitators can prepare the group and the newcomer to maximize the potential of newcomer contributions.
Keywords Innovation; Majority Influence; Minority Influence; Newcomer Influence
Group Development: A Review of the Literature and a Commentary on Future Research Directions
The use of groups, and more specifically teams, in organizations has been on the rise during the past decade. While many benefits have been attributed to these organizational arrangements, few researchers and practitioners have stepped back to look at the history and research underlying many of the models that are used to understand and anticipate group/team development. This paper takes a step in that direction as it reviews many of the developmental models, their roots and patterns.
Keywords: Groups, Teams, Group Development, Models, Theories
A Critical View of Facilitating Labor-Management Collaboration
Labor-management group facilitation is a complex but increasingly necessary skill. Facilitators need both clear practice guidelines and an understanding of why those guidelines are legitimate. To meet these needs, this paper first provides a descriptive (structural-functional) framework for understanding the facilitator’s role and the communicative practices on which it is based. A critique of this framework is then proposed using Habermas’ theory of communicative action. From this theoretical critique, group decision making is viewed as both a negotiative and a dialogical process, entailing an expanded appreciation of the facilitator’s role. In congruence with this theoretical stance, a set of directives for facilitating consensual decision making is proposed. A combined case and discourse analysis of two labor-management groups’ decision-making processes illustrates the utility and implications of these directives.
Keywords Consensual Decision Making, Critical Theory, Facilitation
Application and Practice:
Facilitating Team Development: A View from the Field
The purposes of this paper are to describe a guidance model for assisting groups of people to generate the conditions of teamwork and to describe the types of interventions that we have made in facilitating team development in a wide array of groups internationally. We will lay out the groundwork by commenting on differences between teams and groups and the appropriateness of team building. Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal Volume 3 Spring 2001 Abstracts
Keywords: Collaboration, Conflict, Group Development, Synergy, Team Building, Trust, Work Group
Classics for Group Facilitators:
Developmental Sequence in Small Groups
*Copyright 1965 by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.
This article appeared in Psychological Bulletin, Volume 63, Number 6, Pages 384-99. Editor’s Note As group facilitators we are often concerned about the development of the groups with which we work. Frequently we make reference to “the stages of group development” and the stages most frequently cited are forming, storming, norming and performing. These stages were proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965 based on his examination of empirical research studies. In this classic article, Developmental Sequence in Small Groups, we find a rich description of these stages under a variety of settings as well as their applicability to both group structure and task activity. In a subsequent 1977 article, Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited, Tuckman and coauthor Mary Ann Jensen noted that subsequent empirical studies suggested a termination stage which they named adjourning. While Table 1 below summarizes the stages with a description of their associated group structures and task activities, the original article provides a much more complete understanding of their context, meaning, and limitations. Although other articles in this special issue suggest the limitations of “stage models” such as this, the memorability and popularity of Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal Volume 3 Spring 2001 Abstracts Tuckman’s model make this article required reading for every group facilitator.
Bruce Tuckman is Professor of Education at the Ohio State
University College of Education. His current research focuses on
motivation and educational achievement. He has served on the education
faculties at Rutgers University, the City University of New York, and
Florida State University. His major books include Conducting
Educational Research, Theories and Applications of Educational
Psychology, and Evaluating Instructional Programs. Professor Tuckman
was kind enough to provide us with his personal comments about this
oft-cited article nearly thirty-five years since its original
The Dance of Change:
The Logic of Failure:
Success with Soul
2000 Contents of Issue 2:
Readying Facilitation for the 21st Century
Best Practices in Facilitating Virtual Meetings:
Facilitating virtual teams - teams separated by time or distance - is a practice only recently developed. With new collaboration technologies, it is now possible to lead projects where team members collaborate using only technology links for communication. As these technologies are new, little information exists to guide facilitators as to best practices for conducting virtual facilitation. This article describes virtual facilitation environments and reports on lessons learned from one set of academic studies that investigated the practice of same-time and different-time virtual facilitation. Best practices are derived from these lessons and presented here as well.
Building Trust Among Members of a Work Team:
This article describes the experiences of a facilitator who was involved with a six-person team of employees at Penn State University Library. Various interactions and experiences the facilitator had with the team are detailed. Early in the process, interpersonal trust, communication, and relationship emerged as important issues among team members. Several questionnaires were used to collect information, provide feedback to the group, and stimulate discussions. A variety of trust-building interventions, such as team-building and facilitated discussions, were implemented to improve the effectiveness of the team. A follow-up survey showed an improvement in several critical dimensions related to trust. This article describes the facilitation experience and lessons that were learned.
The International Association of Facilitators and the Institute of Cultural Affairs have explored the question of facilitator competencies and skills for several years. One of the new insights of progressive organizations is the value of participatory processes to address new needs for analysis, decision-making, and action in today's environment of fast, complex change and global competition. Facilitation is increasingly being used as a participatory tool for getting results in group dialogue, analysis, decision-making, and planning. Competency in the design and delivery of participatory processes is the domain of the facilitation profession. This article presents six areas of facilitator competencies and the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to demonstrate those competencies. It also suggests a number of areas where this model of facilitator competencies can be applied.
Comments on Facilitator Competencies
Classics for Group Facilitators:
Origins of Group Dynamics
Process Time for Project Teams
Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation
Handbook of Team Design
The Complete Guide to Facilitation: Enabling Groups to Succeed
Facilitation Research - Broadening Organizational Thinking
Evaluating the Strengths and Weaknesses of Group Decision-Making Processes: A Competing Values Approach
Ideally, meeting evaluations should enable a facilitator to diagnose a group's strengths and weaknesses and select appropriate interventions to help the group improve it's effectiveness. The authors critique various approaches to the evaluation of group decision making and suggest that evaluations should focus on processes rather than outcomes, address the group rather than individual roles and behaviors, and view the group in organizational context rather than in isolation. Building on the Competing Values Approach (CVA) to organizational analysis, they describe four perspectives on group decision processes: empirical, rational, political, and consensual. They present a case in which a validated evaluation instrument, based on the CVA, was used to gain insight into the decision-making processes of an executive team.
Brainstorming is reviewed in face-to-face and electronic contexts. Comparing brainstorming as it was initially defined to how it has been studied reveals several important differences. The accumulated research evidence indicates that face-to-face brainstorming groups produce fewer ideas than nominal groups (i.e., individuals who generate ideas without interacting with other idea generators). More recent research indicates that electronic brainstorming groups generate more ideas than do nominal groups. Increasing group size inhibits the performance of face-to-face brainstorming yet facilitates the performance of electronic brainstorming. Process blocking and evaluation apprehension appear to provide the fullest explanation of this phenomenon. Suggestions are made for facilitators who use brainstorming and for future research.
Cultivating Collective Consciousness with Transcendent Self-Presence: A Guided Dialogue Method
Group Facilitators cultivate collective consciousness in a group by using a dialogue method of conversation that reconciles the inner life of mind and spirit of the participant's with their outer world of action and outcome. This requires two modes of self-reflection: introspection and transcendent self-presence. The Guided Dialogue Method is a formation process that guides participants through a progression of four interacting, but distinct levels of self-reflection: Objective -- getting the participants' attention by engaging the senses, Reflective -- eliciting the participants' imagination and emotional responses, Interpretive -- catalyzing the sharing of lived experiences and decisions, and Maieutic -- eliciting a sense of wonder and openness to the transcendent dimension of life. The article includes both the theory and a practical walk-through model.
Group Facilitation in a Networked World
Group support systems (GSS), initially developed to support problem- solving groups in face-to-face meeting settings, are extending their capabilities to support meeting participants separated geographically and temporally, as a result of advances in networking systems and application software. Facilitation is viewed as an important factor in the success of face-to-face GSS meetings. This article explores the role of the meeting facilitator in assisting distributed group meetings supported by various technologies. Interviews with 34 practicing facilitators reveal their concerns and expectations regarding benefits and limitations of distributed GSS (DGSS). The interview results offer useful insights to DGSS designers, researchers, and practitioners. The facilitators' concerns include potential loss of non-verbal signals in addressing group process issues such as participation and conflict resolution, while they perceive that DGSS can offer benefits such as focusing and structuring. The facilitator's role is likely to continue to include serving as a change agent, while evolving from individual meeting manager to that of project manager, participant trainer, and technology enabler. Traditional facilitators will likely have to increase their skill and comfort with information technology, as well as adjust and adapt to new tools and methods for accomplishing their traditional tasks.
Classics for Group Facilitators:
Assets And Liabilities In Group Problem Solving:
In this classic 1967 article, Norman R. F. Maier delivers a convincing and practical summary of the assets and liabilities that groups bring to problem-solving situations. For effective group problem solving he argues for the superiority of "cooperative problem-solving activity," over "persuasion or selling approaches," and suggests that cooperative activities can be strengthened by the provision of an "integrative function." Using an intriguing analogy to the nerve ring of the starfish he develops a leadership model for group process. Although he uses the terms "discussion leader," or simply "leader," we can now recognize this early, clear description of the role of a group facilitator.
The Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision Making
The Skilled Facilitator:
Managers as Facilitators: