Discussion Summary:
Suggestions for Initiating and Institutionalizing a Culture of Participation and Dialogue

Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2007
From: James Wiegel
To: GRP-FACL@listserv.albany.edu

A couple of weeks ago, I sent round a request for examples and wisdom about setting up units in organizations to internalize facilitation and participation. Through emails and phone calls, I received about 189 bits of wisdom, which I have tried to summarize in the following 20 points, based on 6 or 8 different examples.

Clear mission and intent:

1. Establish a clear, concrete aim and plan to begin that can grow and evolve over time.

Dedicated Unit:

2. Establish a dedicated unit and leadership that gives the effort an organizational home, leadership, supervision, a budget and administrative support from the beginning

Initial Cadre:

3. Select and rapidly develop an initial cadre of facilitators who can clearly demonstrate the benefits of this approach early on and who can continuously develop their competence as master facilitators in meeting emerging needs.

Continuous Integration in the ever changing organization:

4. Work continuously and strategically to link participation and facilitation to significant organizational strategies and initiatives.

5. Continually grow the circle of relationships and involvement with leaders and stakeholders so they are excited to spread the word and ensure authorization of the work from a growing circle of supporters.

6. Establish and maintain an evaluation component from the beginning that ensures both continuous improvement and performance data that shows your value added.

7. Institutionalize your effort in written policies, job descriptions, operating plans and budgets.

Phased Skill Development:

8. Provide intensive basic training to the initial cadre in a core set of methods that includes high quality demonstration of the methods, basic theory and background, and opportunities to practice, practice, practice.

9. Schedule immediate applications for all that meet a need, are within their ability to do well and will rapidly build the competency base and experience portfolio of each member of the initial group.

10. Build in reflection time, mentoring, coaching and support to ensure they succeed and also rapidly develop both their competence and confidence.

11. Introduce consulting and design skills to assist them in focusing and customizing what they offer to meet and exceed specific client needs.

12. Build in opportunities for ongoing practice and refinement of both skills of facilitators and tools for the organization.

13. Develop a community of practice among the facilitators to support their sense of identity, their ongoing learning and skill development and the regular refinement of their services to the organization.

Facilitation Opportunities as Demonstrations:

14. Treat every facilitation task as an opportunity to demonstrate the value of your contribution, whether a planning effort, a meeting, or a special event.

15. Search out and demonstrate new areas of the organization where facilitation and participation will add clear value.

16. Document and compile the results of every facilitation with brief reports, the product of the event, feedback and comments from participants and stakeholders on the event and initial results.

17. Follow through with longer term monitoring and retrospectives that show progress both on outcomes and changes in team capacities and tie to your evaluation component.

Ongoing Internal Training.

18. Develop and offer a focused core curriculum for leaders, staff, stakeholders, and new facilitators that transfer skills and approaches relevant to the organization and their position.

19. Establish and qualify an internal set of trainers (who are also facilitators) to offer these courses.

20. Provide advanced opportunities and professional affiliations for continuous development.