First Experience At Facilitation

The word “facilitation” was not very well known to me until a few months ago, having done my studies in a formal class room teaching structure. Even at my first job at St. Xavier’s College, I followed the same structure of teaching. Things changed when I joined “India Youth Jam 2016”, coming across the inherent meaning and intention of “facilitation”. During the induction training of India Fellow, I got to know more about facilitation from our facilitators Vibha, Anupama, Rahul, Shalabh, Venu and Ram. During our PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) and RRA (Rapid Rural Appraisal) tools practice session, I,  with four other co-fellows practiced facilitation for the first time at Badigaon village, Udaipur. Before that sometimes, unknowingly I had used the terms teaching/training/coaching instead of facilitation, knowing only later the true difference.

If we look up the dictionary, the meaning of “facilitate”, is “to make easy” or to “ease a process.” According to Sam Kaner,

“a facilitator is an individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. She or he is a content-neutral party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting (discussion), can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group’s work.”

When the Executive Director of Dhriiti, and also my mentor, Nidhi ma’am told me that I have to facilitate few sessions on the next five day long “Beautyprenuer” workshop organised by Dhriiti, I was happy knowing that I would engage in completely new experience. I thought it will be easier for me as I had already had one year of teaching experience. Again, the workshop was on “Entrepreneurship Skills”, so I thought it will be easy because of my educational background. I, after consultation with my mentor choose “Vision and Dreams”, “Ethics”, “Human Resource Management” and “Accounting” as the sessions for facilitation. I read the manual so many times and tried to prepare well for all the sessions.

Our workshop started on 2nd September and ended on 7th September, 2016. I was a little nervous during my first session because all the project officers from different states of India were quite experienced in comparison to me. I realized, that it was not easy to facilitate like I had been thinking; the main difference between “teaching” and “facilitation” is the recognition that the participants know everything. In “teaching” we assume that the knowledge of the “teacher” on a certain topic or concept is superior to that of his/her student’s and the main role of the teacher is to make the concept is understandable and easier for students to digest. But, on the other hand, the role of a facilitator is to encourage his/her team so that team members come up with more sharing, collective understanding or collective solution for a certain concept or problem. The tendency to explain the concepts without letting the participants come to their own conclusion was ingrained in my from my prior experiences. I used to explain each and every concept to my students during my classes in my previous job. The new role was not too easy, but I gave my best and hoped that I succeeded. I think my previous experience helped me in coordinating the group to a great extent. After every session, Nidhi ma’am gave us facilitation tips for the different sessions on various concepts, which also helped in improving my performance in latter sessions. Tips like, “read and follow manual thoroughly (if manual is available)”, “self study and back end research on the concept”, “discussion with other facilitators” and “real practice” are really helpful to enhance facilitation skill. Perfection comes with practice and experience and this is also very true for facilitation skill. I hope I will do better in my future as a facilitator.

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