Facilitation

Frequently Asked Questions about Facilitation

What is facilitation?

Isn’t facilitation the same thing as mediation?

What kinds of situations can benefit from facilitation?

Is it necessary that the facilitator have subject matter expertise?

How long does facilitation take?

Where does the facilitation take place?

How much does facilitation cost?

How do I initiate a facilitation?

What is facilitation?
Facilitation is a process in which a specially trained impartial third party, who has no decision making authority whatsoever, assists members of a group to improve their effectiveness and make better decisions by focusing on the process of the group dynamics and interaction among its members.

Isn’t facilitation the same thing as mediation?
Although facilitation and mediation have much in common, and we sometimes tend to use the words facilitation and mediation interchangeably, group facilitation is a distinct process. Mediation, particularly of litigable disputes, tends to focus on an assessments of the merits of the case and the legal positions of the parties in connection with a particular conflict or dispute, while group facilitation, which generally does not involve any particular dispute, but, rather, general group dynamics and often dysfunctional behavior, emphasizes intervention to help the group identify and solve problems and make effective decisions. The goal of facilitation is to assist the group not only with the present meeting and issue, but going forward to make better and more effective decisions on its own without the need for continuing intervention of a facilitator.

What kinds of situations can benefit from facilitation?
Virtually any kind of group expected make decisions and undertake action, including private corporations, partnerships, businesses, organizations and sub-groups within those larger groups, and public agencies, governmental bodies, committees within those bodies, and the electorate at large can benefit from facilitation. In the public sector, particularly, the use of facilitation is rapidly expanding. It is the intersection of political science and dispute resolution, frequently called deliberative democracy. Deliberative democracy recognizes the desire on the part of large populations to be more involved in the formulation of public policy and the decision making process, especially on those matters that will most directly impact their daily lives. Deliberative democracy seeks to enhance public policy and decision making by encouraging reasoned argument and dialogue among those citizens who will be directly impacted by the policy or decision under consideration and the elected and appointed officials charged with making those policies of decisions. Its goals include identifying all of the stakeholders and providing some level of comparable attention to the ordinary and least powerful among the citizenry as is given to the well financed and organized interest groups and lobbyists.

Is it necessary that the facilitator have subject matter expertise?
No. The facilitator’s expertise is in the process, not the content. The facilitator assists the group in better structuring how it interacts and makes decisions, through the application of various tools and techniques often called interventions, but the content of the meetings of the group, meaning the subjects or issues under discussion and the actual decisions made, belong to the groups. The facilitator will gather information to fully understand the group culture, and its needs, goals, and any requirements or limitations on its actions, but the facilitator need not have any expertise in the subject matter of the group’s activities.

How long does facilitation take?
The time required for successful group facilitation is a function of the nature and size of the group, the objectives and goals of the facilitation, and the extent to which the group is or has become dysfunctional. Facilitation requires extensive preparation by the facilitator prior to the actual group meetings, with the help of the group, to fully understand the culture and goals of the group; to determine who all of the stakeholders are and their appropriate representation; to agree upon the goals and expectations of the facilitation and the resources the group will be expected to commit to the process; and to the design of the right process to fit the group. After the preparation is complete, the facilitator will be in a better position to estimate how long the actual meeting process might take. Sometimes, after extensive preparation, the actual meeting process can be completed in one session, whether one day or several consecutive days, as in a group retreat. Often, however, particularly with large groups having a complex group dynamic and serious substantive issues to decide, and generally with facilitations in the public sector, it is necessary to spread the meeting process out over days, or even weeks and months. In those cases, the facilitator will work with all of the parties to schedule sessions in the most efficient way for all participants.

Where does the facilitation take place?
The facilitation can be conducted anywhere that is convenient for the parties and the facilitator. Sometimes the facilitation takes place in a conference room at the office of the facilitator, but more often it takes place at the normal meeting site of the group, so that the group is in its customary environment. For really large group facilitations, particularly in the public sector where there are numerous stakeholders, the public body or agency generally sponsors the facilitation and often arranges a public meeting room or auditorium at a mutually convenient location.

How much does facilitation cost?
Like the time required for facilitation, the cost is a function of many factors, such as the nature and size of the group, the objectives and goals of the facilitation, the extent to which the group is or has become dysfunctional, the amount of preparation that will be required to improve the chances of success, and the number and length of the sessions that will be required. The facilitator will charge for both the time spent in the actual meetings and the preparation time, usually on an hourly basis. Sometimes, particularly after the scope of the process has been determined, it is possible to negotiate a flat fee for the process. Sherman customarily charges $375.00 per hour for both the time in the actual meetings and the preparation time.

How do I initiate a facilitation?
Contact Sherman at 602-264-3330 or send him a message.. Sherman or his assistant will contact you promptly to discuss the nature and scope of the facilitation and how to best proceed.

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