Somehow, today I have been thinking that sheep might provide me a good metaphor for what workshops can provide. I’m not sure why sheep particularly, somehow the idea just popped into my head. I do love a good metaphor though, so lets see if this will work……
Before the workshop there are a lot of people brimming with ideas.
They are all individuals with different ideas, skills and expectations of what the workshop is going to be like.
As a facilitator, my job is to get them together in the same space to help them to share those ideas and turn them into something useful.
The process of getting this information is relatively painless, it just needs a bit of time and effort, combined with the right tools and techniques. The content of the workshop is what comes from the participants. It looks different every time, and what that information is and how it looks very much depends on what the workshop is about.
As the workshop progresses, the raw information that was thoughts and ideas, becomes something more tangible and useful as we package it up into something that everyone can make sense of. Facilitation is very much about helping people to take something raw and unprocessed and turn it into something usable. Perhaps this is suggested goals, or plans of action, or some themes that can be developed further. The actual possibilities are endless and they look different every time.
Facilitating the collection and collation of this information is quite a craft, where the ideas that are shared, the knowledge and suggestions, thoughts, plans, needs and wants need to be turned into something useful and workable. Action plans are firmed up, goals prioritised, and specific next steps planned. When people have something useful to take away with them, that’s when you can see the fruits of your labours.
Sometimes, the end results are as expected and the next steps, plans, goals or feedback that are collated are simple and straightforward.
Sometimes it’s something unexpected, there are radical suggestions to solving problems, or unusual visions created. If that’s what the group has produced, then it is something productive and useful to them. It’s important that the facilitator let’s the group come up with it’s own ‘product’ and not a vision of what the facilitator thinks they need.
And that’s kind of the point of a workshop; inputting the raw ingredients and working them into something creative and good!
If you’d like a more detailed (and less metaphorical explanation of what facilitation is then you can read this blog on group process facilitation.
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