Facilitation is helping a group of participants find what is common in their diverse ideas, usually within a facilitated event such as a workshop, run a by a facilitator.
Everybody speaking some French will tell us that the word ‘facilitation’ means making things easier (fr. facile = easy). What things? These can be many. Here facilitation means working with a group of people who have a common task and objective.That work is usually framed as an event, a conversation, a workshop, a day away giving the group sufficient time, space and focus to discuss the topic. It may be a problem to solve, an organisational challenge to respond to, an action plan to produce, a product to design, risks to foresee. The subjects are manifold. The work is done by a facilitator whose job is, if the group of people need to communicate openly and profoundly, to make that communication easier. The communication is not always easy, because participants are often attached to their ideas and preferences, and their interests may seriously at stake.
The key task of the facilitator is to design, launch and hold a process that will enable such open and profound communication. Thus, we may speak of group facilitation but also of process facilitation. The process happens at two levels, let’s call them a large process and a small process. First, it starts from the initial contact between the client and facilitator, who discuss the subject at hand, which should allow the facilitator to design the process that will happen during the actual event. After the event, the facilitator will edit the result of the workshop, distribute it to the participants, and consider the possible next steps with steps, so completing the large process.
But what does making things easier entail. What is the essence of facilitation? One way of looking at it is, helping the group to find a commonality in their diversity. A group of people will generate a large number of ideas, and very likely in there will be some common threads, similar or complementary ideas, that will give the command response to the initial challenge. So, eventually, the objective of the facilitator is to build consensus around a topic brought by the group.