What is the role of a facilitator?

Short answer:

The role of the facilitator is entirely focused on the process and not at all on the content. He or she is a neutral process holder, inviting all voices and engaging everyone.

Longer answer:

The distinction between the process and the content is crucial for a facilitator. The content belongs to the participating group, they know their challenge, the problem to solve, a question to answer. They have the knowledge, experiences, creativity and other resources necessary to solve the puzzle. Any group is at a certain point, even if they don’t have all the resources, they can employ what they have or spread the workshop over time to fill in any gaps.

The facilitator brings in the process, understood as a logical (or not-so-logical but just-as-needed) progression of a conversation, as series of steps or activities that allow the group to complete the task. That process needs to be designed; it is a facilitator’s key competence to come up with a process that will be most helpful to the group. This what a facilitator is paid for. The process can be presented to the client for a discussion and approval, or co-designed, but that doesn’t change the facilitator’s ownership of the process. There are different degrees of fallibility and improvisation around the process, but we belong to the school of facilitation suggesting that improvisation is best if it happens within a certain structure and a well thought out process. 

With the ownership of the process the facilitator remains neutral with regard to the content. He may not have any knowledge of the topic. This perfectly fine and indeed often the case if a facilitator works with a great variety of clients and the resulting diversity of domains and topics.  So, a facilitator is a neutral process master, establishing and holding a space of exchange between the event participants. His tool books will have some tools techniques and behaviours to invite all possible voices and engage all participants. He or remains neutral to them and towards all of their contributions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top