After a two-year absence, I visited the delightful Le Plateau/Mt Royal area in Montreal and re-discovered my favourite coffee shops. Memories return. In June 2017, at one of the cafes over latte and espresso drinks, Chris Pedersen and I created the first version of powerful questions for the @IAF Conference in Ottawa 2018. Chris and I were members of the Program Committee and when we collaborated with the entire Committee, the result was four questions that I believe are more meaningful today because of the impact of #Covid-19 on the facilitation community.
The questions then … and my thoughts now.
Question 1: What are the philosophical roots of facilitation, and how do they influence our work?
With the upheavals brought by Covid-19, I believe it is more important than ever to know and follow my philosophy, beliefs, and values about facilitation and use beneficial practices to apply them to my work with clients. How do I do this? I take the time to reflect on the philosophies that influence my current facilitation work. I re-read the books about facilitation that have guided me over 27 years of my profession and I seek new books and websites from which to learn. I revisit the Code of Ethics of the International Association of Facilitators. https://www.iaf-world.org/site/pages/statement-values-code-ethics-0 I talk with colleagues about what has changed in their philosophy and practices and what has stayed the same. I ask participants in my sessions what worked and what needs to change.
Question 2. How can facilitators positively contribute to organizations, communities, and the world in transition?
While sipping a latte in 2017, I could not foresee the global change that would start approximately three years later when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. And other events resonated throughout the world in the past three years, such as Black Lives Matter, Truth and Reconciliation for Indigenous people, LBGTQQIP2SAA understanding, political, economic, and social disruptions, and climate change. More than ever, this is a time for facilitators to contribute to what is and what will be in our world. The conversations that we, as facilitators, can help others with can lead to small changes within local communities and to positive impacts on a global level.
Question 3: How can we enrich our facilitation horizons in the digital era?
Question 3 makes me smile and sigh! Covid-19 did much more than enrich our facilitation horizons! It turned my and many of my colleagues’ practices upside down, inside out, and roundabout. We learned the ways of effectively facilitating online (virtually) to benefit our participants. And, while doing so, I believe that we held firmly to Question 1, going back to the philosophical roots of facilitation and the beliefs and practices that apply to facilitation whether in-person or online. In 2018, we wrote that “we want to provide opportunities to discuss the impacts of changes in digital communication on the understanding and practice of facilitation.” Since March 2020, we facilitators have lived the changes and felt the impacts, primarily positive. Facilitation through digital means is here to stay. Now, we need to learn how to facilitate hybrid (in-person and online at the same time) sessions effectively.
Question 4: How does facilitation aid and support other professions, and how are other professions influencing the practice of facilitation?
When I read Question 4, I think about the skills that are needed in our businesses, communities, and personal lives. An Internet search shows fascinating opinions and research about the skills that will be important in the near future. Facilitation is part of many of these skills and will contribute to individual, community, and organizational leadership.
Top 10 Skills of 2025 from the World Economic Forum
- Analytical thinking and innovation
- Active learning and learning strategies
- Complex problem-solving
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Creativity, originality and initiative
- Leadership and social influence
- technology use, monitoring and control
- Technology design and programming
- Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
- Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation
2017 to 2021 and beyond. Revisiting Montreal reinvigorated my curiosity and passion about these four questions and all things related to facilitation. Please contact me if you wish to talk about your experiences with facilitation, the four questions, and your needs related to facilitation which I may help you with.