What is the power of facilitation?

I’m working with an international group putting together a book on the Power of Facilitation. I am co-authoring a chapter on collaboration.

I’ve been facilitating groups for more than twenty years and for much of that time I’ve defined myself principally as a facilitator more than as a consultant, coach or other professional descriptor.  I think about facilitation as a way of working where an independent person designs a process that helps people come together around something matters to them.

So, some first thoughts about what ‘the power of facilitation’ might be.

It’s stepping back, keeping clear, creating an environment in which other people can do their stuff, paying attention to what is going on in the room and intervening as little as possible.  Hence the professional ideal of being neutral about the content of the discussion, although it’s open to question how neutral that can be in practice. It includes helping people break down the barriers that stop them communicating with each other.  It’s the power of de-cluttering processes so that people can take decisions, create strategies, build teams. For facilitators less is more – ask a few questions, keep quiet and allow the conversation to go where it needs to go.

I see it as a gentle power, that can maybe change the world one meeting a time.  Magic, perhaps, but low key. Not pulling a rabbit out of a hat but allowing the audience a brief glimpse of one of the ears.

Our group will be discussing this as we go, and of course writing about it, and I’ll be reflecting further.