Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Importance of faciliation in networks and communities

Lucie, Nadia and I have been running a 2 week online course for FAO staff titled "Introduction to Knowledge Sharing Networks and Communities". Last week, we discussed the importance of facilitation and how to build trust in networks and communities.

Here is a summary of the various points that came out in this discussion topic:

Why is facilitation important in networks and communities?
  • To set the tone for a lively and productive discussion - create an open, friendly, yet goal-oriented atmosphere
  • To keep things on track: the topic, the time allotted, to take note of issues that are off-topic but might be excellent for another discussion round
  • To move ahead (and to avoid silent times, without activity)
  • To achieve results
  • To summarize/revise inputs from non-native English speakers so that their inputs are also shared with rest of the community.
  • To ensure an open discussion, promote dialogue and ensure everyone’s opinions are heard
Finally, the biggest mistake in past networks was the create-it-and-they-will-come mindset. Networks are a lot of work! They usually need a lot of the facilitator(s)'s time in the beginning, when you need to kick it off.

How do we create the right environment to engage people and build trust?
  • Remaining open and reactive (interactive)
  • Setting a positive tone and welcoming new people
  • Encouraging the quieter participants to join (or discover why they are not contributing.)
  • Prodding the community with questions and summarizing the discussions
  • Sharing useful information
  • Maintaining/brining a sense/slice of humor
  • Tactfully supporting non-native English speakers (editing their posts, encouraging participation by talking to them offline, etc)
  • Going the extra kilometer and picking up the phone, calling on favors, cajoling, even pleading, if necessary!
  • Remaining neutral - treating people how you want to be treated
  • Taking care to watch over the tone and content of the material and ensuring the tone is open-minded, courteous and productive
Finally, for building trust, it's really a question of treating people the way you want to be treated. Creating a safe environment for sharing means that the facilitator is the guardian of the online space, where people look to you and mirror your behaviour.

Thank you Jean, Beate, Hivy, Kristin, Charmaine, Ilaria and Lucie for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

1 comment:

Nimmy said...

Nice summary of why Communities need facilitation. :-) Useful post this, because most organizations seem to be believe facilitation is not critical or in some cases...not even required.