Meeting Facilitation Guide for Conscious Community Building
What is the purpose of facilitation?
The role of facilitation is vital in creating a cohesive and efficient process of meeting and decision-making. The point is to ease the process by managing the flow of the conversation in a conscious and inclusive way in which the group objectives are met effectively.
Some concrete objectives of facilitation are:
-clear thinking & maintaining objectivity
-co-creating creative solutions
- facilitating the establishing of action plans.
1. Design, plan, and gather.
- Design a realistic meeting agenda that is shared with at least one other team member. The items should directly reflect the needs of the community, including what must get gone and what must be discussed/decided upon.
- Announce the time and place of the meeting well in advance (at least a few days before) and issue as many reminders as needed.
2. Guide and Navigate
Guide and steer the meeting process to ensure that:
-The conversation is productive; meaning the group is actively discussing to find a solution/agree to plan of action
-Achieving a mutual understanding of the approaches/solutions among the participants.
-Keeping the group focused on the topic/objective of conversation at hand.
-Balancing level of participation between individuals.
-The comments and questions are addressed and considered in the ideas, solutions or decisions that emerge.
To guide and control the meeting, you will need to:
Get things flowing - Start with doing a round-robing style check-in with everyone answering a specific question (ie. what intention would you like to set for today?) Use appropriate icebreakers to get the meeting off to a positive start. Conscious breathing together is a great one to get folks centered and present.
Set the ground rules and guidelines – Introduce the basic requests of how to communicate with each other during the meeting. Prepare some ground rules and community guidelines in advance to propose and seek agreement to these at the start of the meeting.
Set the scene – Provide a brief overview of the main objectives of the meeting and the agenda. If appropriate, open the floor up for any comments or amendments regarding the agenda.
Maintain momentum and morale – As the meeting proceeds the flow of the group conversation may lead astray, away from productive/solution-oriented approach to aimless talking. Stay aware of this and manage energy levels by providing breaks when necessary to make sure people remain focused and productive.
Maintain Neutrality – As facilitator, you're taking a neutral stance, so check your personal biases when you playing this role. Most of all do not, consciously or subconsciously, take advantage of this position of power to further your personal ideas and agenda. You can personally participate but make sure to put yourself on stack.
Balancing Participation - Maintain awareness of people who are talking the most and those who are talking less. As facilitator you have the authority to control the stack. Therefore, if you feel someone is taking a lot of space in the meeting give priority to those who have not spoken as much, to equalize participation between participants. See how you can gently include those who may be too timid to speak up. Be aware of how much space you're taking in the meeting. Intervene only when needed for the abovementioned purposes
Monitor checkpoints, and summarize – Keep in control of the agenda and what's next; Summarize and provide options for action items.
Prioritizing Tasks and Projects - This is necessary, especially in work meetings such as the Morning Circle. As you go over projects it is the role of the facilitator to pose the question of the level of importance and urgency of each projects. Use the projects board as a tool for this group process.
Before breaking the circle....
3. Record and Act.
This is arguably the most important step. A meeting is wasted if the decisions and discussion have no lasting impact. It is the facilitator’s role to clearly record the outputs (ie. decision, action plans), identifying necessary tasks, delegating, and making sure they are followed up on.
The key to achieving this is "Bottom-Lining"
After identifying the needs of the community, it is essential to delegate tasks out to specific individuals. With each task that must get done, facilitator poses the question of who will “bottom-line” this project. When someone steps up, the facilitator records their name next to the project name on the board, in order to establish this expectation. Here, it is critical for the facilitator to ensure that people's responsibilities are 100 percent clear. This record on the board, in addition to the verbal agreement made during the meeting, is used to hold the bottom-liners accountable in future meetings and follow-ups. Manage the balance of task delegation. Assess whether the commitments that people are making are realistic. If you notice one person is taking on tasks disproportionately attempt to redistribute, if appropriate. Keep in mind sometimes imbalance is inevitable due to the difference in roles that individuals play.
When you are recording and actioning, here are some things to remember:
Facilitation Tools - The “Hows” of Facilitation
Taking Stack - A basic technique of managing the conversation flow of the group. Simply put this is to create a queue for talking. This is also to provide the facilitator with the ability to ensure a balanced and equal level of contribution among the participants.
Hand signals - A simple technique that is often used in meetings by conscious communities that practice direct democracy. These provide participants with efficient tools of communication and help the facilitator see emerging agreements and common ground.
We find five simple signals suffice:
-Raise your hand - when you wish to contribute to the discussion with a general point.
-Silent Approval - Wiggle all of your fingers while holding your hand up (like spirit fingers) to show agreement with what is being said. This is helpful for eliminating the time that is wasted when people speak up just to express agreement! Conversely, you can signal disapproval with downward fingers.
-C - when you are seeking further clarification usually in concrete things such as a relevant fact or plan of action that is being discussed. It must be structured in the form of a question. When a person uses this signal, their question overrides stack.
-Direct Response - Directly point to the person speaking only you have a direct, highly relevant, and useful response to the specific question or matter that is being expressed by that person. Ex: Person A: “what was the cost of the wood we purchased”? Person B: *Direct response signal*, “It cost us 100Q.” Direct responses also override stack.
-Point of Process - when there is a comment or question regarding the PROCESS of the meeting, as opposed to the content of the topics being discussed. This is also immediately addressed and hence overrides stack. Ex: If the facilitator skipped someone on stack, another individual can hold his signal to point this out.
-Wrap It up - Spinning of the hand in horizontal circular motion, as if wrapping a rope, signifies the sentiment that the topic has been over-discussed and the conversation is no longer productive. By making this signal, the individual is making the recommendation to move on to the next agenda item.Project Board - Writing down each project/and task on a large whiteboard is a great visual guide for the group to navigate this process. This is especially useful for the task of clearly noting the bottom-liner, level of urgency & importance, timeline of completion, and materials needed. Use the board at the next meeting as an outline for project updates.