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Facilitative behaviors and skills are essential for anyone who wants to work collaboratively in groups and organizations (Kaner, 2007)
Facilitative behaviors are foundational to participatory decision-making and result in implementable decisions that lead to significant change. Yet, small groups, associations, organizations, and the public may require assistance other than technical expertise to enable them to work more effectively and support everyone to do their best thinking. That kind of assistance can be thought of in several ways. One is by developing facilitative behaviors that generate productive staff or advisory board meetings, or meetings in general. A second is securing a facilitator to provide the process assistance that a group requires to help problem-solve a project or an issue.
Given the increasing complexity of public issues in North Carolina, there is a need to ensure that our Extension professionals perform their facilitative and convening roles in a neutral and interdisciplinary manner. Groups, associations, organizations, and our public’s often require assistance from navigating a strategic or land use plan, to facilitating a budget discussion, to helping manage discussions on crucial issues such as health and nutrition or environmental and agricultural concerns.
The N.C. State Extension Facilitation program was designed 1) to build the capacity of a core team by developing their facilitative behaviors and skills, and expertise in meeting management and public issues facilitation, 2) continue to develop their capacity through advanced training in facilitation, and 3) provide multidisciplinary statewide essentials in facilitation training to a diverse audience while mentoring more novice facilitators in local, regional, and statewide projects.
N.C. State Extension Facilitator Team:
An inaugural cohort of 16 Extension professionals began the NC Facilitation program by completing 8 days of core instructional training. Following the core training, the cohort formed eight cross-county and in some cases cross-district instructional teams that developed 3-day training plans for broader extension involvement in a “Don’t Get By, Get Better” program. Marketed as in-service multidisciplinary opportunity, the program was designed to ensure extension personnel have the “people and meeting” skills to deliver innovative and relevant programs while assisting members of their counties and groups in facilitating organizational and public issues.
Offered in various locations throughout the state, the essential training was designed to reach agents, specialists, and county extension directors from all 100 counties in NC, over a six-month time period. Representing varied subject matter expertise, in between and following sessions, the 110 participants were asked to apply the skills learned by working with their peers in other counties to develop new approaches to process design and facilitation techniques, and consider new ways of modeling and teaching facilitative behavior or skills.
The NC Facilitation team was recognized at the 2015 JCEP (Joint Council for Extension Professionals) National Conference with the national team award for their work to begin the facilitation movement in N.C. Cooperative Extension.
In December 2017, eight members of the initial NC Facilitation team coordinated a three-day facilitation training for N.C. State Extension staff. Thirty-five N.C. Cooperative Extension staff participated in this revised facilitation training. Those completing have been added to the list of qualified facilitators for N.C. State Extension.
These facilitators have provided training and programming throughout the state. In 2019, an introduction to Facilitation Training was offered during Annual Extension Conference. Approx. 30 Extension professionals attended this introductory session. A full 3-day training was to be provided in the fall of 2020, however due to the pandemic this training was cancelled.
EXAMPLES OF TRAINING MATERIALS
- JCEP 2015 Presentation Powerpoint
- JCEP 2015 Presentation Handout
- District Training Sample Agenda
- District Training Sample Facilitator’s Agenda
- Session Planning Worksheet
- Six Thinking Hats PPT
- The “Group from Hell” Activity
- Introductory to Facilitation-Agenda
TOOLS & SUPPLIES
BOOKS AND GUIDES
- Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making
- The Memory Jogger 2
- The Team Memory Jogger
- Facilitation at a Glance
- How To Make Meetings Work
- The Aspiring Thinker’s Guide to Critical Thinking
- Strategic Planning Training
- Visual Leaders New Tool for Visioning, Management & Organization Change
- Strategic Planning for Public & Nonprofit Organizations
- Extreme Facilitation: Guiding Groups Through Controversy and Complexity
- The Big Book of Flip Charts
- Visual Meetings
- The Ohio State University’s Building Dynamic Groups
- The Skilled Facilitator