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Dynamic Facilitation – or the art of creating collective solutions

April 17, 2013 | bit-wartung | Methods & Tools |

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Dynamic Facilitation is a facilitation approach addressing difficult or even complex issues. By taking notes on 4 flip charts the moderator supports the conversation and helps the group to make the shift towards a solution.

By Manuel Etter, SDC

 

I enjoy facilitating! To stand in front of the participants and to guide them through a well designed process from A to B, from a problem to a solution, is very rewarding. But there is a strange phenomenon in facilitation. Sometimes it happens, that workshop participants seem to appreciate my facilitation performance most, when I feel that my part in a specific process was actually very minor and that the methods used were rather too simple. Why is that? How can this be?

The answer to these questions materialized for me, when I came across a method called Dynamic Facilitation. Dynamic Facilitation, developed by Jim Rough is such a simple and apparently unstructured method that you will find it hard to believe that it can really work – until you tried it out. So here’s in brief how it works:

How it works

Gather the group of people which are interested to address an issue that may well be considerably complex and emotional. Formulate a compelling question.

Install four flip charts with the following titles:

• Problem statements / Questions
• Solutions
• Concerns
• Information / Data

Invite the participants to put forward their comments, no matter to which flip chart category they belong.

The facilitator’s role is “minimal”. It consists in writing down all the statements and comments on the flip chart- if possible in the words of the participants. This process reassures the participants that all their concerns, arguments, ideas etc. are being taken seriously (thus creating the conditions to enter into a collective creative mode). If necessary the facilitator may check back with the participants, if a statement was understood correctly, or if an argument could be described more precisely etc. In the course of the meeting, the group will end up with agreeing to a common solution (or to a set of solutions) without any process of rating and validating the suggestions. The solutions emerge. Jim Rough talks about “breakthroughs”.

Dynamic Facilitation relies on the skills of the facilitator not on rules, guidelines, or agendas so ordinary, untrained people can just speak their minds in addressing these difficult issues – Wisedemocracy.org.

Human thinking is non-linear

The reason why Dynamic Facilitation works is that human thinking is not linear and does not follow well designed “from A to B”-type structures. While we usually ask a group to first define a problem, then to analyze relevant related information, before designing solution approaches, Dynamic Facilitation is not using this linear logic. The participants may jump from problems to solutions to concerns and back, just the way their creative muse may kiss them.

Of course, I shouldn’t hide the disadvantages of the method:

a) It’s hard to foresee a realistic time frame and it won’t work if you start to pressure the group to “find a solution now as time is running short…”, and

b) as a facilitator you will be left behind frustrated with a feeling of “but why was this session so successful, while I didn’t contribute with well thought through structured methods and processes, to lead them the way from A to B”. And still: Be courageous, try it. It’s worthwhile.

Further links

• Find an abstract of the method Dynamic Facilitation on our learning and networking site Sdc-learningandnetworking.ch

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Comments to“Dynamic Facilitation – or the art of creating collective solutions”


  1. Hello Manuel!

    I very much appreciated your blog post, and enjoyed reading it.
    I wanted to offer an additional resource for anyone interested in Dynamic Facilitation. I’ve recently published an article in the OD Practitioner journal. It and other resources are freely available at http://www.diapraxis.com/home/resources

    with all best wishes,

    Rosa

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  2. Thank you for this very reduced to the max description of the “magic and simplicity” of the DF method. That is exactly what makes Dynamic Facilitation such an interesting puzzle piece for processes that intend to allow groups of citizens to raise awareness in society and to activate self-organisation in civil society, two areas where we want to get active with this method in the context of the Swiss political system.

    Chris
    http://participate.ch

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  3. Dear Rosa, dear Chris
    Thank you both so much for the valuable additional links and ressources on dynamic facilitation! Rosa’s manual on DF is already of great help to us and in use.
    Yours,
    Manuel

    3


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