The facilitator is the host

February 12, 2014 | Blog-Admin1 | Methods & Tools |


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NadiaWith facilitators it is the same as with dancers or hosts: Intensive preparation is crucial for the final result. As facilitator I see myself in the role of steward or host, as the one who ensures the workshop is a welcoming place, invites participants to connect and enter into conversation and observes attentively the evolving process.

 Nadia von Holzen, SDC


The facilitator is a dancer or someone who makes progress easier. On “stage” I might indeed dance Ernst Bolliger’s facilitator-moderator-animator dance. As facilitator I see myself in the role of the host. The work begins long before the “guests” arrive. The preparation work is crucial and intense.

“The purpose is the hidden ladder”

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The core of the preparatory work is to clarify with the organisers WHY they call for a workshop. The purpose is driving the design process. With a clear idea in mind of what needs to happen in the heads and hearts of participants, facilitator and organisers jointly start the workshop’s programming.

The great host and facilitator Toke Moeller said once: “The purpose is the hidden ladder”

At the beginning of any new initiative, spend time together defining and articulating the purpose. This creates a boundary of conscious intention – you are not just acting out of momentum; you are opening a new space of creative action that is understood and held by all. The purpose then becomes a powerful organizing principle that can keep a project on track, even when complex and rapidly shifting conditions make it difficult to predict where that track will lead.
Little Book of Practice

Workshop design that marries content with process

You have the most leverage on a meeting’s success before a single person walks in to the room. Marvin Weisbrod and Sandra Janoff

The room and the programme are the things I as facilitator can prepare and influence. That’s why my busiest time as facilitator is actually BEFORE the meeting. To choose the right methods and especially the right mix of methods is my playground. I have to make sure we have a workshop design that flows from opening and discovery to closing and action steps.

The room, my ally

The room matters; I remember many times shifting tables and chairs around before participants arrived (little wheels are the facilitators dream, fixed tables a nightmare). For the host the room is an ally, a real enabler helping conversations to happen.

Inviting people

As host I am the one who invites people in. I see it as one of my key tasks to introduce and connect people so that they feel welcome and comfortable.  A connecting take-off is a precondition for working successfully together in a workshop.

Creating space and keeping it open

Yet the facilitator remains true to the central philosophy of leadership as the art of enabling performance and transformation by creating the space, by surfacing and unlocking the potential and capacities of people, by mobilising inherent resources and by supporting stakeholders in shaping their own future. Marc Steinlin and Catherine Widrig Jenkins

Keeping the space open is indeed the act of the dancer Ernst Bolliger mentions. But it is more an invisible and quietly moving dancer. It’s about the space for participants to engage and come to a breakthrough in their conversation. The space is crucial for the workshop’s success.

From Matthias zur Bonsen and Jutta Herzog, two experienced Open Space facilitators I learned that once the space is opened, facilitators just have to stand there.

How do you see your role as facilitator?

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Comments to“The facilitator is the host”

  1. Nadejda Loumbeva says:

    Great blog post Nadia! Loved it.


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