In its broadest sense, facilitation is about creating and holding the space in which interaction between people can take place: it is the role and function which works towards making processes effective at achieving their aims, focusing on the quality of the process itself, rather than the content of the process. As such, it is a distinctive role which demands particular skills and attributes of those involved in performing it.
Facilitation in this sense then refers to the entirety of the process, not just the individual meetings and events within the process. Facilitating the inter-group communication and the emergent relationships is also important to ensure a structured, coherent and mutually beneficial process.
This obviously implies some quite specific facilitation capacities and skills – from the capacity to engage with the complex political context underpinning the rationale for the msp, to the capacity to work with individuals and groups in a way that enables them to challenge themselves and each other in the quest for new approaches and collaborative learning.
In many cases a specialized facilitator is necessary. Conflict and power disparities require a trained hand to solve, one with a commonly accepted neutrality. However, in our experience, there are many benefits in viewing the facilitation role as an opportunity to incorporate additional people to fulfill the role, including experts on technical aspects of the issue at stake, external representatives of similar processes and indeed even the involved stakeholder of the process itself. This exposure to multiple perspectives provides a dynamic environment which promotes shared learning and experience, often removing pre-existing communicative barriers.
To accomplish successful facilitation of an MSP, a broad understanding of the process is essential. We recommend familiarization with the Process Model, used by CDI in our work. We have also prepared a set of resources, tools and methods specifically aimed at helping you to prepare.