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Six Steps to Becoming a Better Facilitator (when you don't do it for a living)

  1. Observe: When you're involved in group deliberative activities, pay attention to what the facilitator does, and doesn't do. Use the cards to assess the facilitator's skill and appreciate their interventions. If there's no facilitator, focus on where having a facilitator might have made the event go better, or even where participants acted, or might have acted, "in loco facilitatoris" as guerrilla facilitators to do things that made or might have made the event go better.
  2. Volunteer: When there's a group deliberative activity coming up that you're involved with that has no facilitator, volunteer to be one.
  3. Practice: You can practice invoking the patterns of excellent facilitation in lots of group activities -- social events, family discussions, political debates, small group conversations, online 'discussions' and real-time 'hangouts'. You don't have to be appointed facilitator to be one.
  4. Don’t try to be a facilitator and a content provider at the same time: If you're heavily invested in the outcomes of a deliberative group activity, or if the group is heavily dependent on you for content knowledge and context to help them come to a resolution, it's likely to be next-to-impossible for you to be an effective facilitator of the activity as well.
  5. Notice and Apply the Patterns Everywhere: Pay attention to the occurrence and invoking of the 91 patterns in settings other than deliberative group processes. Notice the presence or absence of flow, and the impact of relationships and power dynamics in every field of human endeavour -- teamwork, the organization and promotion of events, the effectiveness of communication, teaching, and engagement. Notice how the physical and psychological space affects everything that happens inside it -- art, creativity, attention, energy. Notice how important purpose, intention, challenge, courageous modelling, perspective and play are to everything we do -- even solo activities. Apply this awareness and learning to everything you do.
  6. Ask for Feedback: If you're going to try to facilitate something (officially or not), ask someone (ideally in advance) to observe you and tell you how they thought you did and how they think you might have done better. Pick out some of the patterns you think are most important and ask others how good they think you are at invoking them (and who they think is exemplary, and why). When some activity goes badly (whether or not you, or anyone, facilitated it), talk with other participants about why they think that happened, and how it might have gone better.

NB: This list began as my (Dave Pollard's) response to a workshop question about how to practice when you are not a 'professional' facilitator. I answered it badly, and have been refining the above list ever since so if I'm asked it again, I'll have a better response.