Rethinking facilitation and engagement

Time to sharpen my skills! And get to do what I like doing best: dreaming up creative solutions!

Since I will have to facilitate a lot of events in my upcoming function, it is a good time to think about workshop facilitation methods and approaches I have been using and might want to make use of in the future to trigger great engagement. AND I WANT FRESH STUFF!

I often come back to (among others) the following three of four methods: Open Space and related marketplace, World café and fishbowl… Oh, let’s be clear: many people and organisations still have yet to find out about the disarming simplicity and effectiveness of Open space, enjoy the rich results of world cafés or the relentless dynamic of a fish bowl discussion. But for slightly more seasoned facilitators, a certain fatigue comes with using the same methods and approaches over and over again, however open and good they are. It’s also fun to come up with new assets up your sleeve.

On the way to rediscovering energy in group work? (Photo credits: AlphachimpStudio on FlickR)
On the way to rediscovering energy in group work? (Photo credits: AlphachimpStudio on FlickR)

There are of course lots of facilitation toolkits available out there (some of them I have bookmarked on However those tend to reproduce the list of mainstream facilitation methods – or suggest combinations of methods, rather than come up with really different facilitation methods.

So it’s time to dive into the lab and re-think facilitation methods around engagement matters: what are the different types of engagement sought, what are the key factors that influence the choice of a method? And then it will be designing time, to come up with new methods…

Some initial ideas? I could better describe some keywords perhaps: dialogue, role-playing, graphic, acting, integration, building upon each other, simultaneous, critical, trust, openness, children, sing, nature, language, traducture.

What I want to come up with is three-fold:

  • A list of key factors that really influence the choice of facilitation method – that would go beyond the obvious (group size, venue etc.);
  • A series of properly ‘different’  methods of facilitation;
  • A grid to decide which method might be good for what purpose;

The logic of it all is to ensure even more meaningful engagement. The game is on, so now let’s see where this gets us!

As ever, your brilliant ideas are always welcome 😀

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Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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  1. Dear Rachael,

    I try my favourite techniques a lot with various groups but I have come to the conclusion it’s time for me to reinvent the techniques I use and that will be the topic of my next post in that series – arguably the most ambitious one.

    And crazy-creative is definitely my favourite style – but I’ve got lots to explore in that style still!
    Thanks for pushing me to go out of my comfort zone too!

    Thank you also for your encouraging comment on the other post. Cheers!
    Where can I read some of what you do? Nice to be in touch anyhow 🙂


  2. Have you tried using one of your favourite current techniques with a wide range of people to come up with some fresh stuff? Pick one that encourages creative and crazy stuff?

    How can you provide what it is people get in the shower that frees them to come up with great insights?

  3. Michelle,

    Brilliant! Thank you for so many good ideas! I’ll visit all of this and will come back to you, should I have any other question. As for Canada or group work here, let me think about it and come back to you. Well Canada is definitely not an option this year, but the other track might… More later.
    Cheers 🙂


  4. Hi Ewen,
    You can join our Rosviz10 page on Facebook – former workshop participants and those that love doing things visuals. Its mainly about sharing resources, crowdsourcing ideas, feedback. Also, Nancy keeps a WIKI with GF resources
    Email me offline for more info but that should be a good start!!
    p.s. Come to Canada – it’s going to be awesome OR get a group together and we can come to you!

  5. @Michelle Funny that you mention this because one of my resolutions for 2012 is to properly give a try to graphic recording and facilitation. I doubt I will be able to come over to your workshop, however tantalising it is. I totally agree on your point about spicing up and creativity and I’m increasingly finding out that I really like to work in graphical ways…

    If you have any good online resources about it, to just ‘learn by doing’, I would really appreciate!

    Cheers Michelle,


  6. Hi Ewen,
    You may be interested in graphic facilitation – bringing visuals into your work to add spice and keep the creativity up – it also engages participants in different ways.
    I am hosting a workshop in July 2012 with Nancy White in Rossland, BC, Canada – Come Join Us! Date tbc shortly…..Cheers, Michelle

  7. Ewen, check out Large Scale Interventions, including the recent PhD by Tonnie van der Zouwen (university of Tilburg, 2011) on the choice of LSCI methods you prefer. Another good place to get tested methods applied in a learning setting is the young professionals of the Learning Company.

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