Introducing the Facilitation Library

Facilitation of meetings and workshops has been something that myself and others have been championing across FutureLearn for a good few years now and it has become a huge part of how we collaborate and work together effectively.

The role of a facilitator is to ultimately make meetings and workshops easier and more productive, and also to help resolve conflicts. We’ve always had facilitators for retrospectives but as we started to grow, we realised that not only were our other types of meetings becoming more complex, but also our staff were becoming more diverse in background, communication styles and thought processes. This meant we needed to put more effort in to ensuring everyone felt like group interactions were productive and that people were being heard and understood during these sessions.

Initially myself and a couple of our UX research and design team simply started putting ourselves forward to act as facilitators for workshops and meetings held by any team or group in the company. Quite quickly people started to recognise the power of using a facilitator, not only in the fact that they would unlock conversations or ideas that may otherwise have been missed but also that they could bring resolution to the group in a more productive and open way. At this point we realised it was unsustainable for the skill, knowledge and responsibility of facilitation to be condensed with a few people at FutureLearn and so we decided to do two things:

  1. Create a training workshop to teach anyone how to become a great facilitator. This has been developed and run by Katie Coleman, Product Designer, and Tracey Walker, UX Researcher. It’s been so popular that it’s run four times and they have also done it externally too.
  2. Create a collaborative facilitation library where people could share example workshop plans and tips or ideas. We also used this as a way for teams to find facilitators for a specific type of workshop which distributed the responsibility of facilitation (and opportunity to facilitate) across more people.

I believe the ability to facilitate others, and be facilitated, is an absolutely crucial skill for modern workplace. It is one of the key tools you can use to create a more inclusive workplace, embrace diversity of thought and build empathy between people. This is why I have decided to make a public version of the facilitation library so that we can create a community of people interested in facilitation to share resources, best practice and feedback on their experiences of facilitating particular types of sessions.

I’d love to see a whole range of people and companies sharing their great ideas for creating inclusive and productive workshops, and us learning from each other about how to get the best out of people as facilitators.