9 STEPS BEFORE FACILITATION.

As design researchers and human-centered designers, it is essential in our work to engage with people in discussions, interactive activities, and different creative design methods. To make this happen, a key skill is needed as part of our skillset: Facilitation.

What is facilitation?

To understand better facilitation, I am referring to two definitions from two different resources:

  1. The Facilitator Pocketbook
“Literally, facilitation means ‘making things easy’. In today’s workplaces, facilitators make things easier by:
Using a range of skills and methods to bring the best out in people as they work to achieve results in interactive events.
Typically, facilitators are asked to help people to make decisions and achieve results
in meetings, teambuilding sessions, problem-solving groups, and training events.”

2. Design Process — Making It Work

“One who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions. A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance.”

IDEALAB at the Beirut Creative Hub

As part of our program at ALBA, we (the students) were given the opportunity to design and facilitate an Idealab. The idealab was part of the inauguration event of the Beirut Creative Hub organized by UNIDO Lebanon and antwork. This was an interesting opportunity to engage with real partners, to network with local and international organizations, and put our facilitation skills into practice.

Designing the Experience

As facilitators and designers, we need to be aware of both the content and the process to come up with effective ideas to implement the idealab. Our task included both designing and facilitating the idealab.

Before heading to antwork to facilitate the idealab, we worked on designing the experience for a few weeks. I am mapping out below the important steps we followed to design the idealab experience:

Background check

As the session we are designing was part of a bigger program, it was very important to have an overview of the program and its objectives. This was done through literature review and through meeting with the partner.

Goals & Expectations

After we understood the overall scope of the project. It was time to focus on our session. During the meeting with the partner (could be a client in a different scenario), we made sure to understand the desired outcomes of the session and the expectations from us. Having this conversation will help us design a better experience based on our partner’s needs and expectations. To ensure this alignment we validated our process and iterate it on the go by constant communication and feedback with the partner.

Knowing the Participants

As human-centered designers, it is crucial to understand who are the people we will be interacting with. Although in some cases, especially in public events, it is unclear who might show up, however, there is always a target audience set by the organizers.

Knowing the participants will help us design the right activities based on their profiles. Some factors we take into consideration include language, educational level, age, and cultural background.

Objectives and Questions

Whatever the topic and whoever the participants, defining the objective clearly of the session is essential. What do we want to achieve by the end of the session and what are we trying to discover or discuss. Once the objectives are set we can map out the guiding questions to move forward.

The Process

The process is the overall continuous series of actions and activities we design to accomplish our set objectives with the group. It is a dynamic framework.

“Process refers to how things are done rather than what is done.”

Activities and Tools

This step is for selecting the right tools and activities that are aligned with the process and will help us achieve our objectives. (e.g. brainstorming, mindmap, empathy map, discussion, voting, etc.)

The Agenda

This when we open a spreadsheet to have a comprehensive document of all the above. The agenda needs to be detailed for the facilitator, it includes for each activity or component: the time, the duration, the objective, the description, the materials, and the role.

Defining Roles

When co-facilitating it is important to agree on the roles ahead of time. It is also important to take in mind, especially in the case of large groups, that we need a timekeeper, a host or a lead facilitator, a rapporteur.

Artifacts

Artifacts are essential elements of the facilitation experience. It helps us capture, collect, sort, and organize information, ideas generated, and discussion points. We make sure to have them ready and agree on what we want for each activity. Artifacts can be posts-its, cards. You can read more about what I wrote before on post-its and their power.

I am looking forward to writing more about facilitation. It is my favorite part of the job.

The IdeaLab took place on February 28, 2019, at antwork, Beirut.