Helping Young Leaders Become Skilled Facilitators

By Karan Deengar

Last week, I nervously entered into my first facilitation this semester.  My role as facilitator was to help Make Your Mark on Madison’s young student leaders gain facilitation tools that they could use when working with their new members. The workshop was broken into two facilitation models; the first one was World Café and the other one, Public Conversations Project. I was a facilitator for World Café and as we went through the process I began to enjoy myself and relax a little. I asked questions that kept the discussion going and helped them elaborate on their thoughts. I also answered their questions about what we do as facilitators of JMU’s Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue (ICAD), and gave them some advice on facilitation. The students I talked with were invested in this workshop and eager to learn. Their energy motivated me and quickly got rid of any nervousness I felt before.

A notable moment for me came when I was asked “What do you do when someone takes control of the entire conversation by speaking too much and does not give others a chance to express their views?” This was my chance to put my knowledge to the test and serve an enthusiastic participant.

I told them that first, the facilitator needs to validate that person. After they feel they have been heard they are more likely to listen to other people’s opinion. I then explained that it is also helpful to summarize what the person said and then ask those who haven’t spoken much to share their thoughts. It’s important to be mindful of this problem in group discussion, especially when we are discussing controversial issues. It was these kinds of thoughtful questions that helped them learn and helped me grow as facilitator.

The personal impact for me as an ICAD affiliate was seeing how engaged and earnest these students were in learning how to facilitate. It made me happy that I had the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills that could help others with their goals. The skills required to being a good facilitator are skills that help you through all walks of life, especially when it comes to leadership roles. The ability to ask engaging questions and make people feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts is invaluable. I walked away from this facilitation confident in myself, and no matter what I do in the future I want to continue to cultivate my facilitation skills and use these skills to help people whenever I can.

Advancements in Technology, Growth of an Affiliate: The Long-Term Partnership That Has Shaped Me Today

By R. Chase Dunn

When I began my journey as a facilitator of public dialogue, my first professional facilitation was for the Virginia Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education Summit (VIRTUES)—a collaboration of key Virginia leaders in unmanned systems technology. This summit, which took place in the summer of 2016, was hosted by 4-VA—a collaborative partnership of five Virginia universities.

Learn more about 4-VA’s technology education initiatives here

I trained with ICAD for 2 days before the event. Nervous and excited, I tried to use my knowledge of best communication practices to help guide a conversation between professionals and academics on a topic that I knew nothing about.

More recently, after an additional semester-long course on facilitation, I became an intern for ICAD. In this role, I was tasked with taking the lead on VIRTUES II, a follow up conference to the initial summit. I found myself responsible for designing the processes we would use to stimulate conversations for the entire day, a day which would end with remarks from Terry McAuliffe, the Governor of Virginia. Again, I approached the challenge of taking on this new leadership role with excitement and uncertainty.

The process was designed, the plan was approved, and my team was briefed. I felt ready for the event. That was until the day before, when new schedules and new goals forced us to change almost everything we had prepared.

VIRTUES II took place on February 10th, 2017, with 8 other facilitators helping me throughout the day. It went incredibly well thanks to the flexibility and adaptability of my team. The day ended but the project wasn’t quite finished until I compiled everyone’s notes and developed a final report for 4-VA.

From my 2-day training to the full-length course to becoming an intern for ICAD, I have quickly fallen in love with the process of designing and shaping spaces to help people think about issues together.

More than that, I have come to understand the incredible value of what we do. The organizers of the conference even emailed to say “You and the ICAD team were so integral to VIRTUES II being a success!” Moving forward, I can’t wait for future opportunities to design communicative processes that help people reach their goals.

If you’re interested in the growing world of unmanned systems check out Virginia Robotics