My name is Kylie Hutchinson. I am an independent evaluation consultant and trainer with Community Solutions Planning & Evaluation. I am also a regular facilitator of the Canadian Evaluation Society’s Essential Skills Series course.
When I first started my evaluation practice, I was concerned that my statistical skills would be weak. Instead, I quickly learned that group facilitation was where I actually needed to focus the majority of my professional development efforts.
Sam Kaner defines a facilitator as, “an individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. They are a content neutral party who…can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group’s work. A facilitator can also be a learning or a dialogue guide to assist a group in thinking deeply about its assumptions, beliefs, and values, and about its systemic processes and context.”
I find that my facilitation skills really come into play when developing logic models and evaluation frameworks with clients. For those practicing Participatory, Empowerment, Developmental, or many other types of evaluation, where client participation and input is important, or where utilization of findings is a concern (and when is it not?), effective facilitation is a critical factor in determining the overall success of the evaluation.
Rad resource: Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making available from Jossey-Bass. This book is a great resource for those wishing to quickly develop their skills in facilitation, or for those looking for a refresher. The layout is very user-friendly for busy evaluators who have limited time for reading. I regularly pull it from my shelf when I’m feeling rusty and need a quick refresher, or when I’m looking for new facilitation techniques. For something more intense, consider formal training in group facilitation. Better yet, sit in on a session with someone with recognized skills in facilitation. Some of my best learning has come from watching good facilitators in action.
Reference: Kaner, S., Lind, L., Toldi, C., Fisk, S., & Berger, D. (2007). Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.