Reflections from a snowy day indoors by Liz Zadnik

Happy Saturday, folks!  I’m Liz Zadnik, aea365’s Outreach Coordinator.  I live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country and was snowed in a few weeks ago.  The storm wasn’t as bad as it could have been (for us…thankfully), but I had a chance to spend some time catching up on my reading resolution.  

Rad Resource: First off, I need to again express my appreciation for AEA’s member access to journals and publications from the field. I love New Directions for Evaluation and was excited to see “Planning and Facilitating Working Sessions with Evaluation Stakeholders.”  Part of my “day job” is engaging stakeholders in conversations about nuanced topics and complex issues.  The inclusion of a case example helped me operationalize concepts and give me some great ideas for my own practice.

View of desk with three plants lined up from left to right with a whiteboard in the background

Lessons Learned: A big factor in successful group project is navigating potential issues or influences within the group of stakeholders.  This includes both investigating the attitudes and dynamics of group members, as well as your own biases as the facilitator.  The article encourages evaluators to learn about possible political, historical, and/or social contexts that may prevent or hinder group cohesiveness and trust.  Is it (in)appropriate to bring everyone together initially?  Or do distinct groups need to be engaged before a collective can be established?  

There’s also a great table with skills and questions for facilitators, each topic has examples and items to explore.  What caught my eye – most likely because it’s something that has tripped me up personally in the past – was a set of questions about previous group facilitation experience.  It’s challenging not to bring past experiences with you to the present, but a lack of patience or quickness to make assumptions about dynamics and process can really impede creativity, innovation, and thoughtful problem-solving.  

I also loved how the author outlines thoughtful considerations and steps for facilitating and operationalized those considerations with a case example.  Particularly during the description of the debrief – I am a huge fan of self-reflection and really appreciated its inclusion within the facilitation process.  

I would definitely recommend the article to anyone who wants to up their facilitation game and is looking for guidance on how best to engage project stakeholders!   

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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