Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.
I’m Amy Griffin, Director of Health Evaluation Initiatives at The Consultation Center at Yale and Director of Strategy and Operations for YaleEVAL. I had the privilege of presenting Facilitation Skills for Evaluators at the June 2022 AEA Summer Institute.
Facilitators encourage authentic communication from participants, ensure meeting goals and objectives are met, and synthesize information to assist with group problem solving and decision making. As evaluators, we facilitate discussions at every phase of the evaluation process, including designing the evaluation, developing data collection methods, and analyzing and interpreting evaluation findings. Effective facilitation builds trust with and among community partners and can lead to a more inclusive evaluation process.
During the workshop, we discussed the importance of planning, managing group expectations, co-creating safe spaces to encourage authentic communication, and addressing disruptive team behaviors. Participants were asked to review six types of prominent disruptive team behaviors (dominating, rushing, withdrawing, discounting, deviating, and obstructing) and rate their comfort/confidence managing these behaviors as a meeting facilitator (see page 4 of the Facilitator Tool Kit for definitions and examples of disruptive team behaviors). They then practiced new approaches to manage these behaviors in a role-playing exercise with their peers. It was inspiring to see their engagement with the exercise and willingness to be vulnerable. It mirrors what we ask of our community partners while they engage in the evaluation process with us.
Invest time in preparing for the facilitation. Proper planning can lessen or in some instances prevent disruptive team behaviors. When preparing to facilitate, consider asking these questions:
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- Are the objectives clear?
- Is there agreement among participants about the meeting objectives?
- Is the length of the meeting (or number of sessions) realistic to be able to accomplish stated meeting objectives?
- Who is invited to the meeting and who is not invited?
- Do we have appropriate representation from the community to achieve the desired goals?
- What is the history of relationships of the invited members and/or their organizational affiliations (e.g., personality styles, competition, mistrust)?
- Where will the meeting be held and is the space equitable (location, accommodations, language, and access to technology if virtual)?
- How will you set up the room or design the virtual space to encourage communication and decision making?
Here a few resources to check out as you continue to refine your unique facilitation style:
- Equitable Collaboration Framework by Organizing Engagement, describes approaches to strengthening equitable collaboration with different audiences (e.g. youth, families, and other community members).
- Excellence in Public Service Facilitation Skills from Washoe County, Nevada (2010), is a training module that includes a facilitation self-assessment, facilitation tips, and guided exercises to enhance your facilitation skills.
- Facilitator’s Guide to Equitable Spaces by RESULTS Educational Fund, is a brief guide to learn about how to create equitable spaces during a facilitation and tips to navigate oppression and power imbalances.
- Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making by Sam Kaner et al (2014), provides frameworks for navigating and facilitating group decision-making processes.
- Facilitator Tool Kit from the Office of Quality Improvement, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2007), provides tips and tools to assist with facilitating effective meetings.
- The Definitive Guide to Facilitating Remote Workshops by Mark Tippin, Jim Kalbach, and David Chin (2018), is free to download if you complete a registration form. The guide provides checklists and case studies to assist with navigating virtual facilitation.
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