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The Art of Facilitation, by Climate Activist Floss Adams

Posted by Claudia Tormey on July 04, 2019 at 09:08 AM

Climate Connects Facilitator Training Dublin Cropped

As part of a programme funded by The Wheel, Friends of the Earth have been given the opportunity to organise skill building workshops to support people who want to get more involved in the climate movement.

Together with Cultivate we hosted a facilitation training at the Fumbally Stables in Dublin, one of the participants, Floss Adams, shares her experience from the workshop below.

“Social Permaculture in a Regenerative Culture”


"On Thursday 13th June I set off for Dublin from Monaghan. I had booked to attend the Facilitator Training workshop being organised by The Climate Campaigners Capacity Building Programme, funded by The Wheel and led by Davie Philip, of Cultivate. I have enormous respect for Davie and his ability to reframe concepts and just generally stoke the fires of my enthusiasm and intention. He’s one of those rare people who you walk away from feeling energised and inspired and almost certain that you are capable of driving change yourself. So, this was an opportunity I had no intention of missing!

"The event was held in The Long Room at the Fumbally Stables in Dublin, which is a fantastic venue. A beautifully refurbished old stone building constructed around 1750, and originally stables for the nearby breweries and distilleries in Blackpitts. The curators of the space have kept as many of the original features as possible and have left it open to being informed by the people and events that happen there. It is a really lovely place of ideas, community, food, sharing and symbiotic relationships.

"Social permaculture is described as the "art of designing beneficial relationships" and is the study of human behaviour in (and outside of) groups as well as the restrictions of superficial relationships that act as a primary constraining factor in our attempts to transform society [University of New Hampshire]. A regenerative culture is described by Daniel Wahl as being “healthy, resilient and adaptable; it cares for the planet and it cares for life in the awareness that this is the most effective way to create a thriving future for all of humanity.” By challenging ourselves to break through relational restrictions, redefine beneficial human relationships and find ways to connect honestly and authentically in intimate spaces we come closer to the ultimate goal of creating this ideal of a regenerative culture. Designing and effectively managing that space, as well as extracting every last morsel of potential for positive action, is the role of the facilitator. No mean feat! So, where to begin?

"The workshop explored techniques for facilitating groups of people, usually with diverse opinions and ideas, who come together for a common purpose. In this instance, the common purpose is mitigation and adaptation in the face of climate crisis. As humans try to find a more sustainable and earth-friendly way forward it is essential that organisations encourage discussion and brainstorm efficiently. Every voice is important, every idea should be heard, and the meeting place needs to be a well-defined space where thoughts, dreams and concerns can be harvested and threshed, to refine them for implementation and maximum efficacy.

"As a facilitator it is essential to be well-prepared, to keep a clear and focussed agenda, to remain connected to the other participants and be able to ascertain their degrees of engagement, to acknowledge and note ideas that need to be parked for later discussion and to establish and maintain the ground rules of engagement. I imagine it as being a bit like conducting, where you’re rewarded with beautiful symphonies of thought and action if you get it right. And are likely to leave with a headache if you don’t.

"We also explored some of the different structures of meetings, my favourite is the Conversation Café which is based on the World Café methodology: a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue that can be modified to meet a wide variety of needs []. In an informal and creative setting, the main group breaks into smaller discussion groups that have conversations around key concepts; synergies start to form and are stimulated by the cross-pollination of ideas as individuals move between the discussions. The informal setting encourages sharing and moving between discussions requires active listening in order to find an entry point into the conversation.

"There was so much to think about and relate back to my own context back home in Monaghan. But what has stuck with me the most came up in a discussion about processing objections that have been raised against any proposal or suggestion. It’s human nature to push back against what is seen as criticism and to try and use force or intimidation to be “right”. But this feeling of discomfort doesn’t have to be a negative thing, and as Davie said, it can be a gift. Framed like this it becomes an opportunity to revise and refine ideas and suggestions that are, of necessity, bigger than ourselves (and our egos) and I’ve been applying it liberally to parenting, to work, to my relationships. As something challenges my thinking and provokes a response in me, I have started trying to look deeper into the experience to find the gift.

"If all the people in all the organisations that are committed to being catalysts for necessary systems change can engage, internally and as active spores of a wider network, in open and creative discussions that celebrate differences of opinion and use them to transmute ideas into their most elemental and vigorous states then maybe, just maybe, there is still hope."

Interested in gaining skills in facilitation? We have three more trainings coming up, see below:

Saturday July 13th - Clare PPN, Ennis, Co. Clare - Register at this link.
Thursday July 18th - Tailors Hall, Dublin 8 - Register at this link.
Saturday August 17th - An Mheitheal Rothar, Galway City - Register at this link.

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