A quick view
by Jerry Hampton

This was originally written for a group of people that were interested in community building facilitation training and is intended to give only a little about the subject. The subject will be expanded in several additional articles later.

The purpose of this article is to tell about public and private Community Building facilitation. Facilitation of a community building workshop is different than what most relationship facilitators have experienced or been trained to do. Many experienced facilitators of other types of workshops will need to unlearn as well as learn new techniques. It is a noninvasive type of facilitation which may cause participants believe no facilitation is taking place. But it is. It is facilitating the "self-facilitation" of the individual from their inner self .

The facilitators role in community building must always be one that builds safety, trust, and respect. When this is accomplished, the workshop will take care of itself with few interventions. A facilitarors task is to lead the participants into emptiness, not community or chaos. A facilitator has great power in every word spoken. You are like a 700 pound guerrilla standing before the group in terms of your power. I learned this the hard way in my first workshop when I said to the group: "I agree" after a person had just said some negative things about another person in the workshop. This had the effect of cutting that persons legs off and shut him down for the rest of the workshop. I did not need to say what I did because the previous speaker had said it all very well. The reason I said this was because of my immaturity of being tied to the outcome of my first workshop. Another learning is to let go of the outcome. That is up to the group.

The group is watching you closely and you are always modeling even when you do not speak. Sometimes it is necessary to model authentically for the group in how to speak but timing for this is a key to it being successful. For example, I've learned that in many workshops, the women usually can share quicker than the men and they will usually dominate the first day. When this is true, I will often share authentically as a participant toward the end of the first day. The men notice this and after sleeping on it, they often give themselves permission to be "moved to speak" early the second day.

Facilitation for public groups is different from private groups. In public events, people most people self-select to attend with only self-screening. This can result in some people attending which may have social integration problems that are not "normal". Learning what to do in these situations can create a challenge to even the most experienced CB facilitator. You are seeking balance for the group, but not at the expense of an individual or the group. You may facilitate a group's learning about inclusively of some "abnormal" behavior or you may intervene to stop the abnormal conduct.

In private events, facilitation tends to meet specific group needs or themes. For these, CB methods may be adapted into different forms along with the "circle ritual". Special exercises may be needed to fulfil these group requirements. It is a matter of experience and proper pre-assessment of a group's capability and desires that allows an appropriate workshop design.

This type of facilitation is taught by presenting case histories that show the wide variety of methods used. An example of such an exercise is looking at the unwritten rules that guide this group. These "rules" often cause behavior that a group is not fully aware of, but does influence the group behavior. The group is very smart and can find these "rules" which is often highly revealing and can lead to more healthy behavior, often in the area of communications.


Background Training and Experience

My venture into group facilitation started in 1971 when I trained to become a phone counselor for a 24 hour a day crisis hot line known internationally as Lifeline. In 1973, I became a primary trainer of new phone counselors and in doing so, learned listening skills and noninvasive counseling. I continued to facilitate the necessary skills to deal with crisis for three years and 6 classes of phone counselors, about 300 people. I also worked the phones for about 2,000 hours over 7 years.

In about 1975, I took Small Group Facilitator Training from Dr.Cecil Osburn of the Yokefellow Foundation. Following this training, I formed my first "spiritual growth" group. In the years to follow, I created many such groups and provided public facilitator training to others so they could lead these small community/share groups. I still provide this training today because I believe these groups are the heart of community for ongoing learning of community characteristics. Later, I was privileged to spend an evening with Dr. Eldon Trueblood and hear his philosophy of small group facilitation. Much to my surprise, it was very similar to that of Dr. M. Scott Peck.

About this same time, I designed and facilitated my first public workshop titled: Unconditional Love. This was highly successful so I went on to design several others that promoted self-actualization and authentic relationships. Some of them were titled: Communications: Key to Meaningful Relationships; Builders and Barriers in Relationships; Creative Problem Solving; and Creative Chaos. I seldom do these any more because I strongly favor the community building format which allows far more self-actualizing.

In addition, I had been a manager of people since the age of 19 and this helped know something about people and group dynamics.

CB Training and Experience

In late 1986 I was selected for training by Dr. M. Scott Peck in his method of building community.

The following is how this training went: I attended two three-day training/evaluation events within four months followed by another training event four months later. I did my first public workshop a month later as an intern under the direction of an experienced facilitator. Several months later, I did my first workshop as a primary facilitator. My total time in training was about 10 months. I attended about 7 workshops as participant/observer before facilitating my first workshop.

Prior to training with Dr. Peck, I had 15 years of group work as a facilitator. I felt I knew how to do CB workshops based on my prior group experience. In those 15 years I had facilitated more than 500 small groups and a number of one-day relationship workshops using primarily directive facilitation. This experience gave me considerable understanding in group dynamics and was very helpful in doing CB. For CB, I had to unlearn some "directive" techniques. It took around 15 CB workshops before I really felt comfortable doing this new kind of leadership.

The main difference in CB facilitation is that you are a guide to keep the people on track in facilitating themselves without probing, pushing, demanding, giving advice, and judging. And most important is to maintain safety, trust, and respect in the group.

Community Building facilitation is a fairly new form of leadership. It is one that believes people have most solutions within themselves. In most situations only the individual can know their solution for their situation. For example, if a participant asks a question, the facilitator most often does not answer so the participant can get the answer within themselves. When a participant does this, they own the solution, not the facilitator. A basic premise is that the facilitator is there to create awareness by helping the participants come to awareness of what they know but do not know they know, about themselves and the group. We have a motto that a community group becomes a group of all leaders. This is much of what the facilitation is about.

There is an old Chinese proverb that expresses my view of this type of leadership. It goes like this:

Old Chinese Verse:

Go in search of your people,

Love Them; Learn from Them;

Plan with Them; Serve Them.

Begin with what they have;

Build on what They know.

But of the best leaders,

when their task is accomplished,

and their work is done,

The people all remark:

"We have done it ourselves."

Learning CB facilitation also becomes knowing the characteristics of the four stages: Pseudocommunity, Chaos, Emptiness and Community that evolve during the CB process and have value in the process. Through experience, the facilitator grows in knowledge in how to achieve safety, trust, respect and balance in the group learning awareness. The facilitator learns to use the power of interventions without any abuse. You facilitate the individuals' awareness of themselves and their awareness of the group simultaneously. It is a multitasking process.

The best way to learn is to get some basics, then go under the wing of an experienced facilitator that you respect. Watch what this person does and does not do. Ask 100's of questions about the process. Then ask more questions and do more facilitation. You only learn how to do this expertly by doing it.


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revised August 24, 2003

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