In the last few weeks I’ve been working with Emily from Transition Leicester on a training for facilitators which we deliver in about 3 weeks time. The facilitators in question are going to pioneer the first round of Transition Leicester’s Footpaths project. On the surface it’s another carbon footprinting programme based on getting workmates or neighbours together to share the experience of informing themselves and taking small steps to reduce their personal impact on the planet. What’s impressed me is that the vision for Footpaths goes deeper than that.
The Footpaths materials, spread over 7 sessions, includes a conscious and sizeable proportion of material on the nature of groups and the nature of making change in the life of individuals and groups. Real attention has been paid to the psychology of working in groups and of making change, neither of which are always an easy process.
At least part of the thinking behind this seems to be a desire to seed Footpaths groups that carry on beyond the 7 sessions provided by the organising working group as well as to create group-workers who are better equipped to work within their community in the future.
And if that wasn’t interesting enough, Footpaths has adopted a model in which the role of the facilitator changes over time facilitation. For the first one or two sessions the facilitators will undertake a fairly traditional workshop facilitation role but with an increasing emphasis on devolving responsibility to the group until by the end the group are co-creating the agenda and sharing responsibility for both the process and the content. I suspect this will be a challenging transition for some facilitators to make – it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of facilitating one particular way. Part of our work in preparing the facilitators is to support them in enacting that transition.
As for the agenda we’re devising? It’s almost there. The usual struggle to prioritise the material we’ll include and that which we think is valuable but for which there simply isn’t time. There will be 2 drop-in evening sessions in addition to the initial training. These will be strategically placed to offer facilitators ongoing support and allow us to bring in some of the material we’ve not included in the initial session, hopefully at a stage of the facilitators’ journeys when it’s particularly relevant.
Good luck! This sounds sensible, difficult. So many groups (including Transition ones) go up like a rocket and then down like a stick. And the nature of groups/group dynamics is a severely under-examined part of that problem. Will rhizome/Emily be doing progress reports?
Are you aware of the recent work of Rosemary Randall and her colleagues of Cambridge Carbon Footprint.? Thirty years ago she wrote what I think is still one of the most useful explorations of group dynamics/what goes wrong, called “Co-operative and Community Group Dynamics…. or your meetings needn’t be so appalling.”
And finally, a couple of self-promotions. I’ve done some youtube videos about
the law of two feet
“meetings from above”
Would love to know what people think…
Thanks Marc… yes there will be updates in our blog on the training for facilitators, the follow up drop-in sessions and any other work we do to support the project. I’ll make a mental note to ask Emily or one of the others from the project design group to report back on how the whole thing has gone at some stage.
I know the project designers have drawn some inspiration from a variety of previous projects including the one in Cambridge
As for self-promotion? Just taken a look at the videos – thanks for demonstrating how we can use relatively simple technology to spread the word in a humorous fashion. As trainers in today’s society people increasingly often ask about training via video or other online media. There’s a bit of me that’s reluctant because there’s a real power in face to face interaction. Plus I question our abilities to put together something meaningful with limited expertise, budget and so on. But having seen your videos I’m more appreciative of the value of doing so, and more confident that if we could only find the time(!) it would be a worthwhile endeavour
I think you’re right to be reluctant about the whole “online learning” thing, in isolation. But if it is “pre-watching” for some face-to-face work, it might – ahem “create synergies”.
A related danger (perhaps another reason you’re reluctant) is in the idea there is a set toolbox that can be deployed in any circumstances, and that once someone has a repertoire of 5 or so different techniques they are going to be able to cope when things go Badly Wrong. Of course, even “expert” facilitators can ‘fail’ when things go Badly Wrong, but they hopefully are humble and cautious, not overconfident on the basis of having watched a bunch of youtube videos.
I for one – on the basis of what little I’ve read of the rhizome website – would really appreciate seeing what you came up with. I use Moviemaker, which is really just powerpoint with a voiceover. Today someone was helping me put together my first proper video, using Finalcutpro (on a Mac). But I think the low-fi aesthetic, not slick, is perhaps what I will keep to.
PS Glad to hear there’ll be progress reports. Recently I read an interesting “insider/outsider” account of Transition Nottingham. Let’s see if google can find it… (with help from my memory)
Community-led urban transitions and resilience: performing Transition Towns in a city.
Amanda Smith, Nottingham Trent University. 87
Can be downloaded from
I thought it was a good and honest account of the problems the group has had, and the problems the author has had as an academic/activist.
Here’s the latest youtube video, a speculation on “newbies” experience of going to a campaigning group meeting. To be followed by a ‘how it could be done’ video.