Virtual facilitation

Video conference imageI recently found myself facilitating a two day meeting for a large campaigning organisation where the group were discussing strategies for a potential new campaign. Most of the participants were in the room, but three joined us by video from two different locations. I was a little apprehensive about this as I have never facilitated a meeting with virtual participants before!

One of my main concerns was how to ensure the three participants joining by video could effectively and confidently participate with the main group in the room. I didn’t want them to feel hesitant about contributing or shy about responding to others in the conversation (or at least no more so than they might have had they been present in person). The meeting was very much about creating an inclusive discussion, not about listening to expert presentations and asking questions, which I thought was a more straight forward task with video participants. On the other hand I was also concerned that the video participants might dominate the discussion too much, as the main group in the room were acutely aware of involving them.

Other challenges were three different time zones meaning that the video participants joined at different start/ end times to main group – how would they know where we were in the conversation and what had/ had not been covered? How could we best arrange the room so they could see others and be seen? How would they view key flipcharts? And finally the ever present worry about the technology breaking down, losing the video or audio or both.

A couple of actions before and during the workshop helped to alleviate these concerns. Key was preparation before the workshop – calling each of the video participants in advance and asking what would help them, confirming when they would be joining/ leaving each day and talking them through the agenda. Sending them a more detailed agenda and instructions for the discussion activities in advance was also important. During the session a couple of techniques helped to keep them up to date about where we were in the conversation, taking pictures of key flipcharts and emailing them over seemed to work well, as did lots of summarising and synthesising key discussion points.  Breaking into smaller groups was also helpful and the participants fed back that they found contributing easier and more engaging in these smaller groups of 3 or 4. As for technical hiccups, one of the more technically savvy participants took charge of this, which was really helpful! Plus we had a back-up plan to move to a conference call if the video link broke down. In the event it all worked fine and no major problems.

Next time I’d do a couple of things differently, particularly planning the agenda. I’d try to think more carefully about splitting the workshop into more discrete chunks, including more breaks and where possible allowing more time for each part. This seemed important as discussions seemed to take a bit longer with the video link, but breaks really necessary as it is tiring work listening and contributing remotely without the energy in the room carrying you along. I’ll also try to remember to look at the video participants and direct my contributions to them more – sometimes I found myself momentarily forgetting they were there, oops. Finally I’d work more on my summarising and synthesising to make it more clear and concise and helpful in moving the discussion along.

Not sure when will be asked to facilitate such a session again, but do feel this will become more common, at least in the internationally focused NGOs as they shift to increasing their presence in the global south. I’d be interested in others thoughts on lessons for facilitation and participative training – do share your experiences if you have also virtually facilitated!

Hannah

Dwight Towers has been envisioning more participatory formats for events s/he’s attended. The latest reads well and suggests some easily achievable tweaks to the usual ‘sage on the stage’/ ‘chalk and talk’ events we still attend and invite others to attend.

We’d love to hear your forays into formats new. What worked? What obstacles (internal and organisational) had to be overcome to make the event happen in a new way?

When is a question not a question?

  • When you don’t leave room for answers to percolate to the surface or you don’t persist with the question if the response isn’t immediate
  • When you signal in all kinds of subtle ways that you’d rather just provide the answer yourself
  • When you abandon the questioning process because the first couple of questions don’t open up a wide and energetic debate

Over the years I’ve made an effort to move from telling to asking. It’s not always been easy. I’ve had to acquire new skills. But most of all I’ve had to work on suppressing my ego, manifesting in a need to provide answers as if that would somehow validate and affirm me in front of the group. I’m sure I’m not the only trainer and facilitator to be dealing with that one! I may even have done a decent job of making that move, but there’s a way to go yet.

I’ve just typed myself some notes after a recent workshop. I’d say that it was highly participatory. The participants said so themselves in the evaluation forms they kindly filled in for me. But the self-reflective voice within me observed that quite a lot of the above was going on. Yes, I was asking questions, but I still heard my voice answering them far too often rather than take the risk of leaving them hanging and allowing silence to provoke reaction, or rephrasing and asking a more incisive question. Sometimes I was the next voice to speak after asking a question. Sometimes I summarised a perfectly clear answer and used that as a platform for more talk.

In these situations I notice a pattern develops. You could look at it like this:

“Some feedback or discussion activities feel a little flat, so I as the facilitator throw in more energy (often in the form of more words from me).”

But it could equally be seen like this:

“The more energetically I answer my own questions, the less the group contributes because the message they receive is that I’m not actually wanting their input really.”

It’s a loop and once you’re in  it, it can be hard to define where it started and what the original intention was.

If you’re a half decent speaker, the group find it all the more easy to relax into role of audience to someone else’s drama, rather than stay with the desired role of writers, directors, actors and producers of their own. It doesn’t help that genuinely participatory training is not the norm. It’s easy for those of us that practice participation to stop moving forward because we’re already doing more than most.

The next step for me is developing the practice of changing this dynamic in the moment, when I hear the first whispers of my inner voice raising the issue, and not ten days later.

So, be honest – what does your inner voice whisper to you when you’re facilitating or participating in groups?

Matthew

Oh, time it is a precious thing…

Having limited time to deliver a workshop focuses the mind wonderfully. What can actually be achieved, in terms of getting people thinking differently and then doing differently, if you only have 60 minutes? This was the situation for a short capacity building workshop for LeedsTidal at their Crisis Opportunity event in late October.

If it is a group who don’t know each other well, if at all, how do the vital things, like making sure everyone knows everyone’s names and where they are coming from (in many senses) and feels safe and comfortable, come about? If a facilitator concentrates on that important process, only 40 minutes will be left at most, and probably only 35 if we start late due to toilet or smoking needs, people getting lost and so on.  So the choice is whether to sacrifice a high quality start to a workshop, getting people feeling welcomed and included, or trust that in the ensuing activities relationships will form and the group feel empowered and safe.

Another choice is the type of activities. Do you play safe, knowing that if the temperature in the room isn’t right, certain things may not work, especially something that is a bit more challenging than an ideas storm? Do you try role plays or even a forum theatre approach when, without the time to get people feeling really comfortable with each other, they might shrink from this? Or do you trust that the urge to learn and experiment will carry people through? Do you negotiate? “We don’t have much time, we could do this or this, what would you like to try?” “How would you feel about over-running by 10 minutes to enable us to reflect on our learning?”

I opted for a fairly traditional kind of facilitated discussion with a focus on thinking about motivation and what people want out of groups. We explored though private pair discussion and the use of post-its what made everyone in the room get involved in a group, what they actually wanted out of joining something. We looked at a couple of classic motivational theories –  Maslow and McClelland – then broke into small groups to think about an imaginary group member and how the group might meet this person’s needs – I handed out “character cards” for this – and ended with an ideas storm about what a group can do to make a new person feel welcome and involved, what roles or tasks they could be offered. On the wall, a flip sheet diagram to show the tension between task focus and people focus worked very well to help people see what needs doing to keep a group healthy.

I admit I was exceedingly anxious and spent far too long working on the design of the workshop, all the time worrying about the lack of time. I apologised frequently about having to be directive and pushing discussions along too fast, but at the same time noticed there were very thoughtful comments and exchanges in the discussions about how to meet the needs of various imaginary characters, and the suggestions for ways of including new people were sensitive and creative. Maybe I was focussed too much on the lack of time, and had not been trusting the creative cooperative spirit of the participants!

Jo

How do we build a participatory movement? Let’s ask the panel…

A couple of times this year I’ve been asked to sit on a panel as a speaker advocating nonviolent direct action or radical social change. Flattering to be asked. But my take on these topics is that they are fundamentally participatory – empowered social action making change from the grassroots up. And yet we revert to formats for these discussions that cut the grassroots right out of the picture.

In both cases I’ve opened a dialogue with the organisers about doing something a little more in keeping with the topic – raising the status of the people present from audience to contributors. But there always seem to be obstacles, for example the lecture theatre-style banked seating. But in reality it seems to be a natural tendency to go for what we know, and the lack of imagination and aversion to risk to try something new. And of course many of the audience will enjoy the session on some level, which reinforces its credibility.

I also spent the best part of the day at the Occupy LSX camp a week ago. I happened to choose the day of a conference of representatives from occupy sites across the UK. The format? A very long list of speakers (in stretches of an hour or more) talking at the crowd over the PA system. Personally I simply can’t sit still and do the speakers justice for that long. There was half an hour set aside for informal mingling, but half an hour in a programme that ran from 1pm to 8pm…….

Now our friend over at the Dwight Towers blog would be chucking out phrases such as “the sage on the stage“, and “ego-fodder” around now. In fact, in this last instance, he was – I had the pleasure of meeting up with him at Occupy LSX. Now I’m a little less harsh in my criticism. I’m willing to go with the possibility it’s more about the fact that this kind of session format is the norm, than about ego trips.

But we’re a movement for change, right? We challenge the norms of society, right? Time to walk the talk and talk less from the stage. It’s not like there aren’t alternatives. I suppose it’s just that many event organisers still aren’t as familiar with them, or that they seem risky compared to the tried and tested panel of speakers. Problem is that from a participation perspective we’ve tried it, tested it, and it fails.

Consensus decision-making: go with the flow

The flow of a consensus decision

In our previous posts we’ve talked about what consensus is and is not and why groups might choose to use it. But we haven’t (yet) got down to the detail about how it works. So to remedy that this post aims to lay out the flow of an effective consensus decision and highlight key moments in that process which, if not handled with care, can pour sand in the smooth running of a consensus decision. This post will give you an overview. We’ll follow it with posts on each stage of the flow in detail – common problems that arise, and what a group and facilitator can do to deal with them successfully.

There are quite a few models of consensus out there. Some, I feel, give too little information (have a discussion…make a proposal….). Others, perhaps, go the other way and tell you what techniques to use at what stage of the process (have an ideastorm…then have a go-round).  As a facilitator I don’t find this helpful. I want to use the right technique for the specific group I’m working with and for the specific issue under discussion. In many cases this may be an ideastorm followed by a go-round but those things themselves are not the flow of consensus. So what I hope is presented here is a middle path – detailed enough to flag up important issues, but not prescriptive. So to the flow…

Step 1: Be clear and ensure your clarity is shared: These first few minutes can be crucial for framing what happens in the rest of the discussion. If the group aren’t clear on the decision to be made or the process to be used you can waste a lot of time and cause unnecessary confusion, even conflict. Common examples of problems caused by lack of clarity include:

  • discussing issues you simply don’t have enough information to decide upon
  • talking at cross purposes and then having to take time to untangle the mess
  • excluding newcomers who haven’t been inducted into the groups process and aren’t familiar with the agenda

All this, and more, can be avoided simply by checking in with the group and having a short discussion on what the group think the agenda item is about. Many people would say that it’s obvious what we’re talking about, but, as I’ve been heard to utter on many occasions, “my obvious is often different from your obvious”.

Step 2: Have a broad and inclusive discussion – inclusive of both a wide range of people and ideas. The aim of the game here is to ensure that the discussion is wide enough for people to build a real sense of ownership around the issue; to explore a variety of ideas; and, vitally, to hear people’s concerns. Bottom line in consensus – if concerns aren’t dealt with adequately, a group cannot reach consensus. This can feel like precious time the group doesn’t have, but it ensures a stronger outcome with a higher level of group commitment, leading to far better implementation. Time well spent.

Step 3: Pull together, or synthesise, a proposal that emerges from the best of all the group’s ideas, whilst simultaneously acknowledging concerns. That’s a pretty tall order and a group won’t always get it right at the first go. Unless your listening skills are fantastic, and the group has made all of its concerns conscious, there may be some time spent moving back and forth into discussion until the final pieces come together to give you an appropriate proposal. The key thing here is that the proposal is inclusive – it doesn’t marginalise anyone.

Step 4: Friendly amendments – tweak the proposal to make it even stronger. You’re looking for the best possible proposal that you can formulate with the people, time, and information that you’ve got. Are there any niggling doubts that can be addressed by a change of language or a tweak to the idea? After a little reflection (cue: cup of tea) are there any ways in which the proposal can be improved upon? These are known as friendly amendments. What they are not is an attempt to water down a proposal so far that it becomes meaningless – death by a thousand amendments. Nothing friendly in that thinking (nothing consensual either!).

Step 5: Test for consensus – do we have good quality agreement? So far the flow we’ve presented could be for any decision-making system looking to maximise participation. It’s at Step 5 that it becomes uniquely consensus. That’s because this is where we entertain the possibility of agreeing to disagree and of the veto (or block, major objection or principled objection – it goes by a lot of names). So let’s reflect a minute. We’ve got a shared agreement on the issue we’re discussing. We’ve given it the time it needs to explore diverse perspectives, to hear of concerns and possible concerns and out of that we’ve drawn together a proposal that seems to have the energy of the group behind it. We’ve paused and then tried to make the proposal even stronger, taking into account some concerns we hadn’t heard clearly enough before. We’ve restated the proposal so we’re all clear what we’re being asked to agree to (or not). Now the facilitator asks us 3 questions:

  1. Any blocks? Does anyone feel that this proposal runs contrary to the shared vision of the group and as such will damage the integrity of the group, potentially even causing people to leave? If you’ve done the work well to this point, the answer will usually be “no”. But let’s not assume…. give people time, and if there are no blocks move on to the next question. However if there are blocks you need to back up – is it enough to continue to amend the proposal or do you need to return to the broad discussion (which obviously wasn’t broad enough first time round….)?
  2. Any stand-asides? Does anyone disagree with the proposal enough, on a personal level, that they don’t want to take part in implementing it (but is happy for the rest of the group to go ahead, without feeling in any way a lesser part of the group for it)? It’s worth checking here that there aren’t too many stand-asides as that’s an obvious sign of a lukewarm response to a proposal. And we can do better than lukewarm.
  3. Do we have consensus? Assuming there are no blocks, and no more than a manageable number of stand-asides, can we assume that we agree? No – never assume, so ask the question and insist on a response. Lack of response may indicate ‘consensus by lack of will to live’…. the “I’ll agree to anything just as long as this interminable meeting ends” syndrome.

And this is where a lot of groups finish and pile down the pub to celebrate another well made decision. But what about Step 6?

Step 6: Make it happen. Making the decision is just the start of a longer process, and unless there are definite steps taken to ensure that people sign up to specific tasks, with specific deadlines and so on, decisions are meaningless. So who’s going to do what, by when? For some decisions it may be as simple as typing up the agreed form of words and filing it, but that’s still an action and still needs someone to make it happen. For other decisions it may need complex timelines and multiple volunteers or staff members to engage in taking the decision forward.

But if your consensus process is working well, this won’t be the drag it often is at the end of fractious meetings when people are tired and grumpy. In theory the group has just made a high quality decision that it has energy for – so ride that wave of enthusiasm and get folk signed up!

That’s that decision made – now onto the next agenda item….

Other posts in this series:

More detail on the steps of the consensus process:

Words to inspire

I’m going to send you over to Dwight Towers blog (again!) – not for his usual righteous anger about the lack of participation in activist meetings, events and movements, but for some bona fide participation-building inspiration. In his post Gay marriage rally and movement building he gives us the speech he would have made had he had the opportunity.

If you’ve ever wanted to stand up and give a powerful appeal for people to stop passively listening to speeches, and get out there, work together for change, and build a participatory movement then this could be the text you’re looking for. Dwight had just returned from a gay marriage rally, but the issue could be anything. Cut and paste as appropriate. Here’s a flavour:

We can give each other heart, we can learn and teach from others’ mis-steps and our own. There is someone within five metres of you who has something to teach you. There is someone within five metres of you who has something to learn from you. That’s the power of this moment in our movement.

Building Bridges

Monday saw me on an early train to Wellington, Shropshire to facilitate Bridge’s staff and trustee ‘Visioning’ away day. It was a fairly short notice piece of work for me, but made much more possible by the clear brief and draft agenda Bridges’ co-ordinator provided. The real pleasure about this job was that using participatory tools wasn’t an option, it was right there in the brief.

Bridges themselves work with schools and community groups using participatory methods like Philosophical Enquiry (or P4C as it’s sometimes known). We didn’t use P4C on the day, though it’s something I’ll be exploring for the future. However we did use a host of other participatory methods, including de Bono’s six thinking hats. I also took the idea of local radio interviews, which I recently used in a strategy training and tweaked it to help the group explore differing stakeholder perspectives of their work. Add to that a highly entertaining session called History of the Future and we were ensured an energetic day together.

Green hat thinking in progress

Sadly the end point was, as is often the case, too ambitious. I don’t believe in creating unrealistic expectations, so I levelled with the group right at the start – whilst we’d try our best I doubted we’d get as far as they were hoping to. I’d already had that conversation with Davina, the co-ordinator.

I’ve written before about the challenges of undertaking work like this in just one day. It’s a source of endless frustration to me that fantastic organisations like Bridges simply don’t have the resources to be able to give these processes the time they really take and they’re left using other means to finish off processes and finalise important decisions. This is something I’ll be thinking about more. If I come to any conclusions I’ll share them here. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

One very basic piece of learning from this, for me, is that it’s far more intelligent to plan the process for finalising the work before the day begins. Towards the end of the day, when everyone’s brain is beginning to ache from such concentrated creative exertion, is not the best time to have to improvise a system for collaborating on creating near-final draft documents, taking the final decisions, and communicating the outcomes to the group. But that feels a little like working on the assumption of failure. Bridges will be using online collaborative tools.

The final stages of the vision in their raw form - a "visual mess"

Even though we didn’t reach the end point the group were hoping for, they enjoyed and valued the day. The were very complimentary about the choice of tools we used across the day, and appreciated the rare opportunity to engage with each other and get to hear each other’s viewpoints. The negatives were mainly to do with time: “not enough hours in the day”. There was a comment about the collecting of thoughts on what Bridges overarching vision might be – that the board with post-it notes on it was a “visual mess”. Fair point – had we had longer I would have moved on to break the emerging themes up more cleanly. We had to stop and move on to ensure a system was in place to finalise the work. However, it’s still not appropriate for the final mental ‘snapshot’ to be a confusing one, especially when tidying it up is the work of minutes. The last word from Davina:

Everyone in the office is very pleased with how the day went, myself included. One of our Trustees was very quick to praise your skills – and is often quick to find fault

Mind your language

I have to admit to regularly using the word ‘guys’ to refer to my fellow human beings whether male or female. To me it has always seemed gender-neutral and I’ve used it with no conscious gender connotations. But no more. Two events happened in quick succession on Monday.

At the end of my ‘advanced facilitation’ workshop at the Peace News Camp one of the female participants got up to leave and said something along the lines of “thanks guys” to the rest of the group of both women and men. Then she corrected herself: “no, not guys”. A conversation followed in which one person recounted something he’d been told by a friend who’s recently undergone some gender-related training (in the public sector I think, but the details elude me). According to that training ‘guys’ is now officially deemed gender-neutral.

Fast forward a couple of hours and I bumped into two female friends as I left the Camp, greeting them with “how are you guys?. The response was swift and firm: “we are not guys”. One apology and some small talk later they kindly sought to downplay the situation by calling themselves “embittered feminists”. But why should they downplay it? They’ve struggled (and continue to struggle) for the right to define themselves a they see fit without reference to men or masculine language. ‘Guys’ clearly isn’t gender-neutral for them, no matter how many times it’s been laundered in an attempt to sanitise it.

All this reminded me of a recent post I wrote, and articles I’ve read on the margins and the mainstream. My friends were, in this context (and many others), the margins. If we’re to move beyond oppression, whether gender or any other type, it seems imperative that the mainstream doesn’t talk for the margins. Let the margins talk for themselves. And if they tell me ‘guys’ is inappropriate then it is. So, as of now, you have my permission to pull me up (nicely!) on using it in anything but all-male company.

As facilitators aspiring to full participation this is not simply political correctness. It’s pragmatism – if our language is a barrier to access, then we need to change it or our processes will stumble and even fail. And let’s face it, English is such a rich and diverse language that there are plenty of other ways to say “how are you guys?”.

The Curse of Competence?

Imagine that you’re co-facilitating a day long training session for about 30 people. Towards the end of the day one of the participants expresses, in no uncertain terms, their unhappiness with the particular activity that you are in the midst of. You do what you normally do – try to explore and balance the particular needs of the individual and the needs of the group as a whole. It doesn’t work. In no time at all you realise that you’re in conflict with a member of the group. Fortunately you’re co-facilitating, so there’s another person to step in to the breach, and offer ways forward. The training continues, and those few minutes are a small part of a generally very successful day.

That’s a situation I found myself in last October. I’ve been looking for a chance to jot down some thoughts ever since. A few weeks after the training I had a chance to speak to the particular person involved. We spent about 90 minutes on the phone exploring, conflicting, learning, and I hope appreciating. Some of what stayed with me, from a very wide-ranging conversation, was to do with models of facilitation. Part of the problem seemed to be that as facilitators we’d taken on all of the explicit facilitation roles ourselves. Potentially we’d disempowered others, leaving them feeling “I’ll never be able to facilitate like that, so why bother trying”.

For any facilitator committed to participation, it’s a real challenge. I didn’t enjoy the interaction at the time but it’s proved very thought-provoking.

There’s a whole raft of arguments I can cite for why the way I’ve often worked is best – some of them follow:

  • I know that I prefer to juggle multiple roles when I’m facilitating – keeping an ear to the conversation whilst taking notes, keeping an eye on the clock and on who’s indicating that they’d like to speak next, and who hasn’t spoken at all and so on. Multiple roles allows me to focus and get into a rhythm. Practically speaking taking my own notes helps structure my thinking, allows me to see emerging themes, and begin to place them in the overall meeting process, for example.
  • I often facilitate at activist gatherings, where the facilitator is chosen as the meeting starts, and any co-facilitators are also drawn from the group in the moment. Potentially they’re strangers to each other. There’s no way of knowing how well they’ll do the job. There’s no time in the meeting format to get together, introduce yourselves, talk about facilitation styles and so on. There’s 80 people sitting in a circle waiting to begin.
  • And then, of course, what if the person who volunteers to ‘take hands’ does so rigidly, on a first come first served basis, whereas I might consciously overlook the vociferous and seek out new speakers. What if the person writing up the notes doesn’t accurately capture what’s been said, or worse still fails to write down some points at all?
  • By taking on all of the roles, surely I allow others to participate fully in the meeting?
  • Finally I placate myself with reference to all those facilitation skills workshops I’ve run over the years. If that’s not about empowering people to facilitate what is?

Good arguments perhaps. And yet there’s a nagging doubt that part of the problem is simply the desire to keep control. That task-focused bit of my brain which wants to deliver the best possible results and (arrogantly?) believes that facilitating alone, or planning ahead with a co-facilitator, is the best way of doing that.

Where am I going with this? Simply to share a dilemma and to ask for your thoughts and experiences. For me it’s a clear call to take a few risks in future, to let go a little, and to let roles as well as content and process emerge. I’ll keep you posted.

Building the capacity builders

On 11th February, we facilitated a couple of sessions at a facilitators’ skill-share. 35 capacity builders from 10 or so of the UK’s campaigning organisations came together to build their skills. The Rhizome contribution was to facilitate a session on ‘facilitating learning’ and co-facilitate one on dealing with ‘difficult’ behaviour in meetings and workshops.

This was the first event of its kind for a little known group called the NGO Forum. It’s a meeting of capacity building staff from a wide range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Friends of the Earth through to Campaign Against the Arms Trade taking in CPRE and WDM along the way. The Forum’s been around for 4 or 5 years now and in one guise or another we’ve been involved. We sneak into meetings once in a while to see if we can be of use.

The ‘facilitating learning’ session went down well. It was a very short taster of a longer ‘training for trainers’ workshop. For us the key message is that people need to be involved in their own learning. As facilitators we need to bite the bullet and accept that it takes more time, but participation gets better results. Yes, it adds unpredictability to a training session – once you open up the learning to the group you can never quite tell what direction it will take, except to say that it will go in the direction of whatever the group want to learn at that moment. We don’t see this as a bad thing.

Dealing with difficult behaviour is also about participation. Commonly it is barriers to participation that spark off difficult behaviour. We facilitators can be as guilty as anyone of stereotyping people as ‘difficult’. We write them off and try to either ignore them or marginalise them so they cause as little disruption as possible. This doesn’t work for at least two reasons. Firstly these problems rarely go away because we sweep them under the carpet. It might seem to work at first, but they’ll come back sooner or later, probably magnified. Secondly, if we take the time to think about what’s going on then we’ll often see that the problem lies with us, or with the group as a whole.

This session focused on analysing group dynamics in order to understand what the barriers to participation might be and only then trying to find a solution. When you step back and understand that the group, or our facilitation of it, has limited someone’s participation in the group in some way, the ‘difficult’ person can be seen in a new light.  A common example is that our ‘difficult’ person simply hasn’t been listened to, and is feeling undervalued and alienated. No wonder they kick off in some way. Once we understand that we’re failing to meet the needs of the person in question, leading them to behave in a way we see as difficult, we can take action.  Take a breath. Look around. Understand the situation and then use an appropriate facilitation technique. It’s often as simple as a bit of active listening

Why Rhizome?

At Rhizome we believe in making change in the world. Specifically we believe in ordinary people and communities taking control of their lives, environment, and destinies.

Change from the grassroots up is powerful and sustainable because it’s rooted in a community. It’s rooted in their values and aspirations. The people making change believe in it. History has shown us that you can no more deny grassroots change than you can turn back the tide. You can try and suppress it but it spreads. Like the rhizomes from which we take our name, eventually it forces it’s way through the cracks in the pavement.

We’re here to accelerate the pace of change by offering communities of activists the support they need to participate effectively in change-making. Participation in change is the essence of what we do.

In practice, it might mean direct support for a community group, or it might mean improving the support offered by a national organisation or network.

So “Why Rhizome?”? Because there’s more change to be made in the world.

But that’s not all.

Rhizome provides a co-operative structure that brings together a wide range of skilled and experienced facilitators. It creates an energy and an excitement that inspires us, so that, hopefully, we can inspire you. It provides the mutual support we need to help us work sustainably to support community activism. We hope that we’ll also provide a ‘right livelihood’ for ourselves. That support allows us to give our time, skills and experience to the communities and organisations we work with all the more effectively.

We can learn from each other, share the good and the bad times, prove that two heads are better than one, innovate, and get better at what we do all the time.

We’re at the start of a journey. Feel free to join us along the way!