Me, I can barely boil an egg. With a recipe book open, and several hours of sweating, I might be able to produce an edible(ish) meal for two. My wife, on the other hand, could cook for twenty on 20 minutes notice, blindfolded, with one hand tied behind her back. While singing her favourite song (“Winds of Change”). Backwards.
So, with that mea culpa done, I will start preparing a “facilitators as chefs” blog post for you.
(Picks up saucepan, looks at it quizzically).
There will never be a recipe book that will, on its own, make me into my wife. Similarly, there is no list of does and don’t that will make a novice facilitator into someone who can whip up a stunning meeting in the face of obstacles like lack of time, space, ill-will between participants, unclear and competing agendas. BUT, a chef – someone with experience (of success and failure), and a repertoire of recipes in their head, and justified self-confidence – is far more likely to produce something edible and even tasty.
What’s wrong with this analogy? Well, if you push it very far, you come up against the problem that the “ingredients” in facilitation are, um, sentient beings with opinions of their own. And not a single one of them will be as compliant as the genetically-modified-to-actually-want-to-be-eaten “Dish of the Day” at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
Anyhow, here’s a very prescriptive (but tongue-in-cheek) “How to Facilitate” guide I wrote when I was young(er) and foolish(er).
The cook/facilitator thing came to me today, and when I saw Johnnie Moore’s highly useful analogy of directing/facilitating today, I was inspired to put fingers to keyboard. If you want sensible comments about facilitating, you could try Viv McWaters, Activism is My Rent and Rhizome, amongst others.