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Lost in Space


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I am a member of a group of Group Facilitators that meets once a month to share questions and ideas with each other. Members have a variety of styles and tools and specialize on various types of meetings and groups so, as you can imagine, the discussions are always lively and thought-provoking. I always learn something or come away with something to ponder.

Our last meeting was no exception. We covered a variety of topics which wove around and through each other, and I came away with a lot to think about.

A term I have heard used a lot in relation to facilitation is “holding space,” but the first time I heard it (when someone commented on my ability to “hold the space” for a group process) I had no clue what it meant. Over time I have begun to get my arms around it, but it has been a learning process.

At the last facilitators’ meeting, one of the things that kept coming up was this idea of “holding space.” Being a Word Geek, one of the things that struck me as we spoke about “holding space” was the similarity between the words “facilitate” and “facility.”

Yeah. One of those things that makes you say, “Hmmm.”

I think of a facility as a building in which something happens, and so as facilitators it makes sense that we become the facility – we hold the space or become the space – in which the discussion can occur. So I came home and looked up the words.

Wrongo!

According to various definitions (thanks to TheFreeDictionary.com),

  • Facility means “Ease in moving, acting, or doing; something that facilitates an action or process; something created to serve a particular function.”
  • Facilitate means “to make easier, assist the progress of.
  • Facile means “easy to perform or achieve,” and comes from the Latin “facilis” (easy) which comes from “facere” (to do).

Maybe not so Wrongo

Good facilitators make a discussion easier, assist its progress and, as a noun, facilitators are the thing that makes it easier. The facility in which it can happen.

At last I understand the concept of “holding the space,” although I’ve been told I’ve been doing it for ages.

Exercise

Think about some of the meetings you have attended (or attend, or lead). Are they primarily vehicles for disseminating information and/or collecting status reports? Are they discussions, with people actively participating? What does the facilitator do differently in those situations? Is the facilitator the center of attention, or is the discussion itself the center of attention? Are they meetings people look forward to? Does the group achieve it’s goal(s)? Or is the group lost in space?

The next time you plan a meeting, consider the goals of the meeting and the type of facilitation that would best help the group achieve those goals. Contact me at susan {at} susantblake {dot} com for more information!

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