Sunday, November 22, 2009

A challenge for my facilitation skills

I am off to Cairns for the few days next week to facilitate a symposium about eMentoring on behalf of Aged Care Queensland. This is an extension of the eMentoring project I was involved with earlier in the year. The aim of the symposium is to explore the issues around eMentoring related to indigenous aged care and community staff - to find out what the barriers and enablers are, and how eMentoring can be progressed in a way that benefits staff.

Working with indigenous people
The symposium will be made up of Australian indigenous and Torres Strait people. This is the first time I have worked with Australian indigenous and Torres Strait people so I have been concerned that we develop a program that will be relevant, and in particular my facilitation is done in an appropriate and respectful way.

I will be co-facilitating with Steve Begg, who has done a lot of work in aged care in Australia and is an indigenous person himself. It has been very interesting talking to him and comparing approaches in Australia to how a Maori hui in New Zealand would be facilitated.

Facilitating a conversation
I'm still not sure that we have things right. I'm not sure I'm the right person to facilitate the session - I think it should be an indigenous person. But having said that, I am the one with the in-depth knowledge of eMentoring so that is the justification for having me as facilitator. I am still a little fearful that we're coming into the symposium with our own agenda which may inhibit responses. Time will tell.

The key things for me are to:
  • acknowledge the people of the place - and bring greetings and acknowledgment from my own land
  • give people time and space to get to know each other and get to know me
  • keep the symposium as a flexible conversation as opposed to regimented formal program
  • make sure we achieve ACQI outcomes ie answer the questions we have to ask
  • give people opportunities to answer the questions in different formats - verbal and written...paper and online
  • give people the opportunity to give feedback in a supported way that does not shame them.
How to facilitate in-depth discussion
I feel that my main role is to encourage conversation and discussion in a way that feels safe to the participants. When it comes to asking about their personal skills and experiences I aim to use anonymous methods so that people can disclose without feeling shamed. I'm going to use small groups to discuss questions about cultural issues pertaining to eMentoring. And broad issues such as organizational barriers, which hopefully do not feel personally threatening, will be discussed as a large group.

Do you have any advice or tips on how to facilitate discussion that generates lots of information but keeps people feeling safe?

Image: Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Australia The Lightworks


Anonymous said...

Wow Sarah, that looks like a challenge but you have some great ideas to get the discussion happening in a non threatening way. I am sure you will do a fantatic job. Good luck and I look forward to you letting us know how you go.


Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Kylee. It will be a fantastic experience for me and a great learning opportunity. And, with any luck, I'll get to soak in some Queensland heat.