Sunday, March 22, 2015

Facilitation Trainings on Tap

A year ago I had breakfast with a friend in Michigan who had participated in my two-year facilitation training back in 2005-07, and she shared a story about how my program helped her professionally.

She applied for a job in a large city that would require her to bring together various stakeholders who were not used to talking with each to make common cause. That meant setting up and running effective meetings, building trust to where people shared openly, and then assisting them to come to a united understanding despite substantive cultural and political differences. After wending her way through the application and interview process she became a finalist for the position.

To determine who would be selected, each of the finalists was asked to facilitate an hour-long meeting of the hiring Board. Since facilitation was a key skill wanted in the job, the Board figured they could do no better than to observe the candidates facing live bullets.

At the conclusion of the segment that my friend facilitated, a Board member came up to her on break and confided, "Before today's meeting you had no chance of being hired, because you didn't fit the demographic we thought best for the job. However, after witnessing you in action, now there is no way that we won't hire you." And thus she got the job.

Her story sent goose bumps up my spine, as that's exactly the kind of impact I've hoped the training would have.

 • • •
Since debuting the two-year facilitation training program in 2003, I have delivered the course in its entirety eight times (as each training consists of eight three-day weekends, spaced approximately three months apart, that means I've conducted 64 training weekends—enough to fill a chessboard). While those eight are all water over the dam, I'm marketing three new editions right now—all of which I'm hoping will launch before the end of the year.

As a cooperative process consultant and group dynamics expert, it's the most fun thing I do. 

Below is a list of what's available starting in 2015. I'm sharing this with my readers because a primary focus of my blog posts has been about group dynamics and I'm hoping that some of you may be interested in signing up for an experience like that of my friend in Michigan, or otherwise are willing to help spread the word among those you know who hunger for more productive meetings and healthy models of cooperative leadership.

For these trainings to manifest, we need two things: a) a minimum of eight paying students (while a dozen would work much better in terms of the trainers' compensation, we can make it work with eight); and b) host groups for each weekend that will provide room and board for students, plus live meetings for them to facilitate, in exchange for which the group receives:
—outside facilitation (done by the students, yet guided by professionals)
—a professional report on what the host accomplished in the meetings and what it might work on in the future
—two free auditor slots in the training weekend that it hosts
—first-hand familiarity with other talented facilitators in the region, who become a resource whenever the group wants outside facilitation in the future

Who Would Benefit from Taking This Training?I'm glad you asked. Foremost, it's for people who aspire to learn the skills of high-end facilitation—by which I mean the ability to track both content and energy, as well as to develop a feel for making consistently good decisions about what to do with that information in the dynamic moment to create effective meetings that bring participants closer together. 

Yet the training is much more than that. It's also for:

o  Understanding what it means to create and sustain cooperative culture
This is the foundational linchpin of a world that works better—one that stands in sharp contrast to the alienation and isolation of modern life, that tends to be rootless, hierarchic, and adversarial. People crave a more connected, authentic, and compassionate life, and this course offers the tools needed to create that, both for yourself and the groups you work with.

One of the key differences in cooperative culture (in contrast with the competitive culture that characterizes the mainstream) is that how matters just as much as what. In the wider culture it tends to be much more about the bottom line—so long as you're not breaking the law (or at least don't get caught). In cooperative culture the how gets elevated to a higher status, and that's what good process is all about.

o  Developing the skills of cooperative leadership
While the principal learning environment for this training is the plenary—meetings of the whole—where we're focusing on delivering drop dead great meetings, it turns out that the qualities wanted from leaders in cooperative settings map exceedingly well onto those wanted from facilitators: good listening; ability to easily shift perspectives to see a thing through another's eyes; minimal defensiveness when receiving feedback; ensuring that everyone is heard; ability to inspire; knowing your limitations and how pair with others to achieve complmenetary results; well organized; ability to bridge between disparate positions; able to function well in the presence of distress in others. So it's a two-for-one offering: facilitation training is also leadership training.

o  Personal growth
Learning to be a good facilitator (or an effective cooperative leader) entails personal work. Even if you never facilitate, or never assume a leadership role, isn't it worth your while to learn to how to listen deeply, and how to give and receive feedback honestly and constructively? Participating in this class may be one of the most real experiences of your life, where you will be seen fully and appreciated for who you are without anyone blowing sunshine up your ass.

o  Learning when and how to work constructively with non-trivial distress
One of the scariest dynamics for most groups is how to respond when one or more members enter serious distress. One of the key teaching components of this training will be how to respond effectively to conflict—not just how to survive it, but how to recognize and harness the information and energy of the moment to promote deeper understanding and connection.

o  Not limited to people living in intentional community
While it often makes sense to seek hosts that are intentional communities (because it's easier for them to absorb the room and board needs for a three-day training) we are expressly inviting students from non-community settings to get involved. In the past we've had people take the course who were college instructors (who appreciated the link between teaching and facilitating); professional mediators; people aspiring to start communities; and even a volunteer fire fighter. Don't be shy!

Following is a description of the flavor of each of the trainings being offered. All are geographic specific, yet are open to anyone willing to travel to get there. While all three are partially subscribed, there are openings remaining in all of them.

Option #1: Portland OR
This training will begin either June 18-21 (if we secure a host for that weekend) or Sept 17-20 otherwise. My training partner will be Ma'ikwe Ludwig (with whom I've done four prior trainings). Ma'ikwe and I just did a one-day demonstration/promotion March 14 at Cascadia Commons, a cohousing community in the Rose City, which helped pique interest.

As there is a considerable concentration of community activity in Portland we are expecting this training to be mostly concentrated in or around that city. However, we are casting the net as far south as Eugene OR and as far north as Bellingham WA, as there is strong interest in cooperative culture throughout this stretch of the Pacific Northwest, that Ernest Callenbach styled "Ecotopia."

For more information contact me or the program Coordinator, Janie Paige.

Option #2: New England
This training will start Sept 10-13, 2015, hosted by Mosaic Commons, a cohousing community in Berlin MA, a western suburb of Boston. My training partner will be Alyson Ewald (this will be our first time working together as co-trainers). We expect the weekends to move around within the six-state region, and possibly dip into nearby upstate NY. It all depends on where the offers are.

For more information contact me or Alyson.

Option #3: Southwest Colorado
This training will start Oct 15-18, 2015, hosted by Heartwood, a cohousing community in Bayfield CO. My training partner will be Betty Didcoct (with whom I've done three prior trainings).

While we are hoping to generate interest among other intentional communities in the vicinity (Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque), in this case we'll also be marketing heavily to cooperative groups that are not intentional communities in the Durango area—think food co-ops, progressive schools, and alternative healing centers—because they can benefit every bit as much as communities in becoming higher functioning in how they go about their business.

For more information contact me or the program Coordinator, Christine Maisano.
 • • •
I hope to see you at one of the trainings.

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