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Facilitating group discussions
Facilitating group discussions

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2 The facilitator’s role

The facilitator’s role is to assist the group’s efforts towards its objectives.

The facilitator:

  • is a neutral servant of the group – ‘neutral’ means that the facilitator is an impartial observer; ‘servant of the group’ means that the facilitator is working to the group’s agenda, not their own.
  • does not contribute or evaluate ideas – the facilitator’s contribution concerns group processes and only very rarely the content of the meeting.
  • focuses the energy of the group on its task – the facilitator’s role is to ensure that the group is working well together to achieve its objectives.
  • suggests alternative methods of working – the facilitator helps the group by offering alternative ways of solving the problem or of looking at the situation.
  • protects individuals and their ideas from attack – the facilitator acts as a referee in times of conflict, disagreement or tension in the group.
  • encourages everyone to participate – the facilitator ensures that all group members feel able and willing to make a contribution.
  • helps the group to find ‘win-win’ solutions – the facilitator ensures that outcomes are beneficial to all parties.
  • coordinates pre- and post-meeting logistics – the facilitator may be involved in the logistics of the meeting arrangements and in the follow-up.

Activity 3

Thinking about the list above, write down what the facilitator does not do. Then compare your list with ours.

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Discussion

Your list could have said that the facilitator does not:

  • contribute to the content of the meeting
  • decide that one person’s ideas are better than another’s
  • let sub-grouping affect the performance of the team
  • let the group go off track
  • allow individuals to come under attack
  • let certain individuals dominate the discussion at the expense of others in the group
  • allow the group to find a solution that is only agreeable to the minority.