The Friday Funny: Facipulation

Ever wondered what the secrets were to awesome workshop facilitation, the kind that gets you exactly the kind of material you need?

Look no further than the hilarious and informative Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like blog! Written for aid workers in international development, it has some hidden gems for evaluators that can be used in any context.

Here’s one of our favorites:


“a delicate blend of facilitation (catalyzing, easing and supporting conversations and actions around themes and issues important to the community and/or program participants) and manipulation (steering conversations towards their INGO’s established themes and goals, and ensuring that actions and decisions made by local people support their INGO’s interests and happen within the time frame stipulated by their donors)”

Be sure to read the whole post on the SEAWL site, but we can’t resist tempting you with some teasers that we thought were especially useful:

The workshop set-up. When selecting facipulants for the workshop, choose those that you know from previous experience a) agree with you, b) understand what your agency wants to achieve and c) have a stake in a future project that they don’t want to lose out on by being difficult. It’s helpful if facipulants appear to represent a diverse group, but that their diversity does not include diversity of opinion. It’s also a good idea to decide on the core learning objectives or meeting outputs ahead of time, and print them nicely in color on A-4 or a 3-fold brochure. The more official things look, the less likely people will be to think they can change them.

Group work. Assign people to groups ahead of time, and plant someone who knows exactly what you want to achieve in each group. Meet with your plants ahead of time, make them feel special, and explain that they are the ones you’ve chosen to help you help the groups move forward. Engineer the group work exercises carefully so that you get the answers that you are looking for, and never give sufficient time to complete discussions.

Selective hearing. In plenary and group feedback time, use the “there’s just so much participation going on I can’t capture it all!” trick to ignore or skip over what you don’t want to deal with or what doesn’t fit with where you need the workshop to go….

Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like is also up on twitter and Facebook (but bear in mind that, irritatingly, Facebook won’t send you all of their updates unless they “pay to promote” each post).

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