AuthorMary Herman, Wendy Mason

Page 287

A facilitator is a person who helps a group identify and solve problems by structuring the discussion and intervening when necessary to improve the effectiveness of the group's processes and outcomes. Facilitators, sometimes called moderators, maintain a neutral approach to topics and issues and serve the whole group in an unbiased manner.

The word facilitator is derived from the French word faciliter, which means to make easy or to simplify. Indeed, the goal of the facilitator is to make a group's decision-making process easy, efficient, and effective.

In the mid-1970s, Doyle and Strauss, authors of How to Make Meetings Work, argued that facilitators were "neutral servants" responsible for making sure participants were using the most effective approaches to problem solving and decision making while reaching consensus efficiently. The role of facilitators in business has grown dramatically in the past few years. A number of recent books published on the topic describe the responsibilities of a facilitator as well as approaches for developing facilitation skills. The distinction is often made between facilitators who are external to the organization or the group and facilitators who are internal. Both external and internal facilitators focus primarily on a group's process. In fact, some facilitators have minimal subject matter expertise.


Facilitators set the agenda for a group meeting or discussion, monitor the group's process in discussing agenda items, and help the group reach consensus, make decisions, and set action plans. Effective facilitators bring out a variety of opinions and ideas, at the same time ensuring that all participants feel they are valued contributors to the discussion. Facilitators monitor how the group works together by encouraging participation, protecting individuals from attack, and minimizing dominance by one or two participants.

Facilitators begin by clearly defining the role they will play and the strategies they will use. In addition, facilitators help set ground rules for how group members will interact with each other, how long and when group members will speak, and how the group will make decisions.

Facilitators use a number of strategies to help groups achieve their goals. Focusing on consensus building, facilitators help...

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