Thank you again to everyone who participated in yesterday’s free facilitation webinar, and especially to Judy Rees for inviting me to co-facilitate with her and to Bhavana Nissima for inspiring the topic – and to Bhavana for her gratifying feedback on the session, below. Here below also you will find the session recording and other outputs.
We took a slightly different approach to my previous free facilitation webinars this time – not least in that this free, 90-minute, interactive online session offered an experience of virtual facilitation in Zoom rather than in Adobe Connect.
Our approach was largely inspired by a 3-day online European Regional Forum of Amnesty International, originally conceived as a 3-day hybrid event in Brussels, that Judy, Orla Cronin & I had just designed and prepared in three fast-moving weeks and facilitated together this past weekend. It involved over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations across Europe, asynchronous collaboration over 10 days in Basecamp, and five Zoom sessions of around 2 hours each in which we also used Mentimeter, Googlesheets and Jamboards. That experience merits a post of its own – see Judy’s Online Events: Preparation That Drives Participation – suffice to say here that participant feedback included:
- “The tech and facilitators were amazing, it felt super inclusive”
- “Technology facilitated a more inclusive meeting than is usually possible in person.”
- “Technology! Great to have breakout sessions with so many different people. It makes everything very inclusive.”
- “Great facilitation. Great diversity and inclusion.”
- “Best facilitation ever (thanks Martin, Orla, Judy), more equal interaction than at any other meeting, no flights (climate thanks us). Virtuality rules!”
“Promoting inclusion should be the business of all facilitators” write the IAF Social Inclusion Facilitators. But how does that work online? In these circumstances our groups are often more diverse than in-the-room gatherings. Power differentials abound, but they may be less apparent.
Online meetings are shaped by the technologies in use, which place constraints on how we can recognise diversity and promote inclusion:
- With audio-only groups, non-native speakers of the call’s language are at an automatic disadvantage.
- When we encourage the use of video to build personal connection, we reveal differences in skin colour, clothing and calling location.
- With most conferencing systems, online breakout groups can’t easily be seen or overheard by the facilitator: what difference will that make?
- Text chat perhaps gives away the least about who is making each comment – which brings its own challenges.
All of these technologies have advantages and disadvantages for facilitators seeking to promote inclusion.
In these environments, how might we challenge or learn from prejudice and intolerance as appropriate? As experienced online facilitators we have our own tried and tested tactics – but we know we still have lots to learn. This event brought together a wide range of perspectives to develop our practice.