Great facilitation can enable problem solving, increase stakeholder engagement, and energise strategic-level planning.
Wellbeing Our Way brought people together to share their experiences and facilitate collective learning, using a range of techniques to engage people with diverse learning styles and communication preferences. Here are our top tips for creative, effective facilitation:
1. Trial a range of hosting and facilitation techniques
Facilitation methods we used included World Café, creating 'personas' from templates, and exercises to hone practical skills, alongside more traditional group discussions and plenary sessions. We've shared some of our favourite activities in the presentation slides from our Facilitation Masterclasses.
For more ideas of activities to use in meetings and events, the Health Foundation has published a set of activity cards that cover the four stages of 'the double diamond' design process: discover, define, develop and deliver. The Health Foundation also have a guide to creative approaches to problem solving, which includes seeking perspectives, harnessing new ideas, and prioritising solutions.
2. Adapt to the group's needs
We found that the most effective sessions were ones in which we weren't afraid to adapt the sessions part way through the event if this seems to fit the group's needs more effectively. This doesn't mean you should run an event 'on the fly', as your audience will quickly lose interest if they can tell you're not prepared. You can plan for flexibility by having a few extra activities up your sleeve in case you need them.
When preparing for each meeting, meeting agendas and event programmes were responsive to what people said they were interested in, and what they wanted to learn.
3. Leave plenty of space in your agenda for discussion
We always allocated more time than we thought we would need for discussion - and without fail the time was never wasted! Discussion time in which people could share their work with each other was important for new partnerships to develop.
We often planned structured sessions for sharing work and encouraging new partnerships, using small group discussions and tools like SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results - a positive alternative to traditional SWOT analysis).
4. Work collaboratively with your group
A collaborative approach isn't always easy, but for Wellbeing Our Way, working this way was an effective time investment in the longer term. Maintaining a balance between involving a diverse range of people and creating outputs quickly was challenging throughout the programme. However, despite being more time-consuming at the outset, working collaboratively has led to high levels of meaningful engagement and the emergence of shared leadership within the progamme.
Using design processes in which large numbers of people are able to contribute was an effective means for increasing broad ownership of the programme, and ensured that Wellbeing Our Way was rooted in the strengths, needs, and aspirations of its communities.