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The facilitator performs a variety of duties relating to meetings. This role is similar in many ways to the chair of a "Robert's Rules" type of meeting, but with subtle differences. Different meeting types have different facilitation needs.

For business meetings, the facilitator is the "agreement steward" for the meeting — the one who acts on behalf of agreement, because agreement does not often act on its own behalf.

We have informally agreed to have a common facilitator for all meetings in a calendar quarter, including heart circles, residents' meetings, teleconferences, and members' meetings. Facilitators for the following quarter should be chosen a minimum of one month in advance, especially if the new facilitator is new at the job and untrained in facilitation. This allows one month at the end of one person's facilitation for the next facilitator to observe and interact with the process, and at the beginning of the quarter, the previous facilitator agrees to be available to help the new facilitator with procedures and requirements of the job.

Here are some points about facilitation from Tree Bresson's workshop:

  • power or authority should not be assumed; the facilitator should ask it of the group as needed
  • set the intention of the facilitation
    • "We're here to decide what to do about the flooding in the gardens."
    • "This is a business meeting in which we come to agreement on the agenda items."
  • must be detached
    • should not facilitate a meeting in which something you have a strong opinion on is to be discussed
    • should not facilitate when you have an important agenda item to present
      • it's hard to facilitate a meeting of your own group, easier to facilitate a group in which you are an outsider
    • co-facilitator can serve as a backup
  • plan the agenda
    • should be done well in advance
    • most people are unrealistically optimistic about the time required
    • rule of thumb: cut the number of proposed agenda items in half!
      • can be delegated -- separate agenda planner
  • meeting control
    • active facilitation: explore intentions, rather than simply calling people in turn
    • "stacking order" management
      • very important; do not delegate, or you can lose control of the meeting
    • suggest ground rules, such as max stacking level (three suggested), precedence to those who have not spoken, recognizing those who have spoken a lot and respectfully asking them to be more selective in their comments
    • reflective listening
      • keep attention focused on speaker
      • non-judgemental, let judgments slide by
      • don't solve their problem!
      • listen from heart, compassionately
      • seek essence of what other person is saying
      • echo back their essential meaning in other words
  • more to come from Tree Bressen's workshop notes

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