Facilitation is central to our work at Overlap—both remotely and in person. As facilitators, we are content-neutral process experts. We coach others to share information, surface issues, acknowledge challenges, collaborate, and make decisions. It’s all about “easing the way for people to think and take action together” (The Facilitative Way, Priscilla H. Wilson). 

Here are four principles we use to guide us at every step of the facilitative process.

Authenticity and connection

  • The facilitator role has a powerful influence on the group. The energy and presence we bring to a group matter a lot.
  • Facilitators are at their best when they can, be present, demonstrate authenticity and bring their whole self to the role. Each of us brings our own strengths and style—dare I say flare—and we wouldn’t want to change that!
  • Connection and trust are built in the group, which leads to better outcomes. It takes time and intention to build trust—we do our best to bake this into our process from start to finish.

Rooted in the ‘why’

  • Anytime we gather a group together—remotely or in person—it is important to be clear on the ‘why’ and how we are going to get where we need to go. We can do this by determining our objectives together and then ensuring everything we do aligns with those aims. 
  • Clarity on the ‘why’ will impact all aspects of facilitation such as tools and exercises, visuals, delineating facilitator roles, back up plans, and accessibility needs.
  • Ensure trauma-informed care (TIC) considerations [link opens a PDF] are grounded in the ‘why’. While at Overlap we work intentionally with vulnerable populations, we take a trauma-informed approach more broadly by assuming that everyone has a history of trauma. The reality is that we can never fully know a person’s life history. 

Diverse contributions

  • The facilitator role involves both skill and intuition to truly meet the diverse needs of the group. Practice and asking for regular feedback are the best ways to deepen experience as a facilitator.
  • It’s important to be sensitive to context and meeting the group ‘where they are at’ while valuing the unique contribution of each person. We can do this by remembering to put the group’s needs first, and by reminding ourselves that it is not about me (the facilitator).
  • It is important that the facilitator be aware of their power and privilege and that they can prioritize creating safe and brave spaces to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. There are a number of interesting tensions within this principle—trust your intuition, but also recognize where you might be blinded by your own power and privilege.

Transformational dialogue

  • Be intentional about setting the group up for conversations that can increase group cohesion and help move them forward. The benefits of facilitation are as much in the process as they are in the outcome of the work!
  • Provide the group with a solid introduction and context to the conversation, check-in and reflect often, and honour time commitments. 
  • Invite participants to start solo to ensure that everyone has a chance to share ideas and listen deeply. Start solo is one of Overlap’s favourite methods for making the most of many minds. 

As facilitators, we ourselves are the tool. It can be helpful to consider which of these guiding principles come out naturally in our work and where we can build our skills or use processes to support our growth as facilitators. At Overlap, we like to use 5 Steps to Intentional Impact to help us prepare as facilitators. 

We believe wholeheartedly that these guiding principles are as relevant and achievable with remote facilitation as they are when we facilitate in person.

Interested in learning more?