Challenges of facilitating diverse groups

Facilitating a group with different perspectives and needs requires open mindedness and flexibility.

As facilitators, we tried to be observant of individual needs and group dynamics during each co-design session to re-calibrate our facilitation approach accordingly. For example, in one of our embedded sessions, participants who had lived experience of homelessness were asked to pair up and discuss their city experiences. Facilitators noticed that participants were hesitant to work closely with each other. Thus, they immediately changed the format of the activity to a large group discussion to provide a more comfortable space for sharing ideas.

Bringing together a diverse group of people can also mean having conflicting perspectives. Some participants were insistent on their opinions and failed to engage others’ ideas. In these cases, facilitators joined the groups to make sure everyone got a chance to speak and encouraged members to use the “Yes and” approach to build on each other’s ideas.

Facilitators’ role was most important when groups experienced conflicting learning and cognitive needs. Enabling collaboration between members who needed detailed instructions with ones who preferred to work independently, and members who needed more time to process information with ones who could process information faster posed a big challenge to facilitation. In those situations, facilitators tried to adjust the length/duration/flow of tasks to address different needs.

TRY

  • Be flexible and ready to change the workflow, timing or the format of the activities if needed.
  • Observe group and individual performance during the activity, and adopt the most appropriate facilitation style to meet the needs of the participants.
  • Provide facilitation to improve group dynamics if needed and support individuals who may need more assistance.
  • Modify the activity format based on participant response to the activity
  • Provide ongoing and step-by-step assistance to groups that may be lagging behind and need more guidance.

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