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Good group facilitation is an essential part of a successful community dialogue as it encourages participation and helps the group stay focused. Good facilitation also involves recognizing and managing conflicts that can arise in groups around different agendas and individual personalities. Here are some tips on facilitating the community dialogue:
- Stay neutral and balanced. Your role is not to advocate a particular position, but to facilitate a discussion where different opinions can be shared. Sometimes this means making sure everyone has a chance to speak and recognizing different opinions (e.g., paraphrasing the different points of view that have been raised). However, it can also mean interrupting someone who is pushing his or her agenda and not listening to others (e.g., “So you’re bringing up [state their position]. Could you push that further and relate it to what [another position that is raised by someone else]?”
- Before the session starts, try to connect with participants in the room. Whether you know the participants or not, greeting and establishing a connection with participants makes it easier to draw in participants later, and helps establish you as someone who can be neutral and fair with the participants in the room. This can also help anticipate any possible conflicts that may arise.
- Arrange and use the physical space in the room to help manage conversation flow. For example, if someone is dominating the conversation and you need to bring in other speakers, walk toward the group and invite other opinions (e.g., “Are there other thoughts on this?”). Likewise, if the group is having a great discussion and you want to encourage the conversation flow, step away from the group.
- Work the room during small group exercises. Small group exercises are not a time to take a break. The small group exercises are a great opportunity to connect with individual participants during the session (e.g., by asking participants if the directions are clear, providing positive reinforcement to the groups, etc.).