Part I: Why Facilitation Matters In Development?

by | Feb 5, 2024

Ever wondered why some projects or programs in the developmental sector thrive while others keep struggling? It’s not just about good ideas or resources; it’s often the facilitation that makes the real difference. Let’s try to understand why facilitation is the fuel of development and how it’s as crucial as design and planning in this domain. Imagine a room filled with diverse dancers, each with unique skills, experience and styles rehearsing for a dance performance. Without someone to coordinate their movements, the intended outcome may be chaotic. 

Image courtesy: Youth Theatre

Let’s look at another example. Imagine an educational initiative aiming to improve literacy rates in underprivileged areas. During the implementation, it requires a facilitator to constantly assess the progress, identify challenges and accordingly adjust the implementation approach. It might involve introduction of innovative teaching methods or collaboration with local influencers by keeping in mind the ground realities with a goal to provide inclusive learning. Without this adaptive facilitation the initiative might face complications in the way forward or it can even fail.

While facilitation a meeting with farmer community in Kabirdham district

In the field of development work, there are various stakeholders involved such as donors, NGOs, government agencies, and communities. Each of them has their own perspectives and goals. A facilitator’s role is to bring these different elements together and ensure they work in harmony towards a common objective. They create a space where everyone can share their concerns, offer solutions, and collaborate effectively. Without this facilitation, conflicting interests could create problems and cause delays or even failure of the project.

With my co-fellows and India Fellow team, Sanyukta Saha standing third from the left.

Sanyukta Saha, an applied theatre practitioner and founding member of Aagaaz Theatre Trust, conducted a facilitation workshop during the first midpoint training of our cohort, and here are some insights from it:

We fail to understand that truth does not only have two sides, it has multiple dimensions. We might know the reality of our own life but we can’t decide or judge the reality of other individuals or communities.

During my field visit days I came across an incident where an organic farming training session for the farmer community was arranged at my field location. No one showed up. The organizers expressed their frustration with the farmer community, stating, “We had planned for an enriching session that could supplement the farmers’ livelihoods and enhance ecological consciousness. However, it appears we are wasting our time and no one is willing to benefit from this training.”

Upon further investigation, we discovered that the farmers were occupied with agricultural activities during noon, explaining their inability to participate in the training session. They wanted to attend the training but could not miss their work. Keeping this information in mind, we rescheduled the training session to the evening, and the farmers themselves selected the training location. Facilitation sessions were conducted with organizers and participants a day before the training to ensure smooth progress. Almost all the farmers of the village attended the training session after this.

Important Aspects Of Successful Facilitation In Development Work

Mutual Understanding

When we indulge in developmental ground work with the local communities, there are a lot of considerations to make and there is need for prioritization of the voices who often remain less heard.

From small progresses to the outcomes, the ownership and involvement of the community remains essential. And it comes from mutual understanding and creating a space that ensures inclusivity. 

Consensus Building

In a diverse landscape, conflicts are inevitable. Often, there arise internal conflicts related to value confirmation, ethical questioning, etc., and sometimes external conflicts. There is a need to navigate through these conflicts, finding common ground and building consensus to move forward constructively. This requires its own share of time and effort along with proper facilitation.

Adaptability

When a high wave of structural challenges obstructs steady progress, individuals need to demonstrate adaptability and resilience in the face of such obstacles. As it allows for timely dialogue between parties and ensures the transformation of vision into action. Although facilitation is an art, it is often overlooked.

It is an art that helps the group discover and utilize what they know

Facilitation isn’t exclusive to the developmental sector. In our lives, we might have had facilitators who guided us through difficult stages. Sometime we are fortunate to have mentors in crucial times. On other occasions we derive facilitation internally and experientially.

To be continued in Part II

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