At some point every professional – not just persons in the field of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) – will be placed in a position where they must facilitate a group process.
However, what is even facilitation?
Facilitation may be described as the act of helping other people to deal with a process or reach an agreement or solution without getting directly involved in the process, discussion, etc
There are two broad categories of facilitators; learning and group.
A learning facilitator is like a trainer who imparts subject matter knowledge and skills transfer by delivering learning content.
A group facilitator leads and manages discussions with a group of people on issues that impact them. Group facilitators support and help group members engage in constructive dialogue to be able to problem-solve, manage conflict, plan strategy, and make decisions. A group facilitator does not have to be a subject matter expert.
M&E professionals usually find themselves being a learning facilitator (e.g., conducting a workshop to explain Theory of Change) and at times being a group facilitator. In the case of the latter, the M&E practitioner facilitates an inception meeting to discuss the methodology for an evaluation or a staff meeting to discuss the findings from an evaluation.
In all instances, good facilitation skills are needed to navigate a group where persons might be resistant to an evaluation, intimidated by M&E jargons, or wary of the introduction of any changes to organisation processes. Likewise, the meeting could be with a vulnerable group whose active participation in the M&E activity is crucial. A good facilitator creates a safe, inclusive, participatory space that get persons collaborating to produce tangible results.
Facilitation skills include knowledge of adult learning principles (for learning facilitation), active listening, knowledge of group development and group dynamics, a knowledge of energisers and ice breakers to keep persons engaged and knowing how to address difficult people situations.
In sum, facilitation skills make your job as M&E professional easier when persons understand the M&E concepts from the workshop and/or owns M&E activities after the well-facilitated empowering session.