As a facilitator you have an important role in building listening skills, starting meaningful conversations and encouraging healthy debate among your participants.

These hints and tips are designed to help you manage groups of participants and support them in achieving their learning outcomes. Find out more about learning outcomes in the downloadable toolkit.

Starting conversations

Try using some of the following methods to encourage productive conversations where everyone gets a chance to speak:

  • Try the 'talking stick' method where a participant must be holding a particular object if they want to speak.
  • Limit how many times a person can speak. For example, give everyone three matchsticks and take one away every time they speak.
  • Employ a 'talkativeness ranking'. If the group feel comfortable enough, ask them to rank everyone in order of who spoke the most at the end of each workshop day.
  • Break into small groups frequently.
  • Give everyone a chance to speak in turn.

Remember: facilitators should model the behaviours and approaches that they would like participants to learn.

Noticing and naming

To reflect on or change something about ourselves or our communities, we need to do three things; notice it, name it, and be curious about it.

Inviting participants to notice and name during the learning journey can reinforce learning and develop curiosity. One way to do this is by asking participants to note down their thoughts and experiences throughout the programme using a personal journal.

Crafting good questions

The most important ingredient in a meaningful conversation is the quality of the question. How we frame a question will have an effect on the way we respond and speak to others about it.

Here are some tips for crafting good quality questions:

  • keep it simple
  • choose questions that are relevant and inspiring
  • avoid questions that only invite 'yes' or 'no' answers
  • choose questions that invite open sharing and reflection and don't favour a particular perspective.

Let's look at an example. Take the question:

  • Why do young people never participate in society?

This suggests that young people do not participate and is based on an assumption. Better ways to frame this could be:

  • Can you think of examples where young people regularly participate?
  • Do you think there are areas where young people participate less?
  • What opportunities and challenges are there for young people to participate?

You could even say that the word 'participate' is a little ambiguous here. Are there better words that could be used instead?

Always think carefully about how to frame your questions.

Be careful not to assume

We make assumptions all the time. These assumptions influence our behaviour and actions, which can have positive or negative consequences.

Acknowledging that our opinions and ideas are based on limited knowledge can allow us to have more honest conversations and deeper insights. We do not always have to think about our assumptions, but reflecting on them might help us to change our behaviour and actions.

This is is something you could encourage during your workshops. So remember, during conversations, you should support your participants to examine their assumptions, hold on to them 'lightly' and question their validity.

A full list of tips and activities you could include as part of a workshop is available to download below.