Before we leave this two-week module on what facilitation is and is not, I wanted to add some thoughts about different sorts of facilitation based on some of the people I work with and what I think are some interestingly evolved perspectives on the subject.
In the World Café we don't even use the word facilitation - rather, we speak of "hosts" that help create the context for generative conversations. In trusting that the "whole" holds whatever knowledge is needed, a good host gently "guides" the proceedings, largely through creating hospitable space for collective wisdom to emerge, rather than trying to manage it in any more overt ways.
The Art of Hosting offers facilitation training, using process methodologies like the World Café, OpenSpace, Appreciative Inquiry and Circle work. Their concept of facilitation is largely based on self-awareness and cultivating a "way of being" that is conducive to mutual responsibility and interactive creativity. Online conversations with this group are fascinatingly fluid - full of participation & innovation - with no one "leading", but no one holding back either.
Craig Neal of Heartland Circle offers a tele-course in the Art of Convening, and his approach to facilitation is similar to the Art of Hosting and World Café in that the training is largely focused on convening, or creating space within which transformation can occur - both internally and externally. Craig & I also work with FireHawk Hulin and PeleRouge of Resonance where the work of "facilitation" becomes even more refined. They model how to "listen" closely to energy and notice how it "moves" - inside oneself as a guide, and inside the group as a whole. The key to facilitation for them is in listening deeply to what is emerging and knowing how to respond to it moment by moment.
My immersion and collaborative participation in all these group processes has greatly influenced my own ideas on facilitation and my personal facilitation style shares many of the fundamental principles they espouse. It's a little out of date now, but here's a short overview I wrote with a few key suggestions on how to "Midwife" Online Community: Download MidwifingOnlineCommunity.pdf (100k).
All these methods either pre-suppose a populace that is self-motivated and mutually responsible, or they are designed to support the emergence of these traits. Greg Bacelon wrote a recent post to the FOC08 mailing list, posing the question "If one were to take the Internet as one on-line community, then the term Facilitating is possibly a contradiction in terms – who is the Facilitator of the internet?". The answer for the communities using these methods, like the internet itself, is of course "all of us". Everyone that participates in a conversation, who offers content or helps to build infrastructure - we all have a part in "facilitating" the collaborative phenomenon that is being born as we speak.