Beads - Passion for Facilitation

Capacity development, learning, change, poverty/power/progress

Blog about learning/change, facilitation, systems: small groups and large scale processes, and poverty/power/progress.


I have always been able to confidently claim ‘’passion for facilitation”, and have actually chosen it as the title for my blog, but now I can also claim to meet international standards, and can call myself Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF).

 On May 26, I participated in a certification day organised by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). I have been a member of the IAF for many years, and I had finally found the right moment and place to certify with them. I managed to get into the Dutch certification process, which was an experience in itself.

My certification journey started in the beginning of this year, when IAF announced the May event in the Netherlands. Once the payment for the first step was made, I received the preparation materials. I had to build up a portfolio of 7 diverse workshops that I had facilitated in the past 3 years, one of which needed to be described in detail in maximum 2500 words. The description needed to cover the following six areas of facilitator core competencies identified through IAF's work in 2003.

The six areas of IAF facilitator competencies:
A. Create Collaborative Client Relationships
B. Plan Appropriate Group Processes
C. Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
D. Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
E. Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
F. Model Positive Professional Attitude

When the taxi driver dropped me off at the castle-like home of P2 in Rossum where the event was hosted, he was sorry that he wasn’t carrying his camera. What a beautiful spot close to the river Waal. Although the day was packed from 7:30 to 20:00, I managed to find some time to reflect, walking up to the dike to see the Waal. Lots of quiet cargo traffic on the river. Storks were flying in and out of the nearby fields. I’m always surprised to see nature regenerate, even in Holland, one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Storks were close to extinction when I grew up, but today their numbers are up like never before.

There were 7 participants in the event, and over very strong Dutch coffee we began to know each other. One woman had actually brought her own milk-tea, to calm her nerves, she said. I was glad that I wasn’t the only one who was feeling a bit anxious.

At 8:00 sharp the 4 assessors had joined us, and the process facilitator started the introduction, where we learned a bit more about each others work and reasons for certification. I wanted to do the certification for myself, to see if I could meet the international standards, and learn in the process. However, more importantly, I wanted to experience a peer-assessment, because of my interests in the development of professional standards for Capacity Development facilitators.

The actual assessment began with a 30 minute interview (tape recorded), in which two assessors asked questions to check the depth of my understanding and practice of competency details that I might not have highlighted or described in the portfolio. I found it a very pleasant interview, and felt engaged rather than assessed. I also felt a genuine interest in what I had to say. I was feeling less nervous after this, and was looking forward to the rest of the day.

To my surprise, some of the other participants were very critical about their interview. One commented that “the questions were not at all what I expected, and they were not good questions either”, another was disappointed that “the interview went from one thing to another without any logic”, and yet another had a expected a peer dialogue, but found she got a “tick-the-box interview”. Hmmm, I had forgotten how Dutch the Dutch sometimes are: the first response seems bickering about the others, the worthless assessors. It was good to see at the end of the day a bit more appreciation what the assessors had done in the first interview, namely filling gaps in the picture they had so far developed of us. While I still look at myself as ‘very Dutch’, I realize that this cultural modus operandi -- immediately speaking my mind in a critical fashion -- has become less strong in me over the years. The Dutch seem to look outside themselves first, in a demanding, assertive way (borderline aggression!): "I did not get what I expected, and this is disappointing." The Dutch tend to look for allies in the group. So the fact that some others were equally disappointed was measured out, but the fact that I did have a good experience was not really explored. In Asia participants tend to look inside, inside themselves and the participant group. They tend to want to know the experience of the others, so that they can bring more harmony into the group. They will also expect the assessors to know what they are doing. Funny how this seems to have rubbed of on me more than I had realised.

There had already been contact with one of the assessors prior to the event. Each of us was given a list of workshop topics, and the assessor was to be treated as our client for this workshop. Again, some of the participants expressed dissatisfaction with the way in which this had happened. It had not been clear from the instructions that a real intake needed to be conducted with the ‘client’ before the event. Indeed, this had also not been very clear to me, but my assessor explained what was expected when I called him, and I had opted to prepare this intake and call back later. Another person complained that it had not been possible to have face-to-face contact, and another that the assessor had not responded for a few days. It all sounded like real life to me. I am used to dealing with clients over the phone/Skype, and it is certainly not uncommon to hear from a client at the last minute either. True, I was wondering myself why I had received no reply after my e-mail to the ‘client’, which captured what we had agreed. Then again, I had written at the end “let me know if there are further question, otherwise I look forward to seeing you on Thursday”.

During the certification day each of us had to demonstrate facilitation skills in a half hour event. Mine ended up being a pretty messy half hour, but fortunately this rigorous peer review process looks beyond that half hour, so I passed anyway. It was a nerve wrecking day though. Looking back, I realised that I rarely ever do ‘pure’ facilitation. I am usually also, passionately, involved with the content. A CPF in my network had already warned me that many experienced facilitators do not qualify as they fall into this ‘content trap’. I did fall into to it a bit, but I guess I managed to explain in the individual feedback session (again recorded) what I had not done well, and this must have saved the day. I’ll check the 8 pages written feedback that I will get with my certificate.

It was a great experience, including the realisation that I have to learn to live even more consciously with my passions as well as my facilitation power.

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Comment by Edcanela on April 16, 2012 at 5:43

You are more than a CPF for us. Can I re-post this experience? Thank you. Hugs

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