CYP RCA/Orientation Manual

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Facilitator's Orientation Manual


The Facilitator's role is very different from that of a teacher or instructor. It is essential that the Facilitator appreciate and understand the difference both cognitively and behaviourally. Otherwise, it will be obvious - in both online and in-person environments -- and stakeholder engagement, participation and project success will suffer, and not achieve desired objectives.

Facilitation is more of an art than a science, and requires practice and openness to feedback to become better. Learning it from a book is not the same as receiving coaching to improve one's performance. Co-facilitation is very helpful for senior facilitators to lead newer facilitators by example.

Technical Issues

In some cases, the (online) Facilitator may be responsible for researching and identifying that appropriate location for group discussions, and directly creating the group. Other responsibilities include:

  • Deciding whether group will be private, public or something in between
  • Choosing administrators/managers -- assign appropriate settings.
  • Inviting people
  • Publicising the group on various channels -- via print, email, audio, personal invitation, etc.

The Facilitator's Role

The Facilitator must:

  • be patient, so that participants evolve, and feel more comfortable about sharing their opinions and knowledge (online);
  • reassure participants -- letting them know that s/he is there, available and willing to help.
    • Sometimes participants will directly contact the Facilitator (i.e., offline via email or phone) and want to discuss issues of concern. This is OK, however, the Facilitator should encourage the individual to post his/her concerns directly on the Discussion Group, after the conversation. After all, the discussion group is about building a strong and cohesive identity and trust between the group members, not a series of side conversations between individuals and the Facilitator.
  • not take sides;
  • Identify key issues to discuss -- and publicise them ahead of the discussions via email, posting to the website and any other means you can think of. (be sure to include a timeline with dates for discussions);
  • Be gracious whether people do what you ask them to do, or do not (You never know what they're dealing with, and when and how they might be of assistance in the future.)
  • be careful NOT to dominate the group with his/her personal agenda (i.e., advancing one issue or approach over another OR not acknowledging a person's perspective or viewpoint); or, the agenda of others in the group (see next point);
  • play a key role in balancing the discussion, and ensuring that one person or sub-group within the larger group does not dominate the discussion. (When that happens, everyone else tends to go silent and not participate.);
  • intervene where necessary -- when there is a lull in the conversation; to raise a point of information and/or clarification; to share knowledge about specific examples and experiences; to introduce a guest speaker; or simply to move the conversation along;
  • ensure that the discussions are focused, moving towards the actual (project) work to be done.
    • For example, in the CYP-RCA discussions, the group is not talking about peace-building activities for youth simply for its own sake, or to influence policy. Rather, the discussions have a specific objective -- and that is to feed into a larger process, which includes a practical 2-day workshop. This workshop is hands-on, for the purpose of actually creating learning materials (outputs), NOT for creating policy or more discussion;

Getting the Conversation Rolling...

Often, many participants will cover only the summary aspects of a topic -- while one or two people will go much more in depth, expounding on a specific example, relating to their experience and knowledge. (This info, and even the volume of info can also be intimidating to the rest of the group.)

  • As the Facilitator, you can ask participants a few questions, and offer up short examples and hyperlinks embedded in the post. (Do not overwhelm them with too much information (i.e., long posts) or too many questions (i.e, more than 3 questions).
  • Go through 2-3 cycles of this to get the ball rolling, so people are not intimidated....thinking that the Facilitator has all of the answers....
  • Recognize that in spite of what you say or instruct, people will be cautious. They will be:
    • reluctant to post their thoughts publicly (preferring to write you directly);
    • concerned about criticising others
    • fearful about being criticised
  • As the conversation moves forward, the Facilitator can gently provide a summary of their post, and identify one (1) or two (2) areas of interest to you, or the group, and ask for further clarification.
    • You can also ask 2-3 followup questions to validate their point of view; prompt or stir their thinking (and the folks in the group). They can share something similar, or comment directly on what you have written....

(Comment.gif: Participants may feel 'safer' for example commenting on something the Facilitator has written, vs. potentially criticizing their peers)

  • The Facilitator can point to someone else's experience, cc' them in the email to ensure that they are aware that the the Facilitator wants them to respond to the posting.
  • As the discussions continue, the Facilitator can 'lift' them out of the discussion group, and paste them onto the CYP-RCA space on WikiEducator.
  • The comments and postings can be grouped according to the original themes, or others that have emerged from the discussions.

Posting Guidelines

  • Posts to a wiki and social networks don't have to be perfect ~ rather think of it as a series of draft, to guide others in your thinking.
  • It's not the same as an academic paper or organizational brief - it's OK to have something that is incomplete ~ or rather, the positive - a "work in progress"....In this way, it can be continually improved upon, by others who share your interest!
  • Avoid long posts (at least in the beginning) - long posts defined as 300+ words. Make them shorter, and snappy. People feel intimidated if you cover everything in your post - they don't know where to start, and besides, you've already said it all. (The result? No participation)
  • Gently provide input and feedback
  • Always use the Positive Tone, not the negative tone.
  • NEVER provide outright criticism

What Success Looks Like

  • getting the group started, populating the group
  • introductions and getting to know each other (i.e., relationship-building)
  • engaging in meaningful and value-added dialogue (i.e., information-sharing, networking)
  • movement to project focus, achieving initial outputs (i.e., collaboration, achievement, ownership)


An initiative of the Commonwealth Youth Programme and the Commonwealth of Learning - Col-crest-blue-web.jpg