November 1991. Northern Michigan, almost at the Canadian border. Ten people gathered in a small hostel for a weeklong training in group facilitation and consensus decision-making.
I was thinking, “A whole week? What could be so complicated about this that we need so much time to learn it?”
Short answer: It was an initiation, thinly disguised as training. A life-changing introduction to work that would eventually cause me to move to Mexico, learn Spanish and work in 40 countries around the world.
The principles and techniques we learned that week became the foundation that enables me to stand in front of groups whose subject matter I can barely grasp (nanotechnology, petro-chemicals, eco-health) and whose context is alien to mine (post-civil war El Salvador, conservation projects in areas where narco-traffic is big business, nursing in the Caribbean) and add value by facilitating their discussions.
But back in 1991, I was still vague on the concept of facilitation. I did not know what “designing a process” could possibly mean. And having been raised in a conflict-phobic family, I was paralyzed when disagreements threatened to tear a group apart.
I did not know how to keep a discussion on track – or when to let it move on when the group´s focus took a sudden leap in a new direction.
Power dynamics confused me. Complexity and theories of change were not yet part of my professional vocabulary.
But that week in the woods was the first step.
Twenty years later, my colleague, Ana Rubio, and I began offering a similar learning opportunity for those intrepid souls who are fascinated by the possibility of transforming groups – whether they are work teams, corporate executives, volunteers, or government employees – into effective agents for change.
In IIFAC´s International Certificate Program in Professional Facilitation, we provide you with the skills to collaborate with clients, and the tools to plan and lead processes that support the goals of the group.
For those of you who are already coaches and trainers, this program will open new professional horizons.
For team leaders who find yourselves thrust into the role of facilitator, we will help you see how to optimize your group´s potential and achieve amazing results.
For those who work in large institutions where “death by meeting” is an everyday experience, you will discover ways to make meetings useful, rather than a continuous source of suffering and wasted time.
Our next series of courses begin in April in Bogotá, Colombia and Cuernavaca, Mexico.
But remember, I warned you: this experience could change your life. It did mine.