Facilitation is a process in which a trained, neutral party helps the members of a group share relevant information and perspectives to discuss a given situation. By directing the conversation, asking open-ended questions, and summarizing the verbal and nonverbal conversation in his/her own words, the facilitator ensures that no one voice dominates the conversation and that others can “hear” the message each speaker is trying to get across.
Time constraints, imbalances of power, differing levels of comfort with conflict or group members’ conflict resolution styles, the sensitivity of the topic being discussed, and the potential repercussions if a conflict isn’t solved productively may be driving forces behind the decision to bring in a facilitator. It can be useful to clarify goals, rank priorities, clear up prior miscommunications, or allow everyone impacted by a decision to share their unique perspectives.
Reasons a group might request facilitation include but are not limited to making difficult decisions that affect everyone, an interdependent group needs clarity regarding roles and responsibilities, outcomes aren’t ideal even though a group claims to have shared understanding of what needs to be done and how they have agreed to carry out those tasks, or processes are inefficient.