About professional facilitators

What is facilitation?

Facilitation, literally means “make things easier”. It is a way to encourage participation, a sense of ownership and creativity. It’s an art to lead people to achieve a common goal through a process. The focus of facilitation is process (how to do something) not the content (what to do). Facilitation is related to “progress”, by taking things from point A to point B. The facilitator guides a group to a destination. Facilitation allows an easier way for the people to reach where they agree to go to. During this process, the facilitator’s helps reveal a decision which can be accepted by all the members of the group.

What is the facilitator’s role?

The facilitator assists a group or organization to operate more effectively through the joint effort to achieve a common goal. Through the process and guidance, the facilitator helps the group to understand and make decisions to accomplish a mission with more ease. The facilitator focuses on the group and its work on hand; the role of a facilitator is to assist and guide, not control. The facilitator is “content neutral”, who uses fair, open and inclusive process and methods to complete group work, not holding position or viewpoint to the group’s issue. The facilitator helps the group to go in depth with their thinking, assumption, belief and values, and the system procedure and content. An excellent facilitator knows how to lead the group to establish a durable agreement.

What core competencies must a facilitator have?

According to the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) competency model, a professional facilitator must have, in addition to being committed to high Values and Ethical rules, the following six core competencies required to facilitate group interaction:

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    Create Collaborative Client Relationships

    (i) Develop working partnerships

    • Clarifies mutual commitment
    • Develops consensus on tasks, deliverables, roles & responsibilities
    • Demonstrates collaborative values and processes such as in co-facilitation

    (ii) Design and customize applications to meet client needs

    • Analyzes organizational environment
    • Diagnoses client need
    • Creates appropriate designs to achieve intended outcomes
    • Predefines a quality product & outcomes with client

    (iii) Manage multi-session events effectively

    • Contracts with client for scope and deliverables
    • Develops event plan
    • Delivers event successfully
    • Assesses/evaluates client satisfaction at all stages of the event or project
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    Plan Appropriate Group Processes

    (i) Select clear methods and processes that:

    • Fosters open participation with respect for client culture, norms and participants diversity
    • Engages the participation of those with varied learning/thinking styles
    • Achieves a high quality product/outcome that meets the client needs

    (ii) Prepare time and space to support group process

    • Arranges physical space to support the purpose of the meeting
    • Plans effective use of time
    • Provides effective atmosphere and drama for sessions
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    Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment

    (i)Demonstrate effective participatory and interpersonal communication skills

    • Demonstrates effective verbal communication skills
    • Develops rapport with participants
    • Practices active listening
    • Demonstrates ability to observe and provide feedback to participants

    (ii) Honor and recognize diversity, ensuring inclusiveness

    • Encourages positive regard for the experience and perception of all participants
    • Creates a climate of safety and trust
    • Creates opportunities for participants to benefit from the diversity of the group
    • Cultivates cultural awareness and sensitivity

    (iii) Manage group conflict

    • Helps individuals identify and review underlying assumptions
    • Recognizes conflict and its role within group learning/maturity
    • Provides a safe environment for conflict to surface
    • Manages disruptive group behavior
    • Supports the group through resolution of conflict

    (iv) Evoke group creativity

    • Draws out participants of all learning and thinking styles
    • Encourages creative thinking
    • Accepts all ideas
    • Uses approaches that best fit needs and abilities of the group
    • Stimulates and taps group energy
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    Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcome

    (i) Guide the group with clear methods and processes

    • Establishes clear context for the session
    • Actively listens, questions and summarizes to elicit the sense of the group
    • Recognizes tangents and redirect to the task
    • Manages small and large group processes

    (ii) Facilitate group self-awareness about its task

    • Varies the pace of activities according to needs of group
    • Identifies information the group needs, and draw out data and insight from the group
    • Helps the group synthesize patterns, trends, root causes, frameworks for action
    • Assists the group in reflection on its experience

    (iii) Guide the group to consensus and desired outcomes

    • Uses a variety of approaches to achieve group consensus
    • Uses a variety of approaches to meet group objectives
    • Adapts processes to changing situations and needs of the group
    • Assesses and communicates group progress
    • Fosters task completion
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    Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge

    (i) Maintain a base of knowledge

    • Knowledgeable in management, organizational systems and development, group development, psychology, and conflict resolution
    • Understands dynamics of change
    • Understands learning and thinking theory

    (ii) Know a range of facilitation methods

    • Understands problem solving and decision-making models
    • Understands a variety of group methods and techniques knows consequences of misuse of group methods
    • Distinguishes process from task and content
    • Learns new processes, methods, &models in support of client’s changing/emerging needs

    (iii) Maintain professional standing

    • Engages in ongoing study/learning related to our field
    • Continuously gains awareness of new information in our profession
    • Practices reflection and learning
    • Builds personal industry knowledge and networks
    • Maintains certification
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    Model Positive Professional Attitude

    (i) Practice self-assessment and self-awareness

    • Reflects on behavior and results
    • Maintains congruence between actions and personal and professional values
    • Modifies personal behavior/style to reflect the needs of the group
    • Cultivates understanding of one’s own values and their potential impact on work with clients

    (ii) Act with integrity

    • Demonstrates a belief in the group and its possibilities
    • Approaches situations with authenticity and a positive attitude
    • Describes situations as facilitator sees them and inquire into different views
    • Models professional boundaries and ethics -as described in ethics and values statement

    (iii) Trust group potential and model neutrality

    • Honors the wisdom of the group
    • Encourages trust in the capacity and experience of others
    • Is vigilant to minimize influence on group outcomes
    • Maintains an objectives, non-defensive, non-judgmental stance

IAF Certified™ professional facilitators

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) has met the need for standards in facilitator certification and provides for a Certification Program to assess the attainment of the core competencies.The assessment process is based on rigorous peer review of knowledge, experience and demonstration of skills. The IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator designation indicates attainment of these core competencies. The professional facilitator designation offers clients an assurance that those who are certified are qualified to design and provide basic group facilitation services.


So, in summary, an IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator is committed to using values and ethics to guide their professional practice, obtained facilitation-specific training, achieved a designated number of experience hours, and have demonstrated specific facilitation competencies required to facilitate group interaction. An IAF Professional Facilitator’s mission is to concur to promote, support and advance the art and practice of professional facilitation.