I still look back on my participation in the Art of Facilitation as one of the best things I did in 2018. I would highly recommend the program to people of all facilitation skills.Ada Castle – Switchboard Victoria
Tell us about your work in the world…
I work for Switchboard Victoria, a community organisation providing peer services to the LGBTIQA+ community. I manage the Out & About program, aiming to reduce social isolation in older LGBTIQA+ people through volunteer-led befriending and community connections. This involves significant relationship building with highly vulnerable and marginalised people, partnerships with health and community services and consultation with aged care services. I also regularly train, screen and induct volunteers across Victoria. In my spare time I’m slowly completing a Masters of Public Health and facilitate a coming out support group for LGBTIQA+ youth in a volunteer capacity.
Why did you decide to do the Art of Facilitation intensive?
I’ve worked and trained with Polykala staff before and have always been in awe of their fantastic facilitation and communication skills. The Art of Facilitation training was highly recommended to me by other friends who had similarly trained with Polykala or with Simon. I was looking for an opportunity to challenge myself to develop my leadership, training and facilitation skills to a new level.
What were your expectations going into the program?
I was expecting to arrive at a welcoming, unique and safe space in which to engage in facilitation theory and practice within a community of similar minded learners. I achieved this and much, much more.
What was were the key things you took away from the program?
A year later I still look back on my participation in the Art of Facilitation as one of the best things I did in 2018. The key learnings I took away from the program improved my practice of facilitation, as well as my understanding of group dynamics. I also reflected on, analysed and improved my interpersonal communication skills, public speaking, active listening and congruence between what and how i say something. One specific lesson I took away was Simon’s advice that in group facilitator “everything you need is already in the room” – a reminder that great facilitation involves the art of drawing existing knowledge, experience or answers from a group as active participants in a facilitated environment rather than providing answers yourself as a facilitator. I now realise that good facilitator disrupts existing power / group hierarchies such as age, gender, work role, etc (dynamics which exist in every group).
What was the most surprising thing about the program for you?
I was surprised at how engaged I felt throughout every minute of the program. The content was delivered in a unique way over multiple formats, including story telling, games, role play, reflection, reading, videos and more, ensuring a diversity of ways to connect with topics / discussions. I constantly felt curiosity and never fatigue; this was assisted by wonderful organisation and planning by Polykala staff through preparing the class, scheduling breaks, check ins and using a mixture of larger and small group work. This state of curiosity allowed me to challenge myself further, and easily participate in group activities.
How have you used what you learnt in the Art of Facilitation intensive?
I’ve used my strengthened skills in facilitation, communication and group dynamics in my work at Switchboard. I have also used them regularly in my volunteer and study commitments, and more broadly in my personal relationships. As a facilitator my pace has slowed to be more engaging and confident, I focus and listen more to the needs of facilitation participants, and i’m more aware of and responsive to group dynamics. This undoubtably leads to increased rapport, connection and engagement with of groups with which I work.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer someone who is considering doing the program?
I would highly recommend the program to people of all facilitation skills. I would recommend leaving plenty of personal reflective time around your experience in the Art of Facilitation. Allow the course to deeply inspire you to continue or start your own journey in facilitation.