One of Converge’s super-powers is facilitation. We excel at facilitating conversations to
form strategic directions or to promote equity-centered change. We understand the importance of facilitation skills because they are an essential component of consensus-building. Below is an interview with Converge’s CEO and master facilitator Takema Robinson.
Q: What is the role of a facilitator according to the Converge Way?
Takema: I often refer to what we do at Converge as making stone soup. Facilitation is like the pot or the container to which those ingredients (individual and organizational assets and dynamics, etc.) are being added. The facilitator is like the heat source: They are able to turn the heat up and down. By heating up the container, the facilitator allows ingredients from individuals or institutions to blend into one seamless thing. The facilitator is also like the chef of a great feast. Given all the different elements, assets, and contributions, the facilitator blends them together to create this stone soup.
Q: You often talk about the “magic of facilitation.” What are the preconditions for this magic to happen?
Takema: We need to have some humility and know that you can’t do the work all by yourself. That humility will lead to a healthy interdependence. You have to then be willing to build trust with others. Trust is one of the most critical pre-conditions for facilitation. Building trust is like two steps forward, one step backward: It won’t always be perfect, and so you have to be willing to build the muscle of trust.
Another is being committed to something bigger than ourselves. People need a reason to be inspired. I think that reason can sometimes be fear-based, but it’s most effective when it’s inspirational. When we feel like we need to come together to create something, to do something that we can’t do as individuals, that is the “North Star.”
Q: What are some common shortcomings from facilitators that you have observed in the non-profit space? If you were to coach them, what advice would you give?
Takema: Have an agenda but be willing to let it go. You want to have a plan and a roadmap, but you want that plan to be flexible. You can come into the room with a lot of great ideas, and hopefully have the expressed interest of the people you’re serving. That is most important: make sure that you’re centering the people that you’re serving. Also, be prepared, but know that your preparation is so that when the moment arises, you can iterate within the agenda.
By continuing to center the people who you’re there to serve, you know that you may need to abandon the agenda as written. But having both the agenda, as well as the explicit goals for the meeting, you’re able to move and shift between the structure that the agenda provides, but also move toward the goals, which is the real purpose and why you’re there. [End of interview]
Through our facilitation approach, Converge consultants are adept in bringing people and organizations through journeys of discovery, learning, and transformation. We pride ourselves in our ability to not only meet agreed-upon goals, but to achieve those goals through a facilitation process that honors our values of racial and intersectional equity.
With careful facilitation, Converge can help your organization navigate tough terrain and be better equipped for the future!