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Facilitation trends for the 2020s

Trend 1.          This will be a great decade for facilitators  

People putting their hands up in a facilitated workshop

Demand for facilitation is rising. There’s clear value in a range of applications, from quite simple meetings, through to group sessions, to conference sessions or even entire conferences.

And as leaders in organisations grow aware of this, it creates opportunities for internal and external facilitators to help groups to have more constructive conversations and reach better (and often faster) outcomes.

More than that, as human beings, it seems we are longing for neutrality in a world of polarising and more entrenched views. A facilitator can provide that explicit neutrality and create spaces in which people feel they belong and have a chance to make a telling contribution.

A facilitative style acknowledges and may do something to satisfy desires for belonging in organisations of disparate teams and flexible working, and technology that paradoxically limits our connections.

A facilitator offers a perspective of stability, sense and purpose, showing up as someone who will listen to what you say as if it matters.


Trend 2.        Participants are growing in their awareness of safe space

baby asleep in a safe space in the car

It’s the responsibility of anyone facilitating meetings to create a safe space for participants. This has always been a part of the facilitator’s toolkit and is usually included in what we aim to provide.

Now the clients and participants are expecting and looking out for it too. They sense safety, for example, when they feel there is an opportunity for people to speak when they might usually not. They want processes within which everyone has a clear opportunity to contribute – or has the choice not to contribute.

This current awareness has its roots in the many conversations around inclusion and diversity, although the concept of psychological safety has been around for more than 20 years. See particularly Amy Edmondson, whose research on psychological safety in work teams, goes back to at least 1999.  https://hbr.org/podcast/2019/01/creating-psychological-safety-in-the-workplace


Trend 3.          Rise of technology

A facilitator using a mix of technology

No longer does a group have to be face to face and in the same room to make things happen.

There are now many more instances of facilitators facilitating online sessions. And even when in the room with participants, we can do more with tech, such as using phones for voting (Mentimeter and similar apps), taking pictures or videos to record proceedings.

Facilitators can get really creative with online spaces. Let’s say we refuse to treat them as flat as the screens on which they appear, with each participant (say) lined up in a series of boxes.

In one session recently, we deliberately enhanced a feeling of intimacy simply by taking turns to ask a question about an object or picture in the space behind the person seen on screen.

I notice today’s facilitators are either adept at blending technology into a live session, or they embrace the counter-trend. That’s the detox, for example, in which we put the phones away and focus on creating ‘real’ connection.

This counter-trend will prompt a rise in high-value retreats, with participants valuing the unique possibilities of live, interactive, more open-ended events. Events that feel more carefully prepared, so that they are worth the time and expense of people travelling to come together live in a room.


If you’d like to learn more about facilitation visit our training page and find more blogs on the subject: Facilitation 





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