What is the Facilitator’s Workshop?
The Facilitator’s Workshop is an introductory workshop that aims to teach the Global Peace Volunteers basic facilitation skills as well as an overview of a facilitator’s role. It includes learning how to recognise group dynamics, generate group discussions and to explore basic workshop techniques. The Facilitator’s Workshop also works to bring attention to the facilitator’s body language, movements and gestures and how it could affect a facilitation through engagement, creation of a safe space and to manage emotions in the face of conflicts that can occur.
Broadening Your Horizons Part 1 – The Cultural Agreement
Saturday morning dawned bright with fifteen Global Peace Volunteers gathered in the signature iHall of Global Peace Foundation Malaysia. Shobana and Mooza, the workshop trainers for the day, started things off with a simple introduction of the theme of the workshop: Diversity and Interfaith.
“Be conscious of what you’re feeling and going through in the process of the workshop,” Shobana emphasised once the house rules were done and out of the way. She expressed the importance of reflection as it will help participants better understand the content of the workshop as the day proceeds.
Participants were gathered in a circle and asked to express their feelings about the morning in one word; some were excited, others were sleepy and a select few had no words to describe their emotions via sound effects ,which earned a round of laughter from the participants.
The workshop officially started with two energiser games, the BANG! and Name Game. The BANG! game promotes quick-thinking and reflexes while the NAME Game work their brains to remember names and the actions that went with the names.
Everyone was pumped up and ready to fully start the day and were split up into two teams to discuss a cultural agreement, which would be the rules that everyone would oblige throughout the workshop. This was done in order to create a safe space where one could share their thoughts and feelings without fear of being made fun of or hurting someone’s feelings.
With an agreement agreed upon, a safe space is created as a catalyst to propel the workshop forward.(Read part TWO here!)
Broadening Your Horizons Part 2 – Power & Privilege, A Dialogue
(Don’t miss out, read part ONE here!)
After the participants all read and understood the final cultural agreement, everyone gathered in a circle once more and was led into a discussion about power and privilege by Mooza.
“I know some of you already had this discussion at the previous Global Peace Volunteers camp but there’s so many layers to this that it’s good to discuss it again,” said Mooza and she started the discussion off by getting everyone to share what was the one word that came to mind when they thought of the word ‘power’.
Words like ‘Superman’, ‘influence’, ‘solar system’, ‘Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB)’ and even fear came out into the mix. Mooza was particularly interested in why one participant, Yin Yee thought of fear when she thinks of the word ‘power’.
“I think it’s mostly because I know there are people out there who thinks this when they think of power,” she explained. “Like for some, the police instills a sense of fear instead of safety when they are supposedly the people who have the power to keep a society safe,”
From there, the discussion then moved into word associations to the word ‘privilege’, with Mooza telling the group that they’d go back and discuss the association of fear with power. Most participants agreed that when they think of privilege, words like ‘money’ and having a sense of entitlement or getting better treatment was what came to mind and this nicely tied back into the discussion of the fear of power.
Shobana then asked what was one such example where people feared the idea of the police. Yin Yee shared her thoughts on what happened in Ferguson and how Michael Brown, a defenseless young African American kid was shot for no reason by the police and that the policeman in question still roamed free.
This earned looks of shock from the participants who weren’t clear of what was happening in Ferguson and the Michael Brown incident. Another fellow participant, Phil, also shared a similar case where a young African American man was shot for holding onto a packaged toy sword and was shot by a policeman.
Shobana then asked for a more local example of a case where the police abused their power and Yin Yee shared on the case where seven transgenders were arrested in Kuala Lumpur and were then beaten up, stripped and shaved of their hair in jail by the police. The discussion then led into the power structures surrounding this case and a mind map was drawn out.
The participants were asked to label the different stakeholders – family, transgenders, public, media and so on – with a big ‘p’ for high power and a small ‘p’ for lesser power. They were also asked to think of the relations between the different stakeholders and how the power structure differs from each connection. By the end of it, the participants understood better on how the issue of power and privilege was not a black and white thing. It was more of a grayscale that depended on the situation and how it’s perceived.
The discussion ended there, however, Mooza and Shobana emphasised that this wasn’t the end, that power and privilege, like any other issue, had so many layers to it that no matter how many times it’s discussed, there will be new things to learn and talk about. Mooza also mentioned that the discussion should be kept in mind for the next part of the exercise, which would be social mapping.
For the social mapping exercise, the participants were given a sheet of paper separated into four columns: race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality and occupation. They were then told to go to a table where different coloured post-it notes were placed and to take one of each colour which would represent each of what’s on the sheet of paper. However, for the sexuality column, the participants were told to go to Shobana to get it as different make-ups would need a different sexuality matched to it.
Once everyone determined their full identity, they were asked to sit in silence for a few minutes to fully understand the identity they now had and to ask for clarifications where necessary, especially for the gender and sexuality part of it as it could get a bit confusing for those who didn’t know what certain terminologies meant and how they matched up.
When the reflection period was over, the participants were then asked to map out the level of power or privilege that they had based on their identity. The more power or privilege they had, the more to the centre of the circle they’d stand and vice versa. The questions asked revolved around finding a representation of themselves in a college/university setting, having access to education, having a choice in religion for themselves and the ease for each identity to get a job.
By the end of the social mapping session, it was obvious that the participants each took away a lesson from it. Some realised that they didn’t have as much exposure to the gender and sexuality issues that appeared in the discussion. Others realised they had much to learn about the working world and the hierarchies and politics that come with it.
Shobana closed off the morning session with a request for the participants to think on why they couldn’t answer certain questions related to racial privileges and that she would do a quick 101 on gender and sexuality and explain it to the participants after they came back from lunch.
Broadening Your Horizons Part 3- Becoming a facilitator!
After a quick lunch, the participants returned to iHall, along with a few new faces who could only make it for the afternoon session. In order to get everyone’s energy levels back up as almost everyone seemed sleepy due to their full stomachs, Shobana had them play a game called Fire, Hunter & Earthquake, which broke the participants into teams of threes. The game required a lot of moving and quick thinking as they had to react based on the different things called out to them.
Once everybody was in high energy again, a round of introductions was done again to get everyone acquainted and the new participants were walked through the cultural agreement.
Shobana also stressed the importance of a safe space, especially for this part of the workshop that would give the participants an idea of what being a facilitator will be like and the toolkit necessary to becoming one. She mentioned that in this session, she will call out certain actions of certain people where necessary and that the participants should feel safe enough to do the same without fear of insult or hurting someone as this was a necessary process in getting everyone to learn more about themselves.
The session then kicked off with a simple question: why do facilitators need to discuss certain topics? And the example brought in was the discussion on power and privilege. Phil and Yin Yee both answered that it was so that the facilitator can understand certain issues first to make it easier to talk about.
That moved into the next part of the question: what was everyone’s expectations from today’s workshop?
Some answered that they’d like to be able to run workshops of their own in the future and to understand different perspectives. Others stated that they’d like to have facilitative leadership skills and to learn how to become an effective facilitator.
However, Shobana said that as much as she likes that everyone has a goal, she and Mooza both said that facilitating is still a learning process for them, and they’ve been at it for 5 years now. She made it clear that these goals will be one that can be reached in the future but it isn’t something that can be gained by the end of a half day workshop. She did encourage the participants to keep learning and going at it because the goals were achievable ones.
The rest of Shobana’s session was spent discussing on what a facilitator is based on the participants’ understanding and from their experience of having been in workshops. To some, facilitators were initiators, cheerleaders and informers. To others, they were guides, consultants, teachers and a unison, everyone agreed that a facilitator could also be a role model.
This then led into a discussion of when a facilitator was each of the things mentioned and Shobana drew out actions in relation to those words. For example, when a facilitator is an informer informing participants on house rules and safety, participants would feel bored or detached and they’d react by shifting about or shaking their legs.
She did the same for the rest of the list and she concluded: “At the end of the day, every action stems from a feeling and we need to understand them. By understanding them, we can understand the actions of a facilitator when they take on certain roles,”
She also mentioned that there are traits a facilitator should have such as patience and an understanding of the objectives they wanted to achieve. A few participants mentioned that a facilitator should also be passionate and dedicated but Shobana rebuked that by saying: “Passion and dedication is good but it can become something that triggers you or derails you from your work. That’s why it’s important to understand what triggers you and learn how to overcome it so that it doesn’t show up in your facilitation,”
She closed off the session by sharing her experience in taking out her frustration on participants in the past and how she learned from it. A valuable takeaway lesson from it, she shared, was that sometimes the values of the sessions you have to facilitate may clash with yours but you need to be able to leave your values and principles at the door to make the session the best it can be for the participants.
“A facilitator needs to understand themselves as individuals, the objectives and materials as well as the participants,” Shobana imparted and she then passed the floor on to Archana to being her session on communication and non-verbal cues.
Archana began her session by pairing the participants up to play a game. She had them sit back to back from each other. One participant was to take a picture given by Archana and describe it to their partner while the partner had to draw it just based on their verbal description. Only one of the pairs managed to get a similar drawing to the original and that was Faiq and Shobee. When asked how, they both commended each other on being a very detailed depictor and a very good listener.
The lesson of the game was that it is hard to understand a message when you cannot see the other person. That is why non-verbal communication is so important. What is not said is as important as what is said. Body language delivers half of a message for you. Archana then went on to explain how when we first meet someone new, we judge them based on the first 12 to 15 seconds of meeting them. A more detailed explanation was given through examples like the way we shake hands and how often we make eye contact with a person.
Archana’s session was very eye opening to many. She said that this was only scraping the surface of non-verbal communication and that made the volunteers eager to learn more.
All in all, the facilitator’s workshop was truly insightful. It gave everyone a safe space to talk about issues that would be considered sensitive outside of the room and it also allowed me to learn more about things that I thought I already knew about. I also found myself appreciating every facilitator I’ve met as I had no idea how much thought and work goes into being a facilitator. I’m glad I got to experience this workshop and I now realise there is much that I have yet to learn.
As someone once said, life is a constant journey and learning process. You never stop learning unless your life has come to an end. I’ve only lived a small part of myself and I’m looking forward to learning more and growing as a person.