(Peace Corps, 1984, 175 p.)

Working with a group: dynamics and facilitation skills[edit | edit source]


An essential part of community work is to motivate people and enable them to address issues of concern in ways that promote cooperation and self-reliance. For that reason, it is important that the community worker be able to collaborate with groups of people and guide them as they set goals, identify resources, and take steps to attain the goals they have established. In this session, the participants examine - and put into practice - effective facilitation and communication skills. At the same time, they begin to plan and prepare for the end-of-training Fair.


To develop and practice skills in working with a group
To examine ways to share information and work cooperatively
To begin to plan and prepare for the end-of-training Fair


Bridging the Gap, pp. 93-94 (The Bamboo Bridge: A Participatory Planning Tool)
Improved Food Drying and Storage Manual, Session 12
Health Education Training Model


"The Characteristics of a Good Group Leader/Facilitator" 11A
"Decision Making Process" 115
"Guidelines for a Meeting" 11C


Newsprint and markers


  1. (15 minutes) Warm-up Activity and Introduction

Use the following activity, or substitute one of your own: Ask the participants to form pairs. At a signal from you, one person should talk enthusiastically to their partner about something they really like. Meanwhile, the other person should make every effort to act as disinterested as possible, to convey the feeling that what their partner is saying is of no value or interest. Call 'time' at the end of 30 seconds and have the partners switch roles. At the end of the activity, ask the group:

  • What did it feel like to be the speaker? The non-listener?
    - How did your partner let you know that what you were saying was of no interest?
    - What are some cultural factors that may enter during the conversations in this country? In the U.S.? (Do people, for example, make eye contact? What kind of space is kept between people?)

Point out that during this session, there will be an emphasis on listening carefully to what people say, and to being a good facilitator. Ask what the word "facilitate" means to the group members.

  1. (15 minutes) The Characteristics of a Good Facilitator

Distribute and review Handout 11A, and ask if there are other qualities that might be added, or if some of those qualities listed should be modified.

  1. (20 minutes) The Role of a Good Facilitator

Explain that the facilitator often helps people find ways of using the resources that exist within the group to help them attain goals and objectives.


Refer to Bridging the Gap, and use the example of the "Bamboc Bridge" as a method of helping people define problems and resources, and take steps needed to accomplish a goal.

Use the following questions to stimulate discussion:

  • What should a facilitator do if people have conflicting views in a group?
    - What can a facilitator do to help keep things moving in a meeting or a group discussion?
    - How can sensitive or explosive issues be handled?
    - What can a facilitator do if people don't participate?
    - How can the facilitator keep one person from monopolizing the discussion?
    - What are some ways of keeping a discussion focused on the topic at hand?
    - What are some problems in your community work that relate to facilitation of groups?
    - How does this discussion relate to the topic being examined? What are the dynamics right now?
  1. ( 1 Hour ) The Meeting Format

Present the idea of a meeting as a potentially effective way of sharing information and accomplishing tasks. Refer to Handouts 11B ("The Decision Making Process") and 11C ("Guidelines for a Meeting"), as you:

  • Review the meeting format and various roles people will take
    - Ask for a volunteer to facilitate the meeting, which will have as its goal the initial planning and organization for the end-of training Fair.


Provide the group some guidance in setting an agenda, and in the selection of the recorder, time keeper and observer. (Make sure that people are not "volunteered" by others). Although it will be tempting to give assistance during the meeting, it is important to let the group work through problems on their own as much as possible. Remember to he a participant in the meeting, not a "trainer". It is probable, that due to time considerations, the group will have to hold future meetings outside training hours. Refer to Session 19, "Preparing for the Fair" for more details on the planning and organization of the end-of-training event.

  1. (10 minutes) Summary

When the meeting has ended, go over with the group any problems that were encountered and how they dealt with them. Refer to the questions that were discussed in step #3, as well as:

  • How were decisions made in this meeting?
    - How could this format be improved?
    - Do you think this type of meeting would work in your community? Why, or why net?
    - Do you think that the agenda items were discussed adequately?
    - What are the next steps in preparing for the Fair?


The meeting format may be used for occasional "community meetings" or committee meetings. This will help give the participants practice in facilitation skills, and may be useful in getting work done more efficiently and cooperatively.


A group leader, sometimes also called a facilitator, is someone who clears the way for learning.

A GOOD GROUP LEADER ... is friendly and relaxed treats people as equals, and is honest with them helps make people feel comfortable (sometimes it helps to have everyone, including the group leader, sit in a circle so they can see each other's faces) draws information out of people from their own experiences whenever possible, and helps them see how their own skills, knowledge and experiences relate to the concerns of others uses words that people understand, and speaks clearly asks many questions, and is a good listener encourages people to find their own answers when possible, even when the solution may seem obvious, or it might be easier to supply an answer points out useful information and ideas that have come from the people in the group invents ways to help people test new skills in real situations helps the group when progress is slow, to suggest other ways of moving or getting things done discovers with people and from them what they need to learn respects people, and does not mock them, or make fun of their mistakes or weaknesses recognizes the value in making mistakes and learning from failures and "wrong" answers uses teaching aids that are appropriate to the group (these are usually locally available, low-cost, and are things that people in the group can use or create later)



The following types of decision making are familiar to all of us:

  1. Plops
    A decision suggested by an individual to which there is no response (e.g., "I suggest we shelve this question.")
  2. Self-Authorization
    A decision made by an individual who assumes authority (e.g., "I think we should all write our ideas on the blackboard." - and proceeds to be the first to do so.)
  3. The Handclasp
    A decision made by two or more members of the group who join forces or decide the issue in advance (e.g., "That was a helpful comment, John. Yes, that's the course we're going to take.")
  4. Baiting
    A decision made by pressure not to disagree (e.g., "No one objects, do they?"), or a decision made by pressure to agree (e.g., "We all agree, don't we?").
  5. Majority Rule
    A decision made by some form of voting.
  6. Unanimity
    A decision made by overt and unanimous consent, often without discussion.
  7. Polling
    A decision made by a form of voting which inquires, "Let's see where everyone stands." - and then proceeds to tabulate the already expressed majority decision.
  8. Consensus
    A decision made after allowing all aspects of the issue, both positive and negative, to be put forth to the degree that everyone openly agrees it is probably the best decision. This is not necessarily unanimity, but it constitutes a basic agreement by all group members.


This method of conducting meetings can help to get a lot work done in a way that is both efficient and cooperative, if a few guidelines are followed:

  1. Set up and post an agenda ahead of time so that people attending the meeting can add items they wish to introduce, and can review the agenda before the meeting begins.
  2. Don't volunteer other people for tasks during a meeting.
  3. Try to make decisions that include all of those attending the meeting, using methods that encourage active participation (refer to the information on "The Decision-Making Process").
  4. Beware of "topic jumps". Stay focused on the particular item being discussed. Help the moderator/facilitator keep the meeting moving in positive ways.
  5. Pay attention to what is going on. It is maddening to try to accomplish work when there are lots of conversations going on, or people are dozing off. Be a good listener, and avoid monopolizing the discussion.

The following roles should be established before the meeting starts:

  1. Moderator/Facilitator: Before the meeting sets up the agenda for all to see. It should contain each item or topic, the person introducing the item, and the approximate amount of time it will take. The facilitator also guides the discussion, and generally helps things move along. (Refer to "The Characteristics of a Good Facilitator")
  2. Recorder: Takes notes about decisions made, tasks delegated, responsibilities to be fulfilled. At the end of the meeting review the notes for the group.
  3. Timekeeper: Works with the facilitator to keep track of time, and lets the facilitator know when time is about up for an item. This gives the group a chance to decide if they want to spend more time on a particular item or postpone additional discussion to another meeting.
  4. Observer Keeps an eye on the dynamics of the group, how decisions are made, the way problems are dealt with, if and how the tasks are accomplished, how the facilitator, timekeeper and recorder fulfill their jobs. Reports observations to the group at the end of the meeting.

An outline for the meeting might look like this:

  1. The facilitator sets up the agenda before the meeting
  2. At the start of the meeting the facilitator welcomes the group, asks for additions or deletions to the agenda, and requests volunteers for the roles of timekeeper, recorder and observer.
  3. The items on the agenda are discussed. Sometimes it is useful to have a category at the end of the agenda called "tidbits" for announcements or other short items that don't require discussions.
  4. The recorder reviews for the group decisions made, tasks delegated, etc.
  5. The observer reports to the group.
  6. The facilitator asks for a volunteer to lead the next meeting, and thanks the people in attendance.
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Authors Eric Blazek
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 0 pages link here
Aliases Solar and Energy Conserving Food Technologies 13
Impact 306 page views
Created April 14, 2006 by Eric Blazek
Modified December 9, 2023 by Felipe Schenone
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