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Dynamic Facilitation and Group Energy


by DeAnna Martin


To me what sets dynamic facilitation apart is the quality of dialogue it elicits by engaging people as their authentic, positional, and opinionated selves where they are in the moment. The process requires this of participants and it's amazing to watch the layers peel away as people diverge and converge around seemingly impossible to solve problems - trusting that the only breakthrough we're going to have has to emerge as something greater than the sum of what's gathered in the room -- something radically different and unexpected from wherever we started.

I do conflict resolution work and mediation and in these types of facilitation, while they have the potential to be transformational, require participants to stretch a bit. If they could just listen better, or empathize the right way - we try and force them to do this through the structured process, or asking them to try, or modeling it. The rules of these games try to force transformation and take a lot of work!

Other processes try and tap into people's natural and self-organizing creativity as well, but the quality of dialogue is dependent on the dialogue skills of the people present. Despite my love for Open Space Technology for large group, self-organizing processes, I've been frustrated in open space sessions at the transactional quality of dialogue. That's what we're used to, so even when we organize our own process and meetings, we're still going to communicate that way with one another. These processes aim at transformation - maybe getting there through this kind of weird chaos, but maybe not. It's sort of haphazard and random.

So, the great thing about dynamic facilitation is that people can be who they are and just through the kind of reflection that's done in dynamic facilitation can begin to see themselves combined with the authenticity of others in the room in this playful and curious way. dynamic facilitation says, "There's no way we can have a breakthrough unless you be your opinionated and belief-striken self." By precisely allowing you not to change, you change despite yourself through the power of reflection.