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Empowering Each Other: Reflections from our session at Facilitate 2024

May 20, 2024

Photo of Vita a woman with blonde hair, Sadia, a woman with dark hair and and Emily  awan with dark hair standing together smiling at the camera
Photo of Vita, Sadia and Emily

In this blog co-producers Emily, Sadia and Vita talk about the workshop they gave at the International Facilitators Conference which explored the differences between facilitation and co-facilitation and their reflections on this

Recently, we had the privilege of presenting at the International Association of Facilitators conference (IAF) #Facilitate2024 in Birmingham. Our workshop, Empowering Each Other – Exploring how facilitation skills in co-production redress power imbalances was an opportunity for us to explore co-facilitation and its role in fostering inclusivity and empowerment. Empowerment can be a tricky word as it can imply that someone has power that can be given to another. We wanted to both challenge and embrace the term empowerment, as something that collectively we can use to support each other.

The Facilitate 2024 conference brings together facilitators from many different areas (geographically and professionally) to share ideas and practice. This year, there was a focus on diversity, inclusion and importance of including lived experience. We thought this would be great opportunity to share ways in which facilitation and co-production can come together, as well as to explore our thoughts and ideas about co-facilitation.

  • Facilitation can be described as the process of guiding a group through discussions, activities, or decision-making processes to achieve a desired outcome. A facilitator acts as a guide, creating a safe and inclusive space for participants to express themselves, collaborate, and problem-solve effectively.
  • Co-facilitation, on the other hand, involves two or more individuals sharing the responsibility of guiding a group through a process. It's a collaborative approach where facilitators work together to leverage their diverse skills, perspectives, and experiences to enhance the facilitation process.

When involving others in co-facilitation, it becomes an empowering act because it:

  1. Distributes Power: Co-facilitation distributes power among facilitators, allowing for a more democratic and inclusive approach. It acknowledges that no single individual has all the answers or perspectives, and by working together, facilitators can tap into a broader range of expertise and insights.
  2. Encourages Participation: Having multiple facilitators creates a supportive environment where participants feel more encouraged to engage actively. It sends a message that their voices are valued and that there are multiple avenues for them to contribute to the discussion.
  3. Fosters Collaboration: Co-facilitation promotes collaboration not only among facilitators but also among participants. By modelling collaborative behaviour, facilitators inspire participants to work together, share ideas, and build upon each other's contributions.
  4. Provides Support: Co-facilitation allows facilitators to support each other throughout the process. They can share the workload, provide feedback, and offer assistance when needed, ensuring a smoother and more effective facilitation experience.
  5. Reflects Diversity: Co-facilitation often involves facilitators from diverse backgrounds, which enriches the facilitation process with different perspectives, approaches, and ways of thinking. This diversity enhances the overall experience for participants and promotes greater understanding and empathy.

Involving others in co-facilitation transforms the facilitation process into a collaborative endeavour that empowers both facilitators and participants alike. It embodies the principles of equity, inclusion, and shared leadership, ultimately leading to more meaningful and impactful outcomes.

What we talked about in our workshop

In our session, we delved into the significance of facilitation and co-facilitation within the context of co-production, aiming to bridge the gap between professionals and individuals with lived experience. Our journey began with defining co-production and sharing our personal narratives, highlighting the transformative power of including diverse voices in decision-making processes.

Photo of Vita, Sadia and Emily presenting in front of projector screen to a room full of people sat in circle
Photo from the session

Vita captured the essence of our session when she emphasized:

"Facilitation is a part of co-production; it can help us challenge inequalities and rebalance power dynamics."

As members of Co-Production Collective we all reflected on our diverse paths into co-production and each of us shared our unique experiences and insights.

Emily recounted her journey from youth work and community arts facilitation to her current focus on how power is shared in co-production and participatory health research. Vita shared her involvement in various projects, including the Better Births maternity projects and her current work with Co-Production Collective and Kings College. Sadia shared her personal experience of baby loss and brought her perspective as a member of underserved communities, highlighting the importance of removing barriers to participation and emphasizing the need for safeguarding and culture, sensitive support, especially in maternal health.

As Vita beautifully described, co-facilitation isn't just about sharing the stage; it's about supporting and empowering each other to deliver a cohesive message. By co-designing our session and supporting one another through the preparation process, we embodied the principles of co-production, both on and off the stage.

During our session and the subsequent discussions, participants actively engaged with the topic, sharing their experiences and insights and exploring what ‘power’ means to each of us. For some it is a really positive ‘powerful’ word, but for many it holds connotations and reminders of control and trauma. Sadia reflected on how the audience's questions and contributions provided an opportunity for mutual learning, reinforcing the idea that co-production fosters curiosity and imagination.

The conference theme, "Growing Together," resonated deeply with us as we reflected on our journey. Despite our diverse backgrounds and approaches, co-facilitation allowed us to offer a multi-voiced perspective, enriching our collective experience and inspiring others to rethink their facilitation practices.

As we look back on our experience at #Facilitate2024, we were reminded of the transformative power of co-facilitation. By embracing diversity, fostering inclusivity, and valuing lived experience, we can create spaces where everyone feels empowered to contribute meaningfully.

Thank you for joining us on this journey of empowerment and collaboration. Together, we can continue to challenge inequalities and create a more equitable future through co-production.

Emily, Vita, Sadia, and the Co-Production Collective team

If you have any feedback or would like to know more please contact co-production

Photo Credit: Canva

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