Have you ever been the accidental facilitator? Or have you seen someone stepping into the role of the facilitator accidentally?

It happens often.

Because this means that group members are mindful about how the process unfolds. 
That they care about how a conversation is going, who is involved and who not.
That there is process knowledge among the group members.

As a professional facilitator I am happy about this support. 

I remember an accidental facilitator that impressed me. It was years back in a workshop about the human-rights based approach. A young project officer took spontaneously and naturally the lead of one of the groups. The more senior and experienced group members accepted her guidance on process level, they could concentrate on the content and immerse themselves fully into the discussion. 

I also remember many small moments when someone stepped in to support a group discussion or intervened for the wellbeing of the group when energy was low, or some issues emerged from the underground that needed attention. 

I remember the role of the guardian in the Circle Practice who watches and safeguards group energy and observes the process. The guardian may call for a pause if she or he thinks that it would benefit the group and the process.  

I remember moments when I was the participant and became the accidental facilitator. When I notice that not all voices and perspectives are acknowledged, or a process snaps back to old patterns I might gently share my observation. You could call it “déformation professionnelle”. I admit I am a bit obsessed with process thinking sometimes. 

Accidental facilitators are mindful of the process. 

They notice.

And decide to facilitate. 

For the sake of the group and the process. 

Not for shining.

This is a gift for a group. 

Facilitation is a role everyone can step into.

It is a role present in each group. The role is bigger than the individual (professional and/ or assigned) facilitator. In Deep Democracy one would say, the role is fluid.

So, it is not bizarre or awkward that someone spontaneously starts to facilitate. 

This is useful beyond the current process. 

Because facilitation skills are life skills.

  • Listening and being present in a conversation, at work or privately. 
  • Being aware on how a group works together and how a process unfolds.
  • Paying attention to how participation is distributed, how groups are configured and how (online) spaces arranged. 
  • Structuring a process for interaction.
  • Creating and sustaining an inclusive and inviting space that feels psychologically safe. 

Accidental facilitators have a facilitative mindset, are open and curious about people and process. 

A facilitative mindset focuses on “Me-You-We-Do” as my friend Ton Baan is saying: What is good for me is good for you and good for us. That is the aspiration of facilitation, the well-being of the group (in easy and difficult times) and the fluidity of the process.

I would love to see more accidental facilitators, especially in regular ongoing collaboration. 

Inspiration for this blog post