Monday, March 17, 2014

Participatory Video supporting the dialogue on social accountability – 7 steps

From 9th to 14th February, 2014 Simon Koolwijk conducted a participatory video training for 20 representatives from 10 social accountability implementing partners in the Ethiopian Social Accountability Programme Phase 2 (ESAP2). This program aims to improve the communication and relations between local stakeholders such as local government (Woredas and Kebeles), civil society organisations, local citizens groups and service providers in the areas of health care, agriculture, water & sanitation, education and rural road construction. The process of better communication aims to help to improve the services of service providers (the suppliers) so that citizens needs (the users) are being met. The participatory video was initiated to help to stimulate and support the dialogue on social accountability and the improvement of social services.

In the one week training, participants got the opportunity to apply participatory video in Metehare and Adama City.  In Metehare City they interviewed key stakeholders working on health service improvement in their community.  In Adama City they interviewed key stakeholders in the area of water service delivery.  You can watch the participatory videomaking process in 7 steps.

Another video of this training, produced by one of the local trainers, you can watch the video PV training february 2014 overview.

Currently,  15 social accountability partners from the ESAP2 programme are implementing participatory video in their own social accountability projects.  It is expected that by the end of May, 2014  between 15 and 20 community dialogue meetings will have been conducted where videos have been presented and discussed.  It is ESAPs intention to organize a mini film festival later this year, where experiences and lessons learnt about participatory video will be discussed.  The participatory videos which have already been produced you can watch at the ESAP2 youtube channel  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Impressions about the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ‘The Future of Storytelling’

From October to December, 2013 I participated in the MOOC Course ‘The Future of Storytelling’ facilitated by Iversity. Iversity is linked to the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Germany.
MOOC means a Massive Open Online Course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. The ‘Future of Storytelling’ helped me to get a better insight on:
  1. How fictional stories work;
  2.       How new technologies influence the ways stories are told and perceived;
  3. How technologies engage and audience fast and continuously;
  4.       How I can develop and implement my own story ideas or how I can facilitate storytelling.
Content of the course
The format of the course was very practical.  Every week, I got the opportunity to watch video lectures about storytelling basics,  storytelling on tv, the web and role play games.  Later on I got acquainted with new modern techniques of storytelling such as transmedia storytelling and augmented reality and location-based storytelling.
At the end of each online weekly session, we got the opportunity to do a creative task. One of the assignmens which I liked the most, was to compile a visual story about Aunt Renie visiting an interesting location in one part of the world of the online participants.  You can watch my story at youtube:  Aunt Renie visits the Devils Mountain Forest. Within a period of three weeks, it gained more than 700 hits.

We also created a ‘Nick Name’ person telling and sharing stories through a social medium. I created the ‘Devils Mountain Rust Wat Tree’.  You can read some of the ‘Devils Mountain Rust Wat Tree’ at its Facebook Page   From now on I use the page, to share and add some interesting stories about forests, forest conservation and the Devils Mountain Forest.

I liked the course a lot.  It was structured and every week I had a fixed time I could read and learn more about storytelling and challenge myself to do a creative task. For me as a freelancer, it is an advantage I can do this course in my own time,  at my own rhythm and the creative tasks encouraged me to experiment with some new ways of storytelling.  Through the forum I was inspired to read more about what other participants had produced. What I missed was the face-2-face  teamwork in doing assignments. Somehow, a MOOC should also look into the possibilities on how groups tasks between 2 or 3 participants can be stimulated. 
Conclusion: The online course was fun to do for me!  I am looking forward to any new online course that will match my interest and domains of work.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Facilitating storytelling through the Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf

Last week I facilitated a workshop with the aim to harvest funny fictional stories. I applied the facilitation method of the ‘Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf’.   After sharing the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, I explained the main characteristics of a good story.
Definition of a story: A story is a representation of events that are associated with each other. A story has the following characteristics:
·         Is self-explanatory and has a beginning, middle and end;
·         Contains narrative elements;
·         Is authentic: true or true-ish;
·         Is personal;
·         Calls on emotions and / or is told with emotion.

Narrative elements are:
1.       A main character (protagonist): A (anti) hero with whom the listener or reader can identify;
2.       A storyline; chronological sequence of events, which includes
3.       A plot: development, wrestle, dilemmas;
4.       An  "opponent" (antagonist), a negative factor that the hero stands in the way;
5.       A 'helper' or 'supporter', a positive factor that supports the hero.

After sharing the characteristics of a story, I asked participants to brainstorm their heros and their opponents.  In groups of three participants selected a hero and an opponent and developed their story.
Helpful sentences that supported the development of the stories, were:
1.       Once upon a time there was…………  (the person/ hero)
2.       And as always ………..  (describe a beautiful situation, as things are going smoothly)
3.       Until a day ……. (here the problem or the wrestling starts in the story, the opponent appears in the story)
4.       Thereby, and thereby and  and thereby ………   (make the situation worse and worse …..)
5.       Whereby …… (here the story comes to a climax, the final stage has started)
6.       They lived happily ever after
7.       If needed, add a moral to the story

Storytelling as a tool for organizational change
The session created fun, laughter and relaxed atmosphere in the group.  In the reflection phase we concluded that storytelling is an excellent tool for teambuilding or organizational change session. You can do it before discussing the main issues in organizational development. For example formulating the ‘Values and Beliefs’ of the organization.  But you can also apply it after thorough discussions on how the organization should move forward.  For example symbolizing the intended change in a funny and symbolic story.

Storytelling is also excellent as a tool for:
  • Participatory video;
  • Monitoring and evaluation;
  • Branding and advertisement;
  • Knowledge transfer and education;
  • Dialogue between stakeholders in institutional change processes.

For your inspiration, a story that was generated from the Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf

The cat and the mouse
Once upon a time there were a mouse and a cat. The cat said 'I am going to eat you!. I am hungry!'  The mouse said.  I am poisoned. If you are going to eat me, you will die. My death will be your death. So you either choose or  you will tolerate my presence and enjoy the games you will play with me.  Or you die!  The cat thought, the mouse was fooling him. The cat decided to catch the mouse and enjoyed the meal the fullest.  Unfortunately, the mouse was right. The cat started to feel unwell and caught a heavy fever. The house boss saw the cat crying.  Help me! I am going to die. Please call an animal doctor.  When the animal doctor came, the cat was crying. Help me, please help me!  I was wrong to eat a mouse.  The animal doctor listened to the stomach of the cat, and heard a mouse crying. Help me out! I am still alive.  If you help me, you help the cat.  The doctor took the words of the mouse serious.  He advised the cat to vomit!  Vomit, vomit!  This will help you.  The cat decided to cough deeply. And again deeply. After vomiting three times, the mouse came out!  A relief entered the cat. The fever was gone!  The mouse looked the cat in the eyes!  I told you!  If I will die, you will die.  The cat said sorry! I was greedy and just thinking of myself.  You were right. I have to listen more carefully and appreciate what is there!  Shall we become playmates?  The cat said 'I accept your apologies.  Do you promise me not to do this ever again?  The cat nodded. I promise, said the cat!  They shook hands and became friends for their lifetimes.

Training on Facilitation of Storytelling
If you want to obtain and acquire more tools in facilitating storytelling, read more at  the course schedule ‘Facilitation of Storytelling’  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dialogue on social accountability through participatory video – 7 steps

From 16th to 20th December, 2013 Simon Koolwijk conducted a participatory video training for 10 representatives from 5 social accountability implementing partners in the Ethiopian Social Accountability Programme (ESAP2). This program aims to improve the communication and relations between local stakeholders such as local government (Woredas and Kebeles), civil society organisations, local citizens groups and service providers in the areas of health care, agriculture, water and sanitation, education and rural road construction. The process of better communication aims to help to improve the services of service providers (the suppliers) so that citizens needs (the users) are being met. The participatory video was initiated to help to stimulate and support the dialogue on social accountability and the improvement of social services.
In the one week training, participants got the opportunity to apply participatory video in Gulele Sub City, where they interviewed key stakeholders working on health service improvement in their community.  You can watch the participatory videomaking process in 7 steps.  

The training was received with great enthousiasm. The method inspired the participants to conduct participatory videomaking in their own organization and embed it in their monitoring and evaluation systems. The 5 participating organisations have planned participatory videomaking interventions in their programmes. They will implement their interventions between January and march, 2014.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ten energizers, games and exercises for training and facilitation on video

Games, energizers and exercises can be very useful in creating a safe and relaxed atmosphere in the group, but they can also be very helpful in building understanding in complex knowledge transfer or planning processes. Nicole Kienhuis and Simon Koolwijk filmed 10 exercises on video, which can be applied for trainings or facilitation events.
1. Trust:  This is a physical exercise, which helps to create a more relaxed atmosphere in the group. Finally it helps to build more trust amongst group members during an event.  Watch video:  Trust.
2. Two truths and a lie: This exercise is very practical for getting to know each other in the beginning of an event. It can help to break the ice and can stimulate a humoristic atmosphere in the group. Watch video:  Two truths and a lie.
3. Structured thinking: This exercise is a powerful introduction in explaining the importance of structured thinking. Especially in processes such as planning, design and curriculum development the exercise builds understanding why structured thinking can be very crucial in certain planning and development processes: Watch video:  Structured thinking.

4. Brainteaser:  ‘Think before you act!’ is the message of this exercise. Especially if strategic decisions need to be taken, this exercise builds understanding that thorough discussion and research is required. Watch video: Brainteaser.
5. The minefield: ‘Rely on the information from your partner!’  This is a teambuilding exercise which challenges people’s roles in accepting and relying on leadership. Watch video: The minefield.
6. Expressing emotions:  ‘Exaggerate your emotions’.  This exercise also helps to create a more relaxed atmosphere in the group. By exaggerating emotions people start to discover their potential on how they can express emotions in role plays or behavioral exercises. Watch video: Expressing emotions. 
7. The value of doubting:   Being too confident or too sure you have the right answer, can block people to be open-minded for new perspectives. This game challenges people to continuously doubt about the right answer. Watch video: The value of doubting.
8. Recognizing changes:  This exercise is an eye-opener in making people sharp in recognizing changes. It is a simple exercise, but definitely challenges people’s observations’ skills. Watch video: Recognizing changes.

9. Make your own circle:  “Think out of the box!”  Solutions can be very simple, but to find them requires a new way of creative thinking. This exercise is a good introduction in preparing people on ‘out of the box’ brainstorm sessions and developing their creativity.  Watch video:  Make your own circle.

10. Playful connections: A game about interaction.  It is a relaxing exercise in testing people’s concentration and focus in listening and responding.  The video shows how it can be applied for introducing a training session on social media.  But you can also use other words for introducing other training or discussion topics. Watch video:  Playful connections.  

If you want to consult literature on games and energizers, we advise Warming-ups and Energizers, author:  Marcel Karreman – 2010.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Technology of participation (ToP) – practical, useful, basic facilitation methods for increasing learning results in teaching

"Teach and train what inspires you!” This is an advice I got long time ago from a French teacher, when I was participating in a language course in Paris. “Read and study what interests you and teach what inspires you!”, he said. “This always makes learning easy! Because it gives energy!” “Inspiration from a teacher, always has an impact on others”.  “So study and teach, what you like to teach!”
This life story always comes back to me, when I train facilitators and teachers in the Technology of Participation Techniques (ToP). It is always fun to create an atmosphere of involvement and participation! The techniques are useful tools to optimize people’s/ student’s participation in the classroom. ToP has been developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs – USA. In 1997 I was trained as a senior trainer in ToP methods in Phoenix, USA. There I had the opportunity to meet professionals in education, youth work and social work on how they had integrated the ToP basic facilitation methods in their work.  These visits inspired me to become a facilitator and trainer in facilitation and participatory educational techniques, as I am currently today. 

The Technology of Participation (ToP) methods
The ToP methods are basic facilitation methods, which have been tested in more than 50 countries around the world, in 24 time zones in various sectors in profit and non-profit organizations. The methods are simple, participatory, user friendly and have proven to be effective in different cultural settings around the world. The methods are culturally worldwide accepted and effective.
The ToP facilitation methods consist of 4 basic methods:

1. The Basic Conversation Method; A focus group discussion technique, that enables people to share observations, emotions, meaning and decisions.

2. The Brainstorm Workshop Method; A brainstorm method which generates ideas and perspectives from a core question assessing the knowledge in a group. Gradually the facilitator guides the group in bringing together individual ideas into prioritized and summarized answers, based on a consensus. Finally, the group reflects  and takes decisions on how it wants to move forward.
3. Action planning; In a 2 – 4 hour process, the group is taken through a journey of vizualisation, assessing the current reality, goal and commitment formulation, action and time planning. This technique enables groups to plan project in an efficient and participatory way.
4. Participatory Strategic Planning; The group is taken through a process of identifying its values and beliefs and is guided in formulating its mission and vision statement. In the current situation the group takes a step back and reflects on its fears and barriers. From there strategic choices are priortized and selected and concretisized into an operational plan of action. This method enables to ensure active participation of key stakeholders in strategic decision making.

Practical and useful for teaching and training
Each time when I conduct a training, teach a lesson or facilitate a workshop, I apply elements of the ToP methodology.  The Basic Conversation method is very practical in discussing video’s, role plays, literature, relevant key topics or even resolving difficult situations or conflicts in a group. I apply it regularly in monitoring and evaluation trajectories. The Basic Conversation Method can excellently be embedded in the Adult Learning Cycle (KOLB) for teaching practices. By asking questions, already a lot of knowledge and information is gathered from the group, before adding additional knowledge by the teacher or experts in the theoretical phase of the lesson.
The brainstorm workshop method is powerful in visualization and planning processes. It involves every member in the group and supports building ownership and consensus step by step. I apply this method many times in teaching and training situations for identifying the existing knowledge in the group.  It also fits perfectly in the Adult Learning Cycle (KOLB), and is a useful tool for monitoring and evaluation.
Technology of Participation (ToP) in The Netherlands
Training in the Technology of Participation methods are conducted by Facili2transform inThe Netherlands. Read more about ToP Training courses Group Facilitation Methods (GFM) and Participatory Strategic Planning (PSP).

Monday, September 16, 2013

Trust – An exercise for building trust in groups!

‘Trust’ is a very useful exercise in creating trust in groups during a training or facilitation event. The exercise is simple, easy to apply and promotes connections between people.  ‘Trust’ is  visualized by Nicole Kienhuis and Simon Koolwijk.    Watch the exercise at video: 

Friday, September 6, 2013

How to deal with your own pitfalls as a facilitator or trainer?

‘Shit happens!’  This is a quote from one of my colleague trainers/ facilitators,  that I still keep in my mind when I have had a difficult workshop or training. There are occasions when we as trainers/ facilitators are triggered or put off by a difficult group of participants. While reading the book ‘Good for the Group – Five mirrors for blind spots – The first self-help book for trainers’ written by Karin de Galan, I was both inspired and triggered to reflect on my own learning stage as a facilitator/ trainer. Last year I remember,  I had a participant in my workshop who kept complaining about his director after his director had left after a debriefing of 45 minutes. I tried my best to have his colleague managers to address  his own behavior, but it failed.  After this, I somehow frooze and was not able anymore in discovering ways to find meaningful contact with him and to re-energize the group. I remember, I felt one week very bad about this experience!  ‘Shit happens!’  But it was a learnful situation, since it helped me to reflect with colleagues and to re-look at my strategies what I could have done differently.

After reading Karin de Galan’s ‘Good for the group’  my perspectives on how to deal with difficult people has widened.  Something inside myself was emotionally triggered and therefore I was not able to deal with the situation. Now after reading the book,  I realize that I was afraid for looking for personal contact and address his feeling in the workshop under four eyes.   Realizing this event, I now more focus on checking people ‘s feelings one-to-one during a workshop,  if I feel that there might occur some resistance with the participant.  In most cases, my assumptions are not always valid and mostly there is something different happening with the mood of the difficult participant.  Sofar, the one-to-one talks have helped me to get these participants with a new mood and new energy back in the group process.  I feel now able to deal with my own uncertainty as a facilitator, but still see a lot of space for improvement. Karin de Galan’s book ‘Good for the group’ is a very helpful tool in this.

Karin de Galan is mentioning five models on how we can deal with a difficult situation, when we as facilitators are emotionally triggered or put-off in an event :

1. Fight, flight, freeze
Somebody might criticize your training as a boring event!  You might be judged as a boring person, too serious, not bringing any humor to the group.  This remark might be a trigger and as a trainer/ facilitator you might respond on three different ways.  Fight stands for arguing and disagreeing in words with the participant.  Flight, stands for not dealing with the remark. You avoid the comment and continue to do the training as you had planned. Freeze, stands for a disconnection between your head and your body.  You get a black out, are triggered by feelings you had in the past and are not able anymore with the situation in the ‘here and now’.  You take the criticism very personal and are dramatically hit by the response. You start to doubt about yourself. 
How can you deal with signals such as fight, flight and freeze?
Go from fight to curiosity. Ask questions to discover more about the other’s remarks.
Go from flight to courage. First recognize and admit your fear. Challenge your fear and take a step towards the other(s) and make a meaningful contact.
Go from freeze to feeling. Take a walk and create time to feel what you feel. If you don’t know the answer, admit this to the group. It can be a big release.  Or plan for a coffee break and use the time to re-focus your session. Both actions can contribute towards increased safety in the group.

2. Transactional analysis
Transactional analysis (TA) is another important tool on discovering your own pitholes as a trainer/ facilitator. TA is developed by the Canadian Psychiatrist Eric Berne, MD (1910 - 1970). The emphasis in TA lies on communication between people and transactions.  At any given time, a person experiences and manifests their personality through a mixture of behaviors, thoughts and feelings. Typically, according to TA, there are three ego-states that people consistently use:
Parent: a state in which people behave, feel, and think in response to an unconscious mimicking of how their parents (or other parental figures) acted, or how they interpreted their parent's actions.
Adult: a state of the ego which is at the level, where the person take full responsibility for his own behavior in the ‘here and now’. Learning to strengthen the Adult is a goal of TA. While a person is in the Adult ego state, he/she is directed towards an objective appraisal of reality.
Child: a state in which people behave, feel and think similarly to how they did in childhood.  The Child is the source of emotions, creation, recreation, spontaneity and intimacy.
According to Eric Berne, if people communicate, there are transactions. Your behavior as a trainer can trigger a participant to behave as a child, since your behavior can for example remind him of his authoritative father.     How do you respond?  Do you reinforce your behavior?  Or do you ask yourself a question first? How do I address this person?  You observe, feel and before you fall back in an old routine, dig further on how you can communicate at adult level.
These transactions regularly take place in training or facilitation events.  And if triggers have not been resolved from the past,  communication with a difficult participant can trigger your pitfall as a facilitator/ trainer. Therefore, the transactional analysis is a very helpful tool in discovering on how you can change undesired transactions into adult-adult communication patterns.

3. Rational Emotive Therapy (RET)
Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) deals on how to break through circles of negative behavior or interpretations.  RET has been developed by Albert Ellis. His theory is based on how people interpretate a situation, the belief they have about the situation and on how they deal with the situation. Albert Ellis stresses that it is important to verify your belief by asking feedback or explanation from the other person or other people.  Because asking or verifying is the clue towards adapting your beliefs about a situation. Karin de Galan mentions 5 patterns, which can be pitfalls for a trainer/ facilitator; 1. The perfectionist;  2. The love junk; 3. The low frustration tolerance person; 4. The moralist; 5. The disaster thinker.  Karin gives some practical examples on how the RET helps to adapt beliefs and have a new perspective on communication with a difficult participant.  One of the examples that confirmed my development as a trainer,  is that you can not please everybody.  There are situations that I have to play the role of a strict timekeeper in the training.  For some people the time is never sufficient and still want to continue to ask questions, despite the fact that the majority of the group needs to go for a break. For a long time, I felt guilty I had to cut off people by the end of a session.  Feedback has learned me that strict time management keeps the group fresh and energetic and that I have to accept that I can not please everybody in a training.

4. Transfer and contra transfer
Your behavior can trigger an extreme negative or positive behavior with the participants, since your presence can remind them from their childhood. The transfer that will take place, is that somebody might judge you as an arrogant person, since it reminds him of his father.  Or somebody, might admire and fall in love with you and only might judge you through positive means.  In this case, every critical remark to this person, will be judged as a rejection.  Transfers can take place at any moment, at any time.
The pitfall is that you reinforce the transfer of behavior to yourself the contra transfer;   If somebody admires you, you might start to think you are an excellent and perfect trainer.  The danger is that you lose contact with the group and not be open for critical feedback.  If somebody, might think you are arrogant, you might downsize your self-esteem and feel bad about yourself. 
How do you prevent a contra transfer?  Take care of yourself and be aware of your own strengthes. If you are confident about yourself, you are less sensitive to criticism. So know your weaknesses and take feedback not personal, but see it as an opportunity for growth.  So create a growth mind-set and ask for feedback and on how your participants prefer to learn.

5. Cognitive dissonance
The term ‘cognitive dissonance’ has been introduced by Leon Festinger. According to him, when a situation of tension occurs between the reality and our self-image, a situation of ‘cognitive dissonance’ is created.  An addicted smoker might not be open to admit that smoking in un-healthy, but will refer that his grandfather became 87 years as an addicted smoker. So he will say it is not dangerous.  ‘Cognitive dissonance’ deals with justifying of a situation which might be unjust. If the criticism from outsiders increases, you might start to criticize yourself.  A trainer might express; ‘You see, more people in the group say I am not good in facilitating role plays, so I am not qualified to do that!’  Self-esteem is dramatically lowered in this case.
However the behavior is not effective, since it doesn’t learn anything. Learning becomes possible, if you don’t take criticism as personal but consider it as valuable input for learning and improvement. Similar on how to deal with transfer and contra transfer, you need a growth mind-set and be open to ask for feedback.

Keep the black sheep on board
One quote that caught my attention in Karin’s book ‘Good for the Group’  is that you have to keep the black sheep (difficult people for a group) on board.  If they drop out, after that somebody else will take over this role.  The function of a black sheep is that is shows and stresses the diversity of a group and it helps to challenge the group to reflect on critical questions or different behavior.  The presence of such a person helps to increase the safety in a group. 
Summarized, Karin’s book ‘Good for the Group’ is worthwhile reading for every trainer and facilitator. It contributes towards the personal growth as a trainer/ facilitator.

Training ‘From dysfunctional towards productive behavior in groups – tools for the facilitator’
In 2013 and 2014 Chris van der Sanden and Simon Koolwijk will conduct the training ‘From dysfunctional towards productive behavior in groups – tools for the facilitator’.  This is a training or trainers, facilitators and managers with advanced facilitation skills. They will definitely highlight the strategies as have been mentioned by Karin de Galan in their book, but they will also address how to recognize dysfunctional behavior in groups and which tools to apply in transforming dysfunctional behavior towards productive behavior in groups.  Read more about this training at From disfunctional to productive behaviour in groups:  or ask for more information from Simon Koolwijk, e-mail.