Thursday, October 28, 2010

Green Agenda: Environmental improvement through a process approach!

Green Balloons with 60 wishes were flying into the air! It was one of the highlights of the Final Evaluation Seminar of Green Agenda on the Balkans. From 22 - 24 October 2010 60 representatives coming from NGO's, MilieuKontakt, trainers from Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro met to evaluate the 3-year project Green Agenda on the Balkan. The event was facilitated by Suzanne Bakker from MilieuKontakt and Simon Koolwijk.

Green Agenda is a participatory method for developing and implementing local sustainable development strategies and plans with active involvement of the different sectors in the local community where the process is conducted. The method (developed by MilieuKontakt) is special, compared to other processes with similar aims, in at least 3 main aspects: the process starts out by identifying local values rather than problems; participation in the process is not limited to experts or certain stakeholder groups but is wide and open to all; and as a result the process and its results are genuinely owned by the local people.
Improved environmental practices were initiated in 18 communities in the Balkans. Energy saving light, improved garbage disposal practices, renovated monuments, establishment of teams of ecological tourist guides, start of ecological awareness centres, marketing of sustainable and ecological food are some of the successes which were presented and shared by the participants. In more than 90 % of the communities, the local municipality developed and approved a long term strategic plan (The Green Agenda document) for environmental & sustainable development. In Macedonia and Serbia even more communities requested and provided funds for initiating the Green Agenda process in their own communities. All 18 participating communities developed a participatory video with the faciliting support of Julijana Daskalov, Kocka and Insight Share. During the first evening of the event all video were shared and watched combined with a cheese and wine tasting event, promoting local and sustainable products. By the end of 2010 the videos will be found at

Besides evaluation, the meeting was directed at looking at the future. Through the open space approach, participants were invited to start and share in discussion groups. All partners decided to continue to work together through a regional network. Later on ideas for promoting and strengthening Green Agenda initiatives will be further elaborated.
"The atmosphere was great! And it was professionaly organized!", commented some of the participants. "It gave new energy and direction that we should move forward with this process and that we have to take further steps to develop a network!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Facilitating resistance in a group discussion

You are facilitating a lunch meeting in a big consultancy company. One of the key questions is "How to stimulate entrepreneurship in the organisation". One of your participants is showing a big resistance, because he was requested by the director to attend the meeting. He shows a non-verbal non interested attitude and is eager to sabotage the meeting. You as a facilitator are worried and are doing your ultimate best to involve this person. What to do?
Involving resistant people and making them feel responsible for the group proces is one of the biggest challenges while facilitating a meeting. "Checking people's expectations" is one measure. Another is the temparature method. Just check people's feeling about their presence, while you are starting a meeting. Address and check people's behaviour is a risky one, but if you recognize people's emotions, it can be an effective one. "Is it right that you are angry? " This statement provides resistant participants space to express their emotions and feel themselves recognised in a meeting.

How to deal with resistant people as a facilitator was one of the topics of the training 'Basic Facilitation methods' which was led by Simon Koolwijk on the 6th and 7th October, 2010 at ICCOenKerkinActie. The training was composed of the theoretical principles of facilitation, the Technology of Participation methods, creative methods (Creativity Today, Igor Byttebier) and how to deal with resistance.

"The training was practical. It had a good balance between theory and practise" commented the participants. I liked the tools, attributes and the coloured smelly markers and the sticky wall. The atmosphere was safe and open to practise.