Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mastering the tools, a first step on the journey of an online facilitator!

In the end of November 2011, the first part of the course 'Social Media for organisationalchange'  was completed with a f2f meeting at Maliebaan45 in Utrecht, The Netherlands.   For a period of two weeks eleven participants practised with a number of social media tools, which are applied for organisational learning and change processes.  Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Google plus, Houtsuite, Prezi, Spiderscribe, Delicious,  Twiddla and Yammer were some of the major tools which were applied for practise.  Experiences about ad- and disadvantages were shared at a Ning Discussion platform.

Practise with tools
Three groups, all organised in a virtual summerhouse, selected a tool to present.   Two groups presented their experiences with Yammer. The tool is userfriendly, easy applicable and has a lot of functions which foster discussions. It has some similarities with Facebook and Twitter. 'Yammer is a tool that is renewing itself continuously' adds Sibrenne Wagenaar, one of the trainers. Every two or three months, they add a new function.
Wiki is more of a fluid database tool. Wiki was presented by the third virtual summerhouse group. 'Through a wiki you can collect resources (such as publications, articles, video's) and literature on a systematic way. It is also an excellent tool for writing a book in building institutional knowledge of a group',  explained one of the presenters.  'A minus is that Wiki did not evolve and renew itself for the past years.  The functions of the tool are still very much the same as 3 years ago.
Myself I applied Animoto for the first time. It is an excellent tool to make creative photo-video presentations. 
See video f2f meeting  24th November '11.   


Make a video of your own at Animoto.

Case study, research and developing an online process
As preperation towards the f2f meeting participants planned an online process, they are going to facilitate in the coming 6 months. Some are considering to choose a blended process, having online exchange in advance and after a f2f event. Another participant will develop a joint lobby strategy for sustainable development through online exchange. A research is currently developed, where  stakeholders are planned to be interviewed through an online survey.

In December 2011 and January 2012 participants will start their research in developing their online process;

  • What will be the event?
  • What is the main reason why the need for online exchange is relevant?
  • What will be the purpose?
  • Which stakeholders will participate?
  • Which social media tool will fit to the needs of the target group?

Research is one of the major steps in developing an effective and successful online facilitation process.  Read the article - Twelve factors for successful online facilitation.

New course 'Social Media for organisational change'
Early January 2012 the second round of online exchange will start. Participants will present their results of their research and draft online process on a second f2f meeting on the 26th January, 2012. The course 'Social Media for organisational change'  is facilitated by Joitske Hulsebosch, Sibrenne Wagenaar and Simon Koolwijk. A new course will start in March 2012. For more information read 'Social Media for organisational change'   or 'Leergang Social Media'.   

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Facilitation of Strategic Planning in Moldova

Recently Procommunity Centre uploaded a video, where community members share their impressions about the Strategic Planning process. During the past years Procommunity Centre assisted village communities in Moldova in sustaining and improving the quality of rural infrastructure such as schools, cultural centres, youth clubs, roads and energy supply.

In the video village participants stress the participatory approach is one of the mayor factors leading to successful results.  By having the relevant stakeholders on board to solve and discuss their problems,  Procommunity Centre's  Strategic Planning approach creates ownership and dedication with each party to work on sustainable solutions.
See video:    Strategic Planning




The participatory strategic planning approach, which has been developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ToP - methods) consists of 5 steps:
  • Visioning (How will the future look like in an ideal situation?)
  • Contractions (What is the current situation and what are the hindrances in solving the problems?)
  • Strategic Directions (How will the stakeholders move forward to accomplish the desired future and what are the strategic goals?)
  • Time planning and organisation (Who? What? When? How? Where? Timebased results?)
  • Follow-up (What has been accomplished sofar? What went well? What should be improved or adjusted?)
At the end participants have a framework, including action steps and responsibilities divided.

Since the  late 90's and  early 2000's  Facili2transform and Kontakt der Kontinenten co-operate with ProcommunityCentre.   It is encouraging that the participatory approach, one of the values of all three partners, has been adapted as an approach for community development in Moldova.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Playing with dialogues online

Recently  Joitske Hulsebosch and Simon Koolwijk conducted two workshops on ‘How to facilitate with social media’.   The workshops were held at AgentschapNL and the IAF-Benelux Conference ‘Facilitation as a {2nd} profession.

An appealing exercise during one of the workshops was how to convert a face-to-face exercise into an online exercise, while facilitating. Based on the online exercise, two truths and a lie, participants introduced a number of creative exercises.   See video:  Two truths and a lie:


Some exercises which were presented to be introduced online:
1.The line up
 Ask participants online to order themselves according to a question in a row. For example, position yourself based on your birthday in the line up.   The people who have their birthday date close to January move upwards, and the ones who have been born closer to December move downwards.    Spiderscribe.net is an excellent tool for doing this game.


2. Debate game
Start an online debate by introducing a statement. Again Spiderscribe.net is an excellent tool for doing this exercise.  For example:   If you are a good f2f facilitator, you definitely will be a qualified online facilitator!   The ones who agree move to the left side, and the ones who disagree move to the right side.  After that you can exchange by using the chat or a skype conference call.
3. Share a photo
Ask participants to share a photo about something they like, a hobbie or something special.   Twiddla.com, Ning or Facebook are excellent tools for uploading and exchanging photos.
4. Mindmapping
Twiddla.com is an online whiteboard, which provides opportunities to make drawings.  Making a mindmap is an excellent way to do an introduction exercise or an evaluation online together.


Another exciting experience was a twitter chat, which was practiced at the conference ‘Facilitation as a {2nd} profession.  Through twitterchat.com participants can exchange experiences and questions at a particular topic.  We used the #IAFNL11 to have an online dialogue. By using Twitter 12 participants communicated intensively on how they experienced the conference sofar.  At first glance a twitter discussion looks very chaotic and unstructured.  But compare it with going into a bar or a party having 100 visitors. You can not communicate with all the 100 people at the same time, but based on interest and curiousity you look for the people who are fun to talk to.  
It is the same with Twitter. You just follow and communicate with the few ones, you like to meet and to exchange. The role of the online facilitator is to follow the exchange and the discussions. Most of the times there is no need to strictly structure the meeting, as is the same with a party.  Most important is that the conditions and atmosphere is relaxed and easy going.  The online facilitator can do this by throwing in some challenging questions into the discussion,  to remind people of the goal and focus of the discussion and to link people who have a similar area of interest.   About the benefits and challenges of a twitter discussion event,  you can read more at the article Twitter Chat - author SuzanneBakker.

Transforming a face to face exercise into an online dialogue is fun to do!  It challenges your mindset for creative thinking and when started it is difficult to get yourself stopped!  For more information about online facilitation read faciliteeronline.nl 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is the relation between African masks and facilitation?

A lesson about the significance of masks and its meaning in the African context.  This was one of the practicals which was done during the training 'Facilitation methods',  held on the 12th and 16th September, 2011.  The training organised by the Hendrik Kraemer Institute and conducted by Simon Koolwijk was focused on acquiring methods and skills on how to activate and strengthen groups.
Nowadays facilitation is one of the key skills professionals need in engaging people for building effective teamwork and stimulating a fruitful knowledge exchange.  Learning embeds better if people have already thought about the topic, before receiving additional information about the theoretical principles.
The lesson about the masks was facilitated by two professional lecturers who will teach religion and ethical topics at an university in Africa. Teaching is an interactive process, focused on asking questions, discovering and exchanging.  'The one who is doing the talking, is the one who is doing the learning!' is a worldwide shared wisdom.   All these principles are embedded in the Kolb-learning cycle for adult learning.
Facilitation as 2nd profession
For organisational development advisors, managers, group leaders and people in a leadership positions capacity to facilitate and asking questions is an important pré-condition for getting better results from individuals and groups.  Therefore,  for most professionals in a leadership, training, coaching and guiding position facilitation is a 2nd profession.  On the 23rd September, 2011 the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) will address this issue at the conference 'Facilitation as a 2nd Profession'.   There professionals have an opportunity to get acquainted with the different types of facilitation and methods, that can be applied for activating and engaging groups.

Resources and literature
If you like to orientate yourself, on how it is to have the role of facilitator as a second profession, read the publication 'Advising as a 2nd profession'.    If you like to know the meaning of African masks read the article >>>  African Masks History and Meaning.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Co-creation through creative writing!

'One day a freelance consultant sat behind the computer......'    This was one of the starting sentences in writing a creative story on how to use social media as a tool for learning. With the assistance of a  creative writing facilitator from Loesje,  Faciliteeronline.nl (Joitske Hulsebosch, Sibrenne Wagenaar and Simon Koolwijk)  organised a co-creation workshop in developing slogans for the training course 'Social Media for facilitating learning processes in organisations'.  The purpose of the workshop was to identify the most important issues for this training course by going through a creative writing process.

Creative writing exercises
Based on the starting sentence 'one day.....'  each participant continued the story by adding a new sentence, following the previous sentence.  Each round the Loesje facilitator added a word, which was integrated in each sentence. The stories which were produced visualised some hilarious stories, creating fun and laughter.

The second exercise we were asked to think about five words that came up in our minds, when we woke up in the morning.  Hereafter we were asked to write down a problem, that was keeping ourselves occupied in our today's lives.  For each problem the facilitator provided us with a word symbolizing a physical office tool; for example a stapler or a paperclip.  As a following step we passed our written statements to our neighbour participant, who was asked to give a creative solution for our problem by using three of the five words applying the physical office tool.
Imagine......  
Problem:  Help I can not create time to sit and practise with social media!
Answer:   Give yourself a day off, stay the whole day at home, treat yourself with coffee and a fresh shower, use your paperclip to write a tweet at your i-pad.  So why bother, if you can create your own opportunities!

See video for impressions:


Co-creation of slogans
Finally we formulated the most important questions, which online facilitators have to deal with when they are engaging and activating people for learning and sharing through social media;
  • How to deal with security issues?
  • What to do if people in the organisation feel blocked by their surrounding system to communicate through social media?
  • How to create time for using social media?
  • How to get people open minded for social media?

For each question we were asked to respond by using creative answers providing the solution. So how about:
  • Lock your colleagues for three days in an office with people who do not interest him, and give this person a laptop with internet connection;
  • Rain, storm and wind, it is time to tweet a twitter to Saint Nicolaes!
  • Tweets are like gingerbread cookies, you can spread as many as you like!

At the end of the workshop,  topics were identified for the training course 'Social Media for facilitating learning processes in organisations'.   Participants expressed that the workshop had helped them to think creatively in language.   Playing with language is fun!,  expressed on of the participants.  One of the participants wrote an article at her blogpost  read >>> Co-creation.

Back at home I played with creating a sentence using the Capital Letter 'T'  as much as possible:
Twitter Tweets are tasting tea together in the Toronto Teagarden, telling that is takes two to tango and three text messages to tweet a  #tweet to  twenty two thousand tweeter fans thanking @twitter.    Indeed playing with language, as a tool for co-creation is fun!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Twelve factors for successful online facilitation

Last week  the Magazine  'E-Organisations and People'  published an article about the 'Art of online facilitation: sustaining the process'  in their edition Vol 18, No 3, August 2011.  This article I wrote with support from Jet Proost,  Bob MacKenzie and Rosemary Cairns.  In the process of writing this article I compared two successful and one unsuccessful case about virtual exchange in my 5 years experience as an online facilitator.  Out of this process of comparing, I concluded that 'twelve factors' are needed  for having a successful online exchange.  I argue that the presence of an online facilitator is essential to get most out of the group and to keep the process going.  Online facilitation requires a different approach from face-to-face facilitation in activating groups. 

Twelve factors for successful online facilitation
1.       People have an urgent matter to be solved or a question which keeps them awake at night
2.       Leaders or managers have an interest in social media and feel ownership of the process, so that they feel responsible for involving others.  A preparatory meeting with the key leaders and their involvement in discussions is essential.  This is one of the conditions a facilitator should set when preparing and starting the process with the client.
3.       The facilitator has the technical knowledge on how to apply social media for facilitation events, and is able to train others in the course of the process
4.       One of the members of the facilitation team (facilitator, co-facilitator or client) already has a personal relationship through previous face to face contacts with at least 25% of the participants.  These personal connections are essential in helping passive participants to become active in a later stage of the online event.
5.       People see the benefit of participation as being worth the investment of their time.  A reward at the end is stimulating.  For example participation in a face-to-face conference, a publication in an important journal, an expanded network, new knowledge, tips or tricks for work etc.
6.       The problem does not lend itself to being solved face-to-face, since distance, time and budget constraints are a hindering factor
7.       People feel isolated and are looking for equals or peer colleagues with whom they would feel comfortable in sharing thoughts and feelings.
8.       The social media tools are easily accessible and user friendly.  Media such as mailing groups, Skype, Facebook and LinkedIn seem to match the habits of participants more effectively than wikis or heavy loaded platforms that a critical number of participants see as being too complicated.  It is essential that more than 80 to 90% of the participants feel comfortable with the e-tools that are being applied.
9.       Regular moments of evaluation are built into the process.  Participants can indicate what they like and provide crucial information about what can be improved in the process.
10.   The timing is right and makes sense.  An online event nine months prior to a face-to-face event does not generate high participation. Creating an online platform discussion two to four weeks in advance of an event is more likely to be successful in generating momentum.
11.   It takes into consideration the previous experience with social media of the client (organisation) and target group.  When the client does not have experience with social media and is open to learning about their use, take a step by step approach and introduce the 'online event' as a discovery or experiment.
12.   The group is guided by a competent online facilitator, who keeps the process going.

Blended learning
Online discussion processes combined with face-to-face (f2f) meetings work best as a kind of ‘blended communication’ process.  This is called 'blended learning'.  When people meet each other face-to-face, they get a feeling for somebody else and they build relationships in addressing each other when group tasks need to be accomplished.  Therefore a f2f component is preferred in building an effective group through online interchange.  However, online interchange adds a new dimension.  People have different f2f conversations (more in-depth and meaningful) with each other after they have exchanged experiences online and vice versa after they have met f2f.  It also addresses people's contemporary needs for flexibility and mobility.

The role  of the online facilitator
The presence of an online facilitator (sometimes called a ‘moderator’) is essential to get the most out of the group and keep the process going.  The facilitator is the one who keeps the group leaders and participants alert. In case a discussion is coming to a standstill, or if one of the key participants is not responding, the facilitator plays the role of 'informal investigator', checking what keeps the participant(s) silent.  Usually this is done by an e-mail or an informal telephone call or chat.  Relationship building is an essential competence of the online facilitator.  The facilitator also stimulates participants to respond to discussions, by addressing people on their areas of expertise.   Experience in sensing group dynamics and observing patterns of interaction also is essential. 
Summarising discussions and acknowledging people's sentiments and linking that with the main objectives of the online event is another key task for the online facilitator.   This is helpful input to keep participants on track and is excellent resource material.  Capacity and know-how of the online facilitator is essential in setting up the discussion process.  Affection and enthusiasm for social media, and knowledge about the 'advantages' and 'pitfalls' of the e-tools, are key in getting participants involved.      

Conclusion
Online facilitation is not easy.  Not only are specific competencies of a face-to-face facilitator required,  but also virtual facilitation skills are a new requirement of the 'modern facilitator'.   Their toolbox also includes social and technical skills, as well as the ability to convince and engage the group on a virtual journey.  An online facilitator excels in multi-tasking.  Online facilitation is indeed a complex Art.

In my article I make reference to the publication 'En nu online' -  Authors  Joitske Hulsebosch and Sibrenne Wagenaar.    Joitske, Sibrenne and I deliver courses about online facilitation through Faciliteeronline.nl   Consult  Faciliteeronline.nl  - Leergang.
The complete article 'The Art of online facilitation - sustaining the process' you can read in the Magazine  'E-Organisations and People'  - Vol 18, No 3, August 2011.  This magazine has 12 other interesting articles about (online) facilitation.  The magazine is a pre-event publication as introduction to the IAF-Europe Conference on Facilitation - Building Bridges through Facilitation'  which is held 14 - 16 October, 2011 in Istanbul,  Turkey.   Together with my colleagues Joitske Hulsebosch and Sibrenne Wagenaar, we rewrote the article in Dutch having 7 factors for having succesfull online exchange. Read article: 'Zeven factoren voor een succesvolle online uitwisseling'.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Twitter! A great tool for networking and expanding your knowledge base!

Recently I have been reading the publication #Twitter works! - author Fiona Stoop (@werkcoach). In this Dutch written publication Fiona Stoop shares some hintful tips on how to use Twitter successfully for your work.

Have a goal and a strategy
Are you looking for a job? Do you want to promote your company?  Recruit participants for an event? Do you want to profile yourself as an expert in your domain?  Are you communicating a campaign message?  or are you looking for support and get some complex questions answered?  Fiona Stoop is stressing in her publication '#Twitter works!' that it is important to have a well defined goal and a clear strategy when using twitter.
Fiona comments:  'Developing a strategy can take time.  Reading and checking tweets from other professionals can be very helpful in discovering your own strategy.  Just applying and using your account regularly, will help you what attracts and disattracts people'.   According to Fiona an active tweeter is using twitter at least twice a week communicating around 10 - 40 tweets a month.

Hints for becoming an effective tweeter
For triggering and catching people's interest Fiona Stoop recommends to have;
  • A photo of yourself which attracts people
  • A bio, which describes your expertise in one line
  • A number of followers, who show that they have a relation with your expertise.  Quantity and quality of your followers are a criteria for people to read and follow your tweets
  • 20 % or less communication about your private affairs and focus more than 80 % of your tweets on your expertise and relations
  • Twitter is a medium of giving and taking. Do not focus on promoting yourself and your services, but try to be service oriented in helping people with sharing resources, answering questions and retweeting their messages.


Tips for tweeting
To make twitter work for you, Fiona gives some useful tips.
  1. If you want people to follow a certain topic or an event use the code #.  For example, I use the code #IAFNL11  for addressing the Conference 'Facilitation as a {2nd} profession.
  2. If people decide to become a follower of your account, make them feel welcome by sending them a Direct Tweet or thanking them by saying thanks @koolwijk for following my twitter account.
  3. To get people retweet your messages, retweet messages of others. One day you might get followers, who will retweet your messages having more than 1,000 followers.  Twitter has tremendous possibilities for spreading interesting messages. So start retweeting messages gradually.
  4. Be careful and cautious in spreading messages promoting your services and products. Focus on helping others! People will get interested in you, if they gradually start to know you and have a feeling of trust in you. '' You also don't start to sell your services at a birthday party, when you introduce yourself and get to know new people'.  'People will become interested if you have some interesting stories to share at the party.'
  5. Don't overtweet, but be creative in keeping your messages worthwhile reading in 140 characters.  You can use bit.ly for making links to websites, which you can embed in your twitter message.


Benefits of using twitter
 I have been using twitter since January 2011. Sofar twitter has provided me a number of benefits;
  • Through twitter I have been able to read publications and seen video's, which are updating and enriching my expertise. These articles I would have never encountered without twitter.
  • I got to know interesting people, who I would not have met through f2f interaction.
  • The number of visitors at my weblog increased from 200 per month in January 2011 up to 1,000 visitors per month in August 2011. In my f2f meetings colleagues refer to some of my publications at my blog. The twitter messages got them connected to my blog.
  • Many times I refer in my f2f meetings with colleagues to their twitter messages. The medium is complementary and deepening our f2f conversations.
Twitter works!  from Fiona Stoop (@werkcoach)  is a publication worthwhile reading!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Factors for having successful Large Scale Interventions

In March 2011 I had the pleasure to visit the Phd Graduation ceremony of Tonnie van der Zouwen at the Tilburg University. There she presented the main conclusions of her publication "Building an evidence based practical guide to Large Scale Interventions".  Main question in her research was "What are the key factors for having a successful Large Scale Intervention (LSI), that can contribute to sustainable change?"

Factors for a successful LSI
Sofar worldwide the Open Space method, Future Search and World Café are the most applied Large Scale Intervention (LSI) techniques. For her research Tonnie van der Zouwen compared a number of Open Space events where she was involved as a facilitator.  Some of the events were successful and generated sustainable results and changes. Other events were less successful and did not attribute to drastic changes or other ways of co-operation between partners.  Based on her comparison she came up with seven key factors, which can make a LSI successful in realising sustainable change:
  1. Be consistent in applying the principles of the LSI-methods (Open Space, Future Search, World Café) as a facilitator. The more you get away from the basics, the less effective they are;
  2. The system of partners and stakeholders most be ready and prepared for a LSI intervention. The leaders must be open to share decision making power and be prepared to listen to input and contributions  from stakeholders;
  3. The LSI must be worth the investment and doing. A LSI has a lot of risks, when it fails. It can kill the belief in the benefit of participation;
  4. The facilitator should work on what is possible in regards to possibilities and ambitions. A situational approach having an optimal match between situation, the task (goals of the LSI) and the process is essential;
  5. Having the right people at the right time in the meeting is one of the most critical conditions for success;
  6. A good preperation, where the key stakeholders take responsibility for making a contribution and showing ownership at the LSI,  is another essential component for success.   Face-to-face preperation meetings are essential in advance of the LSI;
  7. Sustainable change must be maintained. The strength of LSI is the aspect of collective learning and exchange. However, after service and follow-up is definitely needed to continue the process of learning and exchange. The key stakeholders have a responsibility in this process.

Lessons for my own work practise
These 7 key success factors were very helpful for me to reflect on a number of the Open Space sessions, I facilitated during the past five years. Some of them generated a process of change. However, I also facilitated an Open Space intervention in which I noticed a number of particular situations which hindered an successful outcome:
  • Only 2 groupleaders, in an event having 60 participants, took a leadership role in the discussions;
  • The atmosphere was rather passive;
  • A number of key participants (two important group leaders) cancelled their participation only a few days before the meeting. Their substitute representatives did not have much influence to make proposals or decide for their leaders;
  • Since the project, funded by a big donor agency, was ending some of the key leaders were already looking for another job.  However, participants did not feel the topic of job security was appropriate and safe for discussion during this meeting.   People felt the idealistic goal was more fitted for discussion at this meeting.

Approximately 1 year after this event, the number of new developed initiatives between the partners that were involved in the open space meeting are still limited and the spin off is relatively low. Of course the event also generated some positive results. Best practices were exchanged and new approaches on multi-stakeholder processes were promoted and duplicated in some regions.  However, when I had applied some of the 7 key factors for LSI,  I believe the Open Space event would have generated more results.

Looking back at this event, the publication of Tonnie van der Zouwen has helped me to consider to be more critical as facilitator during the preperation of an Open Space event. What I learned and will do differently the next time:
  • Challenge the leaders in advance of the meeting to be present and prepare burning issues they would like to discuss during the Open Space;
  • Involve the leaders in setting up, the design and preparing the open space.
  • Consider cancelling the open space meeting in consultation with my principal/ client, when key leaders do not show up and participate in the meeting;  
  • Address the behaviour and atmosphere I observed as facilitator during the meeting and give it back to the group on how they would like to deal with this.

If you are involved in organizing or facilitating LSI event,  I would recommend reading "Building an evidence based practical guide to Large Scale Interventions" - Tonnie van der Zouwen.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The value of doubting

Is the belief, you think you have the right answer? Or is the right answer, a belief that is challenged all the time? 

Having doubts is part of our daily lifes. If I am cycling to Amsterdam,   I assume that the signboards are guiding me towards the right direction. But what if I did not notice a signboard on the road?   Or if somebody changed the directions of the signboard having the intention to mislead cyclists? Or did a thunderstorm destroy the signboard?  Or what if a roadblock leads me towards a cycling path withouth roadsigns in a forest?  Am I still  100 % sure I am heading towards my final destination: Amsterdam!?  It are the first signs of doubt....
Watch the video:  The value of doubting - a first test about dealing with certainty and doubts:
The music, 'Fast legs, slow head', is produced by Omar Meza; e-mail. yoshihatsukatana@gmail.com

Having doubts has a number of advantages:
1.  Connectivity:   It helps to get meaningful contact with other people
2.  Challenging beliefs:  It helps to challenge values and beliefs.  Is my perspective of the world the right perspective?  or does a new insight, help me to look issues from a new perspective?  And what does that tell about myself?
3. Trust on qualities of other people:  Is it me who always has to give the right answer ?  or am I open-minded to trust  on others who might have (hidden) qualities,  that help the team to get the right answer?   Sometimes it is good not to know,  so you can rely on trusted people who might know the solution.

Of course there are many other advantages about 'having doubts'.   If you like to share more advantages about doubts, please post a message at this blog..........

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A question is a motor for development!

'A question is a motor for development!'   This is the main phrase which struck me, while reading the 'Handbook Developing as Professional'   written by Carolien de Monchy.  The handbook is very useful for professionals who have a passion for learning and developing.
A continuous changing world is challenging the today's professional, to update his knowledge and capacities constantly.  Three dimensions are influencing the development of the today's professional:   A dynamic environment of changing knowledge and technologies,  the changing  perspectives in the organisational working surrounding and the changing demands from clients.

Talent and discipline
The book starts with an interesting metaphor.  Somebody throws coffee at the floor and  calls 'All wasted talents are flowing at the floor! What a pity!'   'How come wasted talents are at the floor?'  asks the author.  'When the coffee is flowing at the floor, it is wasted.  However, when the coffee is in a cup, it has value!'   It is the same how we use our talents as a professional.  When we don't have the discipline to update and develop our knowledge and skills, we waste our talents and capacities.  Becoming a professional requires discipline and structure.   If you don't practise, or don't ask for feedback from peer-colleagues or clients,  the chances that you will become successful in your domain of work will be limited.  Nowadays, the modern professional is creating and maintaining his own learning environment.

See video (in Dutch) where Carolien de Monchy explains about balancing the three perspectives in professional development - intro for IAF-BNL Conference, 23rd September, 2011


Outside and inside questions
There are many ways to develop as a professional.   You can attend a training,  read some interesting books and literature, participate in online communities,  become member and participate in a professional organisation,  share experiences in a peer-to-peer coachingsgroup ,  consult a coach, mentor or a senior and join a knowledge creation group.  


Curiosity, passion and asking questions are key for development.   With the outside questions, you can obtain progress on your discovery learning path by consulting your surroundings.  So where do I get my learning needs  fullfilled?  What kind of feedback do I get from my surrounding?  What are my qualities and what are my pitfalls?   And how do I develop my capacities?   The outside questions are the ones that can be answered by the environment of people and organisations which are surrounded by you.
The inside questions are the ones, that can only be answered by yourself.  What are my beliefs?  Why am I on this world?  What do I want to contribute to the world? (your own mission statement)  What is my identity?  What is my self-image?  And where do I want to go? (your vision)  What are my goals in life? (the spiritual dimension). 

Exercise 'Association Diary'
The 'Handbook Developing as Professional'  has some interesting exercises in helping you to get some outside and inside questions answered.  The one that was most appealing to me is the 'Association Diary'.   Some steps for this exercise:

  • For two or three weeks write down every day a diary with associations that come up in your mind;
  • After these weeks,  do three weeks something else.  So, don't open or write in the diary and take some distance;
  • Finally, after 4 - 6 weeks,  read through what you have written down in your diary and try to identify (look for) some patterns
  • Then, write a letter to yourself or a friend phrasing /your learning,  your intentions or your beliefs.

An experience that caught my eye, was a person saying:  'After recalling the words and text I wrote down, I felt it was a bit boring,  until I recognized it was the voice of my mother.  I was noticing a pattern in my words!   When I realized this, it felt like a relief and I was able to take a distance and let go this pattern!'

Create time for reflection
Taking regular time for reflection is a useful hint which I take from the Handbook.  For example:

  • Create space (1 or 2 hours a week)  in your agenda to reflect;
  • Make a date with yourself.  So do something with yourself, so that you can give yourself a relaxing treat.  Consider this appointment with yourself as important and valuable time and do not offer this time for another appointment;
  • Evaluate at least every quarter.

Professional development through social media
An increasing number of Professionals are now deepening their professional knowledge through discussion groups as Linkedin and Yammer.  The book 'En_Nu_Online'  written by Joitske Hulsebosch and Sibrenne Wagenaar is complementary to the 'Handbook Developing as Professional'  written by Carolien de Monchy.   Daily I read some interesting articles and watch some amazing video's through links which I receive at my twitter account @koolwijk.   A lot of practical knowledge I gain through following discussions at a number of Linkedin groups.  When I am getting stuck and need advice from a peer-colleague I consult my colleages by an e-mail or a phone call.  And when I can not directly get my question answered through my first circle of colleagues, I put my question at a Linkedin group.  It is amazing how many people are willing to assist and share their knowledge.   As Carolien de Monchy is mentioning,  asking a question is a motor for development!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The art of making short video messages

The last couple of weeks, I have been involved in making one-minute video messages as part of the preperation of the IAF-Benelux Conference 'Facilitation as a {2nd} profession.  The conference will take place on the 23rd September, 2011 at Kontakt der Kontinenten in Soesterberg, The Netherlands. The event has 24 workshops and aims to have approximately 150 participants. My role is to make short video messages, where the workshop presenters explain in one minute what they will do and what participants can expect.  In addition, testimonials are filmed where participants from previous IAF-Benelux conferences share some inspirational stories.
See video ( in Dutch)  of one of the testimonials:



Conditions to be created by the client
Making a short video message is an art.  There are six conditions that need to be created by your interviewee or client, before taping the video interview.
1.   A space with enough light:  Ensure that the interview takes place in a room or a setting, where there is enough light.
2.  Prevent disturbing noises:  The interview should not be distracted by disturbing noises such as cars, people talking on the background, machines or other distracting noises, which do not add any value to the video.
3.  Prevent a space with too much wind:   A windy surrounding affects the audio quality of the video. Make sure that the interview is done outside the wind, so that the voice recording goes smoothly.
4. Decor is part of the story:  Before the interview takes place, the interviewee is recommended to think through what he would like to show on the background. Posters, facilitation materials or a surrounding where the interviewee peforms his services can already tell part of the story.
5.  Match the dressing with the audience:  Dressing and clothes are also part of communication.  The dress of the interviewee should match, the needs and perceptions of the target group.  Therefore, remind the interviewee to wear the proper clothing during the interview.
6.  Prepare the interviewee what he is going to tell:  A telephone call or an e-mail with a number of questions, are a helpful way to get the client prepared what he is going to tell in one minute.

Conditions to be ensured by the videomaker
So on a number of aspects for a successful video interview, you depend on your client/ interviewee. However, as  videomaker you have control on a number of situations:
1.  Take time to warm up:   Plan at least 2 - 3 hours for an interview.  Normally it is advisable to talk first half an hour with the client, before you start to make video's.  A cup of coffee and a small conversation can be helpful on to finetune the video interview.  Making a one-minute interview is hard work for both the interviewee as well as the videomaker.
2.  Create a relaxed atmosphere during the interview:  Spontanity does not come by itself.  Allow the interviewee to make mistakes while talking and phrasing the message to the camera.  Normally it takes 4 - 5 times to tape the same video message.   Afterwards the videomaker can edit and compile different parts of a videomessage, to a fluent video story.
3.  Check the videotapes together:  Always, check with your client the video tapes, you have been making.   It happens regularly that the interviewee still would like to correct some slight details in the interview.   For example the decor,  the hair, lipstick or the message.   Checking the videotapes together, therefore allows to make some additional video material.  In this case, it is not much of an hindrance to redo the interview another 2 - 3 times.
4. Ask for comments while or after editing:   While or after editing, give the client one or two opportunities to respond and provide input for corrections.  Normally I advise a client to collect feedback from a couple of colleagues or friends. One or a maximum of two rounds can help to optimize the quality of the video message.  Be careful that the client does not get unlimited opportunities to correct the movie.   The danger is that it can create a lot of frustration on both sides. Normally a maximum of 2 rounds of corrections is sufficient.
5.  Have the right equipment:   Make sure you have the right equipment.  Nowadays, with user friendly, relatively low cost and good quality digital video camera's (JVC, Sony, Canon),  you can document successfull interviews to be published at youtube, vimeo or websites.  Make sure the camera has high density digital recording and that the audio is of good quality. It is also convenient to have a camera tripod.  This prevents you from making video's with a shaking hand. 

Up to the 23rd September 2011 Simon Koolwijk and Marc van Seters  will continue to publish the short video messages at the IAF-Benelux Conference site:   'Facilitation as a {2nd} profession'  and at the Youtube Channel of IAF-Benelux.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why structured thinking!???

Structured thinking?  Does it kill ideas or does it help to bring new ideas and perspectives? Writing down each action and step to the most basic detail is very challenging, when you are preparing a training.  So....,  after you welcome the participants,  what will you do?  What next?  What next?

Fifteen years ago, when I got my Trainers of Trainers course in the USA,  it made me very angry that I was challenged by my senior trainer to go through each training session step-by-step.  Looking back after so many years,  I appreciate and see the usefulness in getting the discipline of understanding each little move you are making in preparing a training.  It helps me to master the skill of conducting a training and it even makes me more flexible in initiating new elements in a training when the group is asking for it. Actually it helps me even to become more creative, since I am understanding the basics of involving and engaging a group.

Watch the video:  'Structured thinking exercise' 


The art of training depends on knowing the details and how to apply them.  It is how little children learn to walk and talk. The same applies when we learn something new..... When I am doing something new  which fascinates me,  I am discovering each time new small  essential elements  in mastering a new way of working.
The last couple of years, I have discovered that learning something new creates curiousity, drive and energy.  That is why I try to challenge myself to renew my services and my trainings over and over. It is like the feeling a child will have towards getting the first day of walking!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Young Professional about virtual exchange

Since 2006, ICCOenKerkinActie and Togetthere enable Young Professionals (YPs) working on development to exchange experiences about their work. The YPs work for local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as capacity development advisor. Most of them work in isolation and have limited possibility to meet colleagues face-to-face to share experiences.

Each year two discussion rounds, taking five weeks each, are organised virtually where the YPs share experiences about how to strengthen the operations of their partner organisations. The group is using a peer-to-peer coachingsmodel. Most YPs participate two rounds. Just before starting a discussion round, the YPs are asked by an online survey to share the topics which keep them awake at night or have a high degree of urgency for them. Some of the selected topics deal with: "How to make my work sustainable?" "How to create local ownership for what I am contributing?", or "How to position myself as professional in a different cultural context?" .

After this survey, key individuals, who are willing to take a leadership role in the exchange of topics related to their work, meet via Skype with the online facilitator to elaborate the objectives and facilitation process. The role of the online facilitator is to design the online process based on the wishes and needs of the group as expressed in the survey. So far, D-groups and Skype have been used as the most effective and popular social media for exchange.

A discussion round takes average around 5 weeks. Case studies or key questions, introduced by the YPs, are mostly used as a basis for discussion. At the end of each discussion, one of the participants writes a note which is published at this blogpost 'Everything you always wanted to know about capacity development'. Literature is collected by asking people for links to interesting websited or publications. These references and benchmarks are documented at a virtual platform at ICCO-Cad wiki. In this way, the group builds a share memory.

Recently one of the Young Professionals shared her experiences by a video interview. View the video:

Music on video:
Song:  Una Mañana: Musicians:  Omar Meza and Fernando Rey, for more information contact: e-mail. yoshihatsukatana@gmail.com

Some comments which were shared by other YPs in evaluations last year:
"The way you experience the discussions and what you get out of it is of course different for each.....When I think back of the discussion I am not able to reproduce all the contents directly, but the first thing I recall is that feeling that the (pre)discussions were good moments to take a step back, to reflect and to share experiences."

"Just being able to share is valuable in itself. It helped me to concretely formulate my questions and issues I encounter."

The online exchange was facilitated by Simon Koolwijk, Facili2transform. More about online facilitation, you can read at Simon's website http://www.facili.nl/

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Most Significant Change (MSC): How to measure behavioural change?

'The literacy rate has increased with 20 % in five years!' 'Fifty percent of the young people, who participated in reading and writing classes have acquired a job within a year after their studies!' 'The number of parents, who take on volunteer responsibilities in the Youth Centre have increased with 30 parents in two years!'
These are just three examples of project indicators, which can be formulated according to the Logical Framework (LF) principles for a youth development project in a big slum area in Kampala City, Uganda. However, most statistical indicators are difficult to measure. And what do statistics say about structural change?

Mostly change can not be liniarly and logically explained......
Most structural change starts with behavioural change. Many times I hear people express after an inspirational workshop about social media; 'Tomorrow I am going to open an account at Twitter!', 'I will update my profile at Linkedin!' 'I will more actively participate in discussion groups! '
However, one month later people who expressed these statements, have not changed their habits. They are still not on Facebook, not on Twitter and hardly participate in Linkedin discussions.
Then suddenly, members of the group of people who participated in the social media training, loose their job. The jobless situation creates a new perspective. What do I want? How does my network look like? This is the moments habits and behaviour start to change. Linked in profiles are updated, a Twitter account is activated and regularly used and stories are shared at Facebook.
Was it the social media training that changed people? Was it the jobless situation that confronted people with a new situation? Was it the network around these people that made them change? And what was the attribution of the social media training event to this change? And what would have happened if people had not lost their jobs?
As you can read, the reality of change and development can not be explained logically and liniarly. When people attend a training, it does not automatically mean that they will start to change their habits and attitude. Change mostly comes gradually and is fostered by many other influences than training or projects. External influences (economic or a political crises, technological changes) or drastic personal changes (loss of a job, dramatic event in the family, health related problems) can be an accelerator of change.

Most Significant Change (MSC)
The Most Significant Change (MSC) provides an answer to the aforementioned dilemma. The MSC-technique is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. It involves many stakeholders. The approach provides data on impact and outcomes that can be used to help assess the performance of a programma as a whole. The technique is an excellent complementary tool to 'Outcome Mapping (OM)'. Outcome Mapping (OM) is a planning tool as part of the Project Cycle Management Approach, where planning and monitoring of behavioural change is one of the basic principles. The MSC-technique can also be complementary to the Logframe Approach, especially when there are no pre-defined indicators and measurement of behavioural change is part of the process. Read more - The OM versus the LF approach.
How does MSC work? ***
MSC has a step based approach where personal stories from key stakeholders are collected, analyzed and verified. One of the key steps is the phase of defining the 'Domain of Change' and collecting the stories. This is the phase where the MSC-question is asked for a specific change in a domain.
For example:
(1) Looking back over the last month, (2) what do you think was, (3) the most significant (4) change (5) in the quality of people's lives (6) in this community?
Three to five domains are a manageable number for conducting a MSC-evaluation. Mostly stories are collected on a written half A-4 page of paper. Whereafter the stories are collected, analyzed, and verified. An important part is the process of drawing conclusions, lessons and recommendations. Involvement of the right stakeholders determines the quality of the outcome of the evaluation.

Video as a tool for Most Significant Change (MSC)
Video is also an excellent tool to collect 'Most Significant Stories'. One-minute video messages or Testimonials (see an example of Simon Koolwijk sharing an inspirational story about an IAF-Benelux Conference) are ways on how 'stories of change' can be collected.

Training in Project Cycle Management
The MSC-technique was one of the topics discussed during the training Project Cycle Management (PCM) which was held at the Hendrik Kraemer Institute (HKI) on the 4th July, 2011 and conducted by Simon Koolwijk. A Development Professional from ICCOenKerkinActie was prepared using and getting acquainted with the principles of PCM and the Logical Framework Approach. During the discussions reference was made to the Outcome Mapping (OM) and Most Significant Change (MSC) technique.
*** Reference is made to the handbook: The 'Most Significant Change' Technique - authors: Rick Davies and Jess Dart

Saturday, July 9, 2011

One-minute video messages

'Present your workshop in one minute!' or 'Share a Testimonial - an inspiring story in one-and-half minute!' It is a new experiment Simon Koolwijk launched recently with Video-maker/ Facilitator, Marc van Seters. Both facilitators have been asked by the International Association of Facilitators - Benelux to interview the workshopleaders of the Conference 'Facilitator as a {2nd} Profession' by video. This event having 26 workshops about facilitation will take place on the 23rd September, 2011 at Kontakt der Kontinenten, Soesterberg, The Netherlands.
Catching 'institutional inspiration'
Workshop announcements: In one-minute the workshop leaders tell about their first and second profession, what participants can expect and what they will take home. 'It is an excellent opportunity to get to know beforehand the people, who will attend the Conference', says Simon Koolwijk.
See video: workshop announcement: Facilitation on Twitter



Video testimonials are catching the inspirational experiences from past IAF-Benelux Conferences. Participants share experiences from past conferences, which changed their way of facilitation. 'Video is a tool which can catch 'institutional inspiration' through documenting memories and inspirational moments. It can bring 'inspiration' to a new group of people', adds Simon.
Each week new one-minute videos are posted at the Conference website 'Facilitation as {2nd} profession'. 'We try to get people already in the mood for the 23rd September '11', shares Simon The uploaded video's can be disseminated through social media such as twitter, linkedin, facebook, hyves and yammer.
Informing the network close to your personal network is an approach with is promoted by Business Boot Camp. Social media are an excellent tool to spread the message of such an interesting event and make people excited to join! For more one-minute video's follow the youtube channel of IAF-Benelux or the website: 'Facilitation as a {2nd} profession.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to deal as facilitator with an unsafe group?

It is five minutes before finalizing a Team Workshop on how to renew the approach of its service delivery for social work to the community. Sofar the group has created an 'inspirational vision' and has worked out the strategies. You feel that everything is okay. The group looks involved and everybody is participating. The waiter from the restaurant is
informing the group, that the snacks are ready. You ask the group on what actions it should take the next 6 weeks to get the first strategies moving. Then, suddenly, the team leader takes charge of the conversation. He mentions 10 action points, including names of responsible people and deadline dates. The group looks shocked and intimidated. It is silent for a while. I check if everybody agrees. It remains silent. People nodd with a breath it is okay. The team leader says it is time to go to the restaurant. The food gets cold. We can evaluate up there!
During the snack I am checking informally participants' feelings about the meeting. It was okay! But when I ask for suggestions to improve, a few tell me in confidence that it had been better if the teamleader had not been there! We did not feel safe to express our feelings and sentiments!

'Unsafe groups!' It happens me a number of times every year, when I am facilitating workshops. Whenever possible I try to create a safe environment making people feel welcome. I initiate a number of relaxing exercises and involve everybody. But what to do if people do not feel safe? Is it about me as facilitator? Or is there somebody in the group people do not feel safe? 'Unsafe groups' was one of the main topics discussed during a IAF-Benelux experience exchange meeting in the Hague on the 21st June, 2011.
The 'Facilitation Styles of Heron' are a helpful tool in judging situations on how to deal with unsafe groups. The facilitator can choose for a hierarchical approach. He can take charge of the discussion. In case of the example, I could have asked the Team Leader to leave the room for a while, giving space the group to discuss the necessary action steps. Hereafter, the group could have presented these to the Team Leader and asked for feedback. I could also have asked the Team Leader during the preperation of this workshop to consider 'not to participate' or to 'participate partly' in this meeting in order to create safety. Of course a promis of the Team Leader is necessary that the input from the team is used for the implementation of the strategies. A risk of the hierarchical approach is that it might disempower the group.
The facilitator could either have choosen for a co-operative approach. In case of the example, I could have confronted the Team Leader with the body language and the energy in the group. I could have said; "Do I hear that you agree with the proposed action points of the Team Leader? " If people from the group would have responded 'yes', I could have asked "How come I observe you are not enthousiastic? Is that right?" In this case the Team Leader is confronted with the fact, that there is 'no acceptance' from the group. It provides space for both the Team Leader and the group to discuss the situation as it is....... It could have provided space to skip the snacks in the restaurant and to discuss the situation created further!
Eventually I chose for the autonomous approach. I asked the group to come up with action points, giving space to the Team Leader to take charge of the conversation while nobody took the opportunity to show courage and challenge the situation. Another method I could have applied under the autonomous approach is 'to walk out of the room and leave it up to the group to decide!' The group is left alone with the Team Leader and now confronted with their full potential and responsibility. In that case it can create space for the group to respond since they can express emotions, which they would not present in the presence of a facilitator (they hardly know or have seen a couple of times). A risk of the autonomous approach is that nothing gets achieved or conflict underneath is provoked.
Depending on the situation the facilitator has different options to guide and assist the group in getting better team performance. The 'Facilitator Modes of Heron' (Hierarchichal, Co-operative, Autonomous) are a helpful tool in defining ways on how to deal with unsafe groups. Heron wrote an interesting 'Guide to Facilitation'. On the 23rd September 2011 the International Association of Facilitators (IAF-Benelux) is organising an interesting Conference with the theme "Facilitator as (2nd) Profession". During this conference you will gain and learn about many more interesting experiences and developments in facilitation.