Dialogue mats go a long way in replacing the need for a process manager. But good facilitation increases the effect. Below we have summed up our experiences and some advice on how to succeed.

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If you need a hand with the facilitation, we are happy to assist – both in the planning phase and during the actual implementation.

"The Great Facilitator"

To facilitate simply means assisting, in the broadest sense. A facilitator’s job is to make sure that all the technicalities are handled, creating an inclusive atmosphere and ensuring that everyone feels seen and heard, and contributing to the process providing value while achieving the goals of the project. A facilitator is not necessarily the same as a process manager, in the context of working with a dialogue mat. The reason for this is that much of the process is embedded in the dialogue mat itself. The facilitator’s role is more of an assistant or guide rather than a leader of the process. 

At the same time, a facilitator will always act as a role model. Showing respect, listening to participants, allowing room for different points of views, uphold the rules, keeping track of time, and clarify the framework for both the meeting and what will happen afterwards, are tasks the facilitator must be aware of.

“A facilitator is a person who assists a group of people understand their common goals and helps them plan how to achieve those goals. The facilitator remains neutral, meaning that he/she does not take a specific position in the discussion.”

We often create guides for what a facilitator should consider. A few focus areas are:

  • Allocate enough time for preparations. Technical aspects such as functioning projectors, good sound and light should always be tested beforehand, in addition to ordering snacks or lunch for participants. It is also a good idea to check the room or facilities before the actual event to make sure that tables are rightfully placed and work well with the dialogue mat format. If you are to supplement with digital tools for data capture and displaying results, all tables should have an iPad or a similar device connected to wifi.
  • Carefully go through the agenda, preferably with a colleague or a person familiar with the project. Are there a sufficient amount of breaks, enough time for group discussions, and a good balance between lectures and group work? A detailed schedule makes it easier to stay in control and get a sufficient overview of the process and progress.
  • Clearly define the framework and guidelines when using a dialogue mat, and make sure that all participants in each group are actively involved.
  • Assist the groups in understanding the tasks if necessary – but don’t tell them what the answer should be. The groups decide how the discussions should go, you are only there to guide them.
  • Prepare a couple of supportive questions or examples you can us when or if groups are to share their thoughts in plenary, or if they have difficulties starting their discussions. Sometimes it can be helpful to appoint one person as the ‘group leader’, voicing the opinions of their group.
  • Use a variety of tools and methods – feel free to encourage people to walk around, combining group discussions with a ‘walk-and-talk’ approach in pairs, or allocate time for individual reflections.

Every process has its own dynamics and prerequisites. We are happy to advice you on how you can put together a well-structured plan. Contact us for an informal chat.

If you wish to know more about how we handling organisational learning, pedagogical design, and process design, feel free to visit our website and review some of our projects.

Need something more specific?

We have created more than 300 unique dialogue mats, customized for a variety of clients. You can find examples of these on Specifique’s website. If you have already identified your need – please reach out and we will find a solution together.