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  • June 2017
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Reflection on facilitation of a meeting for community of practice missing the direction

After quite a while, once again I have participated in a facilitated meeting as a participant instead of facilitating it. It was AgNIC (Agriculture Network Information Center) annual meeting, and the facilitator was Jerinyl Veldorf from Library Organization and Development, University of Minnesota.  I liked her approach and decided to write a summary that can be of use in the future.

AgNIC is in a changing point of its history and needs to redefine where to focus in the future. There were many new faces in the meeting, different interests, different level of knowledge and level of engagement.

Facilitator started with SWOT analysis in a World Cafe arrangement – about 50 people in the room split into eight groups (practically running SWOT twice in parallel). Instead of moving the groups around, we have moved the flip charts, and it worked pretty well. In the end, each group that started a topic summarized notes from the flip chart (in some cases more than one) and one person from the group presented the key points in the plenary.

The next task (after a coffee break) was to define possible new mission and key outputs for AgNIC. We all ‘brainstormed’ our brains and presented the ideas to the group around the table (again groups of 6-7 people). The challenge was to come to a mutual agreement/consensus, so if even one person didn’t agree with what somebody else proposed, it wasn’t included in the report flip chart. Then the two parallel groups merged (coming from eight to four groups) and compared their ideas (flip charts) trying to reach consensus as in the previous activity. Final four reports were sticked on the wall, and each participant voted with five dots for the most attractive mission statement and outcomes for AgNIC (DotVoting).

Finally came the time to propose concrete action steps. Jerinyl used Card collection & sorting: each of us got a number of PostIts to write down specific action points/steps, keeping in mind earlier defined mission and key tasks for AgNIC. Again we were eight groups separately sticking the PostIts on the wall, grouping them and defining commonalities for each group in two words – verb & noun. In the end, each group presented the outputs – usually two words describing specific activity – example: ‘setting standards’. Two people were capturing all these outputs in parallel in two flip charts, filtering duplicates and linking similar action points. In this way, we have arrived in about 20 quite tangible action points.

Unfortunately, this was the end of the process, and the next steps will happen through email or online communication, which makes me bit skeptical.  Personally I think it would have been better if we had 1/2 or 1 more day is available. Selected group of people would work overnight on those 20 action points – including some more details/ideas from the PostIts. And in the following day small groups would work on very specific small projects, assigning responsibilities, tasks, timelines, priorities …. However, I have to say, I was impressed by smooth progress and tangible results of the process setup by Jerinyl.  I have very much enjoyed the day and got inspiration for my future facilitation adventures.