Changing the Direction of the Discussion, Becoming an Effective Facilitator

When I first joined the Food System Leadership Network (FSLN), I participated in the Self-Care short course available through the FSLN portal. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to take a course at my own pace and time.  The mini course was so timely, informative, and though provoking. So thought provoking that I made some drastic changes to my self-care routine. Shortly after, I decided to take another course “Becoming an Effective Facilitator.” The mini course included the following three sessions; Lesson One: Understanding the Principles of Facilitation, Lesson Two: Skills and Tools in Practice and Lesson Three: Achieving an Outcome. Each session was 37 min or less. I highly recommend this course especially if you are working in areas where there’s racial tension/division, high-poverty areas, and areas suffering from food injustice. And here’s why.

During the month of June, our Center hosted several seminars in rural areas. In these meetings, we brainstormed with participants on activities they would like to have in their area. In particularly, what they would like to see in their community. Whether its educational or social programs, we merely asked participants to think about what the community wanted and needed.  Within the discussion, one participant expressed, she did not want her kids to learn about cotton or even picking cotton. Another participant expressed, there’s nothing wrong with cotton and kids learning about cotton.  And of course, the room stated rumbling and participants begin speaking under their breathe on the issues. Within a split of the second, the room begin to divide racially. The discussion went back and forth for a few seconds. I listen carefully and took everyone opinion as valid. However, I focus the attention on why everyone was there- to make the community better. I discuss exposing children to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Agriculture and Mathematics) Careers. As well as, how agriculture and the food system is changing faces overall and its because  of exposure.  In rural areas, the deep south history pertaining to cotton is still present, and the racial tension exist alongside old wombs. I did not feed either flame including my opinion and/or biases. I was able to re-connect and focus on the bigger issue on how exposure, education, and training can benefit everyone. At this point, I did notice a how important the role of a facilitator. A effective facilitator is cricial in making sure everyone is heard, respected, and the lines of communication remain open for discussion. An effective facilitator, can not only change the direction of the discussion, but they can defuse any situation with respect and dignity.

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    Annalina Kazickas on 6/25/2019 3:28:36 PM

    Thanks for sharing this story E'licia. You said it so eloquently -- an effective facilitator can not only change the direction of the discussion, but they can defuse any situation with respect and dignity. Sometimes we forget how critical of a role the facilitator plays, that's awesome to be able to use your skills so successfully in such an intense moment!

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    ELICIA CHAVEREST on 6/25/2019 6:36:55 PM

    Hi Annalina, thanks for reading the article and sharing. My immediate supervisor was present and was impress how I handled the situation too. I must admit the situation was really intense.

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    Susan Lightfoot Schempf on 6/26/2019 10:26:41 PM

    Wow E'licia what a great example! Thanks for promoting Veronica's course, I thought it was really good too.

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    ELICIA CHAVEREST on 6/27/2019 2:37:32 AM

    Hi Susan. Thanks for reading my article. The course are timely especially when you make time.

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