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Facilitation Stories

Welcome to Facilitation Stories, where we discover how facilitators ended up in the profession, and how facilitation methods, principles and techniques are used more widely. Brought to you by the England and Wales chapter of the IAF. For more information on our chapter, visit

May 11, 2020

In this episode Helene Jewell interviews Nicola Morris who together with Penny Walker conducted a survey to find out what facilitators feel they need at the moment, during the times of Covid 19.

Participants of the IAF virtual coffee meet up in April 2020 reflect on what they got from the session, what is going on for them at the moment, facilitation with family members, the difficulty of building in the experiential element in virtual facilitation and “deep participation”. Also facilitation of community groups, the steep learning curves and feeling okay about not knowing how to do it all. The facilitators talking were:

  • Penny Walker, London
  • Koren Stark, Dublin
  • John Varney, Yorkshire
  • Orla Cronin, Manchester
  • Paul O'Raw, Dublin
  • and finally, from Susannah Raffe, London

Nicola Morris then talks to Helene about her journey into facilitation and how she has always used facilitation in some shape or form. Her current career was catalysed by early redundancy and is a mix of training and facilitation and sometimes being able to host more of an emergent session, and sometimes being more structured. She has always done a lot of work online but having to be totally responsible for it is something new.

She talks about some things being easy to transfer online, going with what people want and helping them to take ownership of sessions. But then in adapting training sessions has taken a lot more thought in terms of gaining engagement. Responding to what people want and seeing the tools as the enabler is important.

Nicola talks about how idea for the survey came from an IAF meet up and the realisation that as everyone is having to adapt at the moment,the IAF can help people by supporting people. There were a lot of ideas but it was also important to ask people what was needed and so a survey was created. There were 65 responses – circulated to IAF members and others via social media. Some things were about needing to know how to use tools, some people needed confidence, and also wanted to know how to sell these different ways of doing things to clients.

The survey results were fed to the IAF meet up hosts and there were also plenty of offers of help from people who responded. This will be used as a pool of resources to draw on during the meetups, so that these are as powerful as possible. The meet ups allow people an opportunity to play and explore new tools in a safe space.

Participants from the Online London May Coffee Meetup talked about some of their thoughts:

Jonathan Bannister, Susannah Raffe and Gary Austin, led along by Martin Gilbraith

They talked about how to using a microphone can help when working on line.

Also how can facilitators help recover from this in a transformative way. And resilience both in terms of clients but also family and friends.

There has been an explosion of tools and maybe it is possible for the IAF to stress test some of these. QiqoChat for example is a wrapper that goes around zoom and allows people to choose a room to move to.

Descript – a video editing product which transcribes files. Several whiteboards were also mentioned – Concept Board, Mural and the Zoom whiteboard.

There was a discussion around how “deep” clients are wanting to go in their sessions at the moment and what that means for facilitators. And thinking about the after session support which is different now that it is not face to face.

Get in touch:

Twitter: @IAFEnglandWales; use #iafpodcast @helenejewell @nicolajmorris

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