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My 10 tips for facilitating a learning event

Last week I had the pleasure of facilitating a large learning event, alongside Dusit Duangsa and Thuom Nary. We had 47 participants, ranging from farmers and fishermen to local government representatives and NGO staff. About 30% were bi-lingual, the rest speaking only Khmer language. 

The experience was a rich one, and our daily AAR revealed many areas where we were doing well, and areas needing improvement. Below are my top 10 lessons learned. I hope you find them useful in future workshops.

10 things I learned from the Cambodia Learning Event:

  1. Good translation is critical. The wrong wording can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. Correcting it during the training takes up a lot of valuable time, especially if there is a big group. Gather a small team before the learning event to translate key concepts: the meaning of SALT, the description of levels 1-5, the headings of the action plan and important terms such as “resources”, “stimulate” and “local response”.
  2. Ask stimulating questions. A good question will stimulate the group to come up with the answers themselves. It means less traditional teaching and more “discovery learning”. 
  3. When asking stimulating questions, a little bit of silence is ok. Silence does not mean it was a bad question. It means that people are thinking, or they are scared to answer in front of their peers. Wait, rephrase the question and ask again, inviting members of the group to share their responses until a new understanding is formed. This takes longer than teaching but it leaves a lasting impression.
  4. Do at least 2 SALT visits during the training, both followed by AAR. One of these can include the facilitation of Dream-Building. This gives the participants a chance to practice facilitation, before they do it in their own community.
  5. Games are golden. Games can be used to demonstrate concepts and practice skills. We used a role play to demonstrate the difference between a SALT visit and information dissemination meeting. It was great fun, but also had a strong message. Usually there are participants in the room who have fantastic games, so invite them to facilitate too.
  6. Having a time-keeper is helpful, especially during group presentations. Use a number or a bell to indicate when a presentation should wrap up. This is also a good opportunity to involve a participant in the facilitation team. 
  7. Conduct a daily AAR with the facilitation team, interpreter, host team, time-keeper and other participants who express an interest. Do it straight away after the sessions are over, and keep it short and snappy. Make sure someone takes notes!
  8. If participants usually take 2 hours for lunch (as is the custom for fishermen and farmers in Cambodia), try to find a way to fit around this. We gave them 1 hour on the first day and many were late and sleepy in the afternoon. When we extended it to 90 minutes, they were alert and on-time (and didn’t want to stop at 5:30pm!)
  9. A strong and SALTy coaching team is critical to delivering a successful workshop. Spending time together helps to build the friendship, and this positive relationship is noticed by the participants. Coaches can support one another through the process, stepping in when the other gets stuck. Divide up sessions and tasks based on strengths, experience and areas we want to practice. Give each-other feedback that will help us grow.
  10. Teams that play together stay together, so have a party on the last night! We asked World Fish to organise a party for the 50 participants. It was a fantastic celebration with games, prizes, karaoke and great food. For some of the younger fishermen and farmers, it was their first time visiting the town, and a very memorable experience. Friendships were solidified and we are seeing the impact of this in the weeks following. They continue to stay in touch and support one another.   



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Comment by wiwin winarni on September 10, 2013 at 10:28am

Being overwhelmed reading this inspiring stories.  this equip me on facilitating skill.  can't wait to practice all tips you provide.

Selamat Olivia;

Regards wiwin

Comment by Usa Duongsaa on September 5, 2013 at 11:10pm

Another great blog, Olivia, with very practical tips.  Like Rituu asked, could you share some of the stimulating questions that you used and found to be effective?

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on September 5, 2013 at 7:14pm

Like is not enough. Where is the love button here! very useful tips. The photos are icing on the cake!

Do you have any stimulating questions to share?

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