Documentation

Agendas and minutes

Ritual

Opening
Closing
Consensus celebrations

Facilitation Methods

A quick intro to various formats you can use to mix it up in your meetings. Please note: this is not intended to be a facilitation guide for how to best set up and facilitate these; there’s nuance to each of these, and a learning curve to doing them well. Learning styles best served by each are indicated at the front end of each one. 

Aural: Full group discussion. The most common format… many groups never use anything else. It favors the quick, socially comfortable and intellectual among us, but is sometimes the best format because everyone gets to hear what everyone else says. Should be used for almost all formal decisions because it is the space where full buy-in is most easily created. 

Aural: Small group or pairs conversations. Gives everyone more talk time and can help more shy people practice what they want to say before speaking to the big group. Can also be used for folks to chew on a piece of a problem or plan more efficiently than the big group can. 

Aural, plus Visual when scribed: Brainstorming. Great for generating ideas, and brings a fast moving and creatively chaotic energy in that can help increase the fun level. Also works well for folks from cultural backgrounds that are not so tied to the “one person speak at a time, always calmly” mode. 

Aural, Visual and Kinesthetic: Cardstorming. Do a brainstorm and scribe each answer on its own line of a flip chart. Cut the papers up so that each answer has its own strip of paper, toss them on the floor and ask folks to organize them. Then come up with a label for each cluster. Gives group maximum ownership over their work. 

Aural: Fishbowls. Have a small circle of chairs in the center of the room with key players having a more focused conversation while the rest of the group witnesses. You can have this be a fixed group or have an “open” chair that people can move into as they are so moved. 

Kinesthetic: Song, Dance and Art. Get creative about using these other modalities to explore topics, connect together, and process hard dynamics. 

Aural: Rounds/Go-arounds/heartshares. Rounds ensure that everyone has an equal chance to speak, and are great when you need to slow down the pace and sink into deeper listening. Note that really short timing on go-arounds can be really hard on people who have more relational communication styles and cultural backgrounds. 

Kinesthetic: Silence. Sometimes a pause is needed. You can insert some silence into a brainstorm to give people a chance to sink in deeper; use it to give people a chance to gather their thoughts; or because an emotional pause would be helpful. Many groups also use silence as their opening to help people “arrive”. 

Kinesthetic: Creative Visualization/Guided Meditation. Great way to deepen visioning, open more creativity in a stuck dynamic, and create deeper alignment. 

Aural and Kinesthetic: Milling. Getting people out of their chairs in and of itself is useful, but this has other benefits as well. Letting people source organically who they want to interact with is great, and this is particularly useful for a kind of “speed dating” inspired getting to know you icebreaker. Be aware of people with hearing loss who may struggle with this, and find a way to incorporate folks with mobility challenges. 

Kinesthetic and Visual: Spectrums. Designate one side of the room as one answer to a question or position on a topic, and the other side of the room a different or opposing one, and ask people to imagine a line between them. Then ask people to get up and place themselves where they fall on that line. (Note: you MUST check for mobility challenges with this, and adapt as necessary to make sure everyone can participate.) You can either let people move in response to hearing where other people are, or ask people to stay in place.

Ground Rules

Step Up/Step Back
Speak in turn
When in doubt about process, facilitator decides

Keeping Time

Start and end on time
Timekeeper

Preparing for a Meeting
Supply Box
Facilitators

Role
Training
Pairs
Facilitator as Participant

The Cohousing Association thanks the following contributors for the content of this page:

CohoUS Staff and Yana Ludwig

WebChat #5, Ted Rau, Keeping Meeting Short
WebChat #16, Karen Gimnig, Facilitation and Contracting
Ted Rau, Meeting Agendas and Minutes