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24.12.19

What is the difference between facilitation and moderation?

Work-related discussions can come in many modes and formats: meetings, conferences, workshops, etc. Their common disadvantage, however, is the need for everyone to speak in turn, thus lacking the opportunity to properly listen to others. Instead, one must concentrate on his or her own performance, anxiously waiting to take the floor.

While many ideas that could have been voiced remain unexpressed, the meeting's effectiveness is decreased. As participants get bored and irritated, they tend to avoid this kind of discussion. The facilitation method, meanwhile, drastically changes the situation.
What is the difference between facilitation and moderation?

Ever had to lead a discussion of work issues? Do you always succeed in rousing participants to new ideas and solutions? Or do many of them end up blatantly bored? Then you have something to learn from facilitators!

Help, guidance, and assistance

The facilitation method is to help the participants open up and share ideas, guide them towards joint solutions, and assist the process of bringing different views together. But how a facilitator does that?

Facilitation is a versatile tool to be used in various forms of discussions, such as meetings, strategic planning sessions, seminars, and workshops. All because the method's efficiency lies not in the form, but in its methodological features.

The term "facilitate" has the following meaning: to help, to guide, to make something easier. "Facilitation", respectively, refers to a process or a certain set of skills and tools for effective group communication.

The purpose of facilitation is to search for and find the right way for a group to produce an appropriate joint result. It implies taking efforts and actions to organize productive teamwork.

Work issues are something we usually discuss as a group. The main feature of group facilitation is one person assuming the leader's position. His role is to stay neutral and help decision-making participants develop and express their opinions. He assists those gathered in:

  • problem identification,
  • constructive discussions,
  • optimal decision-making.

This leader is also known as a facilitator, and this kind of discussion, respectively, is facilitation.

What makes a good facilitator?

Can anyone become a facilitator? What are the qualities of a good facilitator? These questions are most often asked of facilitation experts. To become a facilitator, one needs to develop leadership and other professional skills. Simply taking on the facilitation role won't bring sufficient results. The thing is, a facilitator himself serves as a tool for influencing the participants. Without this, accomplishing the desired outcome will be much more difficult, if not impossible.

First and foremost, a facilitator is an experienced business coach possessing all the necessary skills to ensure effective communication. Tony Mann, the author of many facilitation books, emphasized the following requirements of good facilitators:

  • They have to know how to steer the discussion in the right direction.
  • Analyze and prioritize the solutions proposed.
  • Be willing to take risks and get participants and themselves out of their comfort zone.
  • Establish contact with participants of different social and cultural types and levels.
  • Easily operate various formats of conversations and meetings.
  • Properly use and combine diverse tools and techniques of group interaction.
  • Quickly respond to changing conditions to overcome obstacles and pitfalls.
  • Be stress-resistant.
  • Stay open-minded and inspire participants' personal changes.

Instead of imposing his ideas on the group, a professional facilitator will focus on the common interests. He refrains from applying his personal expertise, demonstrates tolerance to the participants without pressuring them. Another important thing is to prevent them from getting bogged down in minor matters. A good facilitator knows how to keep up the pace and lead the group to the results expected.

While not responsible for the decisions made, he is to ensure that the quality of the discussion allows all the participants to express themselves and produce logical and reasoned decisions. It creates the conditions for the group to stay focused on the subject matter and sufficiently involved in major decisions.

A facilitator must support a constructive dialogue while giving equal attention to all the participants. He manages the discussion without becoming part of it. Only this way he can ensure the group makes the best decision possible.

Why facilitation is not the same as moderation

People debating with the leader staying aside… Now, that might sound like moderation. There is, however, a significant difference between facilitation and moderation.

For starters, there are different ways to interpret moderation and facilitation. This ambiguity is partly due to the origin of these words. The word "facilitation" comes from English, whereas the word "moderation" comes from German. The etymology, meanwhile, is what brings us the answer. Facilitation literally means "making something easier" while moderation means "restraining". Both concepts are associated with discussion, and both entail responsibility for the organization and the course of negotiations. It means that both a moderator and a facilitator need to be in control of the negotiating process. The difference is that facilitation has a broader meaning. It implies providing a way out, an answer, a solution to a complex issue.

Facilitation sessions are meant to comfort the participants. Now that they have a way out, they feel much better. Moderation, meanwhile, creates the conditions for discussion yet doesn't guarantee that it won't reach a stalemate.

The purpose of moderation is to prevent the discussion from jumping to another topic and to keep it within the context given.

More complex and effective, facilitation represents a flexible approach comprising many methods and techniques. During the process, you may use posters, collages, sketches, and even constructors. Not limited to one topic, participants do whatever it takes to find a solution.

Moderation is often used to discuss problems during business meetings. Facilitation, in contrast, works great for conflict management, complex decision-making, and innovation-related tasks.

5 rules of facilitation

A facilitator's work is governed by a set of principles and rules. Let's take a closer look at the five basic rules of facilitation:

  • Ongoing research as opposed to omniscience.
  • Sincerity and openness before the audience.
  • Equality of all participants regardless of their life or business status.
  • Consideration of every opinion.
  • Believing that all people are smart and capable of solving problems efficiently.
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