Facilitation techniques are tools used to enable a group to work together to formulate a joint decision. Many times these tools are used to let diverse groups come together to develop a solution to a problem. These groups are led by a facilitator who manages the session in order to reach an appropriate outcome. The facilitator sets the rules, confirms an agenda, and manages the meeting, but does not directly participate in the ongoing discussion of the session.
Most sessions occur live in one location in order to have the group members' focus at all times during a particular session. Some facilitation techniques require participation from such a varied group that the sessions occur online or via teleconference. Certain groups have been using facilitation techniques to build consensus via e-mail or other electronic communication rather than a face-to-face session.
Large corporations, nonprofit organizations, and governmental agencies use facilitation techniques to bring together extremely diverse groups to solve problems. A nonprofit organization may enter into a Third World country following a disaster to work with the local government to repair the community’s infrastructure. In this instance, there are people from different backgrounds who possibly speak different languages coming together to determine the best way to assist a community. The facilitation techniques used will need to set the agenda to quickly determine the best solution for the community.
Corporations may use facilitation techniques to review projects and programs to determine what aspects of the program worked well and which aspects might be improved. These types of sessions attempt to develop a history for the corporation to learn from in order to move forward with each new project rather than to make the same errors again. Other sessions might be convened in order to develop a software solution to a business problem.
Sessions normally begin with each participant introducing himself to the group. The facilitator will begin in order to give an example of the information that each group member should include in his introduction. Following introductions, the facilitator usually presents an agenda for the group to confirm. Most facilitation techniques require that the facilitator manage all time-keeping, take notes of all discussions, and work with the group to create rules under which the group will function while in session. The facilitator needs to make sure that each person within the group participates, so occasionally the facilitator needs to draw more quiet participants into the conversation by asking specific questions.