Facilitation is the art of unlocking the power of a group through dialogue and the pursuit of clarity, enabling active participation and welcoming and harnessing the wealth of different perspectives.” – International Association of Facilitators


Facilitation is the term used to describe the kind of group support that succeeds in channelling a great deal of shared strength and clarity from the diversity of perspectives. This positive group experience and the experience of having overcome a challenge together, clarified an issue or successfully worked through and decided on a measure strengthens team cohesion and identification with the company inspires the corporate culture and creates confidence that it is only possible to make rapid and far-reaching progress together. What is often referred to as the experience of “the power we have together” comes to life in the facilitation of a group workshop or event and is one hundred and eighty degrees opposite to what many employees often experience in everyday life as “power against each other or at the expense of others”. The successful advancement of sustainable change in a company requires the commitment and participation of many individuals, which is why we at the Terra Institute have always placed the fine art of excellent facilitation at the centre of our work alongside our professional consulting.

Facilitation enables participation

Important decisions in companies often seem to fail due to the inability to really communicate with each other. What if we stopped thinking, talking, working and living against each other and started thinking, talking, working and living together? What if we could pool our intelligence and move in a new direction together, a direction that works for everyone? For this possibility to become a reality, we need new forms of communication and social structures. And it is precisely these forms of communication and structure that a facilitator provides: so that participation through successful communication is not just lip service.

The facilitator gives a group a secure structure

If you decide to have one of our facilitators accompany a conference, meeting or workshop, they will ensure that the process is well planned in terms of method, space and time. Every team needs structure in order to perform at its best. It provides the framework that enables all participants to represent their opinions in an emancipated manner, to listen to each other attentively, to take their place as equals and to give very concrete direction to the realisation of what has been developed.
Zwei Kajak-Boote fahren auf einem See.
Various working settings with different methods are used alternately:

– Discussions in pairs or triads: Small discussion groups are helpful for approaching a topic, exchanging initial ideas, clarifying one’s own opinion, sorting and prioritising thoughts. Such working settings have the advantage that everyone is actually included and involved, and dysfunctional relationship patterns or different functions and power relations are excluded.
– Working in groups or in plenary: Predefined questions and time structures in both small groups and in plenary ensure that the power of the group is channelled in a beneficial way and that a common thread enables the goals to be achieved. During the process, the facilitator is responsible for ensuring that democracy and fairness prevail and that openness and honesty are at the centre without dramatising.


What is the facilitator responsible for?

1. to “hold the space”

Facilitation must ensure that the atmosphere in the room is characterised by openness and appreciation. Only this guarantees that everyone involved can trust that everything can be addressed openly and from a personal perspective and will be heard. Of course, it sometimes happens that difficult emotions come to the surface or that smouldering conflicts or sensitive issues become visible. And the motto here is: only what can be discussed can be resolved and dealt with. Our highly qualified facilitators can deal with this and utilise any disruption, no matter how difficult, as an opportunity and resource for the positive development of the group and the company.

2. guardian of the rules for successful communication

One of the tasks of a facilitator is to observe the communication and relationships in the circle from a meta-level and to intervene if necessary. He/she can also be equipped with an acoustic signal for this purpose. He/she is authorised by the circle to intervene. The circle agrees to pay full attention to the guardian as soon as the signal sounds. Intervention is important in the following situations:
– Deviation from the topic: If the facilitator observes that communication is going in a direction that deviates from the actual topic of the session, he/she interrupts with a short signal and draws the group’s attention to what has happened.
– Tensions within the circle: Often, unspoken tensions prevent effective communication, cooperation and decision-making. Here too, the facilitator has the task of drawing the group’s attention to this and can suggest a measure from the repertoire of different measures. The chosen measure should serve to reduce tensions and re-establish a basis for effective cooperation.
– Switching to a different communication mode: Depending on the objective, different communication modes make sense in a circle. The facilitator has the task of observing the flow of communication in the circle and encouraging a change of communication mode if the currently chosen form does not appear to be conducive to the objective.
– Need for a break: The facilitator also has the task of keeping an eye on the energy level in the circle and suggesting a break if necessary.

Wald aus der Vogelperspektive.

3. appreciation, goodwill and empathy

Never pressurising, never judging or lecturing is a basic principle of our facilitation. Every person and every group should be met where they stand. The intuition, wisdom and experiences of all those present are valued and believed and their autonomy to choose and decide for themselves is fully respected. The facilitator takes themselves, their own opinions and experiences back and works in the service of the group and in the service of the desired process and goals.

4. Neutrality

In order for a group to unfold its power and wisdom through the support of a facilitator, it is important that the facilitator designs and accompanies the process in a completely neutral manner. This is the only way to ensure that the different opinions and perspectives are integrated and that the individuals emancipate themselves, which is central to realising the potential of the different talents in the company. The neutrality of the facilitator also leads to a broader acceptance of the results achieved, as these have been achieved without the manipulative influence of an interest group or a hierarchically superior group or person.

5. supportive listening

The most important basis for successful communication within a group is listening. Listening requires and is an expression of appreciation, respect and acceptance. Real co-operation is not possible without listening. Real listening requires humility. We must withdraw ourselves, at least for a short while, and give someone else our undivided attention. Most of us have forgotten or never learnt this skill. In a social environment characterised by competition, we have learned above all to position ourselves, to play off our own arguments against those of others as cogently as possible and to prepare our own counter-attack while the other person is still making theirs. In this climate, it is mainly our own vanity or insecurity that grows, but real co-operation rarely develops. Here it is the task of the facilitator to be a role model and to repeatedly emphasise the importance of listening by intervening and raising awareness.

6. Process and methodological competence

A highly qualified facilitator has a great deal of experience in accompanying change processes, knows about the stages and mechanisms of group processes and has a wide range of methodological skills for the varied organisation of meetings, workshops and conferences.

7. presence

Perhaps the most important skill a facilitator brings to the table that can induce profound change and major steps in a group is a multi-layered presence. What has already been said and by whom? Who is involved, who is on the sidelines? Are we still on the right track? How is the energy and attention?
Content, group dynamics, atmosphere and goals must be kept in view at the same time. A high level of presence is therefore a true art and hard work at the same time.

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    What is Terra Institute’s approach if you are interested in a facilitation?

    Do you have an important conference, a stakeholder dialogue, a management meeting or a strategic workshop coming up?
    Get in touch with our founder and experienced process facilitator Evelyn Oberleiter, e.oberleiter@terra-institute.eu and describe your project. In a free initial consultation, we will provide you with initial ideas for the structure of your conference and a personalised proposal for the facilitation.
    We want to contribute to your success!

    At a glance: Summary Facilitation

    1. Why does a company need professional facilitation?

    If you want your meeting, conference or workshop to be a success in terms of content and relationships and for the organisation to make great strides in its change project at the same time, you are well advised to plan the methodology, structure and process together with an experienced facilitator and to place the responsibility for implementation in his or her hands.
    At Terra Institute, we want your sustainable change to succeed and for as many people as possible to be motivated and optimistic about your process. That is why we have learnt the craft of highly qualified facilitation and are happy to put it at the service of your transformation intentions.

    2. How do you benefit from the involvement of a facilitator?

    In far-reaching change processes, you need authentic contact with and among those involved, as well as focus in the group and commitment in the implementation. Facilitation is the professional process support of a group in order to jointly identify and utilise potential, find solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems that exist in companies or groups of all kinds, plan actions that are supported by everyone and increase overall group efficiency.

    3. What kind of events does the Terra Institute organise?

    We facilitate meetings, conferences, project meetings, sustainability, change and innovation events where you want to consult and exchange ideas with internal or external stakeholders.

    4. Which topics are suitable for a meeting, workshop or conference that is accompanied by an external facilitator?

    Basically, the topic doesn’t matter – professional facilitation is particularly recommended for all events that are especially important for a company. These could be occasions and milestones where commitment and unity in a group are particularly relevant. Equally, however, they could also be topics where a high level of motivation and enthusiasm for work is desirable or delicate situations that require clarification and good decisions.

    5. How does "facilitation" differ from "moderation"?

    The difference between facilitation and moderation is admittedly a very subtle one, but nevertheless a very decisive one. While moderation is derived from the Latin “moderatio” “moderation, guidance”, the term “facilitation” comes from the English and means “facilitation, enabling”. Both facilitation and moderation involve guiding and accompanying group discussions, but in contrast to moderation, facilitation focuses very clearly on the group process. The aim is always to strengthen the group by working on common issues, to consolidate cohesion, to empower each other through a positive, participatory process and to form a team that is built on strong, mutually respectful individuals. Instead, the aim of moderation is much more “just” an organised, exciting and often entertaining, controversial discussion involving several people, as we know it from panels, talk shows or even radio and television.


    Do you have any questions or would you like our support on your way to becoming a sustainable company?

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