Preparing and Facilitating
by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance
3.1 Identifying the Participants
When identifying participants, there are several issues to consider:
- Choose the right number of people. You may want to have a small group (to provide intensive support) or a larger group (to have a wide range of inputs).
- Find the relevant people. You may want to specify
that you need participants who will be in a position to
use the skills and/or train others when they return to their
- Ensure the right combination of people. You might
want to have participants with similar experiences to ensure
equal input or a mixture to facilitate specific learning.
- Aim for the right level of participation. You may
want to insist that participants attend the whole workshop
rather than coming and going. It should also be made clear
that everyone will be required to participate.
- Consult participants before planning the workshop. You
may want to ask participants in advance about their expectations
of the workshop, as well as their existing level of experience.
Talking to participants before the workshop is planned helps
to ensure that the content is at the right level, and that
materials and activities are relevant for everyone.
3.2 Selecting a Facilitation Team
As noted before, each facilitator needs to develop a combination of basic knowledge, skills and attitudes. The team needs to be a diverse group of individuals, who all contribute their special skills. When planning, you may want to aim for the following combination of characteristics.
- A cross-section of people. A diverse group of facilitators helps to ensure that there is a balance of perspectives and ideas. Ideally, the team will have facilitators from different social classes, professional backgrounds, languages and gender. The languages of the team members should mirror the different first languages of the participants.
- "Hands on" experience in the subject matter. If
some facilitators are experienced in the
subject area, then they can help everyone
to deal with practical issues, such as
how to put the theory into practice at
a community level.
- Technical knowledge about the subject matter. For
example, medical knowledge about HIV/AIDS treatments or
legal knowledge about human rights.
3.3 Working with the Facilitation Team
It is important that a facilitation team works well together both as professionals and as a group of people. Ways to build a strong team include:
- Get to know each other as people. You can do this by using participatory activities and tools to share information about each other. For example, by sharing timelines showing key milestones in each other's lives.
- Get to know each other as facilitators. Share information
about your skills and the areas where you would like to develop
more skill. For example, by drawing selfportraits and noting
facilitation strengths down one side and facilitation weaknesses
down the other.
- Get to know each other as colleagues. Different team
members will have different working styles and preferences.
These can be explored before facilitation starts, through
activities such as "I love it when colleagues...' / I like it
when colleagues...' / I hate it when colleagues...' ".
- Develop a facilitation team contract.
- Get to know the subject matter together. Read through the toolkit or other resources to develop a common understanding and clarify points that are unclear.
- Assign roles and responsibilities. Decide who will
do what for each day and each session. Facilitators may
prefer to design and conduct sessions in pairs for support.
It is useful to clarify the role of the "other" facilitators
when they are not actually facilitating should they be
helping group work or be available to answer questions?
- Enable continuity. Where possible, ensure that all
the facilitators can be present during the whole of the workshop.
- Facilitation Team Contract (ground rules) A team contract
can answer key questions about how facilitators want to
work together, including:
- What does the team want their workshop to be like? (For
example, fun, interesting and challenging.
- How does the team want to function together? (For example,
providing mutual support, working in pairs and/or having
a leader.) What principles are important for the team? (For
example, being gender sensitive and respecting each other's
strengths and weaknesses.
- How does the team want to deal with problems' (For example,
by being honest and discussing things as they arise.)
- What principles are there about contributing to each
other's sessions if there are potential problems' It is
always useful to have a pre-arranged signal or a way of
drawing each other's attention (e.g. raise your hand and
the lead facilitator can decide whether or not to call on
3.4 Planning the Content of a Workshop
- Workshop opening and introductions. To welcome people and enable participants and facilitators to get to know each other.
- Housekeeping. To give information about meal
times, venue facilities and expenses.
- Expectations. To clarify participants' hopes
and fears about the workshop.
- Ground rules. Participants develop ground rules
so that everyone has a shared understanding
of how people will work together.
They are sometimes called a "team
contract" to emphasise the fact that
the rules are not imposed by the facilitators.
- Objectives and schedule. To outline the objectives,
content, methods and timings of the workshop. Although
presented at the beginning of the workshop for the participants
to see, schedules are often flexible to allow the planned
activities to be reviewed and changed to meet the needs
and interests of the participants.
- Energisers. To help participants to relax and
to get to know each other, and give participants more energy
- Buzz groups. These are small groups that can
liven up the pace and gain a quick overview of participants' views.
- Field work. To provide an opportunity to put
participants' new skills into practice.
- "Car park" flipchart. To give facilitators and
participants a place to "park" issues
that need to be covered at some stage,
but that are not appropriate for that
moment in the workshop.
- Small and large group work. To do participatory
activities, have focused discussions and/or get a broad
range of inputs.
- Presentations.To give information on a particular
topic or to share experiences, etc..
- Workshop recaps. To provide a summary (usually
by participants at the beginning of each day) of what has
been covered so far.
- Facilitation meetings. To gain feedback (usually
at the end of each day) about how the workshop and the
facilitation have gone and to plan for the next day.
- Follow up action plan. For participants to clarify
what concrete steps they will take after the workshop in
order to use the new skills and knowledge that they have
- Workshop evaluation. To enable participants to
assess the strengths and weaknesses of the workshop.
- Workshop closing. The end of workshops can be
official or unofficial depending on
what is appropriate [click here].
Certificates may be expected in some countries.
- Facilitators' debrief. To discuss the overall
strengths and weaknesses of the workshop and facilitation,
and to identify improvements for the future. Debriefs are
usually held each day as well as at the end of the workshop.
Workshop evaluations can be carried out by participants using questionnaires, role play, story telling, drawing or any other visual tool.Participants can choose any aspect of the workshop to evaluate. For example:
- Methodologies used.
- Level of participation.
- Relevance of the topics covered.
3.5 Preparing for Individual Sessions
Each session is like a mini-workshop in itself and requires thought and planning. This includes the following actions:
- Decide the subject and aim.
- Identify the two or three key points to be discussed.
- Decide the different parts of the session. Include
an introduction to the subject of the activity and how
it links with previous sessions. Select the participatory
activity (tool) to be used, consider the relative importance
of having time for sharing and discussion. Decide how the
activity will be concluded. Also consider whether energisers,
ice breakers or specific games will be necessary.
- Allocate time for each part of the session. To
ensure that learning is achieved in
the best way for the subject of the session i.e. some subjects
need a lot more practice and others need more time for
- Prepare materials. Make, and organise, the materials
that the participants and facilitators
will need during activities.
- Rehearsing sessions. Make sure that the instructions
for small group work are clear.
- Decide on the size and composition of the groups. Use
different activities to divide people
- Dividing People into Groups.
There are many ways
to divide participants into groups. Depending on the objective
of the activity it may be necessary for people to work
on their own, with people from the same organisation, or
in mixed groupings.Where there is no logical grouping necessary
for the activity participants can be divided by:
- Random mix (for example, all
those wearing brown shoes or have
names beginning with the letters
A to M).
- Mixing levels of work experiences
(for example those with lots of
experience with those with little).
- Counting 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3,
etc. or different fruits (e.g.
apple, orange, mango) so that
each group includes those that
have not been sitting together.
- Mixing gender and ages (ensure
that people's ages are not discussed
openly if this is inappropriate).
3.6 Making up a Workshop Schedule
Facilitators need to consider a number of factors when developing the schedule for a participatory workshop:
- The length of the workshop. You may want to have one long workshop, or two short ones with a break in between. Breaks allow people to have time to think about or try what they have learned so far.
- The division of each day. It is important to
plan sessions around breaks and meal times. For example,
in some countries three sessions are usual i.e. 1) From
opening to morning break, 2) From morning break to lunch,
and 3) From lunch to close of day. In other countries there
may be four or more sessions. Find out what time workshop
days usually end and whether participants will need to
leave early on the final day to travel.
- When different themes should be addressed. You
might want to cover the most difficult ones mid-morning
when participants are most energised.
- Balancing pace and methods. You may want to have
longer sessions at the beginning of the workshop (when
people have the most to say) and lively, participatory
ones in the middle and end (when participants might be
tired). It is also worth balancing the kinds of activities
used in each day to ensure variety. The session after lunch
is usually the most difficult as the participants may feel
sleepy after eating.
- Keeping the momentum going. Each session should
provide a logical step towards the end goal.
- Scheduling enough time for learning. Genuine
skills building during workshops takes time. You may want
to schedule time to do a few sessions well rather than
include too many sessions. Include some "spare time" in case sessions take longer than expected, or to address the issues in the "car park".
3.7 Dealing with Logistics
Whenever possible, someone with experience should carry out the administrative and logistical arrangements for a workshop leaving the facilitators free to focus on facilitation. However, there are a few areas where the facilitators may want to have input, including:
- Ensuring appropriate equipment. For example, you may need large quantities of flipchart paper or an overhead projector.
- Developing a budget and fundraising. It might
be possible to get materials such as stationery or refreshments
free from local companies.
- Arranging for the workshop to be documented. If
it is important to have a record of the workshop then someone
needs to be identified as the documenter. Make sure that
it is clear what should be included in the report before
- Booking a venue that:
- Is comfortable and in a good position. For
example, it may be useful to choose a location that
is away from people's work place to avoid distractions.
Residential workshops allow participants to focus on
the workshop without travelling home. They also allow
the participants to get to know each other better.
- Meets the needs of participatory approaches. For
example, you may need space for
small group work or for drawing, and plenty of wall
space for displaying work.
- Can accommodate an informal layout. For example,
you may want participants to sit
in a circle or semi-circle rather than in formal rows.
For group work you can arrange small groups of tables
and chairs or participants may prefer to work on the
floor. Varying the different kinds of seating arrangements
and whom people sit next to can help keep the environment
lively. Be aware of cultural sensitivities when you
Closing a Workshop
There are many ways to close a workshop without holding an official closing ceremony. Examples include:
- Workshop overview. Facilitators (or participants) draw a picture to represent the activities used for each session of the workshop and ask the participants to explain what was learned during the activity, and why it is important to their work.
- Networking game. Ask the participants to form
a circle and pass a ball of string from one person to another
to form a web while stating how they can share information
or work together in the future.
- Learning ball game. Standing in a circle ask
the participant to throw a ball to another participant
and say what they have learned from that person during
- Imaginary presents. Divide the participants into
pairs and ask them to present each other with an imaginary
present which they think they would like and say a few
words about working with them during the workshop. A more
formal alternative is to ask the participants to present
This is an extract from A Facilitators' Guide to Participatory
Workshops with NGOs/CBOs Responding to
by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance
in November 2001.
To download the whole document, complete
with graphics, in pdf format (which
requires Adobe Acrobat software to read
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