Perhaps the greatest service a facilitator can provide is creating a space where people can be listened to. Really listened to.
I am increasingly struck by the frustration and even desperation felt by a majority of my participants and how often this hopelessness is caused by the apparent deafness of others. Our Take-a-Panel exercises help to surface ideas that might otherwise remain submerged, but its value is much greater than mere ‘data collection’. Offering the opportunity to a single person – much less 50 – to reflect for half and hour about the future and then share these reflections with a random handful of colleagues for five minutes without interruption, is something close to miraculous.
So many details of what we do represent listening: scribing, documenting, video, the arrangement of chairs, synthesis conversation, etc., but nothing works better than actually listening. And nothing is more difficult.