Facilitation Approaches for Adaptation Policy-Makers

As outlined in Section 2, TTFs adopted a range of approaches for each of the NAP Global Network’s three pillars of interaction: technical, relational and reflexive. Here we share a few that we found effective.

Approach: Expert Presentations

Interaction type: TECHNICAL

Overview: Presentations in which one person talks while others listen; presentations often use PowerPoint slides.

Time required: 10–15 minutes per presentation plus a 5–10 minute Q&A. Up to 60 minutes for follow-up activities.

Why use this approach:

Presentations from experts are a staple feature of events and the presence of well-known keynote speakers can help to attract participants to your event. Presentations are useful for sharing theoretical thinking and knowledge, practical experience and case studies. When used carefully, they can provide a useful launching point for subsequent discussions.

How it was used in the TTFs:

In the TTFs, we use technical presentations from experts in the area to frame and introduce key topics, share new concepts and ideas, and present participants with the latest thinking on a topic. Examples of topics we have introduced through expert presentations include: financing NAP processes, accessing financing through the Green Climate Fund, and developing indicators for monitoring and evaluating the NAP process. We usually combine theoretical presentations with more practical case studies based on national experiences to help participants understand the relevance of technical concepts. Presentations are always followed by group activities designed in collaboration with presenters. These activities are intended to help participants test and apply the ideas that they have been introduced to and are an important part of the learning process for professionals.

How to use this approach:

  • Consult participants in advance about what types of technical input are of interest. Don’t base these choices solely on which kinds of expertise are most easily available.
  • Limit the length of presentations to 10–15 minutes and include time for a question period.
  • Work with presenters in advance of the event to ensure length, relevance and style are appropriate. A presentation written for experts will not be helpful to people learning about a concept for the first time. Many guides to making good presentations are available online.
  • To make the most of presentations, give people time to discuss, apply and contextualize what they have heard, for example through group discussion or a structured activity after the presentation. If you cannot think of a practical application of the information shared in a technical presentation, ask yourself if it is really necessary to include it.

Tips and tricks:

  • Use presentations sparingly in the overall agenda, balancing them with other activities.
  • Avoid scheduling presentations immediately after lunch.
  • Help presenters to keep to time by showing cards (2 minutes, 1 minute, Stop Now Please). Warn presenters you will use them and smile as you do so!
  • Ask participants to have very short discussions with the person next to them (known as a “buzz”) after the presentations before any Q&A session. This can help participants think of questions that are most relevant to them.
  • When inviting questions from participants, invite a woman to speak first. Research suggests other women are more likely to ask questions if the first is asked by a woman.

Other resources:

TED Talks: a selection of practical, accessible and interesting talks about making great presentations https://www.ted.com/playlists/574/how_to_make_a_great_presentation

Guide to working with PowerPoint http://www.ncsl.org/legislators-staff/legislative-staff/legislative-staff-coordinating-committee/tips-for-making-effective-powerpoint-presentations.aspx

Participants co-creating a timeline with key milestones and achievements since they last met.

Approach: Participatory Timelines

Interaction type: RELATIONAL and REFLEXIVE

Overview: Participatory activity in which people work individually to co-create a timeline of events (either retrospective, or forward-looking).

Time required: 30 minutes–1 hour

Why use this approach:

This approach is very flexible and can be used for a range of purposes, including; sharing information between participants from different organizations about important past activities and events, celebrating achievement, critically reflecting on a process, and identifying important steps or processes for the future.

This is a fairly easy activity that usually generates a positive feeling among participants. It is comfortable for people to participate in, even for those who prefer not to speak in large groups.

How it was used in the TTFs:

We used this approach early in the agenda in virtually every TTF for countries to update each other on key progress in the NAP process since the previous meeting. It also helped to provide a context for the discussions that were to follow. We also used it to share next steps that each country was planning to take at the end of an event, as a way of committing to continued action and collaboration.

How to use this approach:

Group size will determine how this exercise is conducted. We used the following process for a group of 20–30 people.

Steps:

  • Create a timeline on sheets of flip chart paper (two deep, three or four long) and place it on the wall, indicating the months since the last TTF (or relevant event) until the present. Alternatively, you can create a timeline with masking tape.
  • Give each participant three sticky notes and provide one or more guiding questions. For example, we asked participants to identify key milestones achieved in their national climate change adaptation or NAP process since the last TTF. Explain that participants should put one milestone per sticky note.
  • Once they have written their sticky notes, participants place them on the timeline in the correct month; in smaller groups, each participant can explain their sticky note as they put it up, as this can be very slow in big groups. Ask participants to gather around the timeline so all can see what others have added. Use the timeline to prompt participants to ask questions of each other and to share their reflections.
  • The facilitator can identify trends (for example: “There was a lot happening in March!”) or ask questions about particularly interesting sticky notes. Alternatively, the facilitator can invite reflections from participants for example by asking “What would you like to know more about?”

Tips and tricks:

  • Be clear what timescale and events you are talking about.
  • Demonstrate what a good sticky note looks like (one idea, clearly expressed in legible handwriting) and make sure people have suitable thin markers for writing on the sticky notes.
  • Ask participants to write their country/ministry/sector on each sticky note, to provide a clearer picture of the differences/similarities between different groups.
  • You may wish to have a round of applause for the progress that has been made.

Other resources:

A version of this process is called “River of Life,” which invites participants to draw rather than write key events in their personal/professional/project history along the path of a river. This can be done individually or collectively. For more information, visit: http://www.kstoolkit.org/river_of_life

Approach: Knowledge-Sharing Marketplace

Interaction type: TECHNICAL and RELATIONAL

Overview: In an informal room arrangement, a subset of participants sets up “stalls” that showcase information about their projects or initiatives, often featuring posters, handouts or other visual materials. Other participants move between stalls talking to the stall holders, collecting resources and taking note of ideas that they find interesting.

Time required: 1–1.5 hours

Why use this approach:

This is a useful approach for participants to showcase their work and share their experiences; it is also a more engaging alternative to a long series of presentations. The informal interaction between participants about a specific project or stall allows for peer-to-peer learning. More people are able to ask questions than in a traditional plenary format.

How it was used in the TTFs:

We held a marketplace during the TTF on Communicating the NAP in which six countries displayed and discussed their communications initiatives. The marketplace illustrated the diversity of possible communication approaches and inspired those who had not yet started communicating. It was a lively engaging session that stimulated a great deal of discussion. We held this session at the beginning of the event to stimulate participants’ thinking and provide a chance for interaction.

How to use this approach:

Advance preparation is essential form marketplaces. Start up to one month prior to the event by explaining the approach to participants and asking them to volunteer to be stall holders. Explaining the benefits of participation (showcasing country practices; getting feedback on initiatives) can be a useful way of securing participation. Alternatively, you may wish to hand-pick successful cases you would like to participate, though this is less democratic. A combination of open call and selective invitation may work best. Encourage participating cases to bring visual materials (posters, flyers, video clips, etc.), as this makes the event much more dynamic. You will need to take stock of requirements for the stalls such as poster boards and projection equipment, so ensure you know about these needs well in advance.

Check that the venue has a large enough space so that stalls are not too close together and people have room to move between them. Weather and display requirements permitting, this could be outside. Have participants set stalls up over a coffee or lunch break.

Organize all the other participants into an equal number of groups as stalls; they can move between the stalls in those groups, spending approximately 10 minutes at each.

With the arrival of each new group, encourage stall holders to briefly introduce their project or initiative and for participants to ask questions. At the end, invite reflections from the stall holders and from the participants; this can be a quick, informal process or a more structured discussion.

Tips and tricks:

  • Marketplaces are intended to be informal, so light facilitation is suggested. Do not worry too much if people get separated from their original group, as long as groups do not become too large.
  • You may need a bell, conch or other noise to get people to move to the next stall.
  • Six rounds is probably as much as stall holders can do without being overwhelmed. If there are more stalls than this, you can instead allow a free flow of participants between stalls, so that participants choose which ones to visit and how long to stay.
  • If the rate of participation of hosting stalls is very high (say a third or half of all participants), consider running two marketplace sessions.

Other resources:

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations organized Share Fairs that used the marketplace method on a larger scale than outlined here, as explained in their guide How to Organise a Knowledge Share Fair, available here: http://www.fao.org/3/a-aq228e.pdf

This short blog outlines how the approach has been used in one large company that encouraged its employees to become “Purveyors of ideas”: http://aboveandbeyondkm.com/2018/04/create-a-knowledge-marketplace.html

Approach: Knowledge Clinic

Interaction type: RELATIONAL and TECHNICAL

Overview: A peer-learning process in which one participant acts as a “patient” who shares their problem with a group of up to 10 “doctors” who provide the patient with advice and ideas about how to address their problem.

Time required: 1–1.5 hours

Why use this approach:

This approach creates a space where participants are recognized as the “experts” in the room as opposed to the hosts or the technical experts who are presenting. The use of real-world problems makes the conversation very grounded and practical. Everyone loves to give advice, so it helps people to identify what they know that might be useful. The “patient” gets specific advice, but the other participants also learn from each other’s experience. Knowledge clinics also help to build a sense of connection between the group and demonstrate the value of peer learning. They require careful facilitation to run smoothly but can be well worth it!

How it was used in the TTFs:

Knowledge Clinics were a hugely popular feature of each TTF. We asked for volunteers to put forward problems and act as patients but rarely got enough volunteers to create a full Knowledge Clinic. Instead, we worked informally during the course of the workshop to identify people who had raised interesting and relevant challenges and approached them in breaks to ask them to be Knowledge Clinic patients. Topics covered in Knowledge Clinics included strategies for working with funding partners, optimizing institutional arrangements for the NAP, and more.

How to use this approach:

There are three roles in a Knowledge Clinic:

  • Patients, who share an authentic challenge they are facing and ask for advice.
  • Doctors (or advisers), who draw on their personal experience to give the patient advice.
  • Facilitators, who work with one patient to help them clarify and articulate the challenge, support the discussion and take notes.

Steps:

  • Identify at least two or three patients (an ideal ratio is 5–10 doctors per patient) and the same number of facilitators.
  • Before the Knowledge Clinic, the facilitator and patient meet. The facilitator explains the purpose and process of the clinic and asks the patient to explain their challenge. The challenge should be concise and specific so that doctors have a clear understanding of the situation. If it appears to be too broad or general, encourage the patient to think about how it could be narrowed or focused. The facilitator helps the patient to condense their challenge into 2–3 main bullet points that are written on a flip chart.
  • Set up the room so each patient has a flip chart surrounded by a semi-circle of chairs or a table to gather around.
  • At the beginning of the Knowledge Clinic, the patient shares their issue or challenge with the doctors. This should take no longer than five minutes.
  • Continue with a five-minute round of clarification questions in order to better define the issue. Encourage doctors to keep questions brief and to resist giving any feedback to the patient until all clarification questions have been asked.
  • Once all questions have been answered, start the discussion by asking for advice. The facilitator will help to move discussion along and capture key points on a flip chart.
  • The patient should be mainly listening to this discussion. The facilitator should ensure that the patient is not responding to specific points yet.
  • After 10–15 minutes (depending on the number of doctors), the facilitator signals the end of the first round and draws the discussion to a close. The facilitator and patient thank the doctors for their advice and move, with their flipchart, to another group to start a second round.
  • In the second round, the patient re-tells their issue or challenge and the facilitator summarizes the key points raised by the doctors in the previous round. This avoids repeating the same advice that the patient has already received. The remaining steps proceed in the same pattern as the first round.
  • After two rounds, in plenary, invite patients to reflect on the experience and identify ideas that they intend to follow up.
  • Ask the patient to document the advice.

Tips and tricks:

  • The insights and suggestions patients receive tend to be more concrete if the problem is quite specific.
  • Advise patients that they do not need to respond to comments and suggestions; in particular, they should not respond by saying “we tried that and it didn’t work” or “that wouldn’t work because…” This takes time away from suggestions that might be useful.
  • Explain to participants that their ideas should be positive, respectful and constructive; intervene if people are becoming negative.
  • Facilitators should ensure that all doctors have the opportunity to contribute if they would like to. Try to avoid having one person give extended feedback that does not allow others to speak.
  • Time-keeping is essential for Knowledge Clinics or the movement of patients between rounds does not work. You may wish to have a time keeper and who keeps all groups to the time allotted.

Other resources:

Troika consulting is an alternative and slightly simpler version in which three people work together to share and give advice on challenges. See more information here: http://www.liberatingstructures.com/8-troika-consulting/

Peer assist is a more formal version in which participants are hand-picked according to their experience; this is sometimes used within organizations to inform the design of new projects. For more information, visit: http://www.fao.org/elearning/course/FK/en/pdf/trainerresources/PG_PeerAssist.pdf

A participant describes his challenge to peers during a knowledge clinic.

Approach: Collective Problem Definition and Solving

Interaction type: RELATIONAL and TECHNICAL

Overview: A collective approach to identifying the priority concerns about a particular challenge and approaches that can be used for addressing them.

Time required: 1-1.5 hours

Why use this approach:

Like the Knowledge Clinics, this exercise is also problem focused, but in this case identification of the key issues is done collectively instead of based on one person’s experiences. It can be used to identify the top concerns of participants around a particular issue (e.g., accessing climate finance) and then to prompt the sharing of expertise and experience.

How it was used in the TTFs:

This approach was usually used in TTFs to follow up on a technical presentation, as a way moving from broader technical understandings to discussions focused on areas of greatest interest to participants. It was also useful for collecting specific examples of actions that countries have taken to address important challenges. We were then able to follow up on more in-depth discussions of those experiences in other parts of the TTF.

How to use this approach:

  • The first step is to identify a reasonably specific issue that is relevant to all or almost all participants. If it is too general, there won’t be consensus on what the priorities are, and if it is too specific (e.g., using a specific tool or working with a specific stakeholder group) many people will be unable to participate.
  • Once the issue has been introduced, participants spend two minutes writing down their key challenges related to the issue in large print on a card sticky note or card (five minutes for explanation and writing).
  • Invite participants to share one challenge at a time, either by bringing the sticky note forward to put on a flip chart or simply by reading it out loud. The facilitator combines challenges that are the same (or very similar) and compiles a list of issues named by participants at the front of the room.
  • Identify 3–5 challenges to explore further. There are usually a few challenges that emerge immediately as being shared by many people. If there is less of a consensus, invite participants to vote for the top challenges by putting a sticker or check mark next to their top two choices. Select the challenges that have received the most votes.
  • Write each challenge at the top of a flip chart page and place it in one corner of the room with a set of chairs surrounding it. Divide the participants into the same number of groups as challenges (e.g., 3–5) and have a group sit at each flip chart. A member of the facilitation team “hosts” the conversation around each challenge, where participants will spend 20 minutes discussing:
    • Why is this challenge particularly significant? What experiences have we had with it?
    • What strategies have we used to address this challenge? How effective were they?
    • What recommendations would we make to others facing this challenge?
  • After 20 minutes, groups rotate to a new challenge while the “hosts” facilitating discussion around the challenge stay at their assigned flip chart. They spend a few minutes summarizing what was previously discussed for the new group, and this group builds on what has been already said. You can rotate as often as time permits or until participants have visited every challenge area.
  • To conclude, participants return to plenary and facilitators summarize the results of the four challenge areas. This can then be written up as a resource for participants.

Tips and tricks:

  • Depending on the size of the groups, participants may wish to explore each challenge without a facilitator.
  • It is important to focus on drawing out specific examples to avoid concluding with vague statements about the challenges.
  • Keep a note of the specific participants/countries where experiences have come from. This can help others follow up with the participants or provide the opportunity to gather more information about those cases to share after the event.

Other resources:

This approach is a simplified variation on the very popular World Café method described here: http://www.theworldcafe.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cafe-To-Go-Revised.pdf

Participants share their reflections on the forum.

Activity: Structured Reflection

Interaction Type: REFLEXIVE

Overview: Structured question-based exercises that prompt reflection and action planning. Participants work through the questions during the workshop, recording their responses.

Time required: 30 minutes–1 hour

Why use this approach:

To facilitate active reflection on what participants have learned over the course of the workshop and how the learning can be applied in their own contexts. Structured reflection can help to identify actions to be taken after the workshop and can produce an output so that participants have something concrete to take away after the workshop to act as a report.

How it was used in the TTFs:

In the TTFs, we allocated time each day to structured reflection using two approaches to structured reflection: workbooks and self-assessments. Both were developed to help prompt discussion and debate about how to apply learning from the TTF to national contexts. Workbooks were based on the content of the workshop, whereas self-assessment tools were more evaluative of the context in participants’ own countries.

Workbooks and self-assessments were completed in small groups comprising representatives from a particular country. Often the representatives of a particular country were from different ministries, so this was an unusual opportunity for them to debate the issues together. Groups were supported by a member of the facilitation team. Many groups chose to use the workbooks electronically, capturing discussion by typing it into the workbook. We asked for copies of electronic documents and offered to type up handwritten workbooks; in this way, the NAP Global Network knew what was planned and was able to see if we could provide follow-up support.

How to use this approach:

  • Before the workshop, prepare a set of questions related to the content covered during the workshop. The majority of questions should be open ended. It may be useful to work with technical experts to develop the questions and to test them with others. Print workbooks with space to answer each question.
  • Organize participants into small groups with colleagues. If a participant is the only representative of a particular country or organization, ask if they would prefer to be paired with other participants or work alone.
  • Facilitators work with each group to encourage discussion of the questions.
  • Allow time at the end of each day or section of the agenda to consider the questions; for longer workshops, have multiple reflection sessions and tackle a couple of questions at a time.
  • Stress that the workbooks are not a test but a way of thinking about the implications of what has been discussed that day; there are often no “right” answers.

Tips and tricks:

  • Power dynamics within certain teams can mean that the most senior person answers the questions unilaterally, while others sit quietly and listen. Facilitators can help to balance this by asking questions of other participants.
  • Some individuals and groups may not want to complete the workbook; respect this position. Explain the value of reflection and invite them to reflect in a way that they feel comfortable.
  • Follow time spent on the workbook with an active exercise to bring the whole group back together.

Other resources:

Wageningen University’s Reflection Methods: Practical Guide provides a methodology for developing a personal action plan to take forward from facilitated events. See especially p. 109: http://www.mspguide.org/sites/default/files/tool/reflection_methods_january_2018_web_0.pdf