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The Surprising and Creative Response to COVID-19

Acts of Kindness

For weeks, I’ve been isolating myself at least in a physical way.  And yet I feel potentially more connected to the world, colleagues, friends and family more than ever before because of our collective care and concern for this global shut down.  I’ve hesitated to offer anything because I see my colleagues offering so much.  The generosity is so amazing and awe inspiring. 

The conversation in my head for weeks has been “What could I possibly offer to feel like I am  contributing something unique?  And, maybe I don’t have to be a contributor this time since a lot of others are offering help and support”.  But in the end, like every other facilitator I know, it is also my nature to contribute.  So, this is what I am offering to you, my beloved facilitation community, as my contribution for this moment in time for these reasons:

  • We’re starting with a 30+ day facilitator challenge (which may stretch out longer if needed).
  • Each day will include a free gift – a video, audio, podcast, PDF, quote, photo. Each gift is meant to inspire and challenge you as a facilitator. Each will be useful to both new and experienced facilitators, we hope.
  • The intention is to also share best practices on a variety of topics that are immediately needed in this very special moment in time in the globe. We hope to bring visibility to many facilitators who are brilliant.
  • By the end of our time together, should you take part in this challenge, we hope that you will feel more connected to your facilitator community and to the awesome possibilities that we as process facilitators offer or can offer to the world. Especially, in this moment.  More than ever, we need massive amounts of facilitation skills brought to light.  We need to have very deep conversations around changes that are occurring and the changes that need to happen on a long-term basis if we are to survive as a human race. The old normal is not going to work anymore, and in many instances, never did for many.

This blog is the first free gift – full of stories, thoughts, examples and resources my generous colleagues have offered.  In a way, some of us co-wrote it together today in our What’s App chat group.  Their names are shared below.  Thank you to all of you.

The podcasts below is co-created by Rangineh Azimzadeh and myself. It aims to look at the bigger picture of this crisis. We are calling it: Uncovering COVID-19: Opportunities for Growth & Evolution – A Facilitator’s Response.

All of our gifts will be posted on social media every day over the next month. We are building a resource page on our Thinkific courses site where you can access everything in one place. You can sign up here for the library. My intention is to inspire you to also take this time to be MORE generous, MORE compassionate, MORE creative and MORE strategic.  We are all facing the same thing –  a new virus to which no one is immune to some of the emotional, social and physical effects.   Yet each of us has a completely different set of circumstances which may be making it more or less difficult to deal with the virus.  Please know that your situation is not the same as others. Remember to be generous and compassionate. 

Is generosity among facilitators that surprising?

Robin Parsons, Canada, pointed out that she didn’t think generosity was surprising in the facilitator community.  “They just ARE”, she says. Robin noted an act of generosity she experienced last week :  “This colleague of mine is promoting her virtual skills and mentioned me in her postings.  We often work together, and I found that (act of sharing my name) very generous and typical of how she operates.” 

Grace Tan, Singapore, finds generosity a common quality in a facilitation space.  “It makes it wonderful; it creates a sense of community and abundance mentalityI remember first starting out on my journey in facilitation years ago.  And there were so many facilitation forums, for facilitators by facilitators.  I was given the opportunity to be mentored by and later partnered with Master Facilitators.  These actions are highlighted in the African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

How can we be even more generous?

Jackie Chang, Taiwan, has epitomized generosity in my view.  Here are a few things she’s doing that inspire me around the COVID-19 virus situation:

  • offered 21 Day Depak Meditation Challenge to several groups of friends and colleagues.  This 21-meditation challenge is a way to realize how much we really have even when it doesn’t feel like it. 
  • helped school teachers get ready to do online teaching as schools close. 
  • attended online Non-violent Communication (NVC) discussion groups to stay connected to people around the world and to stay present. 
  • donated money to Otto Scharmer’s Gaia Project.  Scharmer has been a leader in developing Theory U as a beautiful presencing model of facilitation and has offered global online webinars to help people think about difficult world issues.

What can I learn from others?

Hopefully you are now saying – “Yes, me too!  I too want to become an even more generous contributor, thought leader, and/or an activist for positive social and environmental justice change!

Here are 4-5 specific categories below of ways people have been generous in the facilitator and related communities of practice. It is just a very small sample.  I apologize to all those who are doing wonderful things and I do not know about you yet or I did not have enough time to mention you all.

Online Facilitation Trainings (Online Offerings from Colleagues)

  • Mireille Beumer, the Netherlands, said she organized a free Q&A online facilitation for more than 120 people in 5-6 sessions.  “We used 1.5 hrs. to show online facilitation skills and exercises and a place to have all their questions answered.” Mireille is following up with some paid training called “How to Do Online Facilitation” now.  If you’re interested, you can email her here:  mmbeumer@gmail.com.
  • ICA Associates Canada colleague, Jo Nelson has been offering an online webinar as an introduction to facilitating online. More on their formal courses here.
  • USA colleagues Kim Howe, Evan Jo and Una McAlinden have offered dozens of 2.5 facilitation free webinars over the last few weeks to hundreds of people.   You can find out more about their paid courses here.
  • IAF has created a whole resource list called “Making Virtual Facilitation Successful”. People are adding to those resources regularly.
  • UK Colleagues, Martin Gilbraith and Judy Rees did a webinar last week on “Promoting Inclusion in Online Facilitation”.  They have generously offered the recording link here.

Creative Facilitation Inspiration (Videos & Poems)

  • My colleague Jerlyn Tang, Singapore, created a video called “Skyview from my Balcony”.  She said: “When boredom and COVID-19 got me to do something different, I decided to spend some time compiling my photos and created a video.  The video is a sky view taken from the same place from mid-February 2015 to March 2020. Enjoy this video and music as we fight this together.  May everyone stay safe and healthy.  Let’s pray for our heaven and earth to bring peace back to our life!  Nature has its path, all will be well.”

Self Care and Acts of Kindness Towards Yourself, Your Family & Others

  • Many yoga teachers are offering virtual yoga and meditation classes to stay grounded.  Here is one of my friends who offers gentle yoga by donation. Others who are able to, are going for many daily walks or sitting on their balconies and getting as much fresh air as they can.  My self-care practices include some Ayurvedic (Abhyanga) massage, yoga, meditation, walks, taking immune system boosters, and eating lots of herbs and spices that help keep my digestion system vibrant and healthy.
  • Ian McDonell, Canada, talks about acts of kindness to himself and his grandchildren.  He says, “I’m organizing an online facilitation with my 11 grandkids to get them together virtually.  I’ve come up with some simple questions because of the wide age range.  1) What are some activities you’ve done today? 2) How do you feel? 3) What’s been difficult about staying at home? 4) What has been fun about staying at home? 5) What’s the first thing you will do when you are “free” to go out?  I may extend this to the cousins which would involve almost 30 people.  This is a fun and rewarding way to use online facilitation.”
  • Nanci Luna Jiménez, USA  is offering listening sessions to help us to think wisely about physical distancing to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe during this time of isolation.  She’s helping us think about staying connected while not meeting up physically with our friends and family.

Connecting Conversations

  • Farah Shahed, India, has been hosting and continues to host “unhurried conversations”.  These are open to all.  “It’s been amazing how important it is to be heard and listened to about the way we are dealing with the change.”  You can reach her at farah.shahed@gmail.com to find out more.

One Last FANTASTIC  Resource

  • Facilitator colleague, Nancy White has created a beautiful document for many different kinds of changes, including dealing with school closures, working remotely from home, best practices of large companies during this time, useful COVID-19 information, and of course online facilitation training tips.  This resource is called “Online Meeting Resources Toolkit during Coronavirus Pandemic”.

Now, my questions to you: What are you doing? What are you thinking of doing? How are you being generous to yourself and others? Please share.

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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