The Power of Generosity in Facilitation
What does it mean to be generous? This short blog offers ways to practice generosity both in your personal life and as a group process facilitator. First, let’s just think about the concept generally. Most of us try to be generous yet there are so many nuanced ways of being generous that we may not be consciously practicing with ourselves, others and the groups we facilitate.
Generosity means giving freely of something that you value or others value. It is not just about your resources, but also about your time, attention, and energy.
Practicing Generosity on a Personal Basis
Generosity in your daily life can be practiced in many ways. It might be as simple as singing a song to someone when they are “down” or discouraged. It is being mindful of what might be uplifting for the person or being you care about. It might be saying hello with a big smile to a stranger on the street. It might be planting a beautiful pollinator garden on your land so the insects welfare better and humans can enjoy the beauty you have created. This photo below is one of my friend’s neighbor’s front yard.
The other day my husband picked up a woman who does not currently have a dwelling to live in (unhoused) and offered to take her (out of his way) to a store and then gave her some money to buy her groceries.
It also means taking a rest when you are tired or kindly and clearly setting boundaries with someone who at that moment in time is asking more of you than you can give.
How Can We Practice Generosity When We Are Facilitating Groups?
I love a quote from a Buddhist text I am studying by Ajhan Succito in the book called “Parami – Ways to Cross Life’s Floods”. The paramis are qualities of “perfection” to be developed over one’s lifetime. The first of the paramis is noted to be generosity. Here is the quote:
Generosity “means developing a sharing intent, and from there learning to see one’s life as part of a whole system rather than as an individual fragment thrown together with others in a haphazard way. The ‘whole system’ view definitely helps in getting some perspective on one’s own character, and it allows the heart to feel full and settled with others”.
Yes! The whole system. Taking the whole system into account is really what facilitators try to do – creating a wholistic picture from often disparate points of view.
So here is a short list of examples you can try or intentionally insert into your facilitation practice from the first point of contact to the follow-up you do with the client. This list is just to get you started!
- The moment you speak with a potential client. Can you give them your expertise even if it is unlikely that you will be able to help them after this first contact? Can you provide them with other resources to help them find what they need? Can you NOT try to push them to accept you as their facilitator if it really is not a good fit?
- The second contact might be a meeting with several of the client group. Be sure to ask them to invite everyone who has a stake to this preparatory meeting. This is being generous with all the diverse people who make up the client group. This allows you to test agenda ideas with a representative group of participants and will make things go better for you and them.
- Now you are designing the objectives/aims and the agenda and have a good draft ready. Send it out to the entire planning group and invite people to contact you if they need clarification or want to offer their ideas before the meeting. This is being generous in your energy and time it takes to do a few more iterations of the agenda if needed.
- You then plan the room set up. Be sure to contact the venue and speak directly with those who can help you create an inclusive and safe space. Have you thought through everything you need to bring or ask your client contact to bring? Is the space generous for those who have physical disabilities?
- Attempt to create a beautiful space that is inviting and safe, inclusive, stimulating. Ask the planning group what might best resonate with them. Is a center piece helpful to create interest and beauty?
- People are arriving. Greet people when they come in (so be ready) – and all props in place, before anyone arrives. Ensure a way to remember people’s names and gender preference(s).
- During the meeting, listen carefully. Do not spend all your time thinking about what comes next. Stay in the present moment. Take breaks when needed so you can reflect on what has happened and what might be best to happen next. Use breaks to check in with your client(s) to see what they might sense is right for the next piece and if any changes to the agenda are needed. This is being generous to the needs of the group not your own need to control your carefully planned agenda.
- Create or make enough time to do every critical activity. This requires very careful and iterative changes as needed before and during the meeting. For example, you can check in with the group when you are running out of time and ask them what would work best for them in terms of deciding how and on what to use the allotted time.
- Appreciate the group’s progress when it seems genuine. This will set them at ease and help them stay harmonious and focused.
- When the event is done, take a moment with the client to assess how things went. Take a moment also before you “take down” all the notes and props to give yourself a moment to notice what went well. Do this with your co-facilitators if you have one. Tip: Be generous with yourself and bring a co-facilitator or two!
- The event is over. Be generous with yourself about when you can actually deliver the final document or report. When you send the first draft, offer to do only one or two follow-up drafts at most.
Please check past blogs for more details almost any of these points. If you use the search engine, You will likely find a plethora of readings to help you do this point in more detail. Send me ideas for other ways to be generous!