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BD Giving Notes #32 – ‘Learning the Art of Facilitation’

I think what a community looks like is contingent on space, place and context. It can be different from person to person and neighbourhood to neighbourhood. But in light of this training, I think having a sense of belonging is an important part.

This Note is by our Programme Officer, Jack Webb. In this Note, he shares his personal learning about facilitation, what he has benefitted from Deep Democracy training and his recent understanding of ‘Community”.

Facilitation is a huge part of what we do at Barking & Dagenham Giving and it can be a difficult thing to get right. I had the opportunity to take part in facilitation training as part of a participatory group set up for local community/grassroots organisations to share learning and experiences with one another. 

I dived into it head-first, making a huge splash. Together, we completed three jam-packed days of CoResolve, Lewis Deep Democracy training with the brilliant Payam Yuce Isik leading and facilitating. 

First, what is Deep Democracy?

Deep Democracy is a way of working with people to overcome conflict and challenge. It is a methodology and political philosophy created by Amy and Arnold Mindell. It has been used all over the world, but its roots lie in post-apartheid South Africa. The toolkit was used to overcome ethnic, social and racial tensions within space and place. 

Deep Democracy is about hearing and listening to all voices, including the minority while making decisions and overcoming conflict. I am going to quote Arnold Mindell as he puts it so perfectly…

For organisations, communities and nations to succeed today and survive tomorrow, they must be deeply democratic - that is, everyone and every feeling must be represented

Now I’ve given you a little bit of context, I want to break down my reflection into three segments:

  1. before stepping into Kingsley Hall Church and Community Centre in Becontree;
  2. My thoughts during the training;
  3. And my thoughts after the training.
My thoughts before

Before stepping into the room, I was apprehensive and felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. I knew some of the group, but it wasn’t a familiar space for me. I am constantly aware that I am not a resident of Barking & Dagenham. It makes me feel as though I should be standing outside and looking in. 

On the other hand, I was excited. I wanted to learn more about this idea of overcoming conflict and its relationship with change, and how I can incorporate these skills into my own work.

My thoughts during

Honestly – a little bit exhausting. Three fully packed days of learning a new methodology, soaking in theory and sharing experiences and being vulnerable with a group of people took a lot of energy. However, it was so worth it!

The training was refreshing and informative. It shed light on a new way of thinking for me; I always knew that conflict should not be seen as a wrong thing but it has definitely altered the way I will navigate it. Deep Democracy teaches you to lean into tension to continue to grow. 

It was interesting to learn about the ‘resistance line’. The behaviours on this line show how resistance can build up and get worse over time if they are not confronted and squashed. These should be no surprise to you, but we must normalise them as they are actions we all do, perhaps on a day-to-day basis, with varying levels of intensity. As humans, we can learn to tolerate these behaviours for a long time.

I now know that conflict, chaos and change can be muddled up together, and Deep Democracy can offer you the diagnostic tools to unravel it. 

The methodology also teaches you to listen to all views. We learnt the four steps to ascertain everyone’s opinion and wisdom. 

  1. Gain/get everyone’s views – “any other views?”
  2. Make it safe for the ‘NO’/alternative view to be expressed – “any different views?”
  3. Spread the ‘NO’/alternative view – “does anyone feel a bit like that?
  4. Vote – ask the minority “what do you need to come along?”. Then do another vote based on amended decisions. 

The goal is to lower the water line. As the picture shows you below, we want to know what is below the surface. Even if we don’t find what is there, it’s not going to just disappear, it’s going to remain in the subconscious. Therefore, if conflict and chaos are a by-product of lowering this water line, then that is fine. We embrace that and the wisdom that will be unearthed. 

But what we must remember is, while everyone is welcome, not every behaviour is welcome.

My thoughts now

At the end of the training, we all sat in a circle and did a ‘check-out’. 

How are you leaving this space today?” and “how are you feeling now you have completed the training?”

The room was full of emotions. Some had tears in their eyes as they checked out with the group. I have to admit I felt as though I had winter hay fever come on all of a sudden…

The moment got me thinking about space and place and how we fit into it. We had spent three full days together, sharing quite candidly with one another. As I reflect on my feelings of being an outsider going into the training, this group of people has shifted those apprehensions. 

I feel as though we created a tight-knit community. This sense of community building through sharing, listening and learning together was really quite beautiful.

In my Note a couple of months ago, I questioned how we define community, and who gets to define it. While I didn’t set out to answer that question or attempt to digest it in this Note, my reflections on my facilitation training have brought me back to it.

I think what a community looks like is contingent on space, place and context. It can be different from person to person and neighbourhood to neighbourhood. But in light of this training, I think having a sense of belonging is an important part. While I’m not a resident of Barking & Dagenham and have only been working in the borough for six months, the methodology and tools allowed us to create a safe space together. 

I now have a stronger sense of community and belonging with the group I trained with. 

The art of facilitation can do this and I think Deep Democracy, when done right, can cultivate a stronger sense of community!

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