Image by Saad Chaudhry
 

Facilitation Apprenticeship Program

I have completed what I think is some of the best group facilitation training available (if I may say so myself), but you know what happened when I started facilitating T-Groups?

I had my ass handed to me. Over and over and over again. And I almost quit, more than a couple of times.

I believe that the training gave me all it could have: just enough self-assurance to get started, and enough understanding of what I was going through to not give up. But I didn’t really learn facilitation until I threw myself into the deep end of the pool and just started doing (a whole lot of) it. And that’s more or less how I plan to run this Facilitation Apprenticeship Program.

If you’ve already been trained by me, then you know that my version of “facilitation” looks a lot more like “participation.” It can look like I’m just T-Grouping, because I am, but there’s more to it than that. From the Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu, here’s why:

When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists. Next best is a leader who is loved. Next, one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust people, you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people say, "Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!”

When Lao-Tzu says, “If you don’t trust people…” I interpret that to mean, “If you don’t trust people to navigate their own learning process…” And when he says, “… you make them untrustworthy,” what I hear is, “You prevent them from trusting in themselves.”

If you don’t trust people to navigate their own learning process, you will likely be quick to intervene, to point out the error, and to offer the solution (and your intervention will probably be just as much about lessening your discomfort as it is about helping them). Well intentioned though you may be, what you end up communicating is, “I don’t believe you can or will figure this out by yourself.” People pick up on this subconsciously, and most will respond in one of two ways: either they will internalize the message (and develop an over-dependence on you, the facilitator) or they will resist it (by shutting down, checking out, or pushing back). This is how you “make them untrustworthy,” and prevent them from trusting in themselves (or in you, for that matter).

So an extremely important skill for facilitators is the ability to hold people capable, to believe and trust that they can and will learn from their own experience. When you give them the time and space to try out a bunch of new things, take risks, make mistakes, and harvest the results of their own experimentation, the learning they get from that will be deep and permanent. And they will be able to say, “Amazing! We did it, all by ourselves.” Because they have.

So this is what I see as the #1 Most Important Skill of Facilitation: the ability to stay calm, grounded, centered, and physiologically regulated within your own body even when everyone else has been pushed outside their comfort zone and are flopping around like fish who have jumped out of their bowls. The learning process is messy and uncomfortable and vulnerable, and everyone is looking to you (whether they know it or not), asking, “Is this okay?” When they see that you’re fine, they can know they’re fine too.

So the role of the facilitator is to stake out a fence around a very large meadow. It’s your job to know what kinds of exchanges and experiences are acceptable, useful, and good within the meadow, and also to know where the fence is, which means that you’re crystal clear about when it is actually appropriate for you to intervene and bring everyone back into the meadow.

When Lao-Tzu says, “The Master doesn’t talk, he acts,” this gets right to the heart of the facilitation style I’ve developed. There is a way to influence and educate through emanation and demonstration. Emanation is about the influence of your presence itself and the way others will “entrain” to your inner state (if it’s the strongest signal in the room). Demonstration is more obvious, but it only really works if it is 100% genuine on your part. This Use-Of-Self method will require you to lead with your own vulnerability - indeed to be the most vulnerable person in the room.

What the Program Entails

The first Facilitation Apprenticeship Cohort will consist of about 6-7 people. Before beginning practice, Apprentices will watch the Facilitation Training video, where I have outlined what I see as the essential skills of facilitation. This will help you get clear on where the fence is, how to hold your seat so long as we’re inside it, and what to do when we veer outside it.

Apprentices will then facilitate introductory T-Groups for first-time attendees of the Sunday Night T-Group Gatherings and also at Movement T-Group and T-Group Speed Dating Events. Coming very soon will be Closed Online T-Groups and Live Online T-Group Speed Dating, and Apprentice Facilitators will hold space for first-time participants at these virtual events as well.

Your commitment is to practice facilitating 2-4 times per month for 12-14 months (or more if you like, when opportunities are available). Within that requirement, you get to choose your own schedule. You agree to keep a Facilitation Practice Journal, and to write down your 1. Primary Learning, and your 2. Primary Question as soon as possible after each practice session.

The Cohort will be connected through a Cohort-Only, Private Facebook Group. There, you can either write a post or make a video about your Primary Learning and your Primary Question from your practice session, and I will respond to you there in-depth via video. This way, everyone will benefit from everyone else’s learning. One post per practice session is required, as soon after the session as possible, and I recommend that you read/watch your cohort members’ posts as much as you can as well.

We will also gather in-person for Cohort-Only T-Group Intensives a practice session of about 4 hours. We will be practicing T-Group together and we will take turns the groups. Attendance at this intensive is required, barring unsolvable scheduling conflicts, personal emergencies, etc. However, our first intensive may not be able to be held until March. Once I am sure of availability on my end, and the cohort is full, I will organize a Doodle Poll to select the date that works for the most people possible.

My commitment is to debrief every practice session you have with you, and to address specific facilitation questions and skills as they come up in your own learning process. T-Group practice brings up a lot of personal stuff all by itself, and facilitation brings up even more. My commitment is to guide and support you not only through the intellectual learning and skills acquisition, but also in the inner journey that’s required to be able to bring groups through a collective, transformative experience in a skillful way. I will provide this support via the Facebook group only, and you are welcome to create additional posts about what is coming up for you beyond the Primary Learning and the Primary Question. Should you decide you need additional or 1-1 support, I will be available to help you decide what you need and find it.

Cost

Facilitation practice at T-Group events, access to the private Facebook group, and facilitation training and mentorship from me are all free.

When we gather for our monthly Cohort-Only T-Group Intensive, the cost will be $40 per person, per intensive.

Other Important Information

Participation in this program does not lead to or result in certification of any kind. Though I hope to be able to offer this kind of designation in the future, to do so will require a great deal more research, planning, organization, and even legal counsel than I’m able to embark upon at this time.

My intention with this program is not specifically to create more T-Group 2.0 facilitators. Rather, my intention is create opportunities at existing T-Group 2.0 events for Apprentices to experience facilitation first-hand, and to share what I’ve learned about the foundational skills and awareness that are necessary for guiding groups of people through collective, transformative experiences of any kind. So our dialogues in the Facebook group will focus less on how to do T-Group 2.0 and more on facilitation itself: how to hold your seat, how to support the learning experience of others, how to understand group dynamics more deeply, how to influence people just through your presence and also through your communication, and so on. This experience will serve you in whatever kind of group you will be part of, create, or facilitate in the future.

The T-Group 2.0 methods, structures, and training materials I have developed are currently under a Creative Commons License, which means that you can use them wherever and however you like, but only if you provide attribution to their source. However, if you were to start up your own T-Group 2.0 circle, you would not be able to say, for example, “I am a certified/trained T-Group 2.0 facilitator,” because that designation does not yet exist.

One reason why the Facilitation Apprenticeship Program is free for this first cohort is because while you figure out how to facilitate (by doing facilitation), I’ll be figuring out how to run this program (by running this program). So we may run into scheduling snafus, tech difficulties, and other unforeseen bumps in the road as we make our way forward.

To Apply…

Fill out the form below, and in the “Message” field, tell me about any training/practice/experience you’ve already had that is in any way relevant to what you’ll be doing in the Facilitation Apprenticeship Program (including any T-Group 2.0 practice you’ve done). Also, please include a bit about why you’d like to get better at facilitation and how you may apply it to your work/life in the future.

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