Reflections on the Art of Facilitation – theatre tools for group work training course

Monika Grzesiak-Chmura
Liat Shabtai

SEPTEMBER 15, 2022
The Art of Facilitation – theatre tools for group work project was happening in Nasutów, Poland 20-27th August 2022. Its main goal was to improve and spice up facilitation skills of 29 participants from 9 different countries with theatre and coaching tools.

Below we are sharing some of our reflections from this intense and beautiful process.

The first day‘s focus was on creating a supportive and safe environment for all the participants to work together. We also wanted the participants to become acquainted with the methods of coaching and theater as for some of them it was a new experience. The trainers Liat Shabtai and Monika Grzesiak-Chmura set the tone by helping participants formulate their learning goals and bringing focus to what facilitation means to each of them.

We also introduced a concept of individual method as facilitators – which is unique for everyone. Unique because it is a sum of skills, values, beliefs, vision, mission and personal experience, which is unique for everyone one us. We designed a training in a way that participants could reflect on their method and develop it throughout this 8-day learning process and in result leave the training with higher trust and confidence in their facilitation skills.

During the second day participants went deeper into exploring their individual facilitation styles. We created a space where they could experience themselves as team members, leaders and facilitators.

The theme of the day framed the questions:
Who am I as a facilitator?
What are my unique qualities?
What is important for me as a facilitator in group work?

The group was challenged with a plank walking experience that made everybody aware of the limitations all of us face in the process of facilitation and how our facilitation style influences everybody involved in the process. It was also a chance to experience different facilitation styles and understand how it influences group learning.

We practised different forms of the theatre of the oppressed to open up a discussion on what leading and following means to each of us.

At the end of the day through “One minute show” participants could discover their values that shape them both as individuals and as facilitators.

When and how does a group become a team? – that question was the topic of the third day. We offered a set of theatrical activities to develop listening skills, trust and harmony in the group.

We experienced different facilitation styles and how it influences the group dynamics and its learning process.

Afterwards it was time for an outdoor silent quest where participants challenged their beliefs and expectations towards leading, following and being a part of a group. They were learning how to create a non-verbal connection between themselves.

The last part of the day was about exploration of their individual identities through identity theater and most importantly and helping participants to find the common acceptance for the differences between us.

We started the fourth day of the training with a mid-term evaluation of everybody’s learning process. For that we used a scaling technique taken from coaching to understand where participants are standing with their learning.

Later on we proceeded into the topic of conflicts and how to deal with them as they are an inevitable part of learning and leading groups. For that participants could experience how differently they react to change and that resistance might take many shapes and forms.

As facilitators we need to spot the signs of resistance in the group and act in a way to minimise the tension and solve conflict situations on the spot rather than igniting them.

We acknowledged how diverse we are in our needs and how connected we need to be in order for all of us to understand and support each other in the learning process. Both as facilitators and participants.

We also explored various approaches to conflict resolution using forum theatre.

Who is running after the ball?
Whose ball is that?
Where do you position yourself as a facilitator?
– with these metaphoric questions we started the fifth day.

After a tricky experience of hitting a tree with a ball we talked about the process of facilitating.

How to lead and support the learning process by asking empowering questions instead of giving advice, counselling or even worse doing the job that belongs to someone else were our main points of reflection.

Participants became acquainted with the Kolb cycle of experiential learning. At the end, we used different forms of forum theatre to help them present their thoughts and findings in a more practical way.

We also became more familiar with political theater – a powerful tool to take meaningful actions in the society that bring awareness to important issues. As there was a beautiful opportunity – we put our learnings into practice by honouring the Independence Day of Ukraine to express our support for our Ukrainian colleagues participating in the training and Ukrainian refugees staying with us in Dom Nasutów.

The sixth day started with the newspaper theatre. Participants gathered around important topics that became an inspiration for them to explore more and to present them in a theatrical form that best suited them.
It opened up a discussion on some burning social issues and created space for reflecting on the questions:

  • What is important for me as a facilitator?
  • What topics do I want to address through my work?
  • Where do I want to lead my groups to?

Later during the day participants could explore more, as they started their preparations for the performing day.

The seventh day was the performing day – participants had an opportunity to practise their facilitation, collaboration skills and all the new tools and learnings from the whole process. Bodypositiveness, limiting beliefs, inner critic, living in a war zone or in armed conflict areas, limitation of the rights to abortion were the topic for group reflection.

The eight day finished the journey where we experienced ourselves as facilitators.

We have prepared for you a short practical guide with the description of selected tools that we applied during the training. You can download the booklet here.

Below we are sharing some of the participants’ reflections of what they got out of this experience:

My biggest gain from this TC was the chance to consciously explore my facilitation style under several different situations.

Opportunity to try facilitating, see different facilitation strategies and feedback from other participants

I think the experience of internationality and the understanding of how much power it has

Theater method

People that I met here, both participants and trainers. The insights into the emotions of different people were equally important.

Getting to know the points of view of people with different nationalities and reality than mine. Participating in theatrical activities that moved me and made me ask myself new questions.

Trust in my method of facilitation and myself

Confidence and knowledge of different cultures

People – trainers and participants and team, self understanding, tools that I saw how I can do my favorite thing (theatre) in public activities and in working with social topics

My personal growth

New theater/coaching tools, new friends around the world, I feel more empowered after this TC

Technics, methodologies and art were very interesting and provided a new approach.

New ideas I can transfer to my projects

Big thank you to All for co-creating this amazing experience!

This project was possible to happen thanks to:
Youth Alliance via Networking (Armenia)
Smokinya Foundation (Bulgaria)
INspire (Czech Republic)
Roes Cooperativa (Greece)
Student Youth Council (Georgia)
Combatants for Peace (Israel)
Innovator Foundation (Poland)
Collippo NGO (Portugal)
Youth Organisation STAN (Ukraine)

The program is co-financed by the Erasmus+ program of the European Commission and supported by the Erasmus+