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My Facilitation Aha Moment -By Lawrence

  • 04/8/2016

We asked Lawrence “Larry” Phillbrook, CPF and facilitator of a pre conference workshop and a concurrent session at the IAF Asia Facilitation Unplugged in Mumbai from the 20-22 August 2015 to share with us his memories of his first facilitation Aha moment



I have been facilitating a long time and almost every time some form of Aha is an option for the group and/or individuals. Often I feel it but sometimes I am not sensitive enough and find out later when people explain the transformation that was taking place. 


I think the Aha experience relates to a new level of consciousness or clarity emerging such as consensus and a plan to move forward with that commitment. It is also often a new more comprehensive perception of the groups reality emerges which allows new choices to become clear.  Sometimes  it comes in the form of a sense of truly hearing each others voices which means even if consensus is not a reached the new level of authentic connection opens a group or individuals to move forward with new confidence that they understand where agreement is and where it is not.


One of my earliest experiences experience in being a facilitator was in 1977 when I was part of an Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) team doing 100 Town Meetings in the state of Oklahoma on one day.  This was a part of the American Bi-Centennial Celebration, a series of more than 5000 community meetings organized as a campaign by ICA on the assumption that participation and collaboration were the future of participative democracy.  This meant pulling together more than 200 facilitators and organizing them to go out and do all these meetings on the same day.  


My task was to show up and with my partner and facilitate a community conversation.  I was 22 and had a lot of community experience but this was a new community to me and like many large projects there were a lot of small difficulties.  The process involved fairly structured process and worksheets so that the teams could facilitate themselves. In the process of the proposal reports in the afternoon I could hear people getting excited by their own creativity.  I could hear in the story their perception of their community already positive becoming even more compelling. The process included:


  • PRELUDE:  gather for the welcoming address.
  • CHALLENGES:  A brief presentation on the new world of the Bicentennial Era.  The participants meet in small groups, identified the economic, political and cultural issues and analyzed the foundational challenges to our nation as we entered the Bicentennial Era.
  • INTERLUDE:  a festive noontime interlude with local entertainment
  • PROPOSALS: Introduced by a brief presentation on the new human and the American citizen. The afternoon work shop engaged participants, meeting in small groups, in writing twelve to twenty practical proposals for meeting the challenges identified in the Challenges workshop. Each group created a story, song and symbol for their community
  • PLENARY: Concluded the day in which the workshop groups report on the day's accomplishments.  Each participant receives a document holding the group's proposals for the future, a new story of the community's role in American history, and a renewed sense of the American revolutionary spirit.


The event was so long ago of course and I can only be sure that I had an Aha experience that kept me developing myself as a facilitator. I have continued to work in facilitation with organizations and communities around the world while based in Taiwan.


A recent Aha experience involved working with a client in Paris.  The company is trying to transform their organization.  I facilitated a strategic planning session from which several action teams formed and my powerful Aha took place in the follow-up session.  My task was to facilitate as each team and person reported on their reflection on their own and their teams effort, then the CEO’s task was to listen and share back what he was hearing before he shared his own experience of the work and his own interpretation and then to facilitate a dialogue on next steps.  Each team took about three hours and then I facilitated a day of dialogue among all teams.  It was a powerful experience of the power of facilitation and of dialogue.