When does facilitation start?

I have been reflecting some more about online facilitation.

Do you need a group of people with a common interest before you can facilitate or is the task of facilitation also to attract and build a group or community?

A team is any group of people who need each other to produce a result (Peter Senge). Is an online community any group of people who turn up more than twice? No, I think there are minimum conditions of relationship, social capital and trust to be a community.

In face-to-face (F2F) facilitation there is always a group of people who have turned up to be together for an agreed period of time and for some purpose (even if the purpose may not be clear). The traditional facilitation work then starts at this time. Do we include the work of crafting a compelling invitation and marketing it to potential participants as part of “facilitation”? Do we have to create a group in facilitating online? Perhaps we do?

Does anyone know of a good definition of facilitation that includes all the necessary range of responsibilities?

One conceptual framework I find useful for hosting conversations is Peter Block’s. He has articulated this in many of his books but more recently in Community: The Structure of Belonging. A short version of this is also available in his Civic Engagement Series Booklet at A Small Group. As a host of a dialogue he explains the need for having 6 conversations

1. The Invitation Conversation
2. The Possibility Conversation
3. The Ownership Conversation
4. The Dissent Conversation
5. The Commitment Conversation
6. The Gifts Conversation

I think these conversations are still crucial when bringing people together in an online world.

Because people are more physically present in F2F facilitation it can be helpful to make finer distinctions about how people are present in online facilitation. One barrier that dominates being present in online events is the technology and how we each use the technology.

In addition to this there is also our level of engagement. Here are 6 stages of online community participation. Useful if you want to create an engaging community.
1. Non-member
2. Observer
3. Regular observer
4. Occasional participating member
5. Regular participating member
6. Leader/ Super-user

I think as an online facilitator I will need to have a strategy for engaging each of these groups.

The most crucial element is the purpose. After that the process is also important to attract people’s interest and engagement as I have earlier discussed

What other frameworks do you find useful to cover the range of responsibilities for facilitating online?

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