Contribute/Facilitation Training

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What is this page?

This is a draft of a page for a facilitation and communication training to be given by Christie Koehler and Jennie Rose Halperin to the Mozilla community before the end of 2014. Comments section at the bottom of the page.

Please ask for permission before editing.

Introductions and Icebreakers

What is the scope of this workshop? CK

(2 minutes)

This workshop is for people who want to improve their skills at gauging consensus, improve their empathy toward other contributors, learn about conflict resolution and become better at group facilitation.

Workshop goals CK

  • Participants will recognize what is core to them as contributors both for Mozilla and their community groups
  • Participants will recognize their community needs
  • Participants will have a working definition of consensus and facilitation
  • Participants will use these materials to better mediate conflict and solve problems in their communities

Icebreakers JH

Some icebreaker questions:

  • Where are you from?
  • What are you hoping to get out of this workshop?

Active spectrogram statements:

  • In my community voices are listened to and appreciated
  • I can bring up conflict in my community
  • My community is diverse
  • As a community we are actively working toward a goal
  • My community supports me
  • Decisions are made in a way where all voices are taken into account
  • Meetings run smoothly and are not boring
  • I love meetings

Creating group norms JH

8 minutes

Group norms are decisions made by the group that influence how people communicate with one another. Every group decides on their own norms. Norms must be decided on by consensus, which is how we are going to go through our first consensus-based decision. Folks can't have reservations about norms: they must be accepted by the entire group for them to work.

Every group develops its own customs, habits and expectations for how things will be done. These patterns and expectations, or group norms as they’re sometimes called, influence the ways team members communicate with each other. Norms can help or hinder a group in achieving its goals.

Setting norms does not mean regulating every aspect of group interaction; rather it is an opportunity for the group to express its values.

Norm setting can only work if the team is truly able to arrive at consensus. Norms won’t stick if members have reservations about them. However, once consensus is reached, the team is equipped with a guide that can serve to strengthen positive practices. A set of norms can serve as a common reference if contrary behaviors arise.

Example group norms:

  • Our meetings will begin and end on time.
  • We will listen to each other and not interrupt.
  • We will make sure everyone has had a chance to speak.
  • We will support our facilitator’s efforts to moderate discussions.
  • We will avoid ethnic or gender-based humor.
  • We will speak respectfully to each other.
  • We will bring before the whole all group concerns regarding our group cohesion.

Activity: Collectively setting group norms CK

Norm setting process:

  • On a flip chart list all member ideas for norms they’d like to see the group adopt.
  • Have a period for questions and clarifications so that everyone understands what each of the proposed norms mean. Re-word as seems appropriate. Continue until every team member is satisfied that everyone understands each others’ suggested norms.
  • Go through the list item by item to see which norms all team members want to adopt. No member should be pressured into accepting any norm that he or she cannot fully endorse. If any team member does not approve of a proposed norm, eliminate it.
  • If the list of approved norms is longer than ten items try to reduce the list by simplifying and combining complementary items.
  • Make sure all team members are comfortable with the revisions.
  • Adopt the set of group norms.

credit: Berea College Brushy Fork Institute

Activity: Core Values and Community Building at Mozilla CK or JH

30 min

Adapted from Lukas Blakk's DICE Training.

Goal: Help participants understand where core values and contributions to Mozilla overlap and what values we leave at the door as contributors. Explore rather than prescribe how we can use core human values to relate to community work.

There is a pyramid drawn on a flip chart. Layers from the bottom up:

  • Core Mozilla values
  • My contributions
  • My personal interests or focus areas at Mozilla
  • Things that are unique about me
  1. In the large group, on post-its, have everyone write a few different ways in which they connect with the Mozilla core values and stick them on the pyramid. Facilitator puts up Mission Statement for reference.
  2. In the large group, the next layer: your contributions to Mozilla (2 min)
  3. Take a little more time to write down your personal focus areas and interests they have that works in connection with Mozilla activities/contributions (eg: I believe in advancing the participation of women in tech, so WoMoz is a focus area for me) (2 min)
  4. Now write down something that would be true about their values even if they weren't part of Mozilla. These are the things they see as unique about themselves and do not necessarily expect to see reflected back at them from Mozilla (eg: a hobby, gender identity, religious affiliation) (2 min)

If remote participation is involved, get into video chats, text/audio as backup if no video. Try to put a remote participant into each group as best you can, so all groups have to work with that constraint.


What did it bring up for people? What are their takeaways from all these exercises? Ask if people will share what they learned through this activity. Note the similarities between groups, or differences. (5 min)

Communication Skills

Non-violent communication CK

Non-violent communication (NVC) is a method for communicating more effectively with one another and in reducing conflict in our interactions. It is based on cultivating a deeper understanding of our needs and emotions in relation to others.

There are four components of NVC:

  1. observing and listening (without evaluation)
  2. identifying feelings
  3. recognizing needs
  4. making requests

NVC Activity: Feelings & Needs Poker CK

Adapted from [1].

Break into groups of two or three.

  • One person is the Storyteller and the other(s) are Listeners.
  • The Storyteller holds the Feelings cards and the Listeners split up the Needs cards.
  • The Storyteller tells a brief story about an interaction as a contributor (positive or negative) about which they have or had strong feelings.
  • After telling the story, they select several feelings cards which seem relevant for them.
  • Then the listener(s) take turns guessing Needs which may relate to the Feelings cards shown, laying down one Need card at a time next to the Feeling card, and speaking in a question format, such as. "Are/were you feeling …(name the feeling on the card) because of your need for…?"
  • Continue giving the listeners turns until they have no more guesses.
  • The Storyteller (who has listened without comment) then chooses one or more Needs cards that particularly resonate for them and speaks briefly about that and how they feel about it.
  • The Storyteller position then rotates to the next person and so on until all have had turns.

Giving and receiving feedback JH

How to ask for and give constructive, directed feedback.

Add something about scope here.

What do we mean by directed feedback?

  • specific, detailed
  • constructive (works towards a solution)
  • relevant, contextual (attempts to take into account entire circumstances)
  • thoughtful (not reactive)

Ask audience to suggest feedback they've received that has not been constructive or directed.

Prompts to use:

not constructive:

  • "No"
  • "this idea sucks",
  • "I don't like it"

not specific:

  • "That's great!"
  • "Thank you for your idea."
  • "This is a terrible idea."
  • "I'm not going to do this."

not relevant and/or contexual:

  • "Good idea! Let me tell you about this other idea I'm working on."
  • thread hijacking, providing feedback or commenting on another issue
  • trolling
  • non-sequitors

not thoughtful

  • ad hominem responses
  • this makes me so mad
  • reactive statements
  • taking things personally

Qualities of good feedback

  • restatement of the issue as you see it
  • personal history or experience with issue
  • connecting the dots between problem and solution as you see it
  • how proposed solution will affect you, your team, the organization
  • agreement, block or stand-aside

Ask participants: What are other qualities of good feedback?

How to ask for constructive, directed feedback CK

  • provide context for what you are asking feedback on
  • ask specific but open-ended questions
  • indicate how you want to receive feedback
  • indicate a deadline
  • send a reminder
  • ask specific stakeholders for feedback directly

If participants need examples of questions, use these that the Wiki Working Group used when asking for feedback about the mission statement:

    • what about the content does or does not make sense to you?
    • what about the content does or does not resonate with you?
    • to what extent does the content match your vision for
    • to what extend can you support the purpose, scope and governance structured described?

Activity: Asking for & Giving Feedback CK

Break into groups of two or three.

Part 1: Asking for Feedback

Think of a recent project you needed to get feedback on. Write a list of specific, open-ended questions to help guide feedback.

Part 2: Giving Feedback

Give feedback on projects used in Part 1.

Facilitation and Consensus

What is Facilitation? JH

From Seeds for Change:

Facilitation is about helping the group to have an efficient and inclusive meeting. It's also about making sure everyone can be involved in discussions and making decisions. It combines a series of roles and tasks. Sometimes these are taken on by one person – the facilitator, however there's no reason why they can't be shared between one or more people in the meeting. Good facilitators stay neutral, winning the trust of everyone in the meeting and treating everyone as equals. At no time do they make decisions for the group or take sides in a conflict.

Process vs. Content

(5 minutes)

Hand out Process vs. Content handout

Facilitator: In assuming a leadership role, you have become the process director, not the content director. Content is defined as what is being discussed.

Process means how things are being discussed. It is how people talk to each other and respect each other in the space. It is how everyone’s voice is heard in discussions and how decisions are made the everyone is on board with.

Think of the facilitator like a barometer. They measure climate and pressure and dynamics utilizing their toolbox of compassionate, community norms.

Facilitator Skills

Your job as facilitator is to help create an overarching 'story' that engages your audience and moves action forward.

  • Good listening skills to hear underlying concerns in the group. This includes strategic questioning to be able to understand everyone's viewpoint properly.
  • Understanding of the aim of the meeting as well as long-term goals of the group.
  • Respect for all participants and interest in what each individual has to offer.
  • Neutrality on the issues discussed. Avoiding taking sides or manipulating the meeting towards a particular outcome. If this becomes difficult, or you know in advance that you'll struggle to remain impartial try:
    • letting someone else facilitate;
    • making it clear when you're expressing your own opinion and when you're interving as a facilitator.
  • Assertiveness - know when to intervene decisively and give some direction to the meeting.
  • Clear thinking and observation - pay attention both to the content of the discussion and the process. How are people feeling? What is being said?

Ways to make decisions

Facilitator: How do you make decisions in your groups? Use flip chart to talk about different ways that your groups make decisions

Group activity: Stand up

  • if you've ever felt ignored in a group situation?
  • if you've ever felt like you were dominating a discussion?
  • if you've ever felt overwhelmed and like you can't be a part of the group
  • if you've ever felt like your ideas were not being heard in a group

Defining Consensus CK

What is consensus decision making?

Consensus is a form of distributed decision-making.

Consensus decision making is a creative and dynamic way of reaching agreement between all members of a group. Instead of simply voting for an item and having the majority of the group getting their way, a consensus group is committed to finding solutions that everyone actively supports - or at least can live with.

Consensus is neither compromise nor unanimity - it aims to go further by weaving together everyone's best ideas and key concerns - a process that often results in surprising and creative solutions, inspiring both the individual and the group as whole.

Consensus can work in all types of settings - small groups, local communities, businesses, even whole nations and territories. The exact process may differ depending on the size of the group and other factors, but the basic principles are the same.

From Seeds for Change.

Why do we use consensus decision making at Mozilla?


Conditions for consensus

  • Common Goal: everyone present at the meeting needs to share a common goal and be willing to work together towards it. This could be the desire to take action at a specific event, or a shared vision of a better world. Don't just assume everyone is pulling in the same direction - spend time together defining the goals of your group and the way you can get there. If differences arise in later meetings, revisiting the common goal can help to focus and unite the group.
  • Commitment to reach consensus: consensus can require a lot of commitment and patience to make it work. Everyone must be willing to really give it a go. This means not only being deeply honest about what it is you want or don't want but also able to properly listen to what others have to say. Everyone must be willing to shift their positions, to be open to alternative solutions and be able to reassess what they consider to be their needs. It would be easy to call for a vote at the first sign of difficulty, but in the consensus model, differences help to build a stronger and more creative final decision. Difficulties can arise if individuals secretly want to return to majority voting, just waiting for the chance to say “I told you it wouldn't work.”
  • Trust and openness: we all need to be able to trust that everyone shares our commitment to creating true consensus decisions. This includes being able to trust people not to abuse the process or to manipulate the outcome of the discussion. If we're scared that other people are putting their own wishes and needs before everyone else's then we're more likely to become defensive, and behave in the same way ourselves because it seems to be the only way to look after our own interests.
An onion being unpeeled - the first layer says: what i want to say; the second: what I really want; the third layer: what I actually need Making decisions by consensus is based on openness - this means learning to openly express both our desires (what we'd like to see happening), and our needs (what we have to see happen in order to support a decision). It takes time for us to learn how to distinguish between our wants and needs - after all most of us are more used to decision making where one wins and the other loses. In this kind of adversarial system we are often forced to claim we need more than we really do so we can concede points without giving up any significant ground. But if everyone is able to talk openly then the group will have the information it requires to take everyone's positions into account and to come up with a solution that everyone can support.
  • Sufficient time for making decisions and for learning to work by consensus. Taking time to make a good decision now can save wasting time revisiting a bad one later.
  • Clear Process: it's essential for everyone to have a shared understanding of the process that the meeting is using. There are lots of variations of the consensus process, so even if people are experienced in using consensus they may use it differently to you! There may also be group agreements or hand signals in use that need to be explained.
  • Active participation: if we want a decision we can all agree on then we all need to play an active role in the decision making. This means listening to what everyone has to say, voicing thoughts and feelings about the matter and pro-actively looking for solutions that include everyone.
  • Good facilitation: When your group is larger than just a handful of people or you are trying to make difficult decisions, appoint facilitators to help your meeting run more smoothly. Good facilitation helps the group to work harmoniously, creatively and democratically. It also ensures that the tasks of the meeting get done, that decisions are made and implemented. If, in a small group, you don't give one person the role of facilitator, then everyone can be responsible for facilitation. If you do appoint facilitators, they need active support from everyone present.

The process JH

These are the steps to building consensus based decision making processes!

Consensus Flowchart.png

Activity JRH

Have the group use consensus decision making to select which "prize" to receive: candy or a toy. Refer to hand out. If group is large, split into smaller groups.

Wrap-up! Roses and Thorns

Write on a post-it one thing you liked about the workshop and one thing you thought could have been better.

CK and JRH to brainstorm a list of specific questions.

Items for Handout and Resource Guide

Do's & Don't's

Please do's and please do nots

  • Please do speak your mind
  • Please do make proposals, even if you are shy and don't think that people will like your ideas
  • Please do not shoot down someone's idea just because you don't want to work on it
  • Please do make constructive criticisms or amendments to ideas, and explain them pleasantly
  • Please do not interrupt, "jump stack," or have side conversations
  • Please do use hand signals to indicate when you need to ask an urgent question
  • Please do raise a process point if you feel your rights are not being respected
  • Please do not try to continue a discussion when the facilitator has called time
  • Please do try to be succinct
  • Please do twinkle instead of repeating someone's idea
  • Please do not try to speak authoritatively against someone. Use "I" statements
  • Please do respect people's knowledge and experience, including your own
  • Please do not preface things you say with "this might be stupid but," since it ain't
  • Please do not frame things in gendered terms
  • Please do remember your gender socialization and how it affects the discussion
  • Please do not think that your intelligence/college education entitles you to anything
  • Please do remember that power in a voluntary group stems from hard work and an open mind
  • Please do assert your own rights, and the rights of others
  • Please do not make ad hominem ("against the person") criticisms
  • Please do respectfully call people out for dominant, sexist, or otherwise impolitic behavoir
  • Please do remember that we all grew up in a sexist world and now we are trying to grow out of it
  • Please do act in group activities like you're living in the world you want to live in

Adapted from the Students for Environmental and Economic Justice Facilitation Training Manual, Columbia University 2005

Know your rights in group discussions

Know your rights!

  • Any participant has the right to ask questions without being considered foolish
  • Any participant has the right to make a proposal and see it come to a vote
  • Any participant has the right to contribute without having to be loud or pushy
  • Any participant has the right to be treated respectfully
  • Any participant has the right to have power reflecting their work (and not age or volume)
  • Any participant has the right to raise an objection about process or a proposal

Top Tips for Facilitators

  • Design a good agenda. Be realistic about what the meeting can achieve. Set time limits and tackle all points.
  • Be aware of both content and process.
  • Keep the group moving towards its aims.
  • Use a variety of facilitation tools to keep everyone interested.
  • Create a safe and empowering atmosphere to get the best contribution from everyone.
  • Put a stop to domineering, interrupting, put-downs and guilt trips.