“Types” of Facilitation

The stimulus for this article was “Just My Type, A Book About Fonts” by Simon Garfield. He mentions a talk by Beatrice Warde, a grand dame of typography, called, “The Crystal Goblet, or Why Printing Should Be Invisible.” Her thesis was that typography existed to convey ideas, not to draw attention to itself.

You can take a similar view to facilitating enquiries. When you hear P4Cers envying someone else’s facilitation skills, it’s usually because “She does it so that you hardly notice she’s doing anything.” For something to be “art concealing art”, there must of course be some art to conceal – and there are always some key moves that gently focus the enquiry and push for depth. But the facilitation is transparent, so that participants are more aware of each other’s thoughts than the facilitator’s moves. “Arial” facilitation requires humility as well as skill.

More active, obvious facilitation can also have a place, as can showy fonts – but you wouldn’t want a whole enquiry to run in Informal Roman. Extending the metaphor (and also hinting at how using metaphors in enquiries can set off new thinking), here are some “types” of facilitation to consider, and questions to ask yourself about your own facilitation:

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