Lizzie and Gillian, C.P.F

Monday was an exhausting day. By the end of it we (and four other candidates) had each undergone two intensive 30-minute interviews, conducted a 30-minute facilitation demonstration (that had to achieve concrete results within that brief time frame), and participated actively in 5 other such demonstration workshops. By the end of that very long day, a team of four assessors took into consideration these elements plus a previously submitted three part, 15-page written application and a preparatory telephone “client” interview and email exchange (with one of our assessors to prepare for our demo), and then decided, based on a set of 18 competencies, if we would become Certified Professional Facilitators (C.P.F.) Whew!

This certification process is conducted by the International Association of Facilitators, a global network of facilitation professionals with national and local chapters worldwide. Their certification programme aims to peer assess and test facilitators’ knowledge and experience in both design and delivery of facilitation services, as well as maintaining a professional knowledge base about the field (our blog helped us here). As the basis of this process, IAF has developed as a community their Core Facilitation Competencies that are grouped under headings such as: “Creating Collaborative Client Relationships”, “Planning Appropriate Group Processes”, and “Creating and Sustaining a Participatory Environment”. Within these categories are 18 sub-items such as: demonstrating collaborative values in processes, engaging those with varying and different learning/thinking styles, and recognizing conflict and its role with group learning/maturity, and so on.

And in undergoing this process, we realised that is so challenging to assess these things in general, and in particular in a “laboratory” environment. So much of the work we do is highly contextual, and our practice very individualised, based on hours, days, months of relationship building with our “clients”. Whether we sit down when a group works, or lightly participate in a group activity, decide to ignore collegial bantering, or focus on visual rather than analytical tools, there is no clear right or wrong in facilitation. That’s what makes certification of his field so challenging, and why this assessment process is so heavy. For 6 facilitator candidates, five peer assessors were needed for a whole day (not to mention preparation and follow-up reporting), working as a group and in pairs to find evidence of all 18 of those competencies, in many different ways and in their many inflections. Thankfully, in the end, these assessors are peers and know very well how challenging it can be to demonstrate in a day, skills that often have taken years to develop.

It was an intense and thought-provoking process, and especially fascinating to understand what this international body finds to be important capabilities for people to have to join their ranks of Certified Professional Facilitators. For us, who use facilitation as one of our learning tools, along with many others, it is nice to know what is at the top of this game for the IAF, and to be acknowledged as a part of that group. We were very happy to pass through. Lizzie and Gillian, C.P.F.

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