Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Facilitation ... makes proposal writing easier!

I recently completed a proposal for a consulting and facilitation contract regarding community sustainability.  Fortunately, I gain most of my work through word of mouth and repeat requests from clients.  However, I also write proposals in response to requests for proposals (RFP).  I always find that these take a tremendous amount of thought, energy, and time.  I do not use, and cannot use, a “cookie cutter” approach to writing proposals.  I find that each one needs to be individualized to best suit the request of the potential client.

Yes, each proposal has common sections; that is, experience and relevant work, education, references, process approach and methodology, timeline and budget. However, as I finished the recent proposal, I confirmed that I applied my facilitation principles and methods to writing it.

 How do I do this?  

·         I think what the people in the organization who put out the RFP, need and want (respect, understanding, start with client’s needs). 

·         I carefully consider what I can best give to the potential client based on my experience, expertise and skills (start with where the client is).

·         I think about which of my previous work contracts best fit with the RFP (competency, effectiveness).

·         I think about which people that I am honoured to use as references would be able to, and feel comfortable, answering questions regarding the RFP (honesty, openness, transparency). 

·         I state my understanding of the specific project in the RFP and what I can best bring to the process and the client (professionalism, individualized approach).

·         I think about how I can best help them clarify their outcomes. 

·         I think carefully about the core questions that they want answered through the project.

·         I think about the ways we can work collaboratively throughout the process. 

·         I think about the design of each section of the project and suggest beneficial ways to achieve the outcomes; not taking a standard design and fitting the project outcomes into it.

 It may take longer to prepare a proposal using an individualized and principled approach; yet I know that I am happier, more confident, and satisfied that I have written the best proposal I can to help the client achieve the desired outcomes.
My facilitation blog question is:  how do you use facilitation principles and methods when writing proposals for work?






Thursday, July 3, 2014

Facilitate … during the lazy, hazy days of summer!

Living in the four-season climate of Canada, I really love and appreciate the hot summer weather! Life takes on a different pace; relaxation comes more naturally. As my community of Calgary, Alberta enjoys a temperature of +30C today, I started thinking about how my facilitation design subtly changes during the summer. I also find that participants often suggest different approaches.  Here are a few ideas for facilitating during the lazy, hazy days of summer!

 Place and space:  It’s not -25C! Go outdoors for extended time. While I have taken groups on winter “walks and talks”, they are not as long or as relaxed as a summer conversation outdoors. Deliberately choose an outdoor venue. Hold the entire session outside. Use picnic tables as walls and flipchart stands. Plan a picnic to hold a discussion and decision session. Everyone gets a slice of watermelon when they reach a decision. Leave laptops, tablets, and cellphones inside.

 Five Senses: Go outside and lead participants through a Five Senses exercise about a topic.

·         Listen to sounds and pick one that creates optimism about the discussion topic.  Does hearing a birdsong make you think happy thoughts? Why?

·         Smell and talk about the different aromas and how each one invites different ideas about the topic.  Is there a sweet smell? A sour smell? What positive and negative aspects about the topic do they help us identify?

·         Touch nature – different leaves, trees, grasses and use them as an analogy for actions, e.g. this grass is shaded by a tree; therefore, what shades our thoughts and plans?

·         Taste berries, herbs, any other non-poisonous plants you have never tasted.  Make a dandelion salad. Talk about whether you feel brave and adventurous when you taste new food.  Talk about how you may need to be brave and adventurous when making decisions and plans.

·         See the big wide world and the tiny elements of nature.  Contrast the smallest part of nature you see at your feet with the view stretching out to the horizon. Lift your eyes up to the hills. Talk about both the small details and the big glorious vision related to your topic.
The Artist:
Hike to a beautiful location. Set up an easel for each participant. Give them paint or coloured chalk or markers and encourage them to draw the scenery.  Then draw how the scenery relates to the topic under discussion. Share the paintings. Have the group create one large painting, incorporating their different perspectives of the scenery and the topic.
Quick Nature Breaks:
If the session requires an indoor setting, encourage small outdoor breaks.  Take a 30 minute walk and talk as a group. Talk 10 minute individual walks. Have each participant pick a flower and create a bouquet of beauty.

Physical Activities Outdoor:
Play games. Use a parachute. Hold three-legged races. Run an obstacle course.  Hold a fun Olympics. Hold sack races.  Do these as a small energizing break during the session.
Remember sunscreen and water!!!

My facilitation blog question: How do you facilitate during different weather seasons or patterns?