De-centric Facilitation

Robert Stains

Program Director, Public Conversations Project, Watertown, Massachusetts

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, April, 2003


This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: The way that we tend to facilitate our dialogues is a lot different than many approaches to facilitation. I call it the de-centric facilitator. In most models of facilitation, certainly the way that I was trained initially as a facilitator and a therapist, I was taught that I was the hub of the wheel, and that I was in center of the room. I was making sure that the communication flowed between people, and in some ways people went through me. I think of what we do as being on the outer edge of the conversation, tending the structure that people have signed on to, and giving a little support here or there, but keeping the space between people free.

Q: Well, it sounds like instead of the conduit for the discussion that you're almost an observer. Maybe less active than the common facilitator.

A: The best compliment is when, like after we did our first Anglican dialogue, and we were evaluating it, a couple of the bishops said that the facilitation was so wonderfully effective and it was nearly invisible. So I thought that's how it should be. If we can fade into the woodwork, we are doing our job.