Volume 11, number 1, May 2015 - Special issue: Facilitation

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Facilitation for development. Concepts, practices and approaches to share, learn and improve outcomes for societal development, based in the experience of knowledge management for development practitioners.

Overview of the issue

The latest issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal (May 2015) is dedicated to: “Facilitation for development. Concepts, practices and approaches to share, learn and improve outcomes for societal development, based in the experience of knowledge management for development practitioners.”

Find the issue here: http://journal.km4dev.org/index.php/km4dj/index

And a description of the papers below.

We are very happy with this issue and hope you will like it too. Read more about our impressions on this field of ‘facilitation for development’ in the editorial ([1]).

Ewen Le Borgne, Pete Cranston, Philipp Grunewald, Blane Harvey, Carl Jackson, Lucie Lamoureux, Linda Morris, Simone Staiger Guest Editors, Knowledge management for development journal, issue 11.1 (May 2015)

  • Papers*

Two recent phenomena related to sustainable agricultural development converge to frame the article ‘Facilitating gender-inclusive agri-business’ (by Anna Laven and Rhiannon Pyburn) namely the prioritization of gender and the expanding role of the private sector in agro-businesses. The authors distinguish three arrangements used by large private sector players that operate in international agricultural value chains to link business to sustainable development goals and look at the role of facilitation in getting gender higher on the corporate agendas. The authors use concrete examples from their professional experiences within the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). Read it here: [2]

Ashley Mullinax and Cydney Gumann outline in ‘The facilitator role within learning networks at USAID’ how the United States Agency for International Development approaches learning networks and translates some of the lessons they have generated into a facilitation framework available for others to adopt and adapt. In their work they attempt to address learning objectives on industry, network and organizational levels; the authors share insights from these attempts. Additionally, they outline recommendations for the planning of a learning network and show various aspects, related to inter- and intra-personal dynamics, that a facilitator should be aware of when involved with a learning network. Read it here: [3]

In ‘Designing facilitation for a knowledge share fair: practical steps’ Sophie Treinen et al. then take us through the practical steps for designing the facilitation of a knowledge share fair, based on the experience of several share fairs organized between 2009 and 2014 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This paper details the role of the facilitator in the design process and the importance of selecting a good mix of knowledge sharing methods to support knowledge exchange and the event’s overarching goals. Read it here: [4]

  • Case studies*

Petra Herout and Elisabeth Schmid offer a case study ‘Doing, Knowing, Learning. Systematization of Experiences based on the Knowledge Management Approach of HORIZONT3000’ in which they argue that to enable successful processes of learning, rather than information exchange, they recommend a facilitative approach that actively involves all stakeholder on equal footing. The shared experiences gained in such processes can lead, through self-awareness and self-reflection, to changes in practice. In particular, they consider internal vs. external facilitation in the ‘systematization of experiences’ method. Read it here: [5]

In ‘Group facilitation: Experiences and lessons from international agricultural research organizations’, Simone Staiger-Rivas, Ewen Le Borgne, Michael Victor, Juergen Hagmann, Cristina Sette and Petr Kosina put their collective experience as well as results from a survey and follow-up interviews into an overview of group facilitation at CGIAR over a 10-year period, thereby reflecting on how the practice of event facilitation has evolved as to spread onto much wider processes of engagement. Read it here: [6]

‘Co-Design for Collaborative Problem Solving’ (Carl Jackson) uses Human-centered design approaches to encourage staff in the international development sector to experience alternative ways of exploring problems and forming solutions by drawing on humanitarian disciplines such as art, theater or craft. Jackson walks us through a complete co-design process using an example of a program that focuses on issues of governance and accountability by enabling citizen engagement and open, responsive government in 12 countries in Africa and Asia. Jackson makes the case for this approach to build enthusiasm for a more engaged, interactive, collaborative, and learning orientated form of group work. Read it here: [7]

In ’Where lectures meet KM4Dev practice’ John Akude, Peter J. Bury, Philipp Grunewald and Jaap (W.J.) Pels track their efforts to transform a conventional conference with lectures to a more inclusive and interactive learning and sharing event, inspired and supported by the global KM4Dev community. They analyze crucial moments that shaped the facilitation process, report on its unfolding and review the effectiveness of facilitator notes, providing information and insights for others who might wish to take a similar path. Read it here: [8]

Shifting slightly away from the use of facilitation, Lefore’s contribution ‘Strengthening facilitation competencies in development – Case study of the processes, challenges and lessons of a learning alliance to develop facilitators for local community engagement’ makes a case investing into developing local facilitation capacities among those who hold an ongoing stake in the development challenges being confronted. She describes the case of the IMAWESA network’s systemic approach to building facilitation capacity within water users’ associations. Lefore concludes with a series of lessons learned to be considered for similar initiatives, including the need for senior-level buy-in to the undertaking, and continuity in the group of participants engaged in capacity development efforts. Read it here: [9]

  • Community note*

In their community note on this issue’s theme, ‘The Heaven and Hell of Facilitation’, White and Lamoureux, two experienced facilitators, reflect on multiple dimensions of facilitation - describing the ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ scenarios for each, and giving practical tips to ensure facilitation success. Read it here: [10]

  • Review*

In what is actually not a publication review, ‘Blogosphere review: Facilitating interactions through blogs and posts’ draws a list of blogs and blog posts that editors of this issue and KM4Dev members have found particularly inspiring on the topic of facilitation and facilitated collective action, and have crowdsourced for this issue. Read it here: [11]

Background information and call for papers

The Knowledge Management for Development Journal (KM4D Journal) is a peer-reviewed community-based journal on knowledge management for development – for and by development practitioners, researchers and policymakers. The journal is closely related to the KM4Dev community of practice ([www.km4dev.org]).

Volume 11, Issue No. 1 is slated to be published May 2015. Guest editors include: Blane Harvey, Ewen Le Borgne, Linda Morris, Lucie Lamoureux, Pete Cranston, Philipp Grunewald, Simone Staiger.

Editor Google + hangout: December 1 2014

Editor Skype call: March 16 2015

Facilitation for development

Development in urban and rural communities and in society as a whole deals with incredibly complex issues and wicked problems. Dealing with those requires people to understand, think and act together. It relies increasingly on people that are capable to connect and empathise with each other, learn and innovate together, apply solutions and assess the results to determine future actions.

Knowledge management for development practitioners have been emphasizing the need to deal with complexity and have explored how best to facilitate the interaction of people engaged in complex processes. As facilitators they help to bring about outcomes, such as learning, co-production, or communication, by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision.

Facilitating societal development, in this sense, calls for a practice that engages participants of a development process and supports the achievements of their vision, desired results and impact. Therefore, facilitation is increasingly focused on longer term, multi-stakeholder and multi-channel processes. These are likely to have a deeper influence on the groups of people that are brought together in such facilitated initiatives and, hopefully, a greater impact on the desired outcomes.

Facilitation deals with collective reflection and participatory decision-making and learning, processes that are key to securing the impact, sustainability and growth of an initiative. In a sense, facilitators are like alchemists. They create the appropriate blend of tools, choreography, learning triggers and focus to create opportunities for rich learning experiences and robust project outcomes. One challenge of the increasing demand for facilitation “services” (whether provided in-house or by external consultants) is to design group processes that serve all participants, and that lead to decisions that can be accepted and followed upon by all.

Facilitation means connecting face-to-face and virtually, as we grow increasingly wary of our carbon footprints. It means looking at ways to bring conversations to ever-wider audiences, and to enable joined-up thinking online. The capacity to ‘facilitate’ learning and knowledge management, both at the individual and group level, offline and online, is changing from the traditional era of long face-to-face training workshops. In this sense, facilitation has become much more central as the participants’ demands and needs (pull) have become more important than pushing information down. Engagement, interaction, collective (even social) learning are becoming the new grail of networked societies.

This Special Issue

Facilitation is central to achieving development outcomes. Practitioners continue to adapt processes and practices as they pursue those outcomes. This special issue of the KM4D Journal builds on the December 2013 issue (‘Facilitating multi-stakeholder processes: balancing internal dynamics and institutional politics’) although it focuses less on multi-stakeholder processes specifically. Explicitly, this special issue will highlight how facilitating KM and learning in development work is changing, looking at issues such as:

  • The conceptual foundations of traditional event facilitation and how these foundations are evolving as the practices and needs have evolved;
  • The transitions from face-to-face to blended and purely virtual facilitation;
  • How the methodologies, approaches and tools of facilitation are evolving to cater to the increased need for engagement, interaction, learning, and shared decision-making both face-to-face and online;
  • The new dynamics of facilitation from single event ‘islands’ to ongoing learning journeys, and the work that this entails ‘between the meetings’;
  • How event facilitation is therefore increasingly meshing in with process facilitation and the facilitation of multiple stakeholders (although as explained above we will not focus on the latter);
  • How facilitation capacity is increasingly distributed among participants occupying different, new roles, for example, social reporting, and how development processes are being re-shaped with those new forms of contribution to group thinking;
  • How to develop such capacities in this period when there is, arguably, less money available for development work and that available time is also getting scarcer (i.e. people have less time to train/coach and get trained/coached). An important element of this topic will be alternative approaches to building such capacities, for example MOOCs or on-the-job peer assists; and
  • Where facilitation is likely to lead and what trends one can anticipate in this field.

Your contribution

This Special Issue will include articles, case studies and other contributions (see author guidelines for a full list of possible contributions). Both conceptual and empirical papers are welcome in the Special Issue. The Guest Editors would like to encourage contributions using a broad range of perspectives, and methods.

We particularly seek contributions that look at the following elements:

  • The HOW of facilitation - what facilitation approach was adopted, or what was the role of the facilitator(s)/facilitation.
  • How facilitation accommodated/embraced/dealt with complexity, change, uncertainty, diversity, emergence.

Contributions can further focus on any level (from grassroots to international) and on any geographical location within developing countries. We invite practitioners and academics to submit, in the first instance, an abstract of their proposed contribution.

Submission of abstracts and papers

We welcome articles, case studies, thought pieces, publication reviews, short stories, KM4Dev Community Notes, life stories, debates, letters and annotated bibliographies from both academics and practitioners.

The schedule of the submission and review process leading to publication is below. If you would like to submit a paper, or be actively involved in this initiative in any other way, please submit your abstract (minimum one paragraph – maximum one page) online on the Knowledge Management for Development Journal site.

If you have any question about this specific call for papers please send an email to km4dj-editors@dgroups.org (please include “Facilitation Issue” in the title of your email).

For further information about the journal, kindly consult the journal website at: http://journal.km4dev.org/index.php/km4dj/index

Guidelines for authors are available on the journal’s website: http://journal.km4dev.org/index.php/km4dj/about


  • Submission deadline for the title and abstract 18/08/14
  • Acceptance of paper proposal 15/09/14 (PLEASE NOTE!!! Authors of issue 11.1 on facilitation - that the notification about abstracts being approved or not is likely to be sent out on friday 19 september instead of monday 15 september. Thank you for your understanding,
  • Submission of paper 30/11/14
  • Peer-review completed 10/01/15
  • Final version of paper submitted 01/03/15
  • Publication date May 2015