Just last Friday, my team, MEAL (Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Leaning Unit of the PRC-Haiyan Recovery Program in Iloilo supported by the British Red Cross) celebrated the end of the participatory evaluation conducted for the Livelihoods and Shelter support provided in the Municipalities of Ajuy and Balasan. It capped several weeks of preparation and field work and daily debriefings, which gave us the opportunity to reach 721 community people in 13 barangays for the part of the program funded by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).
It was a learning experience for the team, who were all new to participatory processes, and another chance for me to apply what I have learned from The Workshop 2015 conducted by Praxis in Bangalore, India. In preparation, Sultan Ahmed, the BRC MEAL Delegate and I facilitated a three-day MEAL Workshop last November for the MEAL Team and key sector staff. I also conducted a half day orientation to the 12-man team who would help conduct the community session activities. When John Ievers, the evaluation consultant arrived, we conducted another three-day planning workshop to develop in better detail the community sessions to be conducted in the next 2 1/2 weeks.
Leading the community sessions, I was reminded of the most important facilitators workshop I have attended (I have attended several in the course of my social development career). It was conducted by Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) Laureate Nicanor Perlas in 2010. In that workshop, we did not discuss much on skills and competencies of a facilitator, but rather focused on the facilitator as a person. It had a profound effect on me who has an Education background and ten years worth of development work experience at that time.
Last year, I wrote a short reflection of that workshop on facebook:
Surprisingly, one of the most important workshops I’ve ever attended is one where I did not get any certificate for. It’s a four-day live-in facilitators workshop conducted in a far-flung barangay somewhere in Iloilo five years ago. My take home from that workshop is that you can only be a good facilitator if you have already healed the brokenness of yourself. Facilitating is not about you, the facilitator, yet it’s all about you. Everything you do when you facilitate reflects on the kind of inner condition you currently have. Thus, a really good facilitator never uses hurting words, never insults, never for a moment thinks about herself/himself, but completely focuses on the need of the participants. A facilitator draws out the collective intelligence from the group and never imposes her/his own. A facilitator is sensitive, yet strong, and knows what to say and do at the right time and place. A facilitator is a whole unbroken person. A facilitator is never proud because a single mind could never beat collective intelligence. A facilitator is never angry because s/he has already forgiven her/himself. A facilitator is joyful because s/he is blessed to be a channel, an instrument through which a collective vision or energy could emerge.
Other roles I have handled, as a manager, speaker, teacher, were more appreciated and oftentimes overrated. But being a facilitator is not any less nobler. This is one thing that I have tried to inculcate to the team in the course of the participatory evaluation sessions: to come to a community with an open mind, and ready to be surprised by what the community can teach us facilitators.
I have seen a remarkable development in the team in the course of the DEC Evaluation. They have become better humanitarians by knowing how it is to be facilitators.