I only provide the environment in which they can learn.”
— Albert Einstein
This is me facilitating in Seattle in 2009.
At CommonAction Consulting, we strive to create learning environments in all of our knowledge and skill-building activities. Over the last year we have facilitated learning for more than 4,500 children, youth, and adults in a variety of settings across the nation. Each time we have led these activities, we have kept the CommonAction Principles of Learning in mind. Each of our trainers, facilitators, and consultants commit to upholding these principles, and I’m glad to share them here publicly at the request of a past workshop participant.
The CommonAction Principles of Learning
Be a Facilitator- Not a Teacher, Speaker, or Preacher. There’s a difference between a teacher, a speaker, a preacher, and a facilitator. A facilitator leads the gathering or group; guides the gathering towards its goals; and leads by example, not force.
Create Guidelines and Goals. Overcome cynicism and inability by having participants create ground rules or guidelines before you begin. Brainstorm potential rules and write them down – but avoid too many rules. Every group should have some specific guidelines that all participants agree on.
Think about Framing & Sequencing. Facilitators introduce the purpose, or frame, the group they’re leading. An important consideration is the order in which you present groups, or sequencing.
Reflect, Reflect, Reflect. One way make group events matter is to reflect before, during, and after the reflection. You can see reflection as a circle: You start with an explanation what you are going to learn and
frame its purpose and goals to the group.
Create Safe Space. It is vital to create, foster, and support safe spaces where participants can learn together. Establishing a safe space is powerful, positive, and hopeful, and hope is a requirement for excellent facilitation.
Seek Consensus. Whenever a group is discussing a possible solution or coming to a decision on any matter, consensus is a tool excellent facilitators turn to.
Embrace the Journey. Learning is a process, not an outcome. Encourage participants to view the group process as a journey that has no particular destination. However, even experience cannot teach us what we do not seek to learn. John Dewey once wrote that we should seek, “Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim of living.” This is true of excellent facilitation.
Embrace Challenges. Since excellent facilitation is a process, it is important to understand that there will be difficult times ahead. One of the keys to excellent facilitation is knowing that criticism will come – and that can be good.
Contact me if you’re interested in booking a training on excellent facilitation for your school, nonprofit, community, or agency. If you’re ready to take action to become an excellent facilitator all on your own, you can learn more about these principles from my 2011 article, “Becoming An Excellent Facilitator,” which is required reading for all CommonAction team members.
Next Monday and Tuesday, October 8-9, I will be in Seattle to facilitate at School Out Washington’s 2012 Bridge Conference. This year’s theme is “Empower Youth Voices”, and will be attended by 500 people. I’m excited! This is my first time presenting there, and I look forward to a great time. I am presenting sessions on my own, and with a few great friends and colleagues.
Let me know if you’ll be there and we can connect! Following are the descriptions for what I’m involved in.
More than Voice: The Cycle of Engagement – FAIL!?! Why don’t our youth voice programs work? This session will answer that question by examining a research-driven process that lets youth voice advocates WIN every time! Participants will learn how to move youth voice towards passion, purpose, and power. Participants can learn how to engage the disengaged through a more effective approach to working with all young people everywhere all the time. This session focuses on a pattern from Adam Fletcher’s research which he calls the Cycle of Engagement. The Cycle has been used in K-12 schools and youth-serving organizations around the world for programming, planning and evaluation, and as a staff and youth skill-building tool. Discover what its for, how its used, and the impact it can have.
How to Engage: Learning from local youth engagement practitioners – (with Kyla Lackie) Participants in this session will explore the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre, and the role of establishing professional learning communities among youth development workers. Launched during the 2011-12 school year, the first cohort of the Cadre was a collaboration between SOAR, Seattle Public Schools’ Service Learning Seattle, and CommonAction Consulting with funding from the National Corporation for Community Service Youth Engagement Zone program. This session will focus on the new King County Youth Engagement Handbook, a compilation of tools, lessons, and cutting edge writing by Cadre members.
I’m also going to be leading a table in Jessica Werner’s session on Tuesday afternoon. My table will be focused on Meaningful Student Involvement.
Learn more about what CommonAction is available to do at your conference or event by looking at our catalog! You can also contact us anytime…
CommonAction’s Adam Fletcher facilitating youth at a conference in spring 2012.
CommonAction is excited to announce that we’re available across the US and Canada for training on youth engagement starting Fall 2012!
Just over a decade ago I started training youth workers, organization leaders, teachers, government workers, and many other folks on youth engagement. This year I’m excited to have several colleagues on board with me as we travel to communities throughout North America promoting this powerful, positive, and effective basis for youth development, community improvement, education reform, and social change.
If your organization, conference, or community is looking for the most innovative, effective strategies to promote youth engagement, WE ARE THE SOURCE. Our internationally-recognized youth engagement material is one-of-a-kind, and our delivery style makes us exceptional among our peers. Using hands-on, interactive, and practical approaches we teach the latest information, research, and approaches to youth engagement in a variety of settings. And our specialty remains engaging traditionally disengaged youth, so you know you’re dealing with the best available.
Earlier this week I introduced the idea that there are best practices in engagement. Here is the first explanation of what those best practices look like.
See Your Personal Engagement Right Now
All people are already engaged in their own lives right now. Its that simple. There is no need for you or your organization to engage anyone in anything. You might want to engage people, but you don’t need to, no matter what you think.
That said, one of the best practices in engagement is to begin with personal engagement, that is, the lasting connections people have within themselves. The best practice of most programs as they begin engaging people is to ask people to identify what they’re already connected to within themselves and throughout the world around them, right now. They brainstorm those connections, list them out, create a mind map, and do whatever they can to help people identify those things they’re personally engaged in right now.
This work has to begin within the person who wants to engage others before they attempt to engage others. Many organizations simply hire workers to deliver services or build widgets before those workers actually have the opportunity to attach to what they have lasting connections to.
If you’ve done made that initial list for yourself, named your personal engagement, you can begin to engage others. From this place, establish connections between what they care about to the issues and actions you are trying to promote. The reason why so-called “internet activism” is popular today is because people who it appeals to spend a lot of time on the internet today. If you are trying to get people connected to turning a local downtown block into a park, have them identify what they’re already engaged in personally, then make a connection between your issue and theirs. If you care about political prisoners in former Southeast Asia, help your friends connect their interests to your issue by helping them identify what they’re already engaged in. The revolutionary Brazilian educator Paulo Freire challenged his students to “read the world through the word,” which happens when learners make meaning from the experience of learning, This happens as people see themselves in what they’re learning. This should be the basis of our promotion of personal engagement, too. We should encourage people to see themselves in our issues, whether they be saving the world, helping their communities, or changing their lives. When we see our connections in others’ efforts, we can become engaged. Not before then.
Proceeding from this place may mean to more shallow involvement activities within your own life. It might mean not asking others to “just show up” for something at your house. Everyone throughout all our communities needs the opportunity to identify what they’re engaged in right now. Our society needs opportunities to establish personal engagement in our daily lives in practical, tangible ways. We need to move past tokenistic gestures and decorative opportunities to show up any old way anywhere we want to. Learning to love life right now means that we respect ourselves enough to see beyond simply “showing up,” and instead dive deeply, meaningfully, lastingly into those things we care about most. Concrete experiences of dialogue, peer-driven activities, and interactive learning within democratic cultures can support personal engagement, and deepen the connections people already have to the issues they care about. But those are topics for another day…
5 Steps to Acknowledge Yourself
Begin by making a T-chart on a sheet of paper.
Label the top of the left column “Connections In My Life” and list out as many issues, actions, ideas, opinions, people, places, and memories you can think of that you’re connected to right now.
Label the top of the right column “Meaningful Connections In My Life” and then list out the things you meaningful connections to right now. There may be some repeats, and that’s okay.
Go through your two lists and circle the items that you’re personally engaged in right now.
Using a sheet of plain white paper, create a mind map of personal engagements in your life, starting with the things nearest and dearest to who you are towards the center, and the things that are less essential to you further away from the center.
When you have finished your T-chart and mind map, you should have a clearer picture of what personal engagement looks like in your own life right now. You can also lead others through this process as well.
Are you looking for powerful learning opportunities for your organization or community?
Do you want to engage deeper, more powerfully, and more effectively than ever before?
Hi, Adam here. As the founder and president of CommonAction, I am glad to report that we are available for booking throughout 2012! With a dynamic, responsive, and engaging team of consultants and trainers, we are ready to assist you and your community this year.
Here are some comments people have shared for my past presentations:
Adam Fletcher facilitating in November 2011.
“One of the most gifted, principled visionaries today, Adam empowers people of all ages and backgrounds to pursue authentic engagement in all sectors of society.” – Wendy Lesko, author of Youth: The 26% Solution
“We continue to receive positive comments about how instructive and entertaining you were! Your work in the area of youth engagement is so critical, and we are fortunate for your commitment and your leadership.” – Elaine Matthews, senior vice president, North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center
Our team at CommonAction is available to travel to communities across the United States and Canada to provide hands-on, practical, and powerful speeches and workshops. Our activities are customized for each community we visit and each topic we cover. Here are some examples:
The Human Engagement Academy
Finding Your Heartspace—The Engine of Personal Engagement
Transforming the Roles of Young People Throughout Society
Six Steps to Social Change
Our Only Hope: The Future of Community
Student Engagement: Frameworks for Learning Passion through Partnership
There are a lot of reasons to support youth engagement, including it’s affects on young people and the larger communities they’re part of. Today I want to share an excellent opportunity to find out how youth engagement affects adults and to support them in the process.
Kyla Lackie of Seattle’s SOAR (http://www.childrenandyouth.org/) and I are co-facilitating a brand-new Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre starting next month. We are working together with Seattle Public Schools’ Youth Engagement Zone to build a genuine learning community among Seattle’s professionals who work with youth to engage youth. In the process we’re going to cultivate the wisdom of the area, identifying what we know and what we want to learn. We’re going to collaborate on community-building activities and promote real co-learning among different organizations.
This is an exciting project for me, and I want to encourage anyone in my Seattle network to consider applying today. We’re offering good scholarships, and we’re appealing only to experienced folks to join in.
Let me know if you have any questions, or of you’d be interested in hosting me facilitating a cadre in your city. I’m leading Student Voice Cadre in Pasco, Washington, and a Cadre in Miami. Now is time to maturate our approaches, and deepen our senses of belonging. The Youth Engagement Practitioner Cadre is one way to do that!
Me facilitating a session on student voice at the National School Boards Association annual conference.
Let me clarify that I am not talking about classroom teaching or the type of “sit-n-git” training that so many people are used to. Instead, I am talking about sharing my finally honed facilitation skills with learners to allow, encourage, grow, and sustain peoples’ inclination for self-leadership throughout their lives. That is what I love, and where I find deep joy and satisfaction.
Over the last month I have trained just under 500 people. Through travel to the Cascade Mountains, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, southeast and central Washington, Seattle, and a few points in between, I have worked with drug and alcohol counselors for youth, teachers, afterschool workers, nonprofit program directors and executive directors, and young people themselves. I have trained about community engagement, the history of youth work, self-sustainability, and a few other things.
One of the things that has left me deeply satisfied lately has been weaving personal development work into my formerly systems change-only thinking. These days I am encouraging learners to delve deeply within themselves in order to explore their personal perspectives, and then to take on changing the world.
I am ready to teach more. After several years of averaging four classes, workshops, and/or speeches every month, and I am ready to double that. Every month I receive a half-dozen inquiries from folks who would like to attend my workshops, but don’t have an organization that can host me or the funds to attend one of my other trainings. Today, my goal is to facilitate eight events every month where young people and adults can learn from my work.
I’ve just finished working on Get Loud! Youth Engagement Workshop Guide. An exciting, hands-on, and effective learning tool, the guide provides 24 workshop outlines for youth workers, teachers, and others who want to engage young people. I wrote it for a variety of audiences with the idea that the workshops can be used in youth programs, classrooms, conferences, weekend retreats, youth/adult training events, and other places where youth voice, youth involvement, and meaningful learning matter most. Check it out today!
I am going through notes from workshops over the last few years. One of the questions I ask in youth involvement workshops is What pitfalls are there to youth involvement? Following are several of the answers that have been shared repeatedly over more than a dozen workshops with hundreds of adults across the country.
Potential to get off topic
Increase in upfront planning time
More time needed for ongoing operations, including reflection
Additional time to plan with youth needed for staff
Difficult to find planning time that works for youth
Stigmas about youth involvement
Adultism manifesting itself as tension between youth and adults
Adults not sensitive to youth readiness for involvement
Adults uncomfortable with youth involvement
Adults not wanting youth to be involved
Youth fearful of formal meeting setting
Youth who manipulate the planning processes
Youth involvement becomes negative
These are the repeating patterns – let’s see what comes out of the anomalies next.