Methods and tools to help with facilitation

Facilitation is a part of everyday work that is meant to make work easier by fostering active participationas well as motivating and committing people to working together. Facilitation refers to guiding a group of people toward a goal with a variety of methods and tools used to organize shared work and encourage reaching objectives.

Methods that support planning promote participation and can help in forming different perspectives and ideas. The best results are often reached by combining various methods or selecting the appropriate parts of them to use. This article provides various easy methods that support planning. You can utilize them in short remote events or longer remote workshops.

Methods and tools for facilitation

For fostering cooperation

Applications are essential tools for fostering virtual cooperation. Lamia has a variety of different online tools that can be used for facilitating remote events and workshops. Below, you can find a few efficient and easy-to-use applications listed.

Digital whiteboards:

Presentation applications:

Card-based online applications:

Ideation and selection

Me-We-Us is a method for activating an entire group in a balanced way. It is a very simple, yet time-efficient, method. It is intended to get all the participants of the group to participate and share their ideas with others. The method comprises the following stages:

  • Working alone
    The participants process the matter at hand alone, possibly taking notes.
  • Working in small groups
    The participants are divided into small groups that have been decided ahead of time, and discuss their own ideas with the group. After reviewing the ideas, the group chooses which ideas that they want to focus on.
  • Working with the entire group
    Finally, all the participants come together, and the ideas discussed in the small groups are presented. After all the ideas have been presented, some are chosen for further processing.

Brainstorming is another method that supports shared ideation and creative problem solving. It is aimed at producing a large number of ideas in a safe environment shared by all the participants. The goal of brainstorming is to encourage participants to think without limits, try to find answers to a shared challenge, and freely create ideas. It is important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers when brainstorming.

The method is based on the principle that quantity produces quality. The higher the number of ideas created, the more likely it is that there are some feasible ones among them. One way to brainstorm is to type ideas on virtual notes in Google Jamboard or Miro collaboration platforms.


Development and analysis

After the ideation phase, material that was either created together or brought to the remote meeting is clarified by further processing. Identifying themes is a basic method of qualitative analysis and an efficient way of discerning central themes present in material. Content related to a specific topic is grouped together and the themes created this way can also be named to provide further clarity.

Methods of voting and giving points make it easier to quickly and democratically find the best ideas among many. Voting can also be done after identifying themes to select the most valuable of the recognized themes for further processing.

It is important to provide the participants with clear voting criteria. Make sure that the participants know how many votes that they have and how to vote. The most important thing in recording the votes is clarity. When working remotely, using colored notes in Miro or the pen or text tool in Google Jamboard are easy ways of recording your vote by writing your initials next to an idea.

As a rule of thumb, the number of votes given to each participant should be a quarter of the total number available options. After voting, it is important to discuss together why certain ideas were voted for.

A priority matrix is a handy way of creating a shared understanding and making decisions in remote events. A priority matrix consists of a square divided into four parts of equal size. The y and x axis of the matrix must be decided in advance. The y axis of the matrix could be, for example, user value from low to high, and the x axis feasibility from low to high.

A priority matrix allows visualizing the participants’ views on the available options and understanding which of them are a priority. After completing the exercise, it is important to document the matrix and produce a clear action plan for the end results.

No method or tool in and of itself is a panacea. It is important for the organizer to fully assume the role of facilitator. Defining the objective and desired outcome, guiding the discussion and summarizing the material are among the most important tasks of a facilitator. For tips related to facilitation and further information, see the blog post “5 tips for remote facilitation”.

Methods are there to ease the work but a facilitator's role is much broader.