Facilitated discussions occur in a group setting. The facilitator (discussion leader) asks probing questions and engages the participants to discuss a focused topic, idea or example. The facilitator may introduce some content in order to enhance shared understanding. They will encourage debate and challenge viewpoints and may ask the participants to share their past experiences and ideas.
Using this mode
Facilitated discussions are valuable in the course of any training programme or workshop, and throughout a programme’s life cycle, to ensure a team is on the same page. By using probing questions in a group format, shared understanding can be built and misconceptions addressed. Discussions enhance the learning experience by allowing practitioners to engage with and debate ideas, rather than receive them passively. In this way practitioners are more likely to internalise ideas.
Guidance for trainers
- Have a defined purpose and scope for the discussion. Do you want to build shared understanding? Do you want to unearth assumptions? Do you want the conclusion to be open-ended or closed?
- Strike a balance between being participatory and directive. If you want participants to reach a certain end goal, be explicit in your intentions.
- Be cautious not to overuse facilitated discussions, just for the sake of being interactive, when you should be using ‘content delivery’. It can frustrate participants, and result in a loss of trust.
Example competencies for facilitated discussion
Systems analysis for economic inclusion: competency A1
Using tangible examples of complex adaptive systems (including videos and group exercises) from ecology, biology and social systems to unpack key concepts e.g. emergence, path dependence, agents, simple rules.
Behavioural insight: competency A3
Ask practitioners to self-reflect on everyday behaviours they exhibit and map out why they make the choices they do. Unearth how there are multiple factors that may influence behaviour. These might include incentives, personal values, beliefs, cultural norms and role models.
Integrating sectoral knowledge: competency A4
Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of ‘expert’ knowledge in market systems programmes, touching on issues such as tunnel-visioning and analysis paralysis. Discuss what the role of an MSD programme should be in consulting with experts and managing partnerships with consultants to gain the most value. Examine how to make decisions about using expert input to inform programming.
Knowledge synthesis: competency A5
Lead a discussion among practitioners on the strengths and weaknesses of different primary research tools. Ask how they would reconcile or triangulate opposing findings from different sources.
Innovative thinking: competency A7
Lead a workshop on design thinking using materials listed under Competency A7. Present practitioners with a completed market analysis that emphasises problems and market failures. Ask them to first re-frame from 'how to overcome market failure X' to a 'how might we…' question. Next, get practitioners to brainstorm a large numbers of ideas before selecting a few to clarify using a rough prototype or a journey map. Encourage different teams to give each other feedback on ‘what might happen’ if the idea were implemented.
Decision making: competency B1
Discuss realities of MSD programmes and the need to act with incomplete information. Unpack organisational risks and personal fears. Get people to share examples of when they have had to do this in other contexts.
Relationship building: competency C1
Ask team members to share personal stories of difficult or challenging interactions they are having with market actors. Share tactics or approaches related to developing trust and shared understanding.
Facilitation: competency C2
Provide a prompt for a situation where practitioners have to interact with a person whose behaviours are easy to judge negatively - for example predatory business behaviour or spending family money on drinking. Observe how much they are able to empathise, inquire and ask questions vs judging, jumping to conclusions and pushing.
Self-learning: competency C5
Develop an internal practice of hosting regular market facilitation clinics (using the guide linked to on the competency page for Self-learning) where practitioners can share specific challenges they are facing and get input, feedback and suggestions from others. These clinics can be structured around different aspects of market systems development work: geography, sector, intervention type etc. Look for opportunities to connect with staff from other programmes to maximise the diversity of experiences. Clinics should be supported/facilitated by an experienced market facilitator.
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