With the first session of M Powered Strategies (MPS) Consulting Boot Camp fast upon us, our reporter caught up with Caitlin Ellsworth, Facilitation Services Manager at MPS, for a brief chat about the interactive half-day course she will be teaching on April 21 – Meeting Management & Facilitation – The Group Dynamic. She talked about her personal journey in the field of facilitation and why it is becoming an increasingly vital function.
MPS: How did you get involved in facilitation in the first place?
Caitlin: In undergrad I majored in Politics, with a focus on Peace and Conflict Studies. When I got out of school, I found work at the local level—at community Mediation Centers—where I was able to apply my conflict resolution and mediation skills. It was there that I started meeting people who were involved in facilitation with larger groups.
MPS: And you were intrigued? Inspired?
Caitlin: I wanted to apply what I had learned about working with small groups and individuals to larger systems and agencies that serve the public. I went on to get a Masters in Public Administration with a focus on Conflict Management. From there I got a job at a nonprofit called Keystone Center in Washington, DC. I figure altogether I’ve been facilitating for about 8 years now.
MPS: What is it that excites you about Facilitation?
Caitlin: Helping people think creatively and helping them solve their problems. Most problems people are trying to solve these days, especially in the public sector, require a level of collaboration that hasn’t always existed. It can be very difficult. Conflicts come up. So I see the role of a facilitator as making that collaborative process work easier. I think in the future the only way we’ll be able to get things done is if we start working across some of the boundaries, in terms of knowledge domains and organizational constructs, that used to exist.
MPS: What about the class you’ll be teaching for MPS Boot Camp?
Caitlin: I often approach training from a facilitative perspective, blending principles of adult education with facilitation. I enjoy engaging people in the learning processes, helping to bring to the surface information and ideas they already have inside them but maybe haven’t thought about it in a particular way, and helping to assemble that into a set of ideas and skills that they can then apply in a way that’s going to help them do their work more effectively.
MPS: How about take-aways? What will the students come away from this course with?
Caitlin: My hope is that they will take away a clear understanding of the role of a facilitator in helping to promote effective collaboration, along with concrete tools for better meeting management.