Facilitation across cultures

The BIG thing I love about my role is the opportunity to keep on learning!

I’ve been a facilitator for 18 years or so and there’s still new things to explore. Recently I’ve been involved in a program assisting farmers across Western Australia to develop strategic plans for their business. Plenty to learn in that alone – working in eight locations spread over 1600km from Carnarvon through to Esperance!

Now I’m part of a team working with a group of Vietnamese horticulturalists – helping them to plan for the future of their businesses.  It’s challenging and different – here are some of the reasons why:

  • We’re using an interpreter
  • We don’t know a lot about the people here
  • We’re trying to understand each others cultural norms (and no-no’s)
  • It’s harder to understand what’s going on between particpants when we don’t understand their language (a great lesson!)

So what have we learnt? Well we’re two modules in to a six module program. So far there’s been lots of learning and lots of laughs. What’s helping us is:

  • Having local people ‘on the ground’ to help us get a better understanding of the issues – before the program starts!
  • Using an interpreter to ensure shared understanding of the issues covered and two-way discussion (as facilitation should be!)
  • Having the workshop materials translated to Vietnamese & using lots of pictures
  • Setting decent break times – allowing facilitator team to build better relationships with participants
  • Having local people involved as facilitators – helping to build trust
  • Sharing a meal – always a good way to further build the relationship
  • Maintaining a steady rate, rather than flying along – which can be energising – but in this case would have led to mass confusion!

There’s still a long way to go and we’re making good progress. I’ll keep you updated with further insights from the next few workshops.

PS – of course I’d love to hear about your own experiences with cross-cultural facilitation & any tips you can provide

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Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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Comments

  1. Sarah says

    Andrew:
    I am currently studying for a B.S. in Organizational and Professional Development at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston IL. As part of that degree program I am currently taking 2 different classes on facilitation and working on a 20 min presentation on “The challenges and opportunities of cross-cultural facilitation”. I found your blog while using Google to look for resource material. I would like to site you as a reference for my presentation, the information you posted in this particular blog entry (dated 05/03/20011) has given me a great deal to go on and some wonderful starting points for listing possible challenges and opportunity’s for cross-cultural facilitation. I would also pass on the link for your site to my instructors at EIU, to ensure full credit is given to you for the information/ideas provided in your blog.
    I do wish it were possible to have you as a guest speaker at one of our classes. Your knowledge on working as a professional facilitator would be far more educational than the rather dry reading in our current text books.
    Thank you,
    -Sarah

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