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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0080 | November 19, 2002
5,500 Subscribers

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

From the Publisher: 

Hello MFJ Readers. This issue, includes an article written by Fran Peavey from the Context Institute entitled,
"Strategic Questioning," an approach to creating personal and social change.

Also, we're announcing the launch of a new 5-day teleclass in January called, "Random Acts of Facilitation," becoming a catalyst for group empowerment. This course is a great way to introduce yourself to basic facilitation skills as either a new facilitator or active member of groups.

If you or your colleagues are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email your ideas. I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading! 
Steve Davis


Strategic Questioning 
An approach to creating personal and social change.

The Point

I'm from Idaho. I don't know if you know what that means, but it's very hard for a person from Idaho to think of cleaning up the Ganges River. When a friend from India asked me to help him clean up the river, I knew I had no experience cleaning up rivers. What I did know about was how to build a strategy for social change.

When I first went to India I used strategic questioning. I began by building a series of questions, starting with how the people saw the problem themselves. What do you see when you look at the river? How do you explain the situation with the river to your children? How do you feel about the condition of the river? I listened very carefully to how they explained to themselves what they saw. Essentially I was looking at their logic as well as their words. I was looking for the cultural wiring around the river. I couldn't say, "Oh, I see the river's polluted." That would be like my saying in a Western context, "Your mother is a whore." It would be a cultural insult. I had to find out how they explained the pollution to themselves.

Shifting Perspectives
Over and over again I heard, "The river is holy, but she is not pure. We are not taking care of her the way she needs us to." After hearing this reply, I noticed that I started to think less in terms of "pollution" and more in terms of "people not taking care of the river." This shift was an important change of perspective for me. Pollution is an abstraction that avoids addressing the responsibility of the people who are making the mess. It is almost as if the river is to blame for being polluted!

Very often people also said, "I see the problem, but others don't." Such a response told me what the people I spoke with can and cannot talk about with each other. Often in a situation such as the holy Ganges, the symbolic overload is so great that to talk about what you really think may seem sacrilegious or crazy to others.

I needed to understand their change view - how they expected change to happen, what kind of strategies they had confidence in. In India, no social change can compare to the liberation of their country from the control of the British, and this affects their views on how change happens. When I asked how that change had happened, I heard many strategies for change - fasting, direct action, pressuring civic leaders, citizen's assemblies, marches to the capitol - stories of change that are embedded in that culture. These became the strategies they were willing to use now to clean their holy river.

People often told me how impossible it was to clean the river. Rather than assuming it was impossible, I started to think that it was going to take a very long time and I had better start thinking about the next generation in my questioning. I was already questioning young people, but I added a question for the adults, "How are you preparing your children to clean up the river?"

Everyone I asked said something like, "We are doing nothing to prepare the children to clean the river." Their love of the river, their love for their children, and the void in their answers to that question could not long exist in the same minds. The dissonance was too great.

One afternoon someone came running into my room and said, "Peavey, come right away, we've got a great idea." I found the group gathered and enthusiastically discussing a plan: "We're going to have a poster-painting contest for the children. We'll have all the students in Benares draw posters about what they see regarding the health of the river. We'll hang the winning posters up at a large musical event. The adults will see what the children see and be embarrassed."

It was an original idea and clearly the idea was theirs. Everybody in that room had been asked a question about the preparation of their children for river-cleaning work. Could that question have had anything to do with the idea for the poster contest? I believe it did. And, because it was their idea, they had enthusiasm around it.

We have had poster contests almost every year since then. Five to eight hundred young people gather on the banks of the Ganges in poster-making competitions.

People need to come up with their own answers. Questioning can catalyze this process. Don't be disappointed if a great question does not have an answer right away. A powerful question will sit rattling in the mind for days or weeks as the person works on an answer. If the seed is planted, the answer will grow. Questions are alive!

Fran Peavey lives, writes, and organizes in Oakland, CA, and travels around the world learning from and advising other activists. This piece is excerpted from her book, By Life's Grace: Musings on the Essence of Social Change, published by New Society Publishers in 1994. Copyright (c)1995, 1997, Context Institute


The Strategic Questioning Process

The First Level: Describing the Issue or Problem

1. Focus Questions gather information that is already known. When you look at the river, what do you see that concerns you?

2. Observation Questions. What do you see? What do you read about this situation? What information do you need to gather about this situation?

3. Analysis Questions (Thinking Questions). What is the relationship of ... to ...? What are the main economic, political, cultural, and social structures that affect this situation?

4. Feeling Questions. How has this situation affected your body? Your feelings? How has it affected feelings about your family, community, the world?

The Second Level: Strategic Questions....Digging Deeper

Now we start asking questions that increase the motion. The mind takes off, creating new information, synthesizing, moving from what is known to the realm of what could be.

5. Visioning Questions are concerned with identifying one's ideals, values, and dreams. How would you like it to be? What is the meaning of this situation in your life?

6. Change Questions address how to get to a more ideal situation. How might changes you would like to see come about? Name as many ways as possible. What are changes you have seen or read about? Here you are trying to find the person's change view, which will greatly impact their strategies for change.

7. Considering All the Alternatives. What are all the possible ways you could accomplish these changes? How could you reach that goal? What are other ways? What would it take for you to do?

8. Consider The Consequences. How would your first alternative affect the others in the context? What would be the effect on the environment? What political effect would you anticipate from each alternative?

9. Consider the Obstacles. What would need to change in order for alternative "a" to be done? What keeps you from doing ...? Decisions become clear around this point. Are you getting a sense of what you want to do? What is in the way of clarity?

10. Personal Inventory and Support Questions What support to you need to do ...? What support would you need to work for this change?

11. Personal Action Questions. Who do you need to talk to about you vision? How can you get others together to work on this?


Practice asking questions from the "strategic" level this week. I'd love to hear what happens for you. Please email me your comments.

The Art of the Question: A Guide to Short-Term Question-Centered Therapy, by Marilee C. Goldberg

Asking the right questions can help clients think more clearly, take more responsibility for themselves and accomplish their goals more easily, argues the originator of question-based therapy. In this book, the author provides a guide to clinicians for incorporating question-centered therapy into their work, including pertinent case study vignettes and illustrated psycho-educational materials for clients.

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Reader Survey 

How has being a facilitator been a catalyst for your own personal growth?

Facilitation can demand a lot out of one person. We're curious as to how you've grown as a facilitator. We'd like to hear what this practice has called forth in you. Please send your inputs to and we'll share with yoiu all the inputs received. 

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

About the Author
Steve Davis is a Facilitator's Coach helping leaders enhance their effectiveness through the application and perspective of facilitation. Please email or call me at 805-489-4130 to schedule a Free exploratory session, or to share your suggestions and ideas for the journal. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading!

In the Spotlight



New 5-day Teleclass
for new facilitators and change agents.

Skills and attitudes for the new facilitator or group member who wants to get their group into serious motion.

Random Acts of Facilitation, 5-Day Teleclass
This class will meet for five consecutive weekdays January 27-31, 2003 to cover
25+ facilitative actions you can take to empower and move groups forward. This course is for beginning facilitators or group members that simply want to know more about facilitation so that they can make the groups they are a part of more effective. 

How the 5-Day Format/Training works...
1.  You dial into your class every day for 5 days (Mon-Fri) for a 30-minute focused training segment using a conferencing bridge.
2.  You work a 25-point checklist during the 5 days (about an hour a day of study and field work) which you complete by Friday afternoon, or sooner if you wish.
3.  During the week, you may access the instructor via email for help or situational questions.

Random Acts of Facilitation Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the 5-Day course...

Introduction to the Facilitation and Self Facilitation Skills.

--Being a model for empowerment. 
--Being real without being objectionable.
--Staying present.
--Planning for meeting success. 
--Facilitation as a master's path.
--Celebrating successes.

Presenting yourself confidently, professionally, and authentically. 

--Establishing clear, manageable objectives.
--Developing an authentic presence. 
--Use of presentation tools and media.
--The basics of non-verbal communication
--Facilitating experiences instead of speeches. 
--Maintaining lightness to support creativity and forward motion.

Relating with compassion and understanding.

--Uncovering the lie.
--Empowering others to solve and process their own problems.
--Learning to manage process vs. product.
--Developing a built-in crap-detector.

Group Dynamics and Facilitation

--Developing and enforcing ground rules.
--Building trust.
--Treating "Problems" as Learning Opportunities.
--Team evolution and the promise of group synergy.
--The power of followership
--Dealing with challenges from the group.

Intervening to shift group energy

--Maintaining healthy group process.
--Dealing With Difficult Behaviors.
--Facilitating group process as a participant. 
--Transformation through CareFrontation. 
--Embracing and resolving conflict. 
--Breaking through barriers. 

Benefits to you of participating from the 5-Day
Random Acts of Facilitation Training...
1. Get a great introduction to the concept and practice of facilitation skills if you are contemplating becoming a facilitator, team leader, board member, manager, mediator, etc.
2. Never waste another minute in an ineffective meeting again.
3. Learn how to challenge and empower every group you come in contact with.
4. Learn skills to help groups make quantum leaps in their effectiveness.
5. Be a catalyst for positive change in your community.

Also included with your training...
In addition to the 5-Day training described above, you also receive:
1.  Free access to the participant-only website (lots of resources, forms, etc.).
2.  Free access to the RealAudio version of the 5-Day training.
Free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value). 

Pricing and Dates..
The full cost of training/access is only $69 for MFJ readers ($89 for the general public) including a free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value).  Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee.  

This is an advanced notification about this course. If you are serious about registering, or have any questions about it, please email me at ../contact.html as soon as possible. This course is limited to 15 individuals, first come, first served.

About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case.  (Why?  Because we are sensitive to the fact that you are buying an e-course/product from us and we feel that if this package isn't EXACTLY what you expected or wanted, that you should be able to get 100% of your money back.  This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.)

Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on November 26, 2002.   

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