When the “facilitator” becomes the participant

Most of my life was dedicated to logistics, coordination, and facilitation… tasks that I either (or in combination) spearhead, manage, and oversee. Today I was able to play a different role — I became a participant to a “workshop.” The chosen topic was “community development 101.” I sat in as a filler to the activity, my friend requested my sister, who’s a graduate student in Community Development might have thought that it would be useful for me as well, even though I do not work in a community-based organization. And I am not a Community Development practitioner. But oh, well, this is something new to learn to so I sat in.

At first I was apprehensive to see how and why we did have to undergo the singing processes and other sort of things to shake our inhibitions off. The last time I did “community singing” that I could ever recall was in Grade two where we sang “It’s I (who builds the community)” and a couple of happy birthdays or aud lang synes in during special occasions (funny I have an obstinate character of not conforming or participating immediately), I have to get the feel of the situation first before I open up (that’s me!). But then, I have to observe and slowly blended in as my sister started her “workshop.”

A couple of firsts– 1)  we were introduced to Paulo Freire’s key concepts — dialogic, conscientization, and praxis– concepts in Community Development that must be remembered and why the training was created. As we moved on, I realized at the end of the workshop, we will have to revisit our respective organization’s Vision, Mission and strategies. We will also revisit our value system and draw the ethics of a community  development worker from there. 2) I have to talk. reflect. and talk again. Wow, I thought, this is going to be a bit difficult for me trying to match concepts in my organization as to what is being taught in this workshop. 3) I’ll have to dig into my value system within the organization. So. Whew! Kind of challenging, but, it has to be done.

The activity turned out to be pretty good. The methods could be applied to my institution/department but it entails a process of reflecting and drawing out the answers that you need. It didn’t help that 5 kilometer run I did this morning. It seemed like a zombie chomped on my brain I could not concentrate (Memo to me: Too much of something , i.e. exercise, could be bad enough). Despite my follow up questions on the methods and purposes for each activity, my sister was able to patiently explain the concepts and underlying principles of each activity. We were able to successfully compress a two-day workshop in less than 4 hours.  She gave us group activity which enabled me to discover how much of a conformist I am (hehe). I also verified what were the things that I loved doing, and what are the ethics I should be carrying in the field.

Here we were asked to identify our roles/tasks in the organization, who were the people related to it, and why we do our tasks.

Here we were asked to identify our roles/tasks in the organization, who were the people related to it, and why we do our tasks.

I found it challenging to reconcile the value system of my organization to how the workshop was designed. I was fortunate, maybe, that in Community Development, there is no wrong answer. And I realized how afraid I am to make mistakes. That I don’t want to give wrong answer, when in fact, being a facilitator, I know that the first answer of the participant could be the most genuine answer, and that there is indeed no right or wrong answer. It really does feel different (and a little awkward) when you change roles.

I may have earned a degree in Development-oriented course, but I didn’t know about these things before. Maybe I was locked up in another realm that never existed in the praxis of development work. I remember a friend, who is an introvert (yet has a great set of interpersonal skills) telling me that, he has to change his attitude because of the path he chose to take (which is dealing with people to get the best/creative shot he can give. yes, you guessed it right, he’s a photographer). Now I could relate to what he just said.  What this exercise helped me is that I know now what my weaknesses are, my character, and how I could change it accordingly. And I could say there’s a LOT to do.

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