Strategic Facilitation Course

Introduction and Overview

Welcome to Strategic Facilitation, the first course in the Transforming Life After 50 (TLA50) Fellowship series, with instructor Mary Jane Naquin. For the webinar offered in this course, see Week 3.

This course provides an understanding of strategic facilitation and how it differs from other forms of stakeholder involvement, voluntary organization models, or public participation processes. You will learn how to lead a group from within, to engage stakeholders and help them to participate effectively and constructively, and to encourage ongoing involvement and responsive programs. After completing the course, you will be able to:

  • Initiate and lead a dialogue about the needs of adults 50+ in your community and raise awareness of the opportunities for them that the library could meet.
  • Identify and form a stakeholder team that is comprehensive, diverse, and representative of the library and the community it serves.
  • Guide and support the team as the members set goals, develop strategic initiatives, update current programs, and involve the library community in implementation.
  • Maintain and nurture the team by organizing agendas based on team suggestions, tracking ideas, monitoring and reporting progress, providing background and research, and supporting communication for and among the members.
  • Recognize your own assumptions and gain awareness of the beliefs and values that guide your work.
  • Develop ways for the team to reflect on its work and the resulting changes, to promote feedback that continuously guides the transformative process.

WEEK 1: Concepts and Philosophy

How strategic facilitation differs from other forms of facilitation and what it means to ‘lead from within’ will be explored.

Reading 1A: Strategic Facilitation (pdf)
Assignment 1A:
Undertake Intentional Conversations
1. Download Your Intentional Conversations Exercise (pdf) and follow its instructions.
2. Review the responses you received to the Intentional Conversations exercise and answer these questions:

  • What comments told you about the respondents’ perceptions of mid-life adults?
  • How are these connected to the concepts explored at the Institute?
  • Were any needs identified that can be examined and met through the library?
  • What were they?
  • Were any concerns mentioned that could be impediments? Such as…?
  • Did you get advice about other people who might be interested in participating in a dialogue about adults 50 + and the library?
  • Will you stay connected to these contacts, and how might you do that?

Reading 1B: The Art of Powerful Questions (pdf)
Assignment 1B: Your Future Conversations
Think about your experience with the Intentional Conversations exercise and what you learned from the article on The Art of Powerful Questions. Reflect on how you will approach future conversations about the needs and interests of mid-life adults, ages 50+.

Supplementary Materials – Week 1

MindTools, Active Listening: Hear What People Are Really Saying. An article on how to enhance your listening skills from MindTools, a provider of online management and leadership training.

David Kaplan, Book Sellers Buck Etrend: Analysts say there’s a place for stores that do their job well. Houston Chronicle, August 12, 2010.

WEEK 2: Practical Application

This week will address the issues of (1) what an advisory council is and how it differs from a board, (2) how to use a steering committee, (3) establishing ground rules and operational agreements, and (4) how to manage expectations.

Reading 2A:
Practical Application and Steps in Group Formation (pdf)
Assignment 2A: Forming a Planning Group
Reflect on the environment in your library and how it will affect the formation of a planning group for your TLA50 initiatives.

  • Who are the individuals who will play a role in the formation of your planning group? Which groups (e.g., board of trustees, Friends, committee) will be involved? Will you have a steering committee to assist with forming an advisory group?
  • What might your advisory group look like (for example, size, cultural diversity, levels of commitment and participation, etc.)? What do you think their communications comfort zone will be?
  • What are your hopes and expectations, fears and concerns for your library?


Assignment 2B: Develop a Draft Work Plan
Develop a draft work plan and purpose statement.
1. First, download the file and follow its instructions: Assign2-workplan-draft (pdf)

This initial work plan will not be the final document that defines the group, but it is an important beginning. Once you have clarified your own understanding of the purpose, you will be better prepared to describe your ideas and share them with others. It will help them to decide whether they can take part in this new endeavor and how they can contribute.

2. Answer these questions:

  • What obstacles did you encounter in developing a draft work plan?
  • What areas will need to be clarified with library leadership?

Supplementary Materials – Week 2
Group Dynamics
Tuckman’s stages of group development
What Is an Advisory Council? (pdf)

WEEK 3: Evaluation and Inspiration

Good facilitation begins with the facilitator, and this week will address how, as the facilitator, to introduce something new, take risks, find your ‘groove’ and evaluate progress.

Reading 3A: Self-Awareness and Transformation
Assignment 3A: Self-Awareness and Identification
1. Think about and reflect on the questions below. As you do, pay attention to your gut reactions, your feelings about what they are asking, and the emotions that surface.

  • What beliefs or values will guide your approach to facilitation?
  • Are you comfortable with yourself and confident in your purpose?
  • Are you aware of your own cultural, professional, and socio-educational biases?
  • Can you put aside your goals to listen to others who may have different goals?
  • Can you observe yourself in action to improve as a facilitator?
  • Can you interrupt how you would normally do things or see things, in order to let others’ views be heard?
  • Have you identified and examined your assumptions about transforming the library?
  • What are your priorities for yourself, the library, and the planning process?
  • What are your assumptions about how to make change happen?
  • What good do you want to accomplish?
  • What will have changed for the library as a result of your efforts?

2. Now answer the following questions:

  • What have you realized about yourself and your readiness to take on a role as strategic facilitator?
  • What will be included in your value statement to guide your work?

Assignment 3B (optional)
1. Watch the TedTalk video by Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action
2. Answer these questions:

  • “People don’t buy what you do…they buy why you do it.” Do you think this applies to your library? Why or why not?
  • How do Sinek’s ideas, about why some organizations and leaders inspire action and others don’t, relate to your work in transforming your library’s involvement with mid-life adults?

Watch: Archived Recording of Course Webinar

Webinar Handouts
Webinar PowerPoint Slides (ppt)
Overcoming Resistance to Change (pdf)
Ten Difficult Group Participants (pdf)
Resources List for the Webinar

Supplementary Materials – Week 3
Self Awareness and the Effective Leader (pdf)
Sample Meeting Evaluation Form (pdf)
Evaluation Tool: Ten Characteristics of Well-functioning Teams (pdf)

What to Do Next: Congratulations! You’ve completed the work for this course. It you’re interested, check out the other IMLS Fellowship online courses.