Successful facilitation, why and how?

When a group is gathered to plan forward it is crucial to lead the workshop successfully, which is facilitation. Facilitation is to help a group be the best together (Gullstrand, 2020). I have three favorite methodologies I apply which I decided to share, hoping that you would share with us one of your favorite practices.

Gullstrand’s book Facilitera! (2020) – which I by the way recommend – was appointed as the 2020 Human resource book in Sweden. The nomination committee, among other things, mentions one of the main points in the book, that the keys to achieving success and developing new things together are to “create security, participation, and commitment, and the result contributes to increased well-being, quality, and learning.”

The first methodology I want to share is “the arrow for the future”, which I first learned about in 2017 at a workshop at a seminar arranged by the NVL network “Hållbar Utveckling”, which Susan M. Guerra facilitated. 

You start by taping together several big papers, to an arrow that fits the room or tables you have. On that, you draw an arrow, which you split into three parts: past, present, and future. The main idea is to identify with the group, 1) what have we succeeded with during the last years/the former period? 2) what is topical right now? and 3) what do we want to do in the upcoming years? For this you can apply a picture as I have chosen here, that you imagine that media interviews you about five years from now. They ask: “What have you accomplished?” – In the future part of the arrow, you answer and think about what ought to be done to achieve that. 

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on

I like especially three things about this methodology. First off you get to identify what you have succeeded with, meaning giving positive feedback to each other and yourself. Secondly, everyone can participate regardless of position or title. Thirdly, you get a result, a list of things that the group would like to accomplish the coming years. This method is very suitable for any strategy work.

The second methodology is “the circle”, developed by the Energy Academy at Samsø Island in Denmark. This method can also be applied for bigger groups, like 40- 60 attending. In this method you can look into the past, present, and future, or apply it for sharing a thought, which I usually apply it for. This methodology’s main catch is that everyone is equal and sees everyone, and by creating security everyone is invited to contribute. Everyone sits or stands in a circle, checks in, tells something about why they are there or who they are, and in the end checks out. I have applied this methodology in both real life and online seminars for gathering all participants in the beginning and at the end of the seminar.

The Energy Academy has after 20 years of activity become a meetinghouse for knowledge and solutions. Samsø has as a community invested in sustainable energy systems that today are owned partly by the locals, which makes Samsø 100% self-supplied by renewables. I have visited Samsø once at the second course of the Nordic adult education for education for sustainable development which I was involved in developing and realizing. I was deeply impressed by their work and remember their key lesson: to find the “plumber”, meaning finding the key person people listen to.

The final methodology I have to share is “the Business Model Canvas”, which is a management template that is originally developed for developing new businesses and documenting existing ones, by Alexander Osterwalder in 2004. This model offers a visual chart with nine blocks. The model can be printed out and applied in a workshop with post-it notes or pencils. In this one I like that you have to dig deeper in solving the possibility of your ideas, meaning deciding what is most central to do, what indicators you ought to use, and who you should cooperate with by answering the nine questions/boxes in the template. From this methodology you get a concrete result you can come back to and later develop further.  

Tove Holm 3.3.2021


Gullstrand, Anna, 2020. Facilitera! Allt du behöver veta för att framgångsrikt leda människor I workshops. Liber AB, Stockholm.   

Osterwalder, Alexander, 2004. The Business Model Ontology: A Proposition In A Design Science Approach (PDF) (Ph.D. thesis). Lausanne: University of Lausanne.

Published by toveholmconsulting

Founder of Tove Holm Consulting. I am a transdisciplinar facilitator for sustainable development. Passions: change leadership, education, Agenda2030, networking & the Baltic Sea. I am a public speaker & PhD.

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