Organising a community conversation
As the facilitator of the conversation meetings, you are responsible for creating a safe environment, keeping conversation on track, and managing the time that the meeting takes. You should also set group guidelines and ground rules, and state these at the start of the meeting.
Ground rules include asking participants to avoid personal attacks, and requesting that they should respect the diversity of opinions. Ask them to choose a recorder. The recorder should work closely with you to record key issues, areas of agreement and disagreement, and suggest any further questions. This way you will have a foundation for future meetings, as well as documented feedback for your community leaders or your district health office, or other organisations that need the information.
During the community conversation meetings, the main role of the facilitator is to understand differences between community members and make the discussions free flowing. As a facilitator, you should attempt to accomplish the two major tasks described next:
Task 1: Pre-conversation stage
- Introduce the general objectives of the community conversation to the influential local opinion leaders, and ask for their ideas and support.
- Collaborate with other community health professionals and concerned people, and together with them identify and prepare the meeting room or conversation place.
- Select participants and collect all the materials needed for the community conversation.
Task 2: During the community conversation
- Facilitate the process of the conversation.
- Make sure that the conversation runs smoothly, and ensure the clarity of the views for each of the participants by checking out their level of understanding.
- Motivate all the participants to abide by the ground rules of the meeting that they have agreed to.
- Help them to stick to the main issues and the agenda and make sure that everybody listens to each other. Compromise may be necessary in order to resolve conflict by helping the participants arrive at a consensus through clarifying their ideas.
At many stages in the CC process your skills as a facilitator will be vital, in particular during the conversation itself, when you will be acting as a facilitator. Think for a moment about the skills that you believe are necessary for a good facilitator, and make a list. Then mark that list with the particular skills you feel you already have, and skills that you would like to practise.
Now read the box below and compare your list with the items in the box. Also write down any ways in which you think you can improve your own skills.
The box below sums up the sorts of skills a facilitator would be expected to have. If you have identified skills that you would like to develop, you could do this by perhaps practising with other health professionals, or asking a friend to observe you in a meeting and then to provide feedback to you about how you could improve. Some of these skills you can practise in everyday life too. Try being a good listener, ask for feedback from family and friends and so on.
Guidelines for an effective facilitator:
- Be polite
- Share problems
- Be respectful
- Appreciate skills and knowledge
- Be a good listener
- Don't be impatient or hot tempered
- Refrain from mentioning religious or political differences or other sensitive issues, such as race
- Do not take sides on an issue.
After the community conversation
Share your results and feedback with local decision makers, such as the district health manager, administrator, or with the community health committee. Your ideas will help create a better experience for all participants. Also try to be inclusive when recruiting participants, and aim to be in tune with the various groups to ensure diversity.