Learning Lab makes facilitation
skills shine in Hong Kong

By Florence Lau

Given my Human Resources (HR) background, people development is always on the top of my mind. I am blest to be one of the initiators of a Learning Lab for members of the Hong Kong chapter of the International Association of Facilitators  (IAF-HK).

Six months ago, when I began leading an IAF-HK partnership project, I had a question – how to ensure the quality of our facilitation skills? With my HR hat on, I asked: what can we do for the professional development of members, especially the new or less experienced facilitators? Having taken ToP facilitation training some years ago, I put myself in their shoes and asked – what would I want most? The clear and loud answer was - the opportunity to put learning into practice and receive feedback. However, such opportunities are rare as professional facilitation is still relatively new in Hong Kong.

Yet, if we want to promote the value of professional facilitation and attract more people into it, offering members the chance to practice in a safe environment and receive feedback is critical. I shared this thought with IAF-HK’s vice-chairman Yvonne Yam. She told me that the chairman, Lilian Wang, had a similar idea as well. They provided suggestions to turn my  “wishful thinking” into reality. Their key ideas:

  • Adapt a Toastmasters Club practice - designate a “Feedback Facilitator” to get participants to give feedback on the performance of a Practice Facilitator after his or her  session.
  • Follow the IAF on-site certification process with strict timing, and give feedback on IAF Core Competencies.
  • Maximize practice and feedback opportunities by designating an Ice-Breaking Facilitator, Learning Facilitator and Time Keeper. 

We decided to name the practice session “Learning Lab” and scheduled it for Saturday mornings in alternate months. For our kick-off session on 14th November, we limited the attendance to just 12 participants to test the waters. Our members must have been longing for this practice opportunity - all the places were filled ten minutes after the invitations were emailed!

We were inspired by the preparation and commitment of all the involved facilitators! When I stepped into the venue 30 minutes before the start of the session, the small room was packed with facilitators sitting on the floor, writing up the flipcharts or drawing the graphics!        

The two Practice Facilitators did a great job in setting the context and demonstrating their facilitation skills using real life examples from their own work settings. The first invited the group to try out ICA’s ToP

Consensus Method. Many of the participants had learnt about it but seldom had the chance to see it used in the context of a non-profit making organization. The second used the matrix interview process to deal with a challenge faced by an educational institution.

The ice breaking and feedback sessions were creative and engaging. The facilitators were passionate about trying out their processes. They had put great effort into preparing the materials and visuals. That ignited enthusiasm among the group to go on the journey of facilitation with them.

All the participants found the Learning Lab a valuable opportunity for practicing and enhancing their skills as facilitators. Everyone had a role to play, everyone was engaged and learnt a great deal. They also offered great suggestions for our future improvement.

This encourages us to continue offering the Learning Lab to our members. I feel like a mother who has given birth to a baby and hopes to see it grow healthily in a supportive and nurturing environment! I can't bear to wait for our next lab in February and I hope to see more people benefiting from this great learning concept!

Florence Lau (florencelau7@gmail.com), a former human resources professional with  experience and interest in talent development and change management, is now a freelance change management consultant and process facilitator. She was recently invited to be a board member of the IAF-HK.

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