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close this bookNonformal Education Manual (Peace Corps, 1989)
close this folderChapter 4: Helping people identify their needs
close this folderInformal discussion and interviewing
close this folderGroup discussions
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentProblem tree
View the documentThe balloon exercise
View the documentBrainstorming/prioritizing
View the documentHints for facilitating a group discussion

Hints for facilitating a group discussion

Being sensitive to cultural norms does not mean you need to give up being American. These typically (but far from exclusively) American techniques will often charm a cross-cultural audience.

* Be positive. Smile.

* Communicate your enthusiasm for the meeting, the topic, and the people involved.

* Communicate your genuine interest in each individual's contribution to the discussion.

* Get to the point and stick to it.

* Write legibly and quickly.

* Speak loud enough for everyone to hear easily and articulate your words, especially if you - or the participants - are struggling with a second language.

* Encourage discussion between group members instead of between members and yourself. You can do this by redirecting questions ("What do you think about that, Mr. Gomez?") or by nodding and expressing interest rather than giving your own opinion.

* Let participants know when you have learned something new from them.

* Come prepared. Bring paper and markers or roll-up blackboards and chalk.

* Practice the techniques you will use beforehand so you don't get too nervous or lose your train of thought.

* Keep the meeting from degenerating into lengthy argument or discussion that is off the topic. It takes some practice to balance facilitator control with group participation. Use your tone of voice, your energy or "presence" and your interested silence to keep the group focused.

Helping people determine their needs is not easy. You will most likely have to develop skills that take a lifetime to master - skills in group facilitation, in patience and control of your emotions, in listening, in being acutely aware of your effect on others. But if you spend time working on these skills and use them to discover how people see their real needs, the next steps will not only be easier, they will be heading you in the right direction.