Cover Image
close this bookPHAST Step-by-Step Guide: A Participatory Approach for the Control of Diarrhoeal Disease (PHAST - SIDA - UNDP - WB - WHO, 2000, 137 p.)
close this folderPart I: Introduction to the PHAST
close this folderHow to be a facilitator: some important points
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAll participants are equal
View the documentThere is no one right answer
View the documentCreating the right atmosphere
View the documentHow to cope with dominant personalities
View the documentGeneral instructions for all activities
View the documentRemoving and storing PHAST materials for future use


The most important thing to remember about being a facilitator is that you are not a teacher!

Your role is to help or “facilitate”. Using the activities in the guide, you can help groups to:

- identify issues of importance to them
- express their problems
- analyse their problems
- identify possible solutions
- select appropriate options
- develop a plan to implement the solutions they identify and agree on
- evaluate the outcome of the plan.

So you must not:

- direct the group
- give information instead of letting the group find it for itself
- advise or suggest what the group should do
- make assumptions about what is the right response to an activity
- correct the group.

If, for instance, you supply external information during the early problem identification phase, you risk directing the group. The only exception that should be made to this is when the group clearly asks for specific technical information in order to move forward or if its information is incorrect. This may be the case during the analytical or planning steps.

Using participatory methods does not reduce the role of the community worker, but rather redefines it. What you do is encourage community involvement. You try to create an environment in which the group can discover information for itself. In so doing, participants will build the confidence and self-esteem necessary to analyse problems and work out solutions.

As a facilitator, you are not a leader who directs the group to where you think it should go. Instead, you help the group to better understand its own situation and to make informed decisions about how to improve that situation.

The only appropriate solution is the one that participants come up with. As an outsider, you cannot understand their situation in the way that they do, no matter how dedicated, interested or concerned you are. For this reason, the group's input is more important than what you think or feel. It is the group that will have to answer to the wider community and justify the decisions it makes. As a final note: never underestimate the untapped potential of the participants in your group and always provide them with the opportunity to surprise themselves, and probably you too.


All participants are equal

The activities in this guide have been developed so that the participation of each group member is considered equally important. Additionally, you must be seen to be on the same level as the participants. So you should not present yourself as an authority figure. Information should flow from you to the group and from the group to you. By both sharing and receiving information, you and the group will remain equal. Evidently, good listening skills are essential.

There is no one right answer

PHAST activities are open-ended. This means that there is no correct answer or result. Decisions made by the group reflect what is right for the group and what it is prepared to take responsibility for.

Creating the right atmosphere

If the aim is to reach agreement on priorities for activities, or a plan for improving hygiene behaviours and sanitation, participants must be able to work well together. This is why participatory sessions often begin with a fun activity, something to break the ice and make people laugh. You need to maintain an atmosphere of relaxation throughout the planning process. Most cultures have traditional games and songs that can be used to build group spirit. The first activity which is called Community stories is also a good ice-breaker.

How to cope with dominant personalities

The SARAR methodology is specifically designed to stimulate full group participation, and to make it difficult for strong personalities to dominate the activities. However, from time to time the group process may not be able to proceed because one individual wants to control the group's thinking.

If this happens, find out whether the dominant individual is a designated leader, or simply a competitive or aggressive person with little or no significant support or influence in the group. Competitive or aggressive persons can either be taken aside and convinced of the importance of the group process, or they can be given separate tasks to keep them busy and allow the group to carry on. If the persons concerned are community leaders, approach them formally or privately early in the planning phase, explain the process, and try to gain their support. Hopefully, you will convince them that allowing community members to fully and equally participate will result in personal growth and betterment for all.

General instructions for all activities

1. Have all the materials for each activity ready before starting.

2. Make sure the materials are large enough to be seen by all participants.

3. Try to limit the size of your group to no more than 40 persons.

4. Make sure that people can talk to one another easily; use a circle where possible.

5. Begin each new session with a warm-up activity such as a game or song.

6. Go through each activity one step at a time and follow the instructions in the guide.

7. Be guided by the requirements of the group when facilitating activities. The time given for each activity is only an estimate.

8. When giving the group its task, use the exact words provided for this purpose.

9. Encourage and welcome the input that individuals make. Remember, there are no wrong answers.

10. Facilitate the group, do not direct it.

11. Try to encourage the active participation of each participant. Be careful not to find fault or make critical comments when you respond to people.

12. Take into account the participants' literacy level and work out ways in which they can keep records of what is discussed and agreed.

13. Have the group keep the materials and records in a safe place.

14. At the end of each activity, ask the group members to evaluate each activity on the basis of what they have learnt, what they liked and what they did not like.

15. At the end of each session, congratulate the group members on their efforts and explain briefly what will be covered at the next session.

16. At the beginning of each new meeting of the group, ask the group to review what it has done so far and the decisions it has taken.


Removing and storing PHAST materials for future use

Plan ahead on how you will remove and store the materials for future use. Organize a team well ahead of time to take pictures off the walls and pack materials away (in large envelopes or boxes which are carefully labelled) after the final meeting. If possible, prepare a checklist of all the materials so that nothing is left behind or lost.