On learning & growth: what facilitating workshops has taught me
One of my favourite things to do is to facilitate workshops. At the beginning of each workshop, I always include some variation of the following
I’m humbled that you’ve decided to spend your Saturday morning here with me. I know there are many places you could have been today, so choosing to spend it here means a lot. Thank you.
Acknowledging that each person who chooses to join a workshop with me has made a conscious effort to spend their time there gives me a sense of greater purpose. I’m no longer a sage, passing on information to a group. My role is to hold space and facilitate learning with a group of people who are on a journey to understand something new and share an experience with each other that will never occur again at that moment. In Japan, they have the term ichi-go ichi-e. The term occurs in ceremonial tea making and refers to a moment or meeting in your life that will never happen again.
It’s taken me a while to understand why it is that I enjoy facilitating workshops. As an event, they can be quite time consuming to organise and many workshops are tedious and un-noteworthy. I think the people who are opposed to them have simply not been to many engaging or well-considered workshops (and to be fair, I’ve run a number of those boring ones, too!)
What I’m starting to learn about myself and my love for bringing people together to facilitate their learning comes from my love for watching people develop and grow.
I see this evolution so clearly in my work preparing speakers for the TEDxCapeTown stage. Every speaker who makes it through the curation process arrives at our first speaker workshop with what they think is their talk. By the end of the 8-week journey we walk together with their speaker coaches, that initial talk has evolved into something more than they could have imagined.
This transformation is something I cherish in my work facilitating tech mentoring relationships with Project Thrive. At the beginning of the 12-week mentoring programme, I remind mentoring pairs that they should be open to the experience. They will both learn, but not always what they expect. Their development stories are centred around learning more about themselves, what they’re capable of and how to think about their learning experience.
Getting a front-row seat into someone’s learning and development is such an honour. It’s a testament to what we can achieve together when we give others — and ourselves, a chance to reach beyond what they believe they are capable of. I can’t help but think of myself and the opportunities that have been afforded to me because someone gave me an opportunity to reach beyond what I thought I was capable of. Being born to a young, single, black mother as South Africa was trying to navigate what a post-Apartheid reality might look like, I shouldn’t be where I am today. Yet here I am. Taking up space. Loudly and proudly.
And so, it has become something of a calling that my life’s work is dedicated to creating opportunities for others to learn, and thrive in their lives. What continues to give me hope is that there are many others who feel compelled to create opportunities for others they encounter to learn and thrive in their lives. They come in many forms: coaches, mentors, activists, champions, leaders.
There isn’t a grand call to action here. Maybe simply an invitation. Whoever you are reading this, there is someone whose growth and development you can help facilitate. Ask them what that is. Then join them on that journey. Trust me. It’s worth it.