As a facilitator my job is to help groups have a productive discussion and reach decisions and outcomes that are acceptable to the whole group. I believe such outcomes can result when the discussion is courteous, respectful, fair and transparent- but this should not prevent passionate and sometimes noisy discussion. My job is to create a setting of trust in which your discussion can be effective and forceful without damaging your relations with each other or leading to unproductive outcomes.
As facilitator I am completely impartial and even handed, with a strong obligation to protect concerns of any minority within the group and to ensure that forceful members do not overly dominate the discussion. At the same time I need to ensure that the energy, passion and strong feelings of all members are clearly expressed and appreciated. There are many techniques and tools I can use to help you have this productive discussion, but they only work if you all agree that they will be helpful. My job therefore involves explaining methods, approaches and techniques, offering the group a variety of options, and then implementing the choices the group agrees to.
I must be impartial and scrupulously fair, but I also have an interest in seeing productive, useful decisions and outcomes. I freely share that my own interest lies in conservation of habitat, wildlife and working agricultural landscapes and in minimizing and mitigating the harmful effect people can have on nature. Depending on the nature of the group and the intensity of the discussion, it is sometimes useful for me to be quite forceful in ensuring that rules we all agree to about courtesy, respect, fairness and transparency are followed. One valuable role I can play is to synthesize and visualize your ideas from my external perspective to help you agree on what you agree on, and clearly understand not only where you disagree, but why.
I have applied these ideas for over 20 years including in the following selected examples:
• Negotiations among international representatives for sea turtle ranching and protection in trade.
• Negotiations among international representatives and wildlife management agencies for the sustainable use and trade of crocodiles and alligators.
• Discussions on the impact and regulation of shrimp trawling in Florida
• Discussions among major land owners and managers of large tracts in Florida on the incentives for sustainable planning.
• Discussions among commercial interests, agricultural and forestry interests and conservation interests on the conservation and regulation of gopher tortoises and other endangered species in Florida.
• Development of relaxed regulations concerning bald eagles and peregrine falcons in Florida compatible with development needs.
• Negotiations between State agencies and hunting interests on changes to hunting seasons and zones in Florida.
• Strategy and planning for Florida Coastal Resources Council, Sea Grant, Florida Legacy Initiative, Friends of Payne’s Prairie and the Archie Carr Cabin-Umatilla Historical Society