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Inter-University Event: “Meta-Facilitation for International Cooperation”


Mr. Toyokazu Nakata

An inter-university event titled “Meta-Facilitation for International Cooperation” held on July 4, 2015, attracted 26 students from eight universities. Toyokazu Nakata, co-executive director of Mura no Mirai (a certified nonprofit organization), was invited to speak about meta-facilitation, a method of eliciting what people really need from international cooperation projects. Participants learned about the method through practical examples and group work, gaining many insights that opened their eyes to new possibilities.

In the first half of the session, Mr. Nakata outlined the internal conflicts he experienced when he still harbored doubts about international aid and his encounter with meta-facilitation, which alleviated these misgivings. In the second half, he provided a detailed explanation of the skills involved, illustrated by specific examples. Many years of involvement in international cooperation efforts had left him with doubts about their ability to provide truly necessary support, but then he came across meta-facilitation. Rather than simply asking villagers generally accepted questions when seeking to identify problems, this methodology provides dialogue techniques to gradually hone in on essentials through factual questioning that develops progressively. “Why” and “how” questions leading to “I think…” answers tend to elicit mere presumptions. Conversely, asking about experience and knowledge and connecting the answers enables questioners to clarify prior processes and identify specific issues and causes. After explaining these dialogue techniques, Mr. Nakata conducted an exercise where students paired up to explore their partner’s past behavior through progressively developing factual questioning, including “what is this?” and similar questions, about each other’s belongings. Even though they understood the concept, participants unwittingly found themselves asking presumptive questions one after the last, which underlined the difficulty of correctly applying the techniques.

Pair dialogue exercise in factual questioning

Through the exercise, participants learned that a new way of questioning can lead to completely different results and acquired an essential skill for identifying and resolving issues. Although the skill will take some time to master, I look forward to putting it to use, even in everyday life.

(Miho Takada, 1st year student,
Division of Liberal Arts and Humanities,
Faculty of Letters and Education)

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