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Report on Inter-University Event:"Using Meta-Facilitation for Discourse in Developing Countries."


Speaker Kyoko Maekawa

In the back of my mind I understood that facilitation is a way of helping people to identify the existence of issues and find their own solutions. However, when I actually started to delve into the topic by taking part in a workshop on Meta-Facilitation, I discovered that it was more difficult than I had imagined, and learned that posing questions is a complex task.

On July 22, 2017, I took part in an inter-university event led by Ms. Kyoko Maekawa of the NPO Mura no Mirai, entitled “Using Meta-Facilitation for Discourse in Developing Countries”. Ms. Maekawa has been facilitating dialogue in rural villages in India for about 10 years. The event was attended by 29 students in total, from Ochanomizu University, Nara Women’s University, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, and Utsunomiya University. Almost half of the attendees will soon have the chance to put theory into practice when they engage in fieldwork either in Japan or overseas, and the students were highly motivated.

Practical fact-questioning exercise in pairs

The first half of the workshop focused on types of questions for learning more about people and facts relating to them, which is fundamental to facilitation. We did an exercise in pairs aimed at learning about our partners. Together with feelings and ideas/awareness, facts are one of three factors that constitute realities, and information on facts is essential to specifying issues to be resolved. The most difficult aspect of this is that some interrogatives and adverbs are not appropriate when posing such questions. Examples include “why” and “how,” as well as expressions like “generally” and “usually,” which people may take in different ways. Answers elicited by questions using such expressions reflect the speaker’s perception, which may not necessarily constitute fact. They do not provide information that is directly useful for identifying the nature and causes of problems to be resolved.

In the second half, we split into groups to examine a case study based on discourse between villagers and NGO staff. Each group considered questions that would enable the villagers to specify issues themselves and think about causes and solutions, and then presented its ideas. This exercise made us aware of how often we tend to unconsciously suggest solutions to others or guide them in certain directions. In situations where Meta-Facilitation is required, such behavior can impede self-reliance. We became aware of just how much influence our questions and explanations can have on others.

Group work based on case study

Finally, Ms. Maekawa outlined three ways of practicing Meta-Facilitation in everyday life. One was talking to those close to us about their troubles. However, when doing so, it is imperative not to propose solutions. I wonder if I can suppress the urge to meddle by giving advice, and stick to asking about facts. This technique is not limited to development projects in developing countries, and can be practiced anywhere in our day-to-day lives. I hope to start trying it right away.

In conclusion, I would like to thank our professors in the Global Collaboration Center and everyone else who created this learning opportunity for us.

(Midori Uchiyama, M1, Gender and Social Sciences)

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