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


Speaker Kyoko Maekawa

On July 6, 2019, we invited Ms. Kyoko Maekawa, Project Manager for the NPO Murano Mirai, to lead an inter-university event entitled “Using Meta-Facilitation for Discourse in Developing Countries.” A total of 22 students and ex-students from two universities attended the event.

Meta-facilitation is a dialogue technique whereby the interlocutor is asked a series of questions solely about facts in order to gradually draw out their true feelings and needs and also they realize their problems. This technique is useful in not only field surveys and programs conducted as part of international cooperation, but also interviews back in Japan, as well as dialogue with those around us.

Pair work practising fact questions

The event opened with an introduction to the activities of Murano Mirai (formerly SOMNEED) together with an explanation of program sustainability, experiences with difficulties encouraging local residents’ independence, and how this technique was developed. Ms Maekawa taught us specifically how to construct the “fact questions” which form the heart of meta-facilitation. Following the mantra of “don’t make people think, make them remember,” the key is to avoid questions like “why” and “how” and any words that could be ambiguously construed, to keep answers free of feelings and preconceptions. While this sounds simple, when we practised making fact questions starting with “what is this” in roleplays and groupwork, we quickly found ourselves using abstract terms; the process proved more difficult than we had anticipated. The chance to hear the questions devised by other groups and exchange ideas after our presentations on how to improve our questions made this a great learning experience.

Practising fact questions in groups

One particularly striking insight was that because aid beneficiaries in the developing world naturally try to answer questions carefully and in a way that will please aid providers from other countries, drawing out the truth requires working to build an equal relationship with the interlocutor. I hope to master this technique and the proper interview process and use them in international development work in the future.

(Yurika Ueda, Graduate,
Faculty of Human Life and Environmental Sciences)

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