What’s the secret to a dynamic group discussion among strangers? Certainly an interesting topic but even more important is the role of a skilled facilitator.
When you are a non-profit organization like ONEJAX with a mission dedicated to achieving civility, understanding and respect for all through education, dialogue and community-building, great facilitators are key contributors to delivering quality experiences. OneJax is affiliated with the University of North Florida as an Institute of the University. Together they strengthen community partnerships and play a significant role in Northeast Florida’s conversations about diversity and inclusion. Under the leadership of Nancy Broner Executive Director, The OneJax team promotes inclusion within the community in variety of ways. The organization hosts panel discussions on timely topics, to leading diversity workshops for corporate supporters among other signature initiatives. As the demand for their services grow, facilitators add great value.
The best conversations don’t feel facilitated at all. When done well I find people don’t want to stop. People are surprised at how fast they transitioned into a deep conversation with a group of strangers. They freely express their ideas and opinions, learn from others’ perspectives and leave feeling like they want to do it again.
I attended the inaugural ONEJAX Facilitator Training Session this month. Over 30 participant volunteers like myself joined a mini-workshop to review role expectations and prepare for upcoming programmed events. One of the many unique series offered is the Community Suppers, in partnership with Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. They host open, collaborative discussions about important world issues to help bring the community closer together. Through Community Suppers everyday citizens can interact with new people and new ideas, leading to greater appreciation of our differences and similarities.
OneJax regularly organizes panel discussions and community forums, drawing insight and input from a broad range of religious, cultural and community leaders.
Civil Discourse is another special program, in partnership with the Florida Times-Union and WJCT. OneJax hosts moderated panel discussions on issues which can challenge deeply held beliefs about controversial topics. The purpose is to promote and model civility in interacting with one another in a calm and inclusive manner about “hot” topics to increase understanding of opposing viewpoints.
These are a few of the programs that support the ONEJAX vision of an inclusive community where difference is welcomed and celebrated.
Facilitating Positive Outcomes
The OneJax mini-workshop definition of a facilitator is “one who helps others learn or helps makes things easy.” The facilitator’s goal is to encourage participants to think productively and ultimately to articulate key ideas, ask vital questions, uncover variables, find solutions and/or identify productive actions.
I led a table discussion facilitating a roleplay that reflected common best practices and my own experience throughout my professional career. The participants responded extremely well to my approach and based on their direct feedback, delivered a positive experience for all team members.
I am excited to be a part of the OneJax volunteer team and look forward to serving as a facilitator and mentor for fellow facilitator volunteers.