Dynamic Facilitation Highly Recommended



Dynamic Facilitation is an energy-based way of facilitating where people address difficult issues creatively and collaboratively, achieving breakthrough results. It creates a process of talking and thinking that builds mutual respect, trust and the sense of community.

The dynamic facilitator seeks to establish a 'zone' of thinking and talking known as 'choice-creating.' Choice-creating is similar to dialogue in that it is transformational, and similar to deliberation because groups reach thoughtful conclusions. It is engaging to people, like when people face a collective crisis and pull together to creatively overcome it.

The dynamic facilitator plays an active role, helping people to follow their heart more than a preexisting agenda. He or she helps them determine an issue they really care about, whether it seems solvable or not. Then she helps them to say what is on their minds, what they really mean, in a way that all can hear and are respectful. To do this and to help the group bring meaning to what they are saying she uses four flip charts-lists of Solutions, Problem-statements, Data, and Concerns. A fifth chart of Decisions is added as group conclusions emerge.

The dynamic facilitator helps foster shifts of heart and mind by following the natural flow of conversation and supporting group spontaneity. Sometimes these shifts take the form of new ideas, other times they bring a new sense of what the 'real problem' is, and other times yet, there is a change of heart.

How is it different?

The best and fastest way for a group of people to solve a tough problem or to reach consensus is to have a breakthrough. When this happens, the results are exceptional and each person feels involved, knows what to do, and is committed to the group's result. The process builds individual skills, empowerment, trust, and the spirit of community.

Most meeting facilitation processes limit this possibility. Traditional facilitation, for instance, asks people to work only on issues that are possible to solve, to mute their passion in favor of rationality, to break big problems into smaller ones, and to proceed step by step down a logical path. It depends on extrinsic factors like goals, objectives, agendas, and guidelines of behavior to preserve order and make progress.

Dynamic Facilitation is more oriented toward intrinsic factors, like how much people care about the issue at hand, or how excited they are about a particular idea. It proceeds dynamically, going with the flow rather than trying to manage it. It is like dialogue in that people open-mindedly and open-heartedly explore topics, but it is different because people address specific problems and reach specific conclusions. Also, this process is not dependent on the skills of individuals. That helps, of course, but more important with Dynamic Facilitation are the skills of the facilitator. He or she plays an active role, assuring a high quality of talking and thinking even when people have limited communication skills.

In an email to the NCDD discussion list, Rosa Zubizaretta said this about Dynamic Facilitation:

Our culture tends to believe that when we are needing to deal with practical things, we must shift into a linear mindset in order to be effective. We have found that this is simply not true. Groups can actually achieve much more when they are working creatively and in a non-linear way. While opening the doors to the greater complexity inherent in any situation does make for slower going at first, the eventual outcomes are much more powerful when they emerge naturally as "shared aha's" rather than as negotiated decisions.

When is Dynamic Facilitation most successful or appropriate?

Dynamic Facilitation is especially valuable when people face really important, complex, strategic, or seemingly impossible-to-solve issues, when there is a conflict, or when people seek to build teamwork or community. It's a way to spark ongoing dialogue, systems understandings, trust, wisdom, and to generate the spirit of involvement.

Dynamic Facilitation is especially appropriate in groups where people speak for themselves, when no one is a representative or is playing an assigned role. It's for when people care about problems, rather than just working on assigned tasks. Dynamic Facilitation is particularly valuable for 'Wisdom Councils,' a new large-system transformation strategy.


Dynamic Facilitation was developed by Jim Rough in the early 1980's, consulting with mill workers in Northern California. The name, 'Dynamic Facilitation' is trademarked by Jim Rough and Associates, Inc. Dynamic Facilitation laid the foundation for another social innovation, the Wisdom Council, which is a way to dynamically facilitate large systems of people.

In order to make Dynamic Facilitation and the Wisdom Council widely available, Jim co-founded the Center for Wise Democratic Processes with DeAnna Martin and Jean Rough. The Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit which offers educational support for those wishing to use these approaches in the public sphere.

Resources on Dynamic Facilitation

  • The Center for Wise Democracy is the primary resource for citizens groups to help them establish Wisdom Councils. (See www.WiseDemocracy.org)
  • Jim Rough and Associates, Inc., offers consulting for organizations and regular seminars in Dynamic Facilitation Skills. Scholarships for activists are available.(See www.ToBE.net)
  • 'Society's Breakthrough! Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People' by Jim Rough provides the theoretical underpinnings. (See www.SocietysBreakthrough.com)
  • The Wisdom Council Listserv allows you to talk about Wisdom Council-related issues – share updates on projects, ask questions and engage in conversation about how to implement them, and maintain our growing network. To subscribe, send an email to [email protected] with "subscribe" in the subject line
  • The Co-Intelligence Institute has a number of articles and comparisons to other methods. (See www.co-intelligence.org)

This text was submitted to NCDD by Jim Rough and Associates, Inc. (www.ToBE.net).

Suggest changes to this listing or additional resources for the Learning Exchange.

© 2003-2008 National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation.
Learn more about us or explore this site.