We consider ourselves to be some pretty darn good facilitators here at The Narrative Lab. The word “facilitation” is a word that is easily understood by our clients and when we use it, we believe they understand what we’re saying, and when they use it, we understand what they’re saying.

After reading ­Chris Corriga­n’s­ excellent post this morning on the difference between facilitation and hosting, I’m beginning to wonder if we’re amidst the evolution of the term facilitation from a philosophical and practical point of view.

One of the metaphors he uses in describing the difference between a facilitator and a host is this:

At the simplest level, you can think of a party. A facilitator is like a party planner, or a wedding organizer, running around taking care of details, scripting the event and staying outside of the experience. A party host, by contrast, is inside the experience, invested in the outcome, bringing energy to conversations, not only form, and both affecting and being affected by the experience.


And the he adds in this paragraph (that will keep me thinking for a long time):

From a complexity stand point, facilitation is seen as a reductionist activity, reducing complexity to simple problems with simple outcomes and a simple path for getting there. Facilitators help groups to seek answers and end states. Hosting from within the field however is more aligned with the nature of complex systems, where there are no answers, but instead only choices to make around the next question, and the paths where those questions lead us. There are no end states. The idea of a healthy community is a vector, not a point. It is a direction to move, not something that can be achieved and then crossed off the list.