Mathias Rechtzigel

Facilitating Group Learning

In 2021 I was recommended Facilitating Group Learning by George Lakey by a brief colleague (Kyre!) of mine at Prime Digital Academy. It has quickly become my favorite book on design even though it’s a book on facilitating group learning! What?!

When I come into a team it often does something extremely well — but are looking for someone to build a new capacity.

Typically a development organization is looking to level up their user experience and design capacity (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis) or a user experience organization looking to level up their development capacity (U.S. Bank).

The first part of capacity building — doing the work — is often where organizations stop. They hire someone. That person builds something. That person maintains the thing.

What happens when that person leaves? If that first individual isn’t sharing their knowledge with the organization — the new capacity leaves with the individual.

The second part of capacity building — sharing knowledge and advocating for change — is difficult to do well. It is also a mark of a compassionate and healthy community. When you are a new contributor to a space how do you create a welcoming space that facilitates group learning?

That’s what George Lakey touches on! He outlines strategies and shares stories of how to acknowledge a new group and their identities through a diversity Welcome Statement — I have used the Welcome Statement a few times in different environment and it truly works in building a container for the group to do more emotionally intensive work. He touches on the dynamics of each group - how to acknowledge both the mainstream and margin and how to help the margin speak to power. Finally how to use different strategies to build an understanding of how to build a community that moves past shame and blame and is focused on liberation and the betterment of everyone.

Education and facilitating group activities is often an after thought in the design space — but almost all of the challenges that I’ve had in my career come from a mismatch between communication styles or in the foundational knowledge that two groups have. Creating a space for more empathetic spaces where folks feel like they can be vulnerable to learn new skills and abilities would make our working world a much better place for ourselves and those we’re trying to serve.