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Facilitation & Deep Democracy - from a new book by Julia Wolfson, PHD

Posted by on May 21, 2018



Dr Julia Wolfson is an organisational facilitator and coach, and works with the global Deep Democracy Institute.  She works with people, organisations and communities around the world encouraging awareness for a more inclusive world.

This is an excerpt from Julia's recent book Applying Deep Democracy in Human Services. (2017), (pp. 199-201)


From chapter 12: Facilitation collaboration: Inner and outer teams: multi stakeholder groups

"Working with groups can be difficult in innumerable ways, but working without groups is nearly impossible" - Schuman

" ... In 1988 I attended a ten-day facilitation seminar with Max Schupbach in Australia. Max is among Arnold Mindell's first group of students and collaborators and has been involved in the pioneering of Process Work trainings and world work events on every continent of the globe. I had come up against my limitations as a leader and change facilitator in South Africa during the dismantling of apartheid and social renewal. I knew at least in part what I didn't know, and was wide open for a new approach. At Max's seminar I rediscovered my belief in myself, in humanity, and my belief in groups as potential hubs of transformation on our planet, which more than ever needs us to help her and ourselves become more whole. Here power was not a dirty word. In the company of over one hundred people, we dived into the polarisations and tensions within burning issues raised by the participants: health problems, relationship issues, sexual abuse, gender identity, racism, indigenous land rights, family conflicts, natural disasters, disability, leadership challenges in business.

"I was used to thinking in an interpretive way: this kind of person with this kind of problem. You should do this or that to improve or fix the situation. No wonder I had problems! I was blown away to experience the possibility of opening up to conflict in a large group, welcoming the expression of diversity and tensions, discovering solutions and the conflict itself, and coming out on the other side energised and revived. This experience reoriented my understanding and beliefs about power, facilitation, leadership, and groups.

"The perspective and voice of the person reliant on support to take the lead in the quest to expand self directed opportunities for a more meaningful life. This is often an area of tension with support workers, teams, leaders, and other stake holders when they fear their legitimate needs are being marginilised by a person-directed agenda. Staying on course while facilitating the diversity of perspectives, working with conflicts, and allowing unpopular viewpoints to be processed meaningfully is central to the quality of collaboration that develops.

"What you believe about groups and how you feel in a group usually have a connection to your experiences with groups - be that family, at school, at work, with peers, or on the street if that is your locale. Our early group experiences influence our beliefs about groups being safe or unsafe, the potential for groups to hurt or heal us, our attitude towards leaders, what is allowed, and what is forbidden in a group.


Like people, groups have personalities. There are groups who have endless discussions about feelings and process, which drives some people crazy. Other groups only focus on tasks and results and tend to disregard the more feeling and relational aspects. In spiritually minded group, those who prefer giving advice from a meditative-like state of detachment are often unaware how irritating this can be to people who take the lion's share of practical responsibility for the whole.

There are people who hate speaking up in groups and dread team meetings. Some don't even notice they are doing all the talking regardless of the things others might have to say, and wonder why no one else speaks up. Many avoid tackling issues in large group discussions, afraid that high emotions and chaos will ensue and things will spiral out of control. This is one reason why structured plenums and small, regulated groups that keep a lid on conflict erupting are so popular. Factions can hold a united front to the enemy: if we show our weakness we will fragment. And, yet within each faction there is usually a greater diversity that is apparent." 

Facilitate Yourself, Your Team and Our World 

 Julia Wolfson and Elsa Henderson will be facilitating this seminar hosted by the Metavision Institute on the 7th & 8th of July in the Southern Highlands:

Facilitation workshop_1.jpg

 Julia and Elsa are facilitation partners in a range of organisations. They use Process Work developed by Arnold Mindell in their work. They are both team members of the global Deep Democracy Institute. 

Julia & Elsa 2016_1.jpg

For more information on the Facilitation Seminar in July Seminar

For more information on Metavision and Facilitation

Information on Process Work and deep democracy here 

To check out Julia's website and to order her book click here