Archive by Author | Michelle Sahal Estimé

Overnight digital transformation – virtual facilitation to the rescue?

The black swan of our days, in other words the corona virus pandemic, has forced an accelerated digital transformation upon organizations around the world. This has included working from home for many, but also either cancelling events and workshops or restructuring them to be organized digitally.

This sudden push for digital transformation has been challenging for many industries. To support NGOs in this process, the umbrella organization for Finnish Development NGOs – Fingo has organized a few online facilitation sessions to support NGOs in fostering the quick move from face to face to virtual. I attended one of these workshops on April 29th, together with 30 other people who attended the fully booked session on Zoom.

We all can benefit from virtual facilitation skills

Facilitation is one of the pillars of service design and organizing workshops. A good facilitator can lead successful co-creation sessions even with difficult groups or contentious tasks. Virtual facilitation brings the art of facilitation to the online sphere. Over night, virtual facilitation skills went from something service designers and professional facilitators need to know to something that everyone working from home would benefit from. Organizing virtual workshops and simply co-creating online within the workplace have become increasingly more common in our new reality.

The virtual facilitation session I participated in was a tips and tricks type of session, where specialists shared very concrete examples on facilitating online work. After attending the session, I feel more confident in both using different online facilitation tools and leading a co-creation session virtually.

Top three takeaways

1) Preparation, preparation, preparation!  Preparing to facilitate an online event is even more important than preparing for a face-to-face event. Once you have chosen and created the tools you will use during the event, make sure to try them out. Also do a test run of the technology, divide breakout rooms and practice moving between these. It is a good idea to share some information and materials with the participants before the session, to create shared understanding of the technology and tools to be used during the event.

2) Schedule more time for the beginning. In addition to the regular warm ups and getting to know each other, virtual events require doing a technical check. You should also agree on how participants can ask questions, whether it is by writing in the chat or any other way. If you intend to use the chat, it would be useful to have a co-facilitator who could keep an eye on the chat while you are presenting. It is a good idea to have your camera on and make some time for casual chit chat, to help set the mood for the event.

3) Activating and engaging participants is more important than ever! Long monologues and uncertainty about the tools are sure ways of losing the focus of your participants. Make sure that everyone knows what is happening, do not assume and use the chat or polls to activate participants. You could also keep tabs on which of the participants have contributed to the discussion and address quiet participants directly by name.

With these simple tips and tricks, even a less experienced virtual facilitator can lead a successful online event. Personally, I will try these out already next week, will you?

Useful virtual facilitation resources:

Online facilitation tools catalogue

Virtual Facilitation Finland – Facebook group

Remote Design Sprints – Facebook group

The future belongs to those who prepare for it today – Malcolm X

Wouldn’t it be great to know what the future holds for us? Particularly in the difficult times we are currently living, it’s easy to wish we’d know what the world looks like in six months or a year. This of course isn’t possible, but futures thinking provides a framework for us to foresee what possible futures might look like. In the words of Malcolm X – the future belongs to those who prepare for it today. So let’s prepare!

Futurice Scenario Co-Creation Workshop 5.3.2020

To learn how to use foresight strategically and to network with specialists in the field, I attended a scenario co-creation workshop at Futurice. The event was organized on the eve of National Futures Day in order to introduce the newly developed Futurice Lean Futures Creation toolkit.

Similarities between design thinking and futures thinking

Futures thinking and design thinking have some synergies and overlap, not only in theory but also in practice. Personally I have more experience attending and organizing service design workshops and only a bit of experience in futures thinking through coursework at Laurea. Although I am quite new to futures thinking, the tools and canvases used during the workshop felt familiar due to my experience in service design.

My Laurea coursework introduced me to all the futures thinking concepts discussed in the workshop. With this background, the workshop contributed to my learning and provided me with additional tools for my personal toolkit.

The future of workputting the Lean Futures Creation toolkit to the test

We started off with a brief introduction to the new toolkit and quickly formed groups of 6-7 and started working. The workshop focused on the future of work and all participants had been tasked with finding five trends or weak signals on what work might look like in 2030.  Based on these we filled in a PESTLEY table, which we used as the basis for our alternative futures. The PESTLEY table was the first canvas we used.

The first and second canvas: PESTLEY and futures table

The PESTLEY table guided our work in the next step; creating alternative futures. For this we used the second canvas. We selected seven topics, came up with alternative outcomes and finally developed three alternative futures based on this work. The team divided into pairs and used the third canvas to guide the development of the different narratives.

The third and fourth canvas: Creating the narrative and backcasting

The very last canvas we used guided the development of scenarios. My group had been so swept away by the previous steps that we didn’t have enough time to backcast and develop complete scenarios. We did still get to try it and as the facilitator kept reminding us – today was less about the substance and more about the process!

We got to practice using four canvases, developed a deeper understanding about co-creating scenarios and networked with likeminded professionals. The night was a great success in my books!

For everyone interested in creating scenarios, download the free Futurice Lean Futures Creation toolkit here >>