How long have you been facilitating? How did you get into it?
I've been teaching in one form or another since I was a 3rd year architecture student at uni, where I was a student mentor. I was mentoring and tutoring and then lecturing when I graduated.
Once I graduated I was regularly undertaking community consultation as an architect. But I seriously started facilitation after taking a sabbatical from architecture in 2010. I took up a residency at Medialab Prado in Madrid where I ran a collaborative process with a local community to harness technology to solve some of the social challenges faced in their community and neighbourhood. Our work was presented as an interactive installation. This experience made me realise that I'd learned a lot as an architect about design that had the potential for much broader application outside of the traditional world of design.
Do you remember your first session, or anything from those early days?
One of my formative workshops was with a cohort of Brisbane school kids in 2011, soon after the Brisbane floods. I was part of a team that developed an online platform called Flood of Ideas to explore how Queensland might have better prepared for the floods. On top of the website and a range of exhibitions, events and publications, we held a statewide student ideas contest on the topic of preventing future floods. To support this I designed an experiential workshop to run with Queensland school kids. It was awesome! I loved how having just a little bit of process could reveal the inherent creativity in every kid and lead to such great outcomes.
Not long after, I took up a role as Manager of the Asia Pacific Design Library and led the development of Australia’s first online Design Thinking platform for educators called Design Minds. We did lots of facilitation training for teachers around design thinking. This led me to speaking and facilitation opportunities at conferences in Singapore and Norway, and over time, more of this type of work. In one way or another, it's been my bread and butter since then. I relocated to Melbourne with my partner a little over a year ago and my first client in Melbourne was the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
What is your facilitation starter culture?
The consultation model I was exposed to as an architect was more about 'telling and selling’. It was during the residency in Madrid that I had an 'aha' moment and realised the value of real collaboration; where solutions are designed for, with and by the community that needs them.
What do you now know that you would tell yourself when you first started out as a facilitator?
That I don't have to be the “expert” and I don't have to be in control of everything! As the facilitator I am not as important as I might think I am and that my primary role is to be there to serve the needs of the participants. I'm generally super-organised and prepared for my workshops but also I'm 100% ready to let go of that agenda if the groups needs to. I’ve found that the group can gain a lot of confidence if they trust that I have an approach for our direction but that I’m also there to support them and prioritise their needs.
Tell us about what you're up to now and what you're excited about
Lately I've been doing a lot of co-design facilitation with Peer Academy where we work predominantly with government clients to create a space to problem solve and design collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders as part of the process. Our approach to this work is a blend of project work with tangible outcomes as well as individual capacity building and personal development.
Another one of my current projects is a social enterprise called the Be Awesome Festival, which is a high energy event for 8-10 year old kids to experience their inner awesomeness! The festival is co-designed by a team of volunteers and we’ll be hosting the first Be Awesome Festival in Melbourne on the 28th January 2017.
What get's me really excited in my current work is to see the commitment of government following through with the co-design approach, welcoming the voices in the room and seeing the transformation that results. Particularly for consumers and end users whose voices are being highly valued in designing these solutions.