Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This is the latest in a series of books on facilitation from Christine Hogan. The previous titles were: Understanding Facilitation and Practical Facilitation. This latest text is perhaps targeted at a smaller niche market than Hogan's earlier works.
The book claims to “assist facilitators to prepare, facilitate and evaluate workshops where participants come from a diversity of cultural backgrounds and/or cultures different from those of the facilitator” As the author rightly points out “to some extent all groups are multicultural; it is a question of degree”. In this sense, it is difficult to imagine facilitators who would not gain something from this book even if it is merely to act as a useful reminder that the actions of a facilitator who is not culturally sensitive can have a massively negative impact on a group. Yet the book is far more useful than this since Hogan provides concrete examples of strategies, models and processes that facilitators can use to improve their interaction with diverse groups.
There are ten chapters, which fall into three main types. The first looks at the practicalities of delivering facilitation with multicultural groups (preparation with clients, workshop delivery). The second looks at the models of facilitation we use, their appropriateness to different groups and the strategies we can employ to maximise the chances of a positive experience (power and empowerment in groups, strategies to enable multicultural teams to be more effective, metaphors, stories of music and dance, visual techniques, language and silence). Finally there are chapters that explore facilitating for specific purposes (facilitating difference, facilitating reconciliation, facilitating with interpreters and translators). Each chapter provides some clear context, grounding the ideas in the academic discourse before going on to explore the issues in some depth. Since this is a practical guide, Hogan provides us with models and frameworks with which to structure facilitation activities as well as examples of workshop activities designed to highlight particular learning points. Further support materials, including three more chapters, are available on Hogan's web site including a chapter on gender, one on strategies to address HIV/AIDS and chapter on facilitating endings, evaluation and report writing. It is a particular shame that the chapter on gender is missing, since the way that different cultural groups address issues of gender is a key area for misinterpretation and conflict.
The detailed listing of all sub‐headings under the contents page does suggest that the author sees this more as a reference manual rather than a book whose chapters are designed to be read in their totality. There is often a feeling when reading the book that it has been originally conceived of as an HTML Web resource, where readers determine their own journey through the material rather than a book with a linear narrative trajectory. This leads to sections where the content does not appear to flow from one point to the next and the book could benefit from a little more signposting and a stronger internal structure. The examples used in the text are taken from a wide variety of cultures but do have a bias toward those that are more familiar to an antipodean audience and perhaps the work would have benefited from more examples relating to European, African and Middle Eastern cultures.
This should not detract from the central fact that the book is packed full of good advice, ideas and insights. It has numerous examples of activities that can be used by all facilitators to enable groups to get a better idea of themselves and their cultural drives. Additional resources on the Web (Hogan.id.au) provide further practical support for those who wish to implement the ideas put forward in the book. This is a worthwhile purchase for all facilitators; it should not be confined to those that operate overseas.