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The Art of Facilitation: Roots and Blossoms of Facilitation // with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg & Joy Roulier Sawyer

  • 28 October 2020
  • 15 December 2020
  • Online
  • 6


What does it mean to facilitate arts- and change-based workshops, coaching or consulting sessions, meetings and classes that help people amplify their voice and illuminate their vision? Designed for writers, storytellers, performers, artists, community leaders, change-makers, and those helping their communities enhance health, spiritual practices, and personal growth, this class focuses on how to design and facilitate meaningful sessions. During the pandemic, we're also facing challenges in how and what we facilitate. In this new virtual age, it's especially important to align your facilitation practice with your core values and ethics, community and purpose.

We'll explore how to create workshops, meetings, and other sessions tailored to your audience and purpose, and whole-self facilitation, including the care and feeding of the facilitator. Whether you're involved or want to start offering writing workshops, storytelling coaching, nonprofit consulting, or meeting facilitation, you'll find many treasures in exploring best practices for planning, facilitating, and assessing session, including the role of ground rules or agreements, beginnings and endings, pacing and rhythm, and evaluation and continuing education.

TLA invites many practitioners to the table, including those drawing on various models of facilitation, some reified and some more open source (from social change theater to poetry therapy to healing stories). We'll overview those models as well as how you can come to the potluck and draw from what feeds your emerging work, particularly during challenging and changing times.

The Art of Facilitation Series: Facilitation is a life-long art of presence, engagement, and ethics. By immersing yourself in a variety of facilitation traditions, approaches, tools, techniques, best practices, and philosophies, you can discover, embody, and enact your life's work and art in facilitating workshops, classes, meetings, coaching and consulting sessions. "The Art of Facilitation, Part 1: Roots and Blossoms of TLA Facilitation" explores designing, organizing, facilitating and assessing relevant, effective, and creative sessions. The second of these courses, "The Art of Facilitation: Facilitating Change and Community,"to be offered later in 2021, focuses on fostering community and working with various populations for transformation, discovery, and liberation.

Week By Week

Week by week topics: Ethical and self-care considerations thread through each week to help students better develop their practice and understanding of whole-self, real-world facilitation.

Week 1: ROOTS OF FACILITATION: In our introductory week, we'll investigate the meaning, origins, ethics, and possibilities of facilitation. We'll also explore the care and feeding of the facilitator during this challenging time, as well as how to sustain your facilitation practice.

Week 2: SETTING THE TABLE: Facilitation embraces hospitality and an engaged  understanding of the facilitator’s role. This week's focus is on the meaning, roots, possibilities, and manifestations of inclusive facilitation that also can diminish and challenge damaging power dynamics and welcome all participants to the table.

Week 3: WHOLE-SELF FACILITATION: What does it mean to facilitate an artistic or community-building session while staying true to yourself? Or to work within the boundaries of being a facilitator (and not a therapist) while engaging fully with others? We'll look deeper at the role of the facilitator, rank and privilege in groups and relationships, and how to facilitate with your whole self.

Week 4: CALLING THE CIRCLE: Groups and communities can come together effectively and compassionately in a circle of learning and growth when there are clear group rules or agreements. We'll also look at language and facilitation as well as facilitation beyond words (including how to cultivate a clear and attentive presence).This includes the challenges of reading body language and non-verbal signals in Zoom and other video conference sessions. 

Week 5: THE MUSIC WE MAKE TOGETHER: Whether you're facilitating a workshop, retreat, class, or meeting, rhythm is everything when it comes to cohesive sessions. We'll dive into questions and possibilities of pacing, how to open and close sessions, and overall rhythm and pacing across multiple-session workshops.

Week 6: BRANCHES AND BLOSSOMS OF FACILITATION: Assessments and continuing education are necessary for the lifelong art of facilitation. We'll take a look at strategies and practices to grow your art and heart of facilitation, the populations you are drawn to facilitate, and what to do when your path curves or changes.

Guest Teachers

Callid Keefe-Perry is an Executive Director of ARC: Arts | Religion | Culture, a traveling minister in the Quaker tradition, and an advocate for the arts as a way of deepening spiritual practice. He has been a public school teacher, co-founder of a community theater, and Coordinator of the TLA Network. He thinks it is OK for people to laugh a lot, that power cedes nothing without demands, and that creativity is a vital quality of adaptive and effective leadership. Callid will share a bit about the field of theopoetics and talk about using different modalities for group facilitation and what is gained by doing so.

Seema Reza is the author of A Constellation of Half-Lives and When the World Breaks Open. She is CEO of Community Building Art Works, a non-profit organization that brings workshops led by professional artists to service members, veterans, and clinicians and is featured in the 2018 HBO documentary, We Are Not Done Yet. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The LA Review, and The Feminist Wire, among others. Case studies from her work with military populations have appeared in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Related Diseases in Combat Veterans.

Who This Class is For

This class is intended for all who facilitate or want to facilitate arts, healing, and/or social change-based groups, whether it takes the form of writing, storytelling, spoken word, drama, debate, public speaking, organizational storytelling, or other areas. While focusing on workshop facilitation, this class will also help students better facilitate Transformative Language Arts and related fields in other settings, including classrooms, coaching sessions, meetings, and more. Because learning to facilitate well is a lifelong art, this class is aimed toward all who seek to deepen their facilitation practice, whether they are a beginner or seasoned facilitator. The class meets students wherever they are, and because we are still facing many challenges in the midst of the pandemic, each week will include approaches, strategies, tools, and supports for working with people right now.


This class encompasses weekly discussions (with a guiding question each week), creative writing prompts, readings, podcasts and videos, ample resources, and live video-conferences with people who can bring to the table vast experience with a wide spectrum of communities. Each week includes a discussion and discussion questions, creative prompts, "In These Times Tips & Resources," "Care and Feeding of the Facilitator," and "Joy and Caryn's Corner" (for further considerations and study).

The three video-conferences (which can be done easily on computers or phones), which will be held for three Sundays at 8 p.m. EST/ 7 p.m. CST/ 6 p.m. MST/ 5 p.m. PST on 11/1/20, 11/15/20, and 12/13/20, also allows time for students to discuss and practice aspects of facilitation. Each video session will be 75-90 minutes.

Teacher Bios

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, is the founder of Transformative Language Arts and the author of 23 books, including How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems;Miriam's Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather. Mirriam-Goldberg has facilitated community writing workshops widely since 1992 with diverse populations throughout the Midwest, the U.S., and in Mexico, including people living with serious illness, intergenerational communities, women living in public housing, teens and young adults, and humans at large in big-life transitions. She offers one-on-one coaching on writing and right livelihood, and she consults with organizations and businesses on creativity. She co-leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats with Kelley Hunt and the Your Right Livelihood training with Laura Packer. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin. Her Patreon campaign to create transformative writing, workshops, and podcasts and offering patrons weekly inspirations is here.

Joy Roulier Sawyer is the author of two poetry collections, Tongues of Men and Angels and Lifeguards, as well as several nonfiction books. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have been widely published. Joy holds an MA from New York University in Creative Writing and a master's degree in counseling. Her extensive training and experience as a licensed professional counselor and in poetry/journal therapy gives her special expertise in facilitating expressive writing workshops. Joy was selected by poetry therapy pioneers to revise and update Arleen McCarty Hynes’ groundbreaking textbook, Biblio/Poetry Therapy: The Interactive Process. For over a decade, she’s taught at Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop, the largest literary center in the West, where she received the 2019 Beacon Award for Teaching Excellence. Along with her other creative writing and poetry classes, Joy helps facilitate Lighthouses's Denver Public Library, Arvada Library, and Edgewater Library’s Hard Times workshops, designed for those experiencing homelessness or poverty, as well as the Writing to Be Free program, an outreach for women transitioning out of incarceration. She has also taught at the University of Denver and in the TLA MA program at Goddard College. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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