My name is Ashwini Alluri, and I work as a Principal Social Innovator at The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI). I’m passionate about influencing, enabling and leaving behind a just and sustainable world.
I completed the Groupwork Centre’s year-long Advanced Group Facilitation Program in mid-2020. An extended and applied learning experience like this gave me the time to critically engage with things I might otherwise skip over. Things like conflict in groups, the power of silence in groups, skipping over the unsaid things in a group, or struggling to stay present to the hot stuff that emerges in a group process.
Through the monthly two day learning sessions, I could observe this being modelled by Groupwork Centre’s educators and my peers. We had ample space and safety to practise the basics such as grounding and check-ins, as well as the advanced stuff such as working with your personal triggers, group conflict and with power. The forming of different sizes and types of groups was also a standout experience for me. I could experience working through my own self-awareness as we worked through the different activities. This really helped me see, hear and feel the group roles and dynamics play out.
The practical skills were amazing to revisit again for my facilitation practice, refreshing such things as:
- making clear and generous time for connection before getting stuck into content,
- creating meaningful group agreements, and leaning on them through the many waves of a group’s lifecycle,
- not being afraid to lean into the wisdom in the group and foreground your facilitation leadership with care, and
- finding your unique hearable message
The year-long program offered me the space, time, and practice for integration into all parts of my life and work. As a facilitator I’m always working through power, rank and privilege in any group I’m invited to work with. This will remain constant in groups. Mix that with other variables like cultural context, traditions, protocols, and different languages – wow! Endless exciting opportunities to remain humble and learn, forever!
I had several “aha moments” throughout, the biggest one was about being self aware, aware of my community of selves. For example, regarding my ‘controlling self’, I have tried to bring this self to a state of balance by shifting from setting agendas to setting purposes in group work with my colleagues, especially regular team meetings.
So, at every single meeting – which has established group agreements, or something similar – even if it’s only 30minutes long, I simply:
- do a brief welcome, acknowledgement, and connection
- replay purpose
- invite group members to contribute agenda items of importance to them in the moment, based on the purpose
- gather, scribe, synthesise and work with the group to quickly prioritise what could be covered in the time we have, etc..
This practice of setting a purpose rather than the agenda helps me stay present – not just to the group, but to everything else that’s happening around us. This includes things like global and local events, the weather, where they might have just come from, and what’s happening in people’s lives. It keeps me on my toes and together we make our meetings more relevant to the moment.
Everything I learnt during the course was modelled through the program’s teachers, which was a real treat to observe and learn from. While we all might imitate or mimic initially, the most important thing my learning experience gave me was my own sense of permission. Permission to find balance in my own facilitation style, language, tone and vulnerability. I’m still working on it. I hope you are too, in whatever it is you are passionate about.