"Moderating to Moderate"

Moderation: Facilitation and Program Design, February 10 - 22, 2019
Hamza Khan at IAF Gummersbach Moderation: Facilitation and Program Design February 2019

The International Academy of Leadership (IAF) provides a unique opportunity for individuals across the world to interact and share ideas. Located in the quiet town of Gummersbach, Germany. These workshops seek to minimize distraction to facilitate the sharing of ideas. The themes for these seminars are chosen based on the most pressing global issues in light of liberal ideas.

“Moderation: Facilitation and Program Design” was the second seminar for the year 2019, taking place from February 10th to February 22nd. Some twenty seven individuals of different nationalities participated in this two weeks course packed with both theoretical and experience-based discussions.

Moderation, facilitation and program design are fundamental for international and civil society organisations. Our work is to engage people on different issues, create an atmosphere of critical thinking and motivate individuals to become agents of change. Therefore, it is necessary as a professional to constantly re-visit the tools and methods for doing so.

Gummersbach welcomed us with strong winds and heavy rains. Away from our loved ones, we could feel the cold weather taking its toll over us. However, the warmth and hospitality of our hosts made us forget about our issues for a while. The initial ice-breaking game helped us forget our territorial boundaries and prejudices – by the end of it, we were interacting as if we had known each other for a long time. This set the tone for the rest of the panel.

The seminar commenced with a discussion of the social theories rationalizing human interactions. As a participant it was interesting to learn about the invisible dynamics occurring during discussions, especially in an event or a seminar. My biggest take-away from the session was the subtle technique to create a safe space for participants in which they are able to raise their voices without any fear or hesitation. Being attentive, asking questions, appreciating diversity, and encouraging flow of information amongst other actions can make all the difference in a group discussion. It is the responsibility of the moderator to utilize these techniques to create a safe space for discussion.

Another narrative that assisted us in building a global overview was the “cycle of success”. It argues that for any program to be successful, it is important that the communication occurs systematically. This theory comes in handy when designing a program, conducting a meeting or moderating a discussion. It is vital that as moderators, we have a clear picture of the needs and challenges of our audience. The moderators used a demonstrative technique in which they utilized ropes to categorize our scattered thoughts, assumptions and values. The aim of the session was to provide a holistic overview of the values we share, which became evident after this activity. By the end of this session, I could feel the participants thinking of global solutions to address their local challenges.

Work and Play

The program then shifted from a theoretical focus to a more practical one, allowing us to engage with fellow participants. As per the technique of ‘Learning Partnerships’, we grouped into “Thinking pairs” to glean each others perspective, thus building a network of ‘trust bridges’ among participants. While answering questions, I could analyse the social, economic, political and cultural elements present in my partner's answers.

It is as they say, “IAF seminars are not only all work but also play”. The program took us to Berlin on a three day visit for tourism as well as more learning. We attended three fruitful sessions on the importance of body language, on the incorporation of design thinking in program management, and on the gamification of concepts. 

In the course of two weeks, all the participants bonded and formed amazing memories. “It was an experience that will stay with me for long period of time" said one fellow participant. With promises to meet again soon, we left the Academy with a sense of sadness. I hope other IAF participants will cherish memories just like we did.

hamza khan swati project coordinator fnf islamabad pakistan

Hamza Khan Swati

Hamza Khan Swati is the Project Coordinator-European Union Project of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) in Pakistan. He recently attended FNF-IAF's leadership program in Gummersbach, Germany on Moderation: Facilitation and Program Design. In this report, he is sharing his personal thoughts.