Facilitator - Authority

Authority

The concept of authority (of the facilitator) is one which can cause confusion. Heron espouses three alternates (initially in the educational context) as being:

  • Tutelary Authority - based on the competences and skills of the Tutor/Facilitator
  • Political Authority - involving the exercise of educational decision-making with respect to the objectives, programme, methods, resources and assessment of learning. (This manifests particularly in the planning dimension.)
  • Charismatic Authority - influence by presence, style and manner. (It manifests particularly through the feeling, confronting and valuing dimensions.) However it is quite possible to draw from this the requirements for a facilitator to be clear how they are operating in any environment.

Facilitators necessarily require authority to chair a meeting, or serve mediator or moderator or arbitrator functions, for instance in managing a progressive stack in which some speakers are preferred over others because they are more affected by a decision or have generally less voice. A contentious issue for instance in the Occupy movement. Disputes regarding the exercise of contentious authority functions probably require reference to all available skills and invoke deference to several kinds of authority. For instance, in the progressive stack example, the facilitator must refer to the political need to represent victims or voiceless persons, but must do so with the most charismatic and convincing voice, to avoid backlash upon those victims or voiceless persons. They will also need skill to ensure efficiently hearing the maximum number of people, so that contention to airtime is minimized. In other consensus decision-making contexts, facilitators will need to distinguish between levels of urgency of a situation to establish consent threshold required, and again this may require reference to the political context, and the ability of the group to convince others (charismatically) that the decision was "fair".

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