Facilitation is commonly interpreted according to procedures and practical attributes that are meant to enhance the realization of desired outcomes of events, educational programs, projects or other collective activities. Although it can be helpful to learn about facilitation in different professional domain,  these contributions commonly address subjects and purposes that are quite different from interdisciplinary (ID) and transdisciplinary (TD) teaching, research and practice. This workshop addressed this gap in order to highlight how facilitators can enable participatory action research that is also transdisciplinary.

This collaborative workshop was organized on 14th March 2019 at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, with the aim of  launching an international debate grounded in the sharing of experience, knowledge and know-how about the facilitation of transdisciplinary projects within urban development. It was a joint venture between participants in COST Intrepid and Mistra Urban Futures Gothenburg Local Interaction Platform (GOLIP), including current and former GOLIP project leaders and participants of the Urban Futures Open Research School.   

This one-day workshop addressed the following core themes and sub-themes about the facilitation of TD projects for urban development in order to improve curricula and training.

    There are numerous methods and tool boxes available for application by participants during TD projects within urban development. However, very little is known today about which methods and tools are used at which stage of the processes. Does this differ between different contexts and international settings? Is the growing number of tools and methods around indicating a demand or ignorance of what has already been achieved in this field, or are they a sign of how the field as such is experimenting and evolving? What can experience of COST Intrepid participants and reports from Mistra Urban Futures project members inform us about the tools and methods that facilitate TD processes?
    A facilitator commonly denotes a person who has specific roles and tasks to guide a process, project in order to achieve a desired goal more easily than if they were absent. The facilitator of a TD process or project is a person who guides the phases of a project using her/his personal and professional capabilities together with certain methods and tools that enable a group to achieve desired outcomes. This workshop addressed some key questions: What are the specific challenges to be aware of and which theoretical support is required to understand how to interact as process dynamics unfolds? What capabilities can a professional facilitator provide from experiences of multi-stakeholder processes, that also would be useful for transdisciplinary processes? 

These questions were discussed by participants from several countries during the day. After opening remarks by Henrietta Palmer, the aims and scope of the workshop were presented by Roderick Lawrence and the organization of the sessions was explained by Sophia Kaså. Then the first session included presentations by Josefine Fokdal, who presented transdisciplinary experiences in architecture and urban planning documented during the COST Intrepid Action; then Kerstin Hemström presented a framework for structuring TD processes elaborated by Mistra Urban Futures; then Anna Johanssen Fridén presented here experiences as a professional facilitator and mediator. After morning refreshments, the workshop included groups organized in the World Café format to discuss the question: How can methods and tools facilitate participatory research and what has proved successful?

After lunch the capabilities and skills of of faciliators were discussed by Alexander Hellquist and Sophia Kaså. Then a plenary discussion focused on the capabilities of facilitators and the added value of nominating one for participatory research projects. Finally the workshop concluded with a short session that made suggestions for future collaboration. Among several proposals, the organization of a session at the forthcoming International Transdisciplinary Conference in Gothenburg from 10-13th September 2019 was largely endorsed by the participants. As a consequence, a proposal for a workshop calling for a special issue on facilitation in TD research, was proposed  and accepted. An other proposal for a session on facilitation, following the lines of this day, has also been accepted.  Further, a third iniative emerging from this collaborative event, is a full day indepth workshop on facilation organised by Sophia Kaså (Mistra Urban Futures) together with the professional network of facilitators in Gothenburg (GoCreate) the 9th of September, as a conference side event.

Roderick Lawrence and Henrietta Palmer

download programme