Facilitation is a fat word

Posted by  Andrew Rixon —November 17, 2005
Filed in Collaboration, Communication

Earlier this year Brian Bainbridge and I ran an open space event with a group of highly experienced facilitators exploring “Ways to even better NRM facilitation”.

One topic raised was ‘What is facilitation?’ We explored this using Bruce McKenzie’s conversation mapping technique and what emerged was that facilitation is considered a fat word. That is, a word overused and abused and one which seems to hold way too much meaning for its own good. What I also found interesting was that our group of “facilitators” decided they wanted to change the language and become known as “Passionista’s” rather than be associated with this troublesome label and word “facilitation”. I must admit, I am still slightly baffled by the ‘Passionista’ label.

What is Facilitation

About  Andrew Rixon


  1. Andrew: I look forward to discussing this with you next month! (A link to a blownup version of that map would be interesting)

  2. I find the balance between the necessity for high level generalisations, and the danger of semantic ‘overloading’ (or fatness as you call it), a challenging one. KM as a term has trodden this knife edge, for some clients I can’t use it as it’s already overloaded (or even become toxic). For me a willingness to find the words that make sense to the particular organisation, rather than seeking to impose my labels, has always worked the best.
    By the way, are you able to post a bigger copy of the mind map?

  3. Andrew Rixon says:

    Thanks Guys. After some hacking around I’ve put a link to the mind map.

  4. Nancy White says:

    Now that you mention this idea of “fat words,” a few more come to mind. Community. Leadership.
    We have to use them respectfully, but I don’t think we need to abandon them willy nilly. Maybe sometimes we have to defend them from abuse!
    For example, when did process become a dirty word? And why? There were good reasons I bet, but that does not diminish the value of process when applied well. 🙂

  5. Facilitation says:


    ation – Web Search – Web Sorry, no content found for this URL Web Groups Search …

  6. Your association of “fat” with facilitators struck a chord with me.
    In my previous place of work, we had a CoP called FAT which stood for “Facilitators and Trainers”. They picked the name themselves and were quite happy to be called that.

Comments are closed.