Strengthening Our Ability to Facilitate for Community and Change, by Ada Cheng

Several months ago, I completed The Art of Facilitation advanced level class by Caryn Mirriam-
Goldberg and Joy Sawyer. The following consists of my reflections to this prompt: What will particularly help strengthen our ability to facilitate for community and change?

First, the importance of flexibility. As a former academic, I am inclined to be critical and aim for
perfection in my work. This drive for perfecting the craft can dampen other’s desires to experiment as they may not feel comfortable making mistakes. By flexibility, I mean I need to adjust my expectations. I need to recognize my weaknesses. I am learning to adapt my skill set to the context of the group and the demand of circumstances.

Second, the necessity for humility. Humility is the willingness to see strengths in one context as weaknesses in another. It is also the willingness to honor the gap in knowledge as the world evolves. This is particularly true in the way we use language and understand politics. We may sharpen our skills in facilitation. Yet without any substantive grasping of the changing world, these acquired skills will not be adequate. There is so much to unlearn as well as to learn. Humility goes a long way.

Third, I keep on going back to the basics these days. The basics provide a blueprint and a guidance for what we do. I constantly ask myself the following questions: What is the purpose of my work? Why do I do what I do? What are the values that undergird my work? What is my vision? What is my mission? The answers help me make informed decisions.

Fourth, the imperative of doing. We cannot “will” the world to change. Talking will not automatically lead to actions. It is in the doing that I see commitment. If I want to make the world a better place for everyone, then I need to commit myself to actions. If I want to contribute to the cause of social justice, then I need to ask myself: What is it that I need to do to make a difference and exert impact?

Fifth, the necessity to allow for accountability and to create an open space for critical feedback. This is particularly important for those of us who are in positions of power or have accumulated a certain amount of privileges. Power and privilege can easily blind us to the reality of how the world operates for others. We need to create and maintain a vulnerable space for critical feedback and work against any instincts for comfort and complacency.

Sixth, honesty, truthfulness, and boundaries. I am at a point where I no longer wish to hold my tongue and silence myself. Words I swallow will turn into poisons that easily rot my soul. Boundaries are not for others; boundaries are for myself, so I affirm and validate my worth and truth again and again.

Ada Cheng is a professor-turned-storyteller, solo performer, and storytelling show producer. Ada is the producer and the host of five storytelling shows, including Pour One Out, Am I Man Enough?, Talk Stories: An Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling Show, Speaking Truths Series, and This Is America: Truths through My Body. She creates platforms for people to tell difficult and vulnerable stories as well as for communities who may not have opportunities otherwise. Her motto: Make your life the best story you tell.

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