By Jonathan Dudding

ICA:UK’s first face to face Group Facilitation Methods course since Covid struck took place in London at the end of June 2022. The last time such a course was held was in February 2020. So how did it go? And what did we learn about training face-to-face in times of Covid?

The course went very well (9/10 being the average score from 12 participants). As one participant commented “Took my knowledge, understanding and self-awareness to another level- a great course and facilitator” and another said “Good group of people, well-structured and paced, good to dive deeply into two tools rather than skim over many”.

In addition to the desire to learn and the enthusiasm for the training itself, there seemed to be an additional element in the room- the joy of meeting people again, the chance to interact with others in a physical space, the pleasure derived from meeting new people who shared some of the same interests, but who also represented a widening of the small social circles that many of us having been living in for the past two years. Some participants had deliberately waited for face to face training to come back. There was a lot of laughter and good engagement.

We were very conscious that Covid is still with us. In the UK, incidences of Covid are increasing again although, thankfully, that increase is not being reflected in the figures for hospitalisation or death. It is still not a disease you want to catch, however, and although Government guidance and regulation regarding Covid has largely disappeared, many people are still nervous about social interaction like, for example, being in an enclosed space with others for any length of time. To address this, we tried to make sure that the room was big enough for people to be spread out and we kept the windows open throughout. The venue (NCVO at Regent’s Wharf) also played their part in ensuring that hand sanitiser was provided, food and drink was appropriately delivered, social distancing in common areas observed.

So what next? Despite the risks, it does seem as if there is a real appetite for people to meet and interact again in physical spaces. There is a growing demand (even a need?) for people to have the time and space to re-connect, not just to discuss issues, learn together or make plans but to share their stories of the past two years and re-learn some of those social skills which have been forgotten or adapted to the online environment.

Equally, the ongoing pandemic has challenged facilitators to be conversant with both online and face-to-face working, able to weigh up which medium works best for what and sufficiently conversant with both ways of working to know what methods to use.

So, as ICA:UK considers its ongoing schedule of public courses, I would certainly encourage the inclusion of face to face courses as well as continuing the online versions as well, and toconsider offering space and time both for people to explore what it means for them to resume face-to-face interactions again and to explore how, as facilitators, they can offer their clients, organisations or groups the best process support, be that online or face-to-face.

Keep a lookout on our course calendar for more face to face courses!