A meta look at resources to work and facilitate online more effectively

Sign of these times… everyone’s moving online indeed (with its positive consequences too). Consultants are becoming e-consultants, or online facilitation gurus. I guess I should follow that bandwagon (NOT) ha ha ha.


How to move from face to face to online most effectively? That’s the question on everyone’s lips (photo credit: startkiwi)

In any case, everyone else, who’s just getting to terms with the online collaboration world, is avidly looking for resources to make this transition work. It is a very crowded space already. Which is perhaps the reason why some specialists have preferred to offer their time to answer anyone’s questions and help them move their activities online, rather than share more resources. But if you’re still looking for some good resources, here’s my own selection of what I’ve found around recently:

So far, the very best resource I’ve found – warning it can feel really overwhelming – is this crowdsourced list of online meeting/gathering resources (shared by Nancy White): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NyrEU7n6IUl5rgGiflx_dK8CrdoB2bwyyl9XG-H7iw8/edit?ts=5e6fc9e3#heading=h.jb9co2l7jt1p 

Nancy also recently posted a few additional links that are great:

To which I’ll add a couple more resources from Michelle Laurie’s most recent post:

On KM4Dev (again), Karel Novotny also shared this guide:  “Closer Than Ever: A guide for social change organisations who want to start working online” https://www.apc.org/en/pubs/books/closer-ever-guide and Stacey Young shared this USAID resource on tips to work effectively remotely: https://usaidlearninglab.org/library/ultimate-tipsheet-working-remotely

A few online gathering fundamentals to consider (differently)

Finally a few meta reflections that I’m seeing as I’m really getting into that mode also:

As mentioned in my last post on this blog, online collaboration/facilitation actually follows a lot of principles of face-to-face collaboration/facilitation so if you have experience with the latter, that’s already a huge step ahead.

What is changing a lot and does require more careful consideration is a handful of practical, logistical, design and emotional points:

  • The nature of the gathering: fully online or blended with partial face-to-face group interactions. Given the general progression of SARS-COV-2 the former is more likely but still good to check;
  • The intention behind the gathering, with either mostly an intention to share information, pick people’s brains or explore and co-create solutions together (following Community At Work‘s seminal typology of Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 meetings). Behind this fundamental question (which should be asked for every conversation you want to have), comes the translated question of whether you want/need synchronous or asynchronous conversations…
  • Bandwidth issues and what is being done to allow the full participation of everyone in the gathering – what measures can be put in place for those that may not be able to access a video-conference at all times etc.?
  • The geographic distribution of participants and the amount of time zones that the gathering spans – this has important implications on the synchronicity of interactions;
  • What can be organised to break the ice among the people online – especially if they don’t know each other – and what do you have up your sleeves to pick up the energy etc. The potential risks of distraction are many more online…
  • What online system(s) is (are) being used, to talk/write/read/view – is any of these systems restricted only to ‘staff’? Are there any restrictions that again are going to make it more difficult for anyone to participate? What is the learning curve for people to be able to participate (and even more so to organise something on it?);
  • The role distribution to ‘hold the space’ – and this is where things might differ most from face-to-face gatherings: Who facilitates? Who chairs? Who attends to technology-related questions? Who monitors chat and other back channels? Who takes notes of the conversation etc.?
  • The best division of time, especially for gatherings which, if happening face-to-face, would take more than day. Online gatherings are potentially more tiring than face-to-face ones, all the more so now as they are multiplying like crazy;
  • How can you ensure you ‘read the crowd’ and people’s emotions as well as you might be able to offline? This is particularly important and difficult at the same time, so perhaps think about some feedback moments and breaks to check on people whom you suspect  might be experiencing difficult emotions.

And as ever, keep an open and fun approach to this learning. We are all in it together and no one can improvise themselves an online collaboration expert overtime. Let’s just keep it light, playful, focused, fun, and feedback-informed. There’s chances we’ll gather our 10000 hours of practice earlier than we might have thought…

4 thoughts on “A meta look at resources to work and facilitate online more effectively

  1. Fantastic summary Ewen, thanks. A thought- we should be stacking evidence of how GOOD it can be to meet online, the advantages, an analysis of successes- because climate change. Maybe this is the time to adopt and keep some of the changes that COVID has forced on us. So, past the scramble of saving life in this planet as we love it- and let me tell you, not all of it is “salvageable” for me, so many things to drop forever – will we be able to build on the sustainable aspects of our response?


  2. Thank you Sophie!

    You’re totally right, there’s also some excellent opportunities from this crisis and some good practices we should put in place. Climate change is not disappearing while COVID is sweeping the earth. And all the people that have been unquestioning of their travel choices could do worse than wonder critically how they could rethink this post COVD-19 🙂

    And online gatherings are still not as powerful as face-to-face (will they ever be) but still potentially incredibly effective though.




  3. Pingback: Recursos para trabajar y facilitar a distancia | "TripleAD": Aprendiendo a Aprender para el Desarrollo

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