Co-facilitating a parent group with someone outside your organisation
‘Co-facilitating a parent group with someone outside your organisation’ blog article was written by Chris Hutchinson, Parenting and Early Years Senior Consultant and Nina Moffatt, Parenting and Early Years Consultant and Therapeutic Specialist, at Australian Childhood Foundation.
We all hope that when we are going to facilitate a parent group we have the opportunity to share the role with a co-facilitator. But how does it work if you are co-facilitating with someone from another organisation?
We had this opportunity in 2021.
This was my first experience of both facilitating a parent group online and with an experienced facilitator. So for my experience, I was lucky to be co-facilitating with an experienced facilitator of the Bringing Up Great Kids (BUGK) parenting program who had also facilitated a parent group online.
The group was ready to go so we had little time to prepare and get to know each other. The facilitator was easy to talk to and we didn’t take too long to plan out our first session. As there was so little time, we were unable to send parents any resources before we started, so each session was planned the week before and resources were emailed to the parents before the session.
The other facilitator organised all the technology and the parents were from their organisations’ waiting lists, so there was nothing for me to do there. After a brief discussion to see who was comfortable with doing what, I used their running sheet for each session and identified who would do what in the session.
Almost from the first session, we fell into a comfortable co-facilitation style with one facilitator taking the lead starting off and the co-facilitator adding further explanation, anecdotes or information as necessary. We seesawed well between each other seamlessly for the most part.
One challenge we faced was organising time together to plan the sessions and make sure we were both happy with how things were going. Our work schedules rarely married up but we made it work as best we could. We had a short debrief after each session, maybe 10-15 minutes and organised a get-together before the next session. Sometimes that was for half an hour before we met with the parents. Emails were often our best way to communicate.
I would recommend co-facilitating with another organisation as it allows you the opportunity to learn more about that organisation and it might also support your clients in the future. I learnt some other ways to impart information and my co-facilitator had a lovely manner and way of talking to parents that I have taken away from the experience.
My most recent experience of facilitating a BUGK group was for another organisation, with one of their staff as my co-facilitator. My co-facilitator’s first exposure and experience of BUGK was within our group, while they were new to BUGK, they were not new to facilitating groups which is a bonus.
In preparing for the group, I took the time to orientate my co-facilitator to the content, themes, and process of BUGK. We were quick to connect and feel comfortable with each other and establish our co-facilitating style. This included a conversation about how we both typically work within groups and how we wanted to work together in this group. It felt important to me that the conversation felt natural between us and that my co-facilitator was an active part of the sessions. My co-facilitator was invited to contribute to the conversations where they had thoughts, questions, examples, or anything they felt appropriate to add, which they did so articulately with curiosity and wonder.
My co-facilitator had the role of organising and liaising with the parents attending the group, they would send out the resources and the zoom links. Within the group they had the role of managing all the technology – waiting rooms, break out rooms and the chat feature. While I took the lead role in organising the running sheet, powerpoint presentations for activities and resources, content and lead the conversations around the theme of the week. My co-facilitator was invited to support the check in’s, mindfulness activities, and stories to end the session, where they felt comfortable. We were fortunate that our schedules provided us with the time and space to debrief and plan the next session after each session, then in-between sessions we could coordinate what we needed via email.
I would encourage other facilitators, to not be deterred from facilitating with someone with limited BUGK experience. A co-facilitator still has a vital role in the group, in supporting both the parents experience and in supporting you to have fewer things to manage, compared to if you were on your own. I would recommend that you take the time to orientate your co-facilitator to the content, themes, and process of BUGK, inviting them to hold curiosity and wonder as they journey with you through the program.
It was a pleasure to take someone through their first experience of BUGK, to then train them formally in the program and to now hear they are enjoying delivering their very own group.
More from the Parenting and Early Years Team
“During the COVID pandemic, I have had the opportunity to co-facilitate our Bringing Up Great Kids parenting program with an online parent group. Despite my reservations, the group went well, albeit with lower numbers than face-to-face groups, which is probably a good thing when you are starting out in the online parent group space.”
Discover more about our experience of online parenting programs, compared to face-to-face parenting groups, during the pandemic in the blog below.