Dynamic Facilitation

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November 10, 2019 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
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June 25, 2018 Lucy J Parry, Participedia Team
October 10, 2017 Rosa_Z
December 30, 2013 Rosa_Z

Dynamic Facilitation is a specific method for hosting deliberative dialogue in a way that creates psychological safety and thus encourages participants to engage creatively with differing perspectives.

Problems and Purpose

Dynamic Facilitation, aka the "choice-creating process" is a specific form of working with groups that helps participants engage creatively with divergent perspectives [1]. One of its hallmarks is that the facilitator acts as an "empathetic listener" throughout the process [2]. In addition to intensive use of active listening and "we-flection" with each participant, other key aspects include:

  • Welcoming "initial solutions" as prototypes
  • Working with multiple divergent problem definitions for an extended period of time
  • Creating a safe space for both creative and critical thinking to occur simultaneously, by having participants direct critical comments to the facilitator, where they are reframed as 'concerns'
  • Close mapping of each participant's contribution using four charts: solutions, concerns, data, and problem-statements [3]

Within the realm of public participation, Dynamic Facilitation has been used within group deliberations on challenging public policy issues as the core "operating system" in the Vorarlberg Bürgerrat model, a format derived from Jim Rough's original Wisdom Councils [4].

Dynamic Facilitation is most suited to public engagements which seek to give community members a deeper appreciation of an issue's complexity, to engage in creative thinking about the issue, and to experience the heightened sense of agency, meaning, and possibility that arise from authentic discourse [5]. Outside of public participation projects, Dynamic Facilitation has been used as an effective way to support the evolution of organizational cultures [6].

Origins and Development

Jim Rough originally developed Dynamic Facilitation to address challenging workplace issues with shop floor employees in paper mills and lumber mills in the Pacific Northwest. [7] He then developed the Wisdom Council as a large-group application of this method, and used it successfully within several large organizations. [8] His Wisdom Council model has been used most extensively in the state of Vorarlberg in Austria , where the Office of Future-Related Issues (renamed in 2020 as the Office for Voluntary Engagement and Participation) enhanced the original model with some of their own adaptations, and found it to be an effective approach for conducting public participation projects [9].

Outside of public participation projects, Dynamic Facilitation is also being used within organizational contexts in German-speaking countries [10].

How it Works

The participants in a group that is working with Dynamic Facilitation engage in a creative exploration of an issue. Divergent and challenging perspectives are welcome but are directed toward the facilitator. This reduces the confrontational nature of the exchange so participants feel safe to consider and share new or divergent perspectives. [11]

The process evokes shared understandings and breakthroughs, rather than decisions among a fixed set of possibilities. A "meeting of the minds" (and hearts) is a typical outcome, although of course one cannot predict the particular area on which the group will arrive at their spontaneous convergence. [12]

In the public policy applications, a "microcosm group" or mini-public explores an issue in a sequestered process, much like a jury but aided by an expert facilitator. At the conclusion of their work, participants share their findings at a large public gathering. Usually the gathering is run as a The World Café, to allow for public response, and in-depth questioning and consideration on the group's findings. [13]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The use of Dynamic Facilitation has been explored as part of two different evaluations of Vorarlberg's experiences with Bürgerräte (Citizens' Councils or Civic Councils derived from the Wisdom Council model).

In 2012, an evaluation was published by the European Institute of Public Participation along with Kairos, with the outcomes of a qualitative research study that had been commissioned by Vorarlberg's then-Office for Future-Related Issues (Büro für Zukunftsfragen). [14]

In 2014, an "Interim Report" was published by that same office, that included the outcomes of interviews and focus groups with past participants in these Councils. [15]

In 2016, Hans Asenbaum published an article on a participatory process he had observed, which used Dynamic Facilitation. [16]

See Also

Vorarlberg Bürgerrat model

Wisdom Council Process


[1] Rough, J. & Martin, D. (2007). Dynamic Facilitation. In P. Holman, T. Devane, & S. Cady (Eds.), The Change Handbook. Berret-Koehler. 223-226.

[2] Holman, P. (2014). The transformative power of reflection. In R. Zubizarreta, From Conflict to Creative Collaboration: A User's Guide to Dynamic Facilitation. Two Harbors Press.

[3] Zubizarreta, R. (2014). From Conflict to Creative Collaboration: A User's Guide to Dynamic Facilitation. Minneapolis: Two Harbors Press.

[4] Hellrigl, M. & Lederer, M. (2014). Wisdom Councils im öffentlichen Bereich. In R. Zubizarreta and M. zur Bonsen (Eds.) Dynamic Facilitation: Die erfolgreiche Moderations-methode für schwierige und verfahrene Situationen: 150-162. Beltz Verlag. English translation at <>

[5] Strele, M., Lüdeman, M, and Nanz, P. (2012). BürgerInnen-Räte in Österreich: Gemeinsames Forschungsprojekt des Lebensministeriums und des Büro für Zukunftsfragen. Ergebnisbericht zur begleitenden Evaluation. Original at <> [retrieved 15 August 2015]; English translation at <> [retrieved 15 August 2015].

[6] Trattnigg, R. and Haderlapp, T. (2014). Dynamic Facilitation – eine Methode des kulturellen Wandels. in R. Zubizarreta and M. zur Bonsen (Eds.) Dynamic Facilitation: Die erfolgreiche Moderations-methode für schwierige und verfahrene Situationen, 163-177. Beltz Verlag. English translation at <> [retrieved 5 January 2016].

[7] Zubizarreta, R. (2006). "Practical Dialogue: Emergent approaches for effective collaboration." In S. P. Schuman, (Ed.), Creating A Culture of Collaboration: The International Association of Facilitators handbook. Jossey-Bass/Wiley. 256-278.

[8] zur Bonsen, M. (2014). "Wisdom Council – der Rat der Weisen", in R. Zubizarreta and M. zur Bonsen (Eds.) Dynamic Facilitation: Die erfolgreiche Moderations-methode für schwierige und verfahrene Situationen. Beltz Verlag. 137-149 English translation at <> [retrieved 15 January 2016].

[9] see [5 ] above.

[10] see [8] above.

[11] Zubizarreta, R. (2013). Co-creative dialogue for meeting practical challenges: New approaches, OD Practitioner, 45:1, 47-53.

[12] Zubizarreta, R. (2013). Co-creative dialogue for meeting practical challenges: New approaches.

[13] see [4] above.

[14] see [5] above.

[15] Büro für Zukunftsfragen, (2014). Bürgerräte in Vorarlberg. Eine Zwischenbilanz. Original at; English translation at

[16] Asenbaum, H. (2016). Facilitating inclusion: Austrian Wisdom Councils as democratic innovation between consensus and diversity. Journal of Public Deliberation, 12(2).

Atlee, Tom. The Tao of democracy: using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all. North Atlantic Books, 2003.

Atlee, Tom. Empowering public wisdom: A practical vision of citizen-led politics. North Atlantic Books, 2012

Holman, Peggy. Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010.

Holman, Peggy, Tom Devane, and Steven Cady. The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today’s Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007. 

Rough, Jim. Society’s Breakthrough: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in all the People. 1stBooks Library., 2002. 

Zubizarreta, Rosa. From Conflict to Creative Collaboration: A user's guide to Dynamic Facilitation. Minneapolis: Two Harbors Press, 2014.

External Links

Vorarlberg - Bürgerräte in Vorarlberg