Part 2: Facilitating for Transformation in Our Times

(see part 1 here:

 “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” Bill O’Brien


We are living in times when moral distress seems to be pulling people apart. It is also true of times like this that transformation becomes possible when what seems to be pulling people apart becomes a nexus for bringing people together. It is the point in human systems when instead of splitting because of complexity and each of our individual disorienting dilemmas, people begin to recognize the shared nature of their pain, and possibility and transformation become available when we get into real dialogue and exploration together. When this starts to occur, practitioners need to work clients and groups through the middle three phases of the transformative learning journey in bold below.

Stages of TransfomationInitiating the InquiryFacilitating the JourneySustaining Transformation
Mezirow’s 10 phases of transformation1. A disorientating dilemma

2.     Self-examination with feelings of fear, anger, guilt, or shame

3.     A critical assessment of assumptions

4.     Recognition that one’s discontent and the processes of transformation are shared

5.     Exploration of options for new roles, relationships and actions

6.  Planning a course of action

7.     Acquiring knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans

8.     Provisional trying of new roles

9.     Building competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships

10.  A reintegration into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s new perspective

As noted in part 1 of this blog series, I wrote about how to facilitate transformative learning from the client-group perspective in Chapter 14 of the book Dialogic Organization Development: The Theory and Practice of Transformative Change. In this post, I continue to explore issues and questions that facilitators and practitioners must address to take themselves through this journey, before they facilitate others to do so. This continues to be an exploration of self-transformation for facilitators, as the first step in responding to the question: how do I facilitate transformation in the current socio-political environment?

Find a Transformative Learning Community: As noted in the table, recognizing the shared nature of one’s discontent is the first phase of the actual ‘facilitation’ phase of transformation. This is the point when facilitators need to find others who are also looking for strategies to strengthen their own capacity to facilitate the difficult questions facing us in the current socio-political environment. To practice what we preach, each of us who facilitate for transformation must find at least a partner, and ideally a community of practitioners who can help us through our own transformation journey as we examine our own untested assumptions, doubts, fears and hopes. Through reflective discourse and exploration, we move toward self-transformation as our worldviews are stretched and expanded by listening into the diverse experiences of others, while freely being able to share our own. This process allows facilitators to experience shared empathy that others are going through what we are and that others have questions similar and different than ours. Facilitators who embark on this journey get to look through the many facets of the diamond of their collective experiences, uncovering many more possibilities than each had imagined. It is in its simplest form, the experience of knowing: I am not alone in this learning journey and I have a safe space in which to go through my own process, that unlocks transformation. I have the benefit of having professional partnerships and a community of learners with whom I share these experiences and it is invaluable to my practice.

Explore New and Different Options: Next comes exploration of options for new roles, relationships and actions. As we begin to see possibilities, the invitation in a transformative journey is to begin to ask new and different questions that may lead to innovative possibilities to address the dilemmas we start out with. This is the realm of expanding our worldviews to think in ways we haven’t before about how we might engage the world differently, given the new questions our current socio-political environment has raised. You might ask questions like the following, while holding openness to explore each of them in ways that you haven’t before: What can I do now? What role do I want in this situation? What new relationships will support me in my own self-transformation journey? Where and with whom do I feel safe to share my own disorientating dilemmas about the current world system and engage in genuine discourse and learning? How do I want to be in relationship to those around me who hold similar and different worldviews? What is my own identity and worldview to the various moral questions we face and how does that colour my world? What new outcomes do I want for myself?

Commit to Action: Finally, as facilitators of transformation, we can complete facilitating our own transformation by planning a course of action…and embarking on it. This is where we model what we ask our clients to do. In the current complex environment with so many socio-political tensions, this has never been more important. Each of us must model the leadership and transformation we are asking of others. I cannot ask you to do that which I am not willing to do myself. Hence as facilitators of transformation, we must go first and commit to taking actions toward our own self-transformation. We must take actions towards the new roles, relationships and actions we uncover in the journey of finding possible ways forward in the complexity of our times. This dialogue is part of my own journey and the actions I committed to taking to engage the complexity of our times in a different way. What actions might you commit to taking?


In Part 3 of this series, I will write about what sustaining transformation requires of us…