Meet the facilitator: Amanda Brown (SAOS)
“Our strength as facilitators is through our networks”
Amanda Brown facilitates projects as part of her work with the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS). With the Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS), she’s facilitating our Local Authority Vegetable Supply Chain group, and the Scottish Commercial Apple Production group.
Here Amanda tells us about how she sees facilitation, her experiences facilitating the Scottish Apple group, and setting realistic goals when starting a new project.
“Ultimately we're trying to help the industry”
“I think facilitation is about bringing together people who share a common goal, or who want to achieve something that they maybe don’t have the capability, facilities, or resources to be able to do on their own.
“A lot of the people we work with are small producers, and our job is to help them take their ideas forward. Ultimately we’re trying to help the industry.”
“It's about not working in a box with a lid on it”
“The apple group, which is trying to bring commercial apple orchards back to Scotland, is a perfect example of how facilitation works to connect people. We started with an idea, and we identified an immediate group of people we wanted to contact and who were genuinely interested in being part of things, but it’s like a spider’s web. The group started to grow as we expanded our thinking."
Amanda with farmer Roger Howison at the Commercial Apple Group meeting in January 2020.
“We wanted to bring in an apple expert, and although we could have brought in an expert from down south or in Ireland, we wanted someone from Scotland to be part of this.
“I approached the James Hutton Institute through someone I knew, who initially said that they didn’t work with apples. But then I was able to go to someone else who was interested, and within a day of them introducing me to another contact we were able to set up a call. As a result, the James Hutton Institute are willing to discuss how they can help, which will really benefit the group.
“The key thing is that facilitation is about being open-minded and not just working in a box with a lid on it. it’s about being able to connect those who are interested because it’s right for what you’re trying to achieve.”
“You have to be realistic about the delivery”
“I would say the only thing that’s sometimes difficult is the speed of travel. You have to find the time to bring people together, and therefore it can be difficult to keep the momentum going, but that’s the case whenever you’re working with a wide group.
“You want to bring as many people with you as you can so that people have a sense of being part of something. The more people you can include the better, even if that sometimes makes the job more difficult, because then you know you haven’t excluded anyone.
The Commercial Apple Group get a tour of Roger Howison's apple trees planted in his barley fields.
“It’s a challenge that can’t be avoided when you’re working with people who already have a day job! But the benefit of the RISS facilitation team is that we can help keep things moving in between meetings and use other resources that are available to us. We have a lot of knowledge and a network of people who can help.
“In my view, good facilitation is about recognising the parameters within which you’re working, and not setting unrealistic aspirations, goals and deadlines at the beginning of the project.
“Again, that’s where our experience should come into it – if a group want to do something within six months and you know that they can’t, you have to help them be realistic about the delivery.”
“Our strength is in who we are and the networks we have”
“A lot of the people we work with might not have much experience working with groups of people with varied backgrounds, interests and experiences.
“Our strength as facilitators is being about to manage those diverse priorities, and in knowing who else to bring in to add value to the group.
“Our strength is in who we are and in the networks we have. It’s knowing who to go and speak to if we don’t know the answer to something, and to reach out to our own networks.”
More about Amanda
If you want to know more about Amanda, you can contact her by email.