Meet the facilitator: Ana Allamand (Soil Association Scotland)

“Facilitation is like doing a puzzle with all of the pieces that have been provided through a conversation, and making sure there’s a cohesive image at the end of it.”

Ana Allamand is Farming and Land Use Manager with Soil Association Scotland. She facilitates the Scottish Pulses group and the Veg Box Innovation group for the Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS).

Here she tells us about how she sees facilitation, her experience of helping groups get clear on their ideas, and the value of a facilitator.

How would you describe facilitation?

“Facilitation is about guiding meaningful discussion and helping people get clear about their ideas until they find the one they want to work on. That is done through just letting people talk and making sure you highlight certain aspects of their ideas.

“Working with a group, it’s about being the person who makes sure everyone is heard, and that you create a route for the ideas to develop rather than get lost in all the noise.

“So it can be like doing a puzzle with all of the pieces that have been provided through a conversation, and making sure there’s a cohesive image at the end of it.”

Facilitating RISS groups

“Both my groups are quite new, but it’s been both interesting and challenging! I find people are full of ideas and really willing to share them. You really need to be on your toes because people are bringing a massive amount of knowledge, new ideas, and feeding into each other.

“They’re really dynamic groups, full of new ideas, and if anything the challenge is bringing it together to one road rather than having a big tree of ideas!”

Bringing out all the great ideas in a room

“Sometimes it’s easy to have a group that doesn’t end up being cohesive because you’re missing parts of the conversation. Some people are naturally more talkative, but someone quiet in the back might have a great idea, so it’s about making sure you bring out all the great ideas in a room.

It’s been an interesting experience with the RISS groups because even though everyone has lots of ideas, everyone’s really good at listening to each other and building on what each other’s said. It’s been easier because it’s not a group with radically different ideas where you’re trying to find common ground. It makes it easier to bring conversation back round to the main ideas.

Because people are so passionate about the topics they’re really good at coming back to the core ideas, you don’t have to drag them!

That dynamic is great because it means they can bring more to the conversation without worrying we will lose the thread of the discussion.

“It’s basically being a tool to help people do things!”

“The value of a facilitator has two sides. One is super practical – there are lots of administrative things where it’s important to have a facilitator behind the curtains making sure things are ticking, that an email or invitation has been sent, that a reminder has been sent out. There’s information needed between meetings, and that’s where the facilitator can do a lot of legwork.

“It’s also always practical to have someone in the discussion who’s worried about there being a resolution to what you’ve been discussing for two hours, so the ideas turn into something tangible you can build upon afterwards.

“It’s basically being a tool to help people do things!”

More about Ana

Ana joined Soil Association Scotland in 2019. Originally from Chile, she has over 10 years of expertise working with growers and across the Agri-Food value chain, from farm to market.

She is curious about all things agriculture having always been involved in the industry through her family, and enjoys working with – and learning from! – those on the front lines. 

She facilitates the Scottish Pulses group and the Veg Box Innovation group for the Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS).

If you want to know more about Ana, you can contact her by email.

> Hear more from our other RISS facilitators

What is RISS?
Read more about RISS facilitators
Find out what RISS groups are working on
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