Most of the important aspects of running a training have already been covered in the subsection on the Role of the Trainer. The exercises given in the next section are accompanied by additional notes that can be very important for running workshops and/or training. We also believe that the section on Difficulties will be useful, especially to those who do not have much training experience. Here, we would like to present some of the most important things to keep in mind.
From the very first workshop, you should take care to create space for all participants to be heard and slowly build trust towards the team and among the participants. It will often be necessary to subtly encourage the less talkative participants, but you should keep in mind that some people are naturally more introverted and will need more time to feel comfortable, and that it is not equally easy for everyone to speak in front of twenty or so people. You should therefore be careful not to put too much pressure on people. People should not be called on, but encouraged to participate and everyone should decide for themselves whether they wish to speak or not.
It is very useful for the training team to participate in all the exercises for getting to know each other better, and in all the group discussions. From the very beginning, you should create space for criticism of the work of the training team, the choice of methods, etc. Evaluations of the day are particularly suited for such processes, so it is useful to formulate questions that will open up space for receiving criticism.
One of the primary and most important tasks of the training team is to build the group and mutual trust. In such a working atmosphere, the unattainable becomes possible. Training is a space where we practise and develop dialogue, so false harmony should not be encouraged. Instead, we should seek to create space where conflicts – which will inevitably crop up – are dealt with constructively with mutual respect. It is not our goal to make sure everyone feels good. Given the topics we deal with, it is practically impossible to feel good all the time, and it is quite acceptable that we do not agree and that we have different views.
Special care should be taken if the group includes participants who are not native speakers of the working language. Be sure to check that everyone has understood, especially when conveying important information and instructions, and don’t speak too fast. Even when everyone is proficient in the working language, it is important to keep in mind that maintaining concentration and participation in a foreign language is very demanding. This is another reason why it is advisable to use simple terms and language.
We do not often give theoretical input, preferring to leave more room for interaction and dialogue. It can, however, be useful if concise and directly related to the preceding discussion or exercise, or if it serves as an introduction to the next topic. And it remains important to leave room for critical evaluation by the participants of any presented theory.
Finally, special care should be taken regarding the role of observers at the training, be they organisers, donors, researchers, persons responsible for documenting the training or the participants and training team themselves. The training is a sandbox space for trying things out. It is important that it should be a safe space and it is safest when we are all put in a similar position. The presence of an observer can have significant impact on a safe space and can make people more withdrawn, make them stick to “well-trodden paths” and wary of opening up more challenging issues. If we have to have an “outsider” at the training for any reason, we try our best to make sure that they participate just like the others.
For the training team, participating in the workshop will be more difficult if you also have to take minutes.* So, it is important to announce at the beginning of the workshop that you will be taking minutes in order for people to understand why you’re not actively participating.
* The minutes taken at a workshop are done in the form of a protocol, i.e. noting only what was said but not naming the speakers. Members of the training team take turns as minute takers.