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Facilitative Leadership - Using Facilitation to Enable Strategic Collaboration

Courtney Buck

The Africa Lead program, Feed the Future’s primary capacity building program in sub-Saharan Africa, has found how to use facilitation strategically - what they call facilitative leadership - to better enable policy reform progress around agriculture. These resources draw upon examples of their work in three countries and capture useful lessons around what enables this type of facilitation to work and what makes it challenging.

Strong collaboration among donor development actors, especially contractors, is uncommon. Project timeframes are short and implementing organizations are expected to deliver results fast. Most projects need to be laser-focused on their own narrow results and have little time to collaborate with other projects. Development actors, facing these challenges in an increasingly competitive landscape, are eager to take credit for themselves and uneager to collaborate with their brethren. 

Successful collaboration requires a facilitative leader. Facilitative leadership, if executed well, can increase effectiveness by harnessing the resources of many, can increase efficiency by avoiding duplication and conflict, and can be a powerful leveraging mechanism to achieve high-level development goals. However, all too rare is a project whose principal objective is to facilitate the collaboration of organizations and projects in achieving shared goals. Africa Lead is one of these projects. This paper draws from the three activities described above and describes how Africa Lead facilitated the coordination and collaboration among diverse organizations to achieve a goal that none could achieve alone. The paper addresses the following aspects of Africa Lead’s facilitative leadership experience:

  1. How did we assume the role of facilitator?
  2. What were our key functions and behaviors?
  3. What were the outcomes?

TIP: It requires a very patient process of trust building, some dedicated resources, a particular mentality toward collective success and impact, and the ability to capitalize on good fortune and windows of opportunity.

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