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Episode 169

June 15, 2022

169:Facilitating with the Awareness of Cultural Background with Cynthia Umurungi 

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    Cynthia Umurungi is a storyteller who gives a human voice to African organisations and businesses.

    Her voice is one I have wanted to share on this podcast for a long time – and not only because I have underrepresented voices of African heritage so far on this podcast. Cynthia’s work delicately combines storytelling and creativity with deep empathy and insights.

    In this episode, we explore the challenges of facilitating in a culture that isn’t your own, how team dynamics change across cultures, and how Western ideas of facilitation can falter in a non-Western workshop.

    Broaden your horizons with this incredibly insightful, energetic episode!

    Find out about

    • Why cultural undercurrents in the room will determine your workshop’s effectiveness
    • How to interpret shades of silence and find the thin line between thoughtful and tense
    • How language and translation affect our sense of safety
    • The need for openness and ‘no foolish questions’ when speaking in a second language
    • Why clear language and expectations reduce your risk of unpleasant surprises
    • How to use a ‘story wall’ to encourage creativity, sharing, and ice-breaking

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    Questions and Answers

    Part One

    01:50When did you start calling yourself a facilitator – if you do?
    03:21What have you learned about managing group dynamics from working in radio?04:58What is your process for creating a safe environment in a radio interview and is it similar to how you work as a facilitator
    09:16Does the idea of ‘active listening’ come through differently on the African continent?
    12:01Do you address cultural nuances and expectations directly with a group or do you let it emerge naturally?
    15:28Can we even accurately translate the word ‘vulnerability’ into different languages?
    22:08Are there role models you can point to across cultures who aren’t Western?
    28:54How do you deal with power imbalances and flatten the room?
    35:49My experiences in Namibia, Burkina Faso, and South Africa showed me that dancing is a more natural cultural expression than in, say, the Netherlands. Can you use these cultural insights to flatten the room?
    Part Two

    00:54Do you have a favourite exercise?
    02:11Do you use a lot of drawing and visual facilitation in your workshops?
    28:54How do you deal with power imbalances and flatten the room?
    04:41What is your experience with inviting participants to fail and/or be imperfect?
    07:18Where do you find inspiration for your facilitation practice?
    28:54How do you deal with power imbalances and flatten the room?
    11:37Do you find that participants are receptive to finding solutions themselves, or do they look to you for ‘answers’?
    18:34Do we have to be more explicit about silence when we’re working online?
    21:39How do we account for the power imbalance that comes when the context of colonialism pervades the room?
    24:07What would you consider your number one facilitation challenge?31:13What would be your wish for the future of facilitation on the African continent, and what would be your advice to facilitators who want to keep progressing on the continent?


    Connect to Cynthia

    On LinkedIn

    On Twitter