It’s difficult to count all the various ways in which CO.STARTERS stands out from other entrepreneurial programs. One of the most important stand-out features of our programs is facilitation. That’s why we are doing more and more to help you refine and improve your facilitation skills.

On Day 1 of a participant’s CO.STARTERS experience, they will meet the other starters in their cohort and their CO.STARTERS facilitator. Most of our CO.STARTERS facilitators have owned a business, have a desire to help others business start-ups, and have been trained to maximize the power and potential of the program. One might mistake this individual for a teacher, or mentor, or coach. Let’s take a minute to dive into the differences between facilitation and teaching, since this is the most common misconception about the position.

Who has the knowledge?

One difference between facilitating and teaching is where the knowledge is coming from in the room. In a traditional classroom, the authority and expertise of knowledge flows from the teacher, who imparts that information to the students. While perfectly appropriate in a school setting, that is not the dynamic that CO.STARTERS aims to achieve.

Instead, a facilitator understands knowledge is everywhere. Each entrepreneur has a unique perspective that lends itself to authority on numerous concepts and ideas. One starter might have years of experience in e-commerce, which the facilitator may lack. Other more visually-adept participants may have insight into social media presence or good web photography. Another starter might be a natural salesperson. As you know, the facilitator’s job isn’t to impart knowledge, but to coax the knowledge and expertise out of the group. 

This is why the position has the name “facilitator.” Theoretically, a CO.STARTERS cohort could meet every week without a facilitator and talk for three hours. There would still be value in that! But having a facilitator adds way more value; the facilitator has been trained to (1) provide the group’s time with structure, and (2) facilitate (make easier) the process of brainstorming, problem solving, and collaborating. To accomplish this, as a facilitator you will often ask a lot of questions of the group to draw upon the knowledge in the room, leaving participants to steer the prompted conversation.

What’s the relationship like?

Because the facilitator isn’t imparting the knowledge to the group, they don’t command the space in the way a teacher might. For instance, many teachers prefer to speak uninterrupted and then take questions at a designated time. A facilitator will be open to participation at any time because the facilitator expects a member of the group to know more about a certain topic than the facilitator might. The facilitator will welcome input from all members of the group.

Because of this “group first” mentality, a facilitator relinquishes control of the moment or situation to the participants, allowing them to take the conversation where the entrepreneurs need it to go. Of course, as mentioned earlier, the facilitator must at the same time provide structure to the time spent together. But our CO.STARTERS facilitators can both share control with the participants and structure the session well—that balance is at the core of the art of facilitating. 

Set apart—not above

The facilitator’s role is a special one. Many starters will recount how much they cherish not only their relationship with other entrepreneurs in the cohort, but also the facilitator. The facilitator adds structure, cooperates with the participants and draws out the knowledge of everyone to create a more valuable experience for everyone.

And with that, everyone in the cohort gets their questions answered or connected with resources they need to help them find the answers.  Each participant has their own way forward and everyone is recognized for their own unique contributions to the group as a whole.  This is where a hesitant entrepreneur, through the guidance of a facilitator, finds confidence and courage to be vulnerable and take the next step.