“Democractic Facilitation by Design” in Parkdale

One of the core approaches that inform Parkdale Community Economic Planning & Development Project is popular education. This approach is vital as we aim to hold a series of participatory planning activities and workshops through the project.

Thus as a part of the PCED project, we held a training session on “Democratic Facilitation by Design” provided by the Catalyst Centre. This workshop is usually a two-day long but we had an intensive half-day session!


The workshop is based on principles of popular education – “that education is about power, that everyone has knowledge, that knowledge is made and shared in a wonder variety of ways” (excerpt from Catalyst’s ‘zine’). The training workshop put this approach into action; the workshop was designed to encourage participants with diverse backgrounds – community members, PARC ambassadors, PNLT volunteers, and project staff – to share their own experience with facilitation, which opened up further reflection and learning among each other.


One of the key components of the workshop was to pay close attention to the relationship between facilitation and design. When we talk about facilitation, we do not often talk about preparation, meeting design, and prior planning. In the words of Catalyst Centre, “while it is tempting to think that workshop or program issues can be solved through better conflict management skills, it is more likely that effective design will bolster your already strong facilitation skills with confidence and contingency plans.


The close relationship between facilitation and design became very clear as we shared our past facilitation experiences that went well and that did not go well. There are a number of challenges and issues that most of participants faced in facilitating meetings, programs and focus groups, ones that could have been mitigated by good planning and design.



How can we improve ways of designing and planning a meeting? How can we prepare well for a meeting that is complex and dynamic? A helpful tool that Catalyst Centre introdudced to participants is “design loom“. Participants learned how to use loom to plan, brainstorm and design activities for the meeting, while also using it as a guiding document for actual facilitation.

We are very excited to put the lessons from the workshop into action throughout the PCED project as well as community engagement work for Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust!