Focus on Facilitators: Sparking Conversation, Making Connections, and Spurring Action

Facilitators are “All In” for the One Earth Film Festival.

Facilitators are “All In” for the One Earth Film Festival.

By Tracie Bedell

The One Earth audience experience often flows like this: watch the film, absorb and digest, discuss, and identify an environmental action you can take. There is a reason for setting up screenings in this way. We want audience members to leave with something they didn’t have when they arrived, be it fresh information, a deeper understanding, a new connection, or a pledge that will set them on a course of action for the planet.

“OEFF is the perfect storm for a community activist like me: really great content coordinated by a terrifically talented team sparking juicy conversations and inspiring community collaboration with an emphasis on ACTION!”

–Susan Lucci, Facilitator

None of this happens in a vacuum, and that is why we rely on our facilitators—volunteers who may or may not be familiar with a film’s topic, but who have trained as professional discussion leaders.

From the start, the festival worked with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) in Chicago to base the festival’s facilitation method on ICA’s ToP (Technology of Participation) model. In 2018 and 2019, the ICA partnered with One Earth Film Festival to host training sessions for festival facilitators at their Chicago headquarters in Uptown. The training program helps participants gain an understanding of what it means to be a facilitator in general, the details of their role and how it supports One Earth’s mission, and how they can use focused conversations to guide group discussions. Training includes interactive exercises, role playing and lots of lively and thoughtful back and forth among participants.

“My goal [as a facilitator] is to listen to make sure that the conversation keeps moving forward so that people are given the opportunity to speak from their heads (intellect); heart (emotions) and hands (what actions they want to take or what will they commit to doing differently).”

–Stephanie McCray, Facilitator

Facilitators-in-training also have an opportunity to talk about their fears and make a “what could go wrong” list: When you’re running a live event, you have to be prepared for anything. Above all, facilitators must keep the audience top of mind, because they’re an important part of the One Earth Film Festival.

“I particularly enjoy the emotional recharge I get through working with environmentally committed and like-minded people to change behaviors, systems and outcomes.”

–Doug Dixon, Facilitator

So before you leave the film screening, stop by and say thank you to the facilitator. They are at the heart of the model that makes the film festival tick, bringing audiences from awareness, to connection, to action. And the festival’s methods are working. For example, over the last two years, more than 95 percent of survey respondents “strongly agreed” with the statements that facilitator-led discussions effectively introduced new topics and inspired the audience to become involved in issues or solutions presented.

Visit to learn more about this year’s talented group.