The Opportunities & Challenges of the Facilitator position
By John M. Ysursa
The position of NABO Facilitator is somewhat of a "Catch-22" predicament: no matter what one does, you run the risk of ending up on the wrong side of things. It is true, as some have noted, that a significant problem with this position is that too much might be centralized into the hands of one person. This is not good for the facilitator (the demands will quickly become excessive and the person will quickly burn-out) nor is it good for our organization (NABO loses its most valuable asset of volunteer workers & enthusiasm) because others think that someone else will do the work. With an eye on this the title "Facilitator" was proposed, because it implies that this person is there to assist but not necessarily direct/solely control the project(s).
Serving as NABO facilitator is a "Catch-22" (term coined by Joseph Heller in his novel Catch-22)situation: hang back and allow others to step forward to seize the initiative and you risk being seen as ineffective (i.e, not doing your job); step forward and take the point and you risk being perceived as trying to take control and run everything.
As NABO facilitator one must demonstrate that they are doing their duties; i.e., you have to show that you are at least doing a few things otherwise why have a facilitator? Sometimes, this means that one must take an active role in directing a project and making sure it gets done, especially when there is little outside support. But it involves working behind the scenes to assist others as they bring a project to fruition.
So one challenge is finding a viable balance between working directly and indirectly on various initiatives. Others are raised by critiques such as this from a forwarded email:
"This is my suggestion: The facilitator should not be one of the "usual suspects", one of Lakua's [reference to the Basque Government's central office building] "little darlings." It should be someone that has always shown a tendency to think "outside the box." When you get a facilitator that thinks that the only place in the world where change and ingenuity can take place is the USA and that therefore nothing new can come from the Basque Country you are up for a rotten start for that guy does not think as a Basque, he thinks as an Ann Coulter-Rush Limbaugh type American and he won't facilitate nothing despite having been the "best dantzari" outside Euskal Herria. My 22 cents." - Agur, Alex.
It would be easy enough to dismiss these comments (if I'm not mistaken this guy I don't know has never been at a NABO meeting but he thinks he knows me and what NABO is about). Furthermore, it's never enjoyable to read things such as this about oneself. But this negative becomes a positive because it helps to clarify several key aspects of the Facilitator position that include:
The "only place in the world" charge of a US-Basque centric approach is both right and wrong. Frankly, I'm not really sure what he's talking about (i.e., some NABO initiatives are the product of contact and collaboration with various Basque communities from around the world). Nevertheless, that some of these initiatives are specific to our local concerns is a given because the Facilitator should have as a priority what NABO directs.
The "won't facilitate nothing" charge makes it crucial that people remain informed of Facilitator activities so as to decide for themselves if what is going on is worthwhile. This is regularly posted at Report to NABO delegates & Current Facilitator activities.
The "think outside the box" comment raises several issues. One is where the facilitator should come from: the Facilitator should be someone very familiar with the inner-workings of NABO on a personal and institutional level. Therefore it should be someone from "inside the box" of NABO. However, the facilitator's role does include the task of articulating a vision and a plan for realizing objectives, and if there are some good outside ideas then they need to be incorporated. You'll find "boxes" of thought at 2006 Opening Statement, Helburua: Mission Formula and more recently at Zatoz where you can make your own assessment.
It is tricky matter when one charges another of "not thinking as a Basque." This can be correct or incorrect depending upon the context. Benito Lertxundi wrote a song entitled "Zenbat Gara." The song laments the fact of internal conflict. Why do we do this to ourselves? The chorus of the song declares Hori ez ("Not that")! The fact is that in the Basque world we oftentimes don't get to chose our friends; i.e., minus the fact that someone is interested in "being Basque" doesn't mean we might otherwise chose them as a friend. So we have to find ways of getting along. There are many ways of being Basque, and since we are not that many, it becomes self-defeating to quarrel among ourselves. This is further addressed in an earlier Astero at That's Not Basque
I did appreciate the best dantzari comment but that too isn't accurate. It isn't false humility; I know of better dancers. (PS--that's not me in this picture below)
What is most important, in contrast with the sentiment of the critique above, is that all of these statements are open to discussion and amendment. The guiding sentiment is that "no one is as smart as everyone." Thus together a common, shared path can be found without the necessity of resorting to name calling or labeling. The Facilitator is just that, a facilitator. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach for the NABO facilitator. The hope is that overall a greater good will nevertheless emerge, and what will make it not just possible but more probable is civil, steady communication. Thus the email door is always open at firstname.lastname@example.org.