Train the Trainers Program at Maya Universe Academy, NEPAL.

Vasudhaiva Ride & the Maya Universe Academy

#TOOLKIT: Facilitation and (Rethinking) Leadership
– March 10-14th, 2017


In March, 2017, ben reid-howells did a four-day training program with a group of volunteers at the Maya Universe Academy. The following is an extraction from this program, and a basic TOOLKIT for work in Facilitation and Leadership. A core goal of the Vasudhaiva Ride is to facilitate exchanges of resources for people working around the world for peace, sustainable living and community wellbeing. In this spirit, please share this simple toolkit and adapt it to your own ends!



After completing the Pushkar Project on the Vasudhaiva Ride, ben reid-howells spent eleven days in Nepal. This was to fulfill a visa requirement—the first of many nation-state implications on freedom of movement that ben and Prashant will navigate on the Vasudhaiva Ride—and to scout a future project in Nepal for August, 2017. In this time, ben visited the Maya Universe Academy: a community-supported primary school in rural Nepal devoted to bettering the lives of its students, their families, and the surrounding community, in doing so tackling the problem of unequal and incomplete education in Nepal.

While there, ben led a train-the-trainers program with the school’s core team of volunteers, covering skills and tools for Hosting, Facilitation and Leadership. This includes embracing vulnerability as a leader, Taoist models of leadership and more. Ben has worked in training since 2007, in contexts of outdoor education, experiential education, activism, facilitation, mindfulness and more. For any resources in these areas, contact ben at:
Benjammin Reid-Howells (FB)
+91.8890.456.206 (India)




Session outline

Session 1: Hosting, Facilitation and Different models of Leadership
Session 2: Effective Communication 101 and Project Management
Session 3: Beyond the basics: Authority, Power and Vulnerability






Session 1: Hosting, Facilitation, Group Stages and different models of Leadership

What is a HOST?

A host is someone who welcomes people, who understands the place we are in and helps others to understand it also. Hosting people means sharing the story of the place you are in:
the INFRASTRUCTURE: the buildings, physical spaces, environment around.
the PROGRAMMES: the things that happen inside the buildings, eg. The programmes, the community, etc.
the VALUES: WHY [where you are] does what it does; eg. The Vision, Mission, Values or the place.

Simple tricks to being an effective host.
- Know who you are hosting. Think about where they’re coming from—geographically, socially, politically.
- See what your guests need: eg. Rest, a cup of tea, some space, a map to the place, etc.
- Share the story effectively: As a host you’ll be giving the first tour of the space you’re in. Think of where to start, end and climax the tour. eg. Climax at the best view as you share the VISION of the place; end with a snack.
- Bring the entire story of the place alive: tell people about the history, the context of [where you are]
- Be welcoming. Be sure people know where they are, where they’re expected to be next.

What is a

Facilitators do a lot in a community/organization.
From getting the work done to managing people and seeing to logistics, facilitators also have the work of ensuring people working with them—volunteers and program participants in many cases—are aware of the greater picture: what we’re working towards, how and why. Facilitate means to make something easy.  “Facil” (French) = easy. As a facilitator, you are helping people to experience something: students learning in class; parents visiting a program; volunteers building a garden. As the facilitator you are responsible for the following things:

  • introducing the experience;
  • ensuring the goals at hand are being met;
  • ensuring everyone is being involved and is generally happy;
  • ensuring people reflect on the experience once it is over. Reflection is where 80% of the learning happens.

If there is conflict, you deal with it, if there are logistics to organize, you have them arranged beforehand and you ensure cleaning happens after. A facilitator GUIDES the group through the experience, and through the different STAGES a group will go through…



The GROUP STAGES: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning.

All groups go through different stages. As a facilitator/host it is YOUR job to help the group through these stages. This means understanding them, and how to help a group transition to Performing and Adjourning.

– The beginning: people are getting to know each other; generally happy. There isn’t much clarity because it is not needed at this point. People are just happy to be here. Eg. A new volunteer on Day 1.
TO DO: Help people to connect,  eg. By sharing: a vision/goal/their name/story/an experience.

STORMING – Conflict:
When shit hits the fan. People now question things: eg. Who is in charge here? Why are we doing things this way? Why do I have to do this, while they can do that? I’m older than you, don’t tell me what to do! Etc.
TO DO: Acknowledge what is happening—Alright, I can see we need some more clarity here…--and then start sharing some information to provide the clarity that is needed. This is how you help the group transition to the “norming” stage.

NORMING – Making things clear
. Norms can be rules, guidelines or values at a place. What norms do we live/work/play by here?  Eg. No violence, no noise after 10pm, no smoking; starting the day with 1 minute of silence; cleaning tools away after work. TO DO: Give people information. Explain/remind people of the norms here: how we do things and why, who has what role (who is “leading” what task/project). If necessary, create new norms: eg. “OK, from now on, we will only go for lunch when all the tools are gathered up.” Make sure everyone understands WHAT they’re doing, HOW and WHY they’re doing it. Very important!

PERFORMING – The fun part.
The group now understands and agrees on the norms, their role in the group and what we’re doing. Now the group performs very well: working effectively together towards a common goal with clear steps to get there and a process that is clean, respectful and efficient. Wow!

ADJOURNING (Ending) – The work is done. Volunteers are about to go home, the classroom has been built. Now its time to end. TO DO: Gather the group and recognize the work you have done together. Help the group to reflect on their experience. Eg. Activity: Go around the circle, everyone shares their hardest moment and favourite moment.
*Most of the learning process takes place when people reflect on their experience. Make sure this happens!




Different styles of LEADERSHIP.

There are many ways to be a “leader”. Imagine you are the leader, working with a group to cut a pile of wood at Maya. Here are three examples of different styles of leadership.

The Type-A Leader: “I’m the best at cutting wood, so I’ll cut it all myself. You can all watch.”
Assertive, confident, loud, doing things yourself, being the centre of attention.
This is useful: in urgent situations. Eg. the wood needs to be cut in 5min for the kitchen to make lunch!

The Guiding Leader: “I’ll show you how to cut the wood, then let you do it. I’ll be here if you need me.”
Helps people to do the work themselves.  Guides them in the process. Is at hand if help is needed.
This is useful: when there is little risk involved and the group is able to do OR learn to do.

The Leader who is hardly known: “We need to cut all this wood by 2pm. You know how? Good. I’ll be over there doing some work; call me if you need anything urgent.” Allows the group to do the work themselves, to direct themselves and learn through any problems they have.
This is useful when the group has experience in the work at hand and thus able to work alone.

Being the different leaders:
You don’t have to choose one! You can use different styles of leadership at different times, depending on: the group you’re working with; the activity at hand; and the general context/environment. The more you can let a group lead themselves, the better.


The best kind of leader is the one whose people say: We did it ourselves. - Lao Tzu




Session 2: Effective Communication 101 and Project Management

Effective Communication = [You send the message effectively] + [People receive it effectively]

  • MORE THAN WORDS. Use eye contact to connect with people and your hands to demonstrate.
  • SLOW AND CLEAR. Speak clearly and not too fast. Think of people’s level of the language being spoken.
  • DID THEY GET IT? Once you have spoken, CHECK for understanding. Eg. “So, where are we meeting?”
  • SAY IT DIFFERENTLY. To be sure they understand, say the same message using different words.

    KEY WORDS for further research: active listening; empathy; emotional intelligence; nonviolent communication



Project Management:  7 steps to ANY project.

Project management means running a project smoothly: from preparing the materials, building the team, doing the work and thoroughly ending the project. The following steps can take place multiple times during any project process.

1. Identify the GOALS of the project.
There can be more than one goal: eg. Build a classroom; teach people about teamwork; finish by April 1st.
2. Create a timeline.
Physically, not just in your head: this means on paper in your notebook/on chart-paper on your wall/workspace.
3. Divide the project into TASKS.
A project is big and complex. Eg, building a classroom. A Task is smaller and do-able in one day or two.
4. Identify the SKILLS and LIMITATIONS in your group.
This includes what people have expressed interest in doing/not doing; includes people skills, chai making skills, etc.
5. ASSIGN TASKS according to people’s skills and limitations.
As much as possible, give people the choice here, or at least, make them think they are choosing   ;)
6. Identify your own skills and experience.
Be honest. If you know someone in the group is more experienced, recognize this and tell them too.
7. Consider which style of leadership is most appropriate.
(See leadership styles above.)

*Try writing these 7 Steps down in your workspace/notebook so you use them every time you do a project.






Session 3: Beyond the basics: Authority, Power and Vulnerability

As a host, facilitator or leader, you have some authority, which means you have power. When it comes to working in a group, power is best when you share it.

Sharing power can mean sharing the knowledge you have.
To EMPOWER people in your group, give them as much knowledge as you can.
This allows them to take on more responsibility. THIS makes them feel more connected to the project, which means they will work with more commitment and passion.

You have authority. You cannot escape it. The question is how do you use it? Different styles of leader use it differently (see leadership styles). When you are working with people who are older than you, or more experienced, they also have authority, and thus power. The more connected you are to the people in your group, the less these different stories of power will turn into problems.

Connecting with your group: being  vulnerable. Vulnerability means having no hard defense. It means being open, unprotected, honest and raw. This could mean sharing your worries/fears/an injury or tiredness. Being vulnerable as a leader allows the people in your group to feel closer to you: more human. A group that is connected will do more for each other, and for the project at hand. So make yourself open, and let people see what is easy/hard for you. Do this when it is appropriate: probably with more mature/older groups.

This is the difference between telling people what to do, and asking for help to do something together.





THE END. Almost…

Last note: Stay inspired. As a host/guide/facilitator/leader, you need to stay inspired. You’re doing a lot of work, you’re in this for the long run. This means you need to keep motivated. Make sure you know WHY you’re doing this work, WHAT it means to you and be sure to reflect once every month or so, on HOW you’re growing and what all you’re learning in this work. By noticing your growth, you will be motivated to keep going and keep developing as a leader.

Keep a journal.
Write down what’s hard for you in work.
Write down what helps in these challenges.
Write down the learning moments, Aha! moments, when you realise how to overcome these challenges.
Write down what matters most to you about Maya, the students and your work here.

And have fun!