Retha Dungga manages the advocacy, communication and program team at Koalisi Seni, a network of 262 individuals and organisations from 20 provinces in Indonesia aiming to facilitate change in cultural policies and regulations for more inclusive arts and cultural development.

She recently attended SPRING’s 3-Day Virtual High Impact Facilitation Intensive. She spoke to us about her dramatic learnings and how they will impact her work.

What challenged you about virtual facilitation?

Doing facilitation can be really challenging, even for experienced facilitators. I used to think that virtual facilitation was just a screen to screen interaction and wouldn’t be nearly as effective. After the HIFI-V training, I see things differently.

I see that there are new competencies needed to do things well online, and invisible nuances between live and virtual that we have to understand and plan for. But once we understand the basic principles of using this online medium as a new tool, it can be as rewarding and as meaningful as a live meeting. The stuff I learned pushed me, and now I’m confident: I can do what I need to do in a virtual workshop.


What’s changed about how you see your role now as a facilitator?

As a facilitator for the past 10 years, I’ve been an avid Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) user. Whether I’m facilitating individuals, communities, or organisations, I always ask the question: what do we have? And how are we going to use what we have to realize our vision of change? At Koalisi Seni, we use the 4Ds (Discover - Dream - Design - Deliver) to learn about ourselves and the organization.

The training reaffirmed my view that facilitating means helping. I help a group of people to reach a goal by trying to listen and creating steps to help them reach that goal, and also by providing a space to collaborate.  


What do you think is important for people to understand about virtual facilitation?

Online preparation takes 3 times longer than live meetings. It’s like producing a show. The meeting may look seamless and straightforward, but a lot of behind the scene preparation happens. For instance, if we’re facilitating a group to create big decision, I’ll ask my team to map out who the best people to share are in order for everyone to hear different ideas.  We prepare them to express what’s needed succinctly. We also prepare bullet points, thoughts and ideas. This way we hope we can nudge people to become more active in a very limited time. Because after 2 hours, people start to lose focus, flood the chat, disconnect, or turn off their cameras.


What did the course reveal to you about your engagement style?

For years, I thought I was sitting in the Structure quadrant, but my reflection during the course showed that in the past year, I'd actually gone back to the home quadrant that I am most familiar with: Action. Last year, our director sadly passed away very suddenly, and it put us in a difficult situation leadership wise. As an action-oriented person, I asked my team to keep pushing, keep doing what we do best. I felt like I would crumble if we stopped moving because there had been this huge loss, and people felt it very much. It was profound. I pushed without realizing that we needed time to think about what the sudden change meant for us. 


What did you realize about your style’s impact on your team? 

Reflecting on the four quadrants, I’m able to understand why people have been hesitant, and why there was a degree of animosity towards our management. I think it’s been driven by my personality in the Action quadrant. The question people have, of “how do I relate to the mission of the organization,” felt to me like a narcissistic one. For me, it should be clear that the mission is bigger than the people. But obviously we need people to run the mission, and I'm reminded that they need time to find that connection and purpose. I understand my lack of patience has been a hindrance to a more natural process.


What shifts in perspective took place for you?

I listen more. I don’t feel the need to be in control as much as before. I hold back, I trust the process. And I’ve learned that it’s okay for there to be pauses. Pauses in a meeting means that people are thinking and reflecting, and we should give that to them because everyone processes things differently. I try to be more understanding. I hold myself.


How can a ‘pause’ in a virtual meeting be powerful?

Here’s an example: during the HIFI-V training we had a scenario where we facilitated each other in small groups and were asked to take 5 minutes to really absorb the material given to us. That moment showed me that it’s okay to give people space to process. Now, in my facilitation, I am comfortable saying to the team, “Okay, we have these documents at hand. I understand if not all of us can respond immediately, so why don’t we take 5 or 10 minutes to read this document and then reflect on the issues we want to raise.” That moment of togetherness, being present together, is beautiful.

So instead of going at a breakneck speed towards the goal, I start with the people, and ask what they really think. And we’ve actually been more productive as a result!


What was the most surprising thing you learned in this course?

It’s possible in virtual facilitation to find ways to make the interaction deeply meaningful. People in vastly different contexts from across the globe can become relatable to one another. It made me realize that this is an opportunity: to do better and to listen better, much beyond the small boxes on our screens.


Are you ready to advance your virtual facilitation competencies? 

Learn more and register for HIFI Virtual: