Working together to make decisions

  • Natural Course hosts new training workshops for Catchment Partnerships.

We’ve all been in meetings where we haven’t felt very engaged, perhaps you left without having a chance to input, or frankly, it’s just felt like a waste of your time. So how can we ensure meetings have an inclusive, participatory environment where the group is guided to useful outcomes? How can we work together and decide?

Rose Sumner, Natural Course Project Manager, describes how Natural Course boosted the knowledge and skills of the Catchment Partnerships and project partners in the art of facilitation.

“Effective collaboration and making decisions as a group is an integral part of catchment partnerships and training provided by Wilson Sheriff taught the group the underpinning principles of facilitation and useful tools and techniques to guide their work. We also explored the joy of stationery and the correct way to peel a sticky note!

Meetings are changing a lot, particularly in response to a large shift to working from home and better digital platforms, so the group were keen to learn about online group facilitation and realise the potential of a new context for partnership meetings. Consequently, four training sessions were delivered virtually but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity for the group to gather face-to-face so the training concluded with in-person practise and a collaborative decision making on the best type of cake, as well as more serious topics of course.”

The training taught participants practical theories and concepts of facilitation, a range of techniques and how to apply a systematic approach to planning workshops and meetings. It aimed to help participants develop an understanding of the value of taking a team approach to facilitation and continue to develop skills into the future.   10 organisations attended the latest workshop, including:

  • Cheshire Wildlife Trust
  • Environment Agency (Catchment Coordinators)
  • GMCA
  • Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire & Merseyside (Weaver Gowy and River Douglas Catchment Partnership)
  • Groundwork Greater Manchester (Irwell Catchment Partnership)
  • Ribble Rivers Trust (Ribble Life Partnership)
  • South Cumbria Rivers Trust (Becks to Bay and Kent Catchment Partnership)
  • The Welsh Dee Trust (Middle Dee and Tidal Dee Catchment Partnerships)
  • United Utilities
  • West Cumbria Rivers Trust (West Cumbria Catchment Partnership).

There was some excellent feedback received, including:

Harvey Hamilton-Thorpe (Deputy Chief Executive, Head of People & Learning, Ribble Rivers Trust) said…

 “Simon and the team at Wilson Sherriff were extremely knowledgeable and their skills and experience made it a very enjoyable learning process. I’ve hosted catchment partnership meetings for over seven years, and it was really valuable to get a new perspective on our role. The course helped me develop new skills and techniques that will ensure these meetings are as valuable as possible for everyone attending. We also developed relationships with colleagues across the Northwest. This will have wider benefits as we build a stronger regional CaBA community and network that will continue to learn, grow and champion the catchment based approach.”

Jayne Wilkinson (Catchment Planning and Delivery Officer, South Cumbria Rivers Trust) said…

The facilitation training will help build relations within catchment partnerships; it was really helpful to think about the role of a facilitator, how we convene groups and how to get the most out of partnership meetings for everyone. I feel this will really drive forward collaborative decision making to deliver a more joined up approach to catchment management.”

Rob Allen (Place Based Planning Pilot Lead, United Utilities)

“The facilitation training was excellent, and I’ve picked up some really useful tips and techniques to use both during online and in person workshops and meetings.  With a number of partnership workshops on the horizon I feel more confident going into them especially where there are a number of competing priorities to work through.”

Delivering the facilitation training was prompted by the Catchment Benchmarking (opens in new tab) exercise in Phase 3, which identified common development opportunities across the North West Catchment Partnerships. The facilitation training will be complimented by a workshop on presentation skills later in the year, equipping Catchment Partnerships with more valuable ways of creating engagement. Natural Course is also supporting Catchment Partnerships with help with developing business cases, the use of green finance and how to better engage with the private sector. By providing training in facilitation, presentation and business engagement, Natural Course aims to boost capacity and knowledge, supporting the delivery of the Catchment Based Approach and the River Basin Management Plans.