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Rising Through the TOP (Technology of Participation)

Seeing my colleagues at the Research Center facilitate workshops and training seminars is one of the countless amazing experiences a newbie like me has been privileged to witness over the past year working for this university. In few instances I was asked to document some of the workshop they’ve handled, I marveled at their time, efficiency, and ability to pick-up seemingly insignificant comments from participants and elaborate it. I was also astonished at the hours they put in for preparation.

I’ve participated in scores of workshops in the past and almost always end up getting bored halfway through it. Seeing facilitators who are able to keep the participants attentive and engaged is a rarity. I always wonder what sets apart a good facilitator and a great one. My curiosity peaked when I heard that the Technology of Participation is the reason behind most of the great facilitators’ astounding work.

I knew I was in for an education when I first heard the news that I was going to be one of the expected participants to the October 20-21, 2008 Technology of Participation (ToP) Training that the HNU- Center for Research and Local Governance was giving to some faculty and staff of this university. But to be honest, the word “technology” made me apprehensive since learning a new technology and fun do not always go together. Surprisingly though, all the 16 participants from different colleges and departments plus 2 SVD priests, Fr. Ruel S. Gado, SVD and Fr. Milo Mapaye, SVD, had so much fun learning the ToP during the two-day training.

The training seminar, held at the Academic Conference Room, was given by Mrs. Josephine T. Cemine and Mrs. Maria Paz Espiritu of the Center for Research and Local Governance (CRLG). Both of them were part of the first batch of trainees to undergo ToP Training under the Governance and Local Democracy (GOLD) Project in 1996 together with six other faculty members of Holy Name University (formerly DWC-T) and representatives from the government and NGOs in the province.

Recognizing that the ToP can be a very useful tool for teachers of this institution especially in class instruction, facilitation and during planning workshops, the CRLG has done a yearly ToP Training inviting faculty members and staff of the university. This year a total of 18 participants attended the training, six of whom coming from the College of Business and Accountancy, three from the College of Arts and Sciences, and one each from the College of Education and College of Nursing. Also in attendance during the two-day training were two representatives from the Guidance department, two from the CRLG, and one staff of the Campus Ministry. Rounding out the attendees were the previously-mentioned SVD priests representing the Campus Ministry and the Basic Education departments respectively.

The topics in the training focused on innovative methods in group facilitation, stressing the importance of facilitative leadership style as opposed to traditional leadership style, to create a participatory atmosphere in any learning session or workshop. These methods include the ORID Method, the Workshop Method and the Action Planning Method. For two days, the participants were taught and then asked to perform the methods with the facilitators always present to hone and guide each participant to perfection.

We became not only listeners but also speakers, and not only participants but also facilitators for our co-participants. We were taught “choreography”, voice modulation, positioning and the fascinating masking tape technology. Although the learning was intense and the inputs were numerous, fun and laughter wafted through the air making it an immensely enjoyable experience.

The seminar left a refreshing and enkindling feeling that resonated from the excited voices of the participants eager to share and apply ToP in their respective jobs. And maybe, just like me, they were also glad to be finally in the know, and be able to say when a class, a workshop or a seminar will rise, or go down in flames because the facilitator was not “ToP-trained”.

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