My Crash Course in Graphic Facilitation

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Back at the beginning of February, I was provided with the very ‘hand opening’ opportunity to develop my graphic facilitation skills by one of the most interesting Youth NGO’s in all of Estonia, if not the Baltics; Shokkin. Now, when it comes to drawing, visuals, art or just decent handwriting I am what you might call ‘graphically blind’ alongside my hands generally giving the very meaning to dyspraxia itself. So, all in all, I went into this expecting the worst. That’s not to say I wasn’t grateful for the opportunity. Graphic Facilitation has exploded in the world of youth work recently and it is a skill I at least need to have an understanding of for my future career progression. I simply just expect Shokkin (or realistically the trainers Olalla and Jaanika) to make a Michelangelo out of your 3-year-old nephew’s picture of his dog. Needless to say, I wandered off onto this 9-day training course looking at a marker pen the way a 1-year-old looks at a potty.

So, this training course was an unusual one for me. It was the very standard European Union-funded Erasmus+ mobility of youth of workers type, of course, I find myself either coordinating or being a participant on regularly. However, these courses are usually based around areas that directly impact young people rather than how to deliver such information visually. It also didn’t start off with the ‘we are all Europeans with deep European values’ kumbaya mojo that is thrown in a lot to try and justify a lot of funding. For a start, unlike 60% (this is my wild whim and by no means accurate) of Erasmus+ projects, it was quite honestly justified.

Now, let’s talk about the course and before we do, let us fast forward the name games, getting to know each other, blah blah blah. We all know how that work, the trainers did it well, we bonded. OK on the real stuff. After bribing us with beautiful Shokkin pencil cases and Neuland marker pens (they are pretty dope, to be honest) they throw us in the deep. Here I think this course is someone teaching me to draw, wait, hell no! This is about mastering the way I already draw to create a unique and understandable style for my audience. At this point, I’m thinking there is a better chance of peace in the middle east. However, after blowing my mind with some incredible trips and tricks that included people, signs, arrows, shadowing, speech bubbles and bullet points I’m starting to think “wow, I can do this”.

For the majority of this training course, it goes a bit like this, Morning, general introduction o a certain area of graphic facilitation and some friendly tips with practice. Afternoon, ok suckers, welcome to the Takeshis Castle of graphic design! We had had full-on challenges from daily sum-ups through graphic visualisation to graphic recording and presenting at the same time. Sure, they trained us well, but they tested us hard! However, the best was yet to come…

Then, after developing our basic skills to be able to generally make vague sense through graphic facilitation (OK, that’s just me, the rest of the participants were pretty good), we were informed that there will be an event in Tallinn where we will be teaching random members of the public graphic facilitation. At this point, I imagined a Frog teaching Cat to fly a plane. Yet, in the end, every single piece of useful ‘tips and tricks’ and relevant thinking in terms of portrayal hit me like Mohammed Ali hit Joe Frazier, but unlike Joe Frazier, I was able to function and teach some graphic facilitation.

There you have it, Olalla and Jaanika with Shokkin did the impossible, they got and an artistically dumbfounded guy to be able to do and teach basic graphic facilitation. You know when you see a YouTube video of a deaf child hearing for the first time…. This isn’t that… not even close. However, it’s still an amazing achieved. One that was done without abusing the funding stream on only the full thought of its benefit for the wider youth service in mind. More than can be said for a whole lot of these programmes. I will finish off my input here just but saying “Thank You”. It was hugely beneficial to me and once again Shokkin pulled the Rabbit out of the hat.

If you would like to see the amazing work Shokkin does you can check out their website here: https://shokkin.org/ and you can learn so much from the amazing graphic work of Olalla on her Instagram account. Jaanika continues to do amazing things across Estonia and beyond.

*The majority of this has also be published on Shokkin’s website*

Youth Worker and Ponderer. Lived in Macedonia for 7 years, currently residing in Estonia. Interested in Education and Outdoors. www.dancheedusols.com

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