John Monks: Amplifying Impact through Online Facilitation
THNK Director of Non-Profit Programs Michele Ernsting spoke with John Monks, one of the co-founders of Curve, co-author of Closer Apart, and THNK alumni. With Lizzie Shupak, he is pulling back the curtain on managing remote workshops and giving practical advice on how leaders can take bold steps into the digital future of collaboration and online facilitation.
Impacting Co-creation and Online Facilitation
John describes his vision and the impact he wants to make, saying, “In bringing the ability to co-create online to a wider stage, my impact is to be a multiplier of change. I want to demystify the art of facilitation and give people really practical skills and tools to build the confidence they need to craft their own great co-creation experiences. Now through Closer Apart and our online workshops, there’s nothing to stop us – and our clients – from reaching many more people online.”
THNK and the Facilitator Spirit
As an alumnus of THNK’s Executive Leadership Program, we asked John how his experiences in the program changed and formed his views on facilitation. “It might sound funny now, but it was at THNK that I learned that facilitation was ‘a thing.’ It wasn’t just showing up somewhere with a flipchart and lists. It wasn’t standing next to a PowerPoint presentation reading slides for 45 minutes. Instead, there is depth and magic to it. THNK showed me how to facilitate everything from design thinking to emotional, embodied work. I learned about sharing powerful ideas with the world at large.
For me, facilitation is the ability to work with all the ideas, energy and people in the room and get them vibrating at the same frequency and pointed in the same direction. Then you move from a situation where the energy is bouncing around to where you’ve created a focused beam of energy and forward momentum.
Finding my purpose didn’t happen overnight. In my class, there were a lot of people who had very specific and tangible things they wanted to do in the world. At first, I struggled because I just couldn’t picture a product or an app I wanted to build. It took me a number of years to realise that my impact is enabling others. I’m not the person at the forefront of tech. I’m here to help that woman or man who has an idea to get it out into the world, and with online facilitation, I can reach even more people.
THNK gave me an opportunity to pause and reflect and take inspiration from all of those amazing people around me. The metaphor that works well for me is that the school and the community provided a compass to help me get where I am.”
Online Facilitation: Inclusivity, Sustainability, Flexibility
We ended our talk with John by asking if he had a call to action or advice that he would give to other leaders who may be seeking ways to expand their own impact.
His enthusiasm was clear, “Yes! I’m banging the drum of online facilitation and collaboration because I really believe it has an enormous benefit of being more inclusive; enabling anybody in any geography or with varying levels of physical abilities or neurodiversity to participate. And it comes with a much lower carbon footprint because online collaboration removes the need for people to drive or fly to take part.
Apart from inclusion and sustainability, there’s also a time element. I’m working with hundreds of leaders whose calendars are packed full. Within tight time limitations, they and their teams have to find their “flow,” the place where the energy is perfect. Insync teams can solve problems which seem impossible to shift.
So my call to action is this: Think about how you bring your people together online to create those moments that are super impactful and also fun and collaborative. It’s an amazing way to tap into the enormous potential that you probably don’t know you have in your teams.”
Facilitating your Leadership Journey
If you know someone who would benefit from learning more about online collaboration, maybe suggest to them John’s book Closer Apart: How to Design and Facilitate Brilliant Workshops Online. You can also reach out to him on LinkedIn – and if you want to know more about how you can find your passion and purpose, consider enrolling in THNK’s Executive Leadership Program.