Collaboration Toolkit

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Identify Leaders and Facilitators

“A good facilitator is essential to forming and continuing a Collaborative. In my experience with the Iowa Source Water Agricultural Collaborative it has proven vital to have an effective facilitator. Discussions arise that are controversial and having an effective facilitator from the outside who understands the subject matter has proven to be the difference between success and failure.”

Becky Ohrtman
SWP Program Coordinator, Iowa DNR


Leaders help to maintain consistent vision, outline and ensure achievable goals, create agendas, delegate tasks, ensure action-oriented progress, and make strategic decisions. When identifying leaders, you might consider:

The people

  • Who has a long-term presence in your watershed?
  • Who has a vested interest in protecting it—a built-in commitment?
  • Who has the resources and authority to convene members?
  • Who has the energy to motivate others?

Your group’s attributes

Leaders may vary depending on whether…

  • Your collaborative has a core group with strong resources and synergy.
  • You prefer to centralize or rotate responsibilities.
  • You choose to establish an independent party devoted entirely to the collaborative.

Click here to learn more about designing a leadership structure for your group.


A facilitator is a moderator who can help meetings run smoothly, resolve conflicts, keep the group organized and working toward goals, and keep your members in sync. The facilitator may be your leader, or another experienced organizer in your collaborative.

What does a facilitator do?

  • Handles group materials, meeting notifications, and scheduling.
  • Preserves neutrality and prevents bias in meetings, allowing all interests to be represented.
  • Maintains a “bird’s eye” view of the collaborative to avoid tangents and focus activities.
  • Resolves conflict.

If funding permits, you might consider sponsoring a third-party facilitator. A few places you can look to find a facilitator include:

The Association of Conflict Resolution The premier professional organization for mediators.
US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution Roster of professional mediators with summary of their relevant experience.
States Occasionally have offices dedicated to mediation that lend support to groups seeking facilitators.
Your organization Might have a conflict-resolution center with trained facilitators or where collaborative members can access training.

Click to download a PDF version of this page

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