Facilitation Guide

On September 21st, a cancer narrative will emerge from the hundreds of communities across the country coming together to have conversations about the cancer journey.

What we hope to accomplish are two things:

  1. Build a connected, coordinated, and collaborative cancer community because we know that while each cancer experience is unique, it is not isolated.
  2. Infuse a sense of urgency when developing and implementing solutions because we know that for too many cancer patients and their families, the cancer journey is a race against time.

It is helpful to think about your role as a convener and facilitator and be comfortable with the role. We have outlined some of the considerations for you to think through as you steer the discussion.

To help set the stage for a meaningful experience, you can turn to the Discussion Guides you can use as references. Consider these questions as you organize your events.


As a facilitator, your role is to:

  • Maintain focus on the discussion questions;
  • Be a source of positive energy and encouragement;
  • Allow participants to express their doubts, barriers to overcome, or what they feel is needed from other participants/members of the cancer community;
  • Think about what will engage participants and encourage them to OWN the process; and
  • Ensure balanced participation and engagement by all.


It is important to set some ground rules to set the stage for a productive conversation. Remind the group to build on ideas rather than argue against them. A sample list for your consideration:

  • Listen to understand and connect ideas
  • Be brief and concise
  • Be open-minded and adaptable
  • Be productive and output-oriented


How you close your Summit will be crucial to ensuring participants walk away feeling engaged and energized. Start to think through how you want to close the conversation before it even starts. Some considerations include:

  • Focus on real solutions your community can undertake to address the issues you’ve identified.
  • Make collaboration happen. Find ways to align efforts and resources that address shared concerns
  • Stay connected. We are eager to hear about your Summit and the actions you will take as a community. We hope to get social media updates throughout the day. We will be in touch shortly after the Summit to learn more about your experience.


The goal of these summits is to create models for collaborations that can be duplicated by everyone in the cancer community. We want to broaden the engagement, and have people walk away with new commitments to collaborate. We are hoping that the commitments gathered from your community will help to drive progress for each of the topics provided in the Breakout Question Guide.

Provide a mechanism for your breakout groups to document their insights, ideas and commitments and bring them back to share with others. One approach can be to ask for each group to summarize their key ideas and recommendation along with the commitments from group members. An example commitment could be “Group/Individual A takes action B to achieve goal C.”

We look forward to hearing about your plans to find collaborative solutions for accelerating progress and overcoming barriers in the fight against cancer.

Fill Out Your Community Action Plan Here




Facilitating a conversation can be both exhilarating and challenging. These prompts can help you to guide the conversation and navigate potential issues that may arise.

If you are faced with…

Suggested Language

Drawing out participants – Some participants may have a hard time asserting themselves in a group. Use the following to provide an equal opportunity to everyone to speak.

“What is one learning experience you have had that relates to this topic? Describe what you learned, in a single short sentence.”

“I want to make sure that we get a chance to hear from everyone. ___, can you share an experience related to this?”

Testing for clarity – The facilitator should ask clarifying questions to ensure that everyone understands what the speaker is trying to convey.

“Can you elaborate on what you mean by…?”

“Does this statement convey what you’ve been saying about…?”

Gently cutting someone off to equalize participation – Some participants might dominate the discussion. A facilitator’s job is to recognize when this occurs, and create an opportunity for all to be heard.

“I want to see if we could get some other folks’ perspectives on this.”

“We’ve heard from ____ and ____ about this, who else has some ideas they can share?”

“Let’s hear from someone who has not yet spoken.”

Listening deeply – It is helpful to sometimes summarize what a participant has shared if they take some time to make their point. State back to them what you understand they’ve said.

“Let me see if I understand you; do you mean ___ or ___?”

“Would this be an example: ____?”

Exploring different points of view – The discussion may become focused on one idea, solution or point of view. As a facilitator, it is your role to pull the group back to ensure they have considered all angles and perspectives.

“So ___ has talked about the importance of X, and ___ has raised some concerns with X, I’m wondering how others see it. Does anyone else have thoughts about X?”

“We have talked about the importance/challenge of X, what might be another path to consider? Are there some alternatives?”

“Can/did anyone consider Y?”

“How would other groups/types of people respond? Why? What might influence them?”

Managing the allotted time – It is imperative to keep the group on track and to wrap up the discussion within the allotted time. It’s also the facilitator’s role to help balance the time in order to answer all the outlined questions.

“We have about 5 minutes left and I want to see if there are any other key ideas that we’ve not heard so far.”

“Are there any final thoughts anyone feels they need to share before we wrap up?”

Taking a quick vote – Sometimes your group may all be basically in agreement, yet the conversation seems to continue as they work through semantics. Take a quick assessment to determine if more conversation is needed or if you have reached a consensus.

“Let’s get a quick assessment on how everyone feels about this topic/initiative/strategy by taking a vote, who is thumbs up in agreement, thumbs down in disagreement or not yet decided, thumb in between.”

Keeping the conversation on track – Sometimes the group conversations may get off-topic, and you may need to get the conversation back on track.

“I believe it is really important for us to get through our agenda today. I’d like to put this particular topic on a separate list so that we can revisit it another time. Are there any objections?”

Restate the purpose and process to refocus –

  • State the overall purpose of the activity.
  • Give general directions.

Closing the conversation – The group has devoted time and energy to the conversation. Be sure to close in such a way that values and respects the work that has been accomplished together.

“What thoughts, reflections, or observations do you have about our work today?”

“What are the key points we discussed today?”

“What concrete actions and specific recommendations are you willing to make to support our progress on this goal?”