The hidden sides of the co-moderator

Or: How you have certainly never experienced the co-moderator before.

"Why do you absolutely want to moderate our workshop in pairs and what do you need a co-moderator for??" We often encounter this question. We take this as an opportunity to shed some light on the role of the co-moderator. Because in fact, the "number two" is a much under-appreciated character in workshops. I therefore asked some other facilitation experts for a statement on the topic of co-facilitation and subsequently developed four roles of co-facilitation. You have probably already experienced or filled in two of them. The other two work more in secret and appear unexpectedly from offstage.

But not quite so fast: Why is it worth working in pairs at all?

Doing tasks in a constellation of 2 is more widespread than I realized before this article. Besides love and education I can think of many nice cases. This is how we humans z.B. Two eyes to be able to see not only two- but also three-dimensionally. We gain a completely new dimension by doubling up. Aircraft are flown by a pilot and a co-pilot, with the former in charge. People take turns flying and the other person does the other tasks. Rally driver pairs are also impressive: while one gives driving and navigation commands at breakneck speed, the other steers the car at maximum speed and relies blindly on the partner’s announcements. Police officers always go on patrol in pairs, so that one can always play good cop and one bad cop, one can bring the other coffee or act as a witness and supporter in case of need. Even snipers always work as a team of 2: one taunts, the other pulls the trigger. In programming there is the so-called pair programming. Two developers sit at a computer and code together. The person at the keyboard does the actual programming, the other person keeps track of and controls the code. So what is so proven in the world can only be right in workshops as well.

"Co-moderation is the silver bullet"

To dive deeper into the topic and learn more perspectives, I asked around some other moderation expert colleagues how they look at the topic of co-moderation:

Jens Kapitzky from Metaplan says z.B.:

"If you have a co-moderator available to you as a presenter or facilitator, your work will not only be easier, but also better.

When preparing a workshop, you not only think about the layout and the course of the workshop, you also talk about it – and in the conversation, aspects regularly come out that you can’t figure out on your own.

In the workshop itself, more energy remains for the main task: the interaction with the participants working towards the set goal. Because the co-moderator can take over many tasks that would otherwise also be the responsibility of the moderator. If necessary, a discussion partner is available with his or her own observations and interpretations of the workshop events, with whom the course and dynamics of the event can be reflected upon, as well as any changes or additions that might be necessary.

Follow-up becomes more accurate and reflective: the view of the acting facilitator is complemented by an observing view."

Joseph Seifert of Moderatio opines:

"Co-moderation means that two people are leading a group. Before co-moderating, clarify a) roles and b) how they will work together! The co-moderator can take on roles such as "assistant," "student," or "co-pilot". The type of cooperation can be equal (symmetrical) or in a hierarchical / complementary constellation (complementary). The cooperation should take place on an equal footing, even in a complementary collaboration. A special case of co-moderation, moderation by a team of moderators, is often found in large group moderation."

Many thanks also to Anja Ebers for the intro!

And Holger Scholz from the Kommunikationslotsen:

"The best way is in pairs. Both are "co" so to speak. And in the best case there is no gradient between the two, because both are "model" for the participants. We pilots also like to work with a third "co" – this is a "body facilitator" who focuses on embodiment and enables learning and understanding on other levels. All "Cos" take leadership and are temporarily in the lead. This way of working allows for different relationship offerings. And that is exciting. This is often the difference between method and magic."

In summary, the benefits of co-facilitation are:

  • We have someone to talk to in the preparation and by reflecting together on the approach things become clearer.
  • We always have a sparring partner in the workshop, with whom it is easier to improvise and with whom you can spontaneously exchange ideas if things go differently than planned.
  • We are always available with two contacts during group work and are thus more present for the participants.
  • We can bring more variety of people into the facilitation and can thus help to make the workshop more dynamic.
  • We can play good cop/bad cop and expose dissonance more easily and playfully.
  • We can divide up the organizational things and thus get the set up, change and take down done faster.

What co-moderator roles are there??

To understand the whole thing a bit more, I would like to outline four different roles of co-moderation:

A. The classic role

Classically, as a co-moderator, you are subordinate to your moderator. There is a clear hierarchy gradient. The moderator is at the facilitation wall and interacts with the participants. You as co are responsible for writing the post-its or cards that your facilitator ideally dictates to you. In this role, you have to concentrate fully on your moderator and do not pursue the discussion further in terms of content. When you are not writing, you are preparing the next session, putting up posters, secretly pasting the previous posters or cleaning up.

This division of roles makes sense when difficult plenary discussion rounds are to be expected and you need a strong female moderator. It is also a good choice if you are inexperienced as a moderator (student) or if moderator and co-moderator are not well attuned to each other.

B. The equal role

In this division of roles, the main moderator and co-moderator are on equal footing. Both do everything, even if one is in the lead. Say: My moderator asks a question and doesn’t give enough context, then I step in as co-moderator and add to it. If the discussion is fast paced and there is a lot to note down, we both write down. Like good space coverage in ball sports, you call out to each other "Got it". "You do."

Equality also opens up more freedom for workshop design, for example, conducting parallel tracks: In contrast to group work, there are two different strands of topics that are only brought together again after a longer period of time. Then one supervises and moderates the other group. You as co-moderator spend the time with the second group.

This division of roles is a lot of fun, but requires a lot of mutual trust and a well-rehearsed team. Your participants must be able to tolerate the fact that two moderators are running around in front, complementing and sometimes contradicting each other. And the Post-Its are stuck together on the posters at the end over a beer.

C. The complementary role

The complementary role exists in two forms. Complementary-subordinate or complementary-equal. The essential thing is: the competences of the moderators / facilitators are very different. Holger mentions this above e.g.B. at the "Co" for embodiment on. For me, the most concise is the collaboration with visual facilitators. A graphic recorder, that is, someone who "only" visualizes the discussions and presentations, is complementarily subordinate. A Graphic Facilitator who also actively moderates and leads the discussions and dynamics of the group would be complementary-equal to the group.

Complementary role splits are ideally wonderful because everyone enriches each other and you as the moderator learn a lot from your co. However, such complementary relationships have to be built up first and they have to become established. They need even more mutual trust than "normal" co-moderation relationships.

D. The emancipated role

In this role you have carte blanche as a co-moderator and can do what is beneficial: listen, moderate, interact as an "external participant". Instead of meticulously documenting the discussion, you collect only the most important points and give a concise summary at the end. As a silent observer, you offer concluding recommendations at the end of the session. When the discussion gets bogged down, you offer a way out. You can also change the leading question in the course of the discussion, if you want to give the discussion a new direction. Many of these tasks could also be taken over by the moderator. Especially in difficult situations, however, you as a moderator and facilitator are fully occupied with keeping the threads together and run the risk of losing sight of other perspectives.

The beauty of this role is: no one expects anything from you and if you do nothing, no one misses anything. The stupid thing is that you have to be allowed to act freely and it can happen that your interventions are not accepted. They therefore require from you some improvisational talent, perceptiveness and courage. You need to be to the point and not searching for words first. But the most important thing is: Your moderator must be able to stand the fact that you are so free to float around and give him or her or. their if necessary. you also get in the way with your actions.


Normally you will jump back and forth between these roles from session to session, much like we do. I find it very exciting to get even more involved with the roles of the second moderation, to fill them more consciously, to explore the scope further and especially to shape the role of the emancipated co-moderator in a more targeted way. Writing this article made me want to work with someone who approaches groups in a completely different way. And once again I realized how lucky I am to be able to work with two such great moderation professionals like Dirk and Valentin.

Co-moderate with us?

In addition to these beautiful thoughts, there is a very real need for us to look at co-moderation in a different way: We have recently been reaching the limits of our capacity and are beginning to ask ourselves who else we can go into co-moderation with. If you would like to work with us as a co-facilitator, please write us a short email how you would fill this role with us and in which setting we could try something like this out.

Jorg works as a consultant and moderator in strategy, innovation and organizational matters. He helps executives to advance projects with many participants. Jorg attaches great importance to making systems, structures and relationships perceptible and tangible. For this he uses a wide repertoire of action methods: from sociodrama to social presencing theater to clowning. As Dandelion Spaces, Jorg also initiates, designs and moderates open formats such as think tanks, conference formats, supervision groups or training sessions. Jorg lives in Hamburg and has been self-employed since 2010. To compensate for the mental work, he does capoeira, reads comics or science fiction books, or spends time with his family.

Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: