Why hire a facilitator?

We’re frequently asked to facilitate a group that has been meeting for some time without making the hoped-for progress. In almost all cases, facilitation has been done by a participant, whether assigned staff or an appointed chair, who wants to take an active role in the discussion because he or she has a stake in the outcome. The definition of a neutral facilitator is not taking a position in the discussion, which is why the self-facilitated model frequently does not work.   
In our work with non-profits and the public sector, resources are limited and prioritizing is a constant challenge. Participants frequently have a vested interest in the outcome and available options can feel like a zero-sum game where one's own interests need to be kept front and center, with everything heard through that lens. BERK’s facilitators are trained to listen for points of agreement when they may not be stated the same way or would require some work to reach.
It’s easy and understandable to question the value of a facilitator – why can’t smart people run their own meeting, share their views, and come to agreement? A good facilitator finds ways to balance and hear from the dominant voices, the diplomats, and the reserved; allows enough discussion, but not too much; and keeps the group focused on what matters most. When we do our job best, members of the group have a sense that they appreciate the various perspectives raised by other participants and contributed to a consensus that all truly own.