Why Dorothy From the Wizard of OZ Would Make the Best Service Learning Facilitator

    Posted: April 27, 2016

    A successful service-learning facilitator draws upon a diverse range of skills in order to help direct a group without controlling them. For inspiration on how to effectively achieve this, we turn to Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ. A facilitator of fantastic capabilities and strengths.

    A Look at the Admiral Strengths of Dorothy 

    It’s not easy to lead a group as eclectic as the ensemble that Dorothy accumulates along her journey. A cowardly lion, a brainless scarecrow, and a heartless tin man, but instead of focusing on limitations Dorothy utilizes each individual’s strengths and celebrates their diversity.

    She encourages each individual to contribute to the group’s overall success of making it to the emerald city so that in the end it is no longer her journey but the group’s collective efforts that get them there.

    Effectively Dorothy sets the groundwork and direction of the journey but lets the entire group contribute to the process and means by which they meet their goal.

    [Tweet “Dorothy lets the entire group contribute to help meet their goal. #servicelearning”]

    That brilliant moment when the scarecrow tricks the apple tree into dropping the precious fruit he was trying to protect is a direct example of successful facilitating, where group members are encouraged to engage in continuous reflection in order to problem solve. Reflection that is promoted but not directed by the facilitator.

    Photo Credit: Tom Margie

    It is not without consideration that Dorothy creates her team of travelers.

    With each addition to her group, she welcomes open communication and asks for group participation instead of making definitive decisions for the group as a whole.

    Communication is the backbone of the group’s success, and while this is often initiated by Dorothy it quickly becomes a dialogue amongst all group members. A successful facilitator should, over time, be able to remove themselves from the group entirely without many consequences.

    [Tweet “Dorothy welcomes open communication & asks for group participation.”]

    When Dorothy and Toto are captured by the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy’s exemplary facilitator skills are on full display. Without Dorothy around the group is still in full swing and works together to successfully save her and the emerald city in turn.

    On Her Way Home, Achieving Goals Due to Fantastic Facilitating

    New to the mystical land of OZ herself Dorothy leads her team with an open mind, knowing that she is far from an expert when it comes to what will get her back home.

    She is often the one to provide guidance when situations arise but remains a neutral participant in the handling of events. She herself is open about the fact that she is learning along the way as well.

    Take that nasty field of poppies as an example, Dorothy may have lead the group through the field but she didn’t have the answers as to how to get them out. Luckily Dorothy is humble, respectful, and honest in her approach to facilitating which means that her team is confident in their abilities to save the day, and save the day they do!

    Photo Credit: Tom Margie

    As we all know Dorothy eventually returns home, after a mishap with a hot air balloon she realizes that the ability to get back to Kansas was on her feet the entire journey.

    However, she does not leave without providing her group with closure and a chance to reflect on their experience. As Dorothy makes her way around the group she comments on each person’s individual journey and the strengths and skills that they have developed along the way.

    [Tweet “Dorothy doesn’t leave the group without reflecting on her experience. #servicelearning”]

    Dorothy may have been the facilitator of the journey but in the end, it was her ability to empower and encourage participation amongst her team, employ strong communication skills, provide space for reflection, and manage group dynamics and diversity that created the success of the group overall and within each individual.

    For even more tips on how to be an effective facilitator, Brown University has put together a helpful list of suggestions. 

    GVI is a multi-award winning Service Learning organization. Find out more about our international service learning programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.