The Father Factor

How To Double the “Horsepower” of Your Fatherhood Program

Posted by Erik Vecere

Most Recent Fatherhood Posts

Dec 21, 2021


Horsepower is the measurement of power in an engine. It’s what accelerates you to your destination.

Within the context of your group-based fatherhood program, the facilitator is the engine that moves dads through the program. Horsepower is the degree to which dads connect to your program and build their fathering skills.

Whether you’re doing a group-based fatherhood program virtually or in-person, one of the best ways to increase horsepower and improve program outcomes is to work with a co-facilitator.

Here are a few ways co-facilitators enhance program outcomes:

  • Increased expertise on session topics. Your co-facilitator will have a higher level of comfort with some topics than you. Once you’ve determined which topics to assign to your co-facilitator, allow them to take the lead during those sessions. When your co-facilitator takes the lead, they will guide the discussions and unpack the learning concepts while you provide a support role, monitoring participation and capturing responses. Conversely, you can take the lead on topics you have more experience with.
  • More engaged participants. Two facilitators will catch more issues that prevent dads from getting the most out of each session. While one facilitator is writing responses on the flip chart, for example, the other can focus on dads’ verbal cues (e.g. tone and choice of words) and non-verbal cues (e.g. body posture and facial expressions) to ensure dads are encouraged and engaged.
  • Increased diversity. Two facilitators can model diversity in age, culture, personality, experience, and gender, increasing the probability that dads will connect with the facilitators’ messages. One National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) partner conducted focus groups and learned that the type of co-facilitation team dads loved the most had a male and a female. Dads said it was helpful to have both genders’ perspectives on each topic.
  • Less disruption in program delivery. Let’s face it. Things happen that prevent a facilitator from making every session. It could be an unexpected illness or a scheduling conflict. When you have another facilitator already prepped, they can still run that session, eliminating a disruption in the program’s continuity. Don’t tempt dads to fill that slot with something else and risk losing them!

If you already have a co-facilitator, kudos to you!

But, for those who don’t, there may be justifying reasons (e.g. lack of staff capacity, funding, or awareness on the benefits). Don’t worry, I’m here to help with some approaches that can help.

  • Raise up peer facilitators. As dads graduate your program, they become a wonderful pool for future facilitators. So, keep an eye out for dads who show the passion for the program and the attributes to be a great facilitator (e.g. ability to connect, build trust, be engaging, and grasp the learning concepts), and groom them accordingly. You can create an alumni program to formalize the process.
  • Create partnerships. Engage organizations in your community who may have staff or volunteers interested in facilitating a fatherhood program. You might be able to help them achieve their goals (e.g. increasing father-friendliness, meeting funding requirements, and matching volunteers with their interests), while they help you with yours.
  • Raise awareness. If you need to convince leaders in your organization that a co-facilitator is vital to the success of your program, provide them with a link to this blog article and schedule a follow-up conversation.
  • Provide online facilitation training. Once you’ve identified your co-facilitator, it’s critical to provide the skills necessary for that person to be effective. NFI’s 6-hour, online Effective Facilitation Certificate Program™ will help them do just that. Facilitators learn about adult learning styles that affect how dads learn and engage, and how to properly prepare to effectively facilitate group sessions.
  • Be open to options. You might be a female hoping to find a male co-facilitator or vice-versa, but don’t limit your options. The most important thing is finding a co-facilitator that you have chemistry with who can help you improve group dynamics. Even if you are both the same gender, your personalities and experiences will bring sessions to life in different ways, enhancing the dads’ experience and engagement.

It’s time to take action! Identify a few next steps from the list above and put a “who/what/when” to them. By doing so, you will be on your way to doubling the horsepower of your fatherhood program in no time! 

Do you work with a co-facilitator? If so, in what ways has your co-facilitator made a difference in dads’ outcomes?

If not, which of the steps above makes the most sense to focus on?

Cutting Edge Tips for Running an Exceptional Fatherhood Program (On Demand)

Topics: Featured, General Fatherhood Program Resources, NFI-Specific Programs & Resources, State & Local Agencies, Recruit & Retain Dads

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