Innovation and graphic facilitation


  • Deborah Espiner University of Auckland
  • Frances Hartnett Independent contractor



innovative practice, social work, creativity, graphic facilitation, rich pictures


INTRODUCTION: Social work practice includes the facilitation of effective communication in planning, solution finding, developing shared understandings and collaborative decision making with individuals, families, colleagues and professionals and community groups. Changing social contexts require innovations and new approaches to practice.

METHODS: This article proposes that graphic facilitation (Sibbett, 1977, 2002) can be used as a way of enhancing social work practice by promoting anti-oppressive practice (Dominelli, 2002) and collaborative partnerships (Bracht, Kingsbury, & Rissel, 1999; Roose, Roets, Van Houte, Vandenhole, & Reynaert, 2013) and thinking differently (Gambrill, 2013). Graphic facilitation is a practice that produces “rich pictures” (Checkland, 1981) to elicit and record information in a responsive and innovative way. Drawing on examples from practice, illustrations of the use of graphic facilitation will be presented in two contexts: person-centred planning and World Café.

FINDINGS: Literature supports the effectiveness of using graphics to develop a visual language and produce a “rich picture” that is easily understood and remembered. The use of pictures can stimulate new meaning and insight, and promote reflection and deep learning (Checkland, 1981; Horan, 2000). Graphic facilitation has been reported to increase engagement, understanding and result in a more energised process to bring about change.

CONCLUSIONS: Graphic facilitation is a method that can be added to a social work tool-box. The examples provided demonstrate the potential capacity of this approach to support individuals and groups in different, creative and innovative ways.


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How to Cite

Espiner, D., & Hartnett, F. (2016). Innovation and graphic facilitation. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(4), 44–53.



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