Reflection, what is it good for?

What do we get from thinking and working reflectively?

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In an age where technology enables work to take place globally, I have been working with an international charity foundation. The organisation has never all been in the same room at the same time.  They utilise technology to connect, support and develop their organisation and programmes.  We used virtual technology to run a Reflective Practice Group.  We come together online, with a core group in New York, several staff members dialling in with me facilitating the group conversation from London. 

Reflective practices are methods and techniques that help individuals and groups reflect on their experiences and actions in order to engage in a process of continuous learning.  By trying out methods of reflection and personal inquiry we can nurture greater self-awareness, imagination and creativity.

With this in mind I thought it would be useful to think about what my hopes and intentions were for the Group. I hoped that the group could help us understand our own intentions, values and visions and support their work in a challenging field. When working in these challenging environments our ethics and morals may be tested, power relations may be decidedly unequal, and we may be working in emotionally and physically demanding environments.

One of the questions that I come back to time and again is how do we sustain ourselves and keep going, when the going gets rough? How can we position ourselves effectively within difficult circumstances, and avoid becoming part of the problem? Practicing reflection can help us answer these questions and others throughout our lives and careers.

My reflection has enabled me to see that I have stretched my comfort zone, working virtually when I would normally run this group with everyone in the same room. I have learned that building my understanding of the group has relied on very focused attention on my behalf. Listening intently to every word spoken and tone of delivery. This has improved the clarity of questions that I ask and developed my facilitation skills.

I believe that opening spaces for reflection offers the possibility of transforming not only individual experience, but also the patterns and relationships within groups, organisations and systems, and ultimately those systems themselves.


Carolyn McDonald

Director , Adapter Consulting

I work to create and sustain change. Working with extraordinary people, teams, organisations and governments, for 25 years, I enable people to see and utilize support structures around them, to change behaviours ‘set in stone’, and achieve long lasting transformations. I am an ICF and academically accredited coach, supervisor and associate tutor with the University of Chester. I am a trainer, mediator, and group facilitator.