Skip to content Skip to cookie consent
Skip to content

Animators: The link people

An animator may be seen as a kind of bridge – a link between the community and outside groups such as government, research stations, universities, and development agencies


Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Training – Footsteps 22

Different approaches to training and facilitation

by Ian Wallace.

An Animator may be seen as a kind of bridge – a link between the community and outside groups such as government, research stations, universities and development agencies.

They may also be a link between groups wanting to help bring about change or development – such as the Church, donor agencies, government – and the community. The animator acts as an interpreter, helping these groups communicate with each other about needs, problems, information and skills required. (See diagram below.) 

The animator is often the link person in sharing skills or training. It is not the animator’s job always to have the answers to problems. Research stations and universities may have some of the answers. Rural people have rich resources of wisdom, knowledge and skills accumulated over centuries. The animator is a bridge by which problems and answers can move between the two. Learning always needs to be a two way process.

The role of the animator

  • communicator   
  • motivator 
  • teacher    
  • administrator 
  • enabler    
  • activist 
  • educator    
  • leader 
  • organiser    
  • provider 
  • facilitator   
  • intermediary
  • listener  
  • friend 
  • catalyst

These words (and you may be able to think of others) all suggest a person in a key role, meeting with people at different levels and needing skills in teaching and communication, management and leadership, helping, encouraging and just being a true friend. It is not an easy calling to be the man or woman ‘in the middle’. It needs a person who is trained, gifted, highly motivated and who is compelled by real love to serve the needs of others.

We see from the gospels that Jesus used many different methods to communicate with people. Each method was appropriate to the audience concerned. Often he used teaching aids, such as parables or real objects, to make his meaning clear and to help people remember his message. We see him acting quite differently with large crowds, with the small group of his disciples and with individuals in need. (Read Matthew 13:3–4, Mark 9:30–31, John 4:7.)

The animator’s work in training

The animator’s role is much more than simply passing on information. An animator is concerned with helping people learn – gaining knowledge, new skills and changing attitudes. So animators are also called to be trainers. They need to understand the learning process and be able to train others.

What do we mean by training?

  • Training aims to prepare the learners for a particular task or job. It will always have clear, specific objectives.
  • It involves both learning theory and carrying it out in practice.
  • It involves changes in people – in particular, in their knowledge, skills and attitudes. Changes in attitude usually come slowly.
  • It involves balanced human development - bringing about mental, physical and spiritual changes. In other words, real human development will involve mind, body and soul. Training should also be balanced, focusing on all three types of change, not just on one or two.
  • It involves improving existing skills. Usually trainees already have some skills but want to learn more – to build up the skills they have. The animator can encourage this process.
  • Training involves the transfer of learning. New knowledge, skills and attitudes must be transferred to everyday life. Can the things learned in the ‘training environment’ be put into practice in real life situations? All training must lead to action. This is the most important test of effective training.

Choosing a method

The methods used by trainers can be divided into three main groups (see box). For effective learning to take place, trainers need to use a combination of different methods. People learn better when the ‘message’ is repeated in various ways. Presentations of new ideas and skills can be followed by participatory and exploratory sessions.

In order to use a variety of methods, trainers need to be well trained. They need to understand that their role will change with different training methods:

Presentation Methods require a skilled teacher.

Participatory Methods require a trainer who is also a willing learner.

Exploratory Methods require a facilitator and organiser.

GROUP EXERCISE Plan training on a particular subject. List all the preparations and materials needed to lead three training sessions about this subject – the first using presentation methods; the second, participatory methods; and the third session using exploratory methods.

With thanks to RURCON for permission to use material from The Link Person (reviewed on 'Resources' page).

Ian Wallace has many years of experience in agricultural training. He is a lecturer in the Agricultural Extension and Rural Development Department, Reading University, 3 Earley Gate, Whiteknights Road, Reading, RG6 2AL, UK.

Three approaches to training…

1. Presentation Methods

These are methods where the trainer presents new ideas or information, or shows the learner how to do things. These methods are sometimes called ‘trainer-centred’. The flow of communication is mainly in one direction – from the trainer to the learners. Presentation methods are important for getting across ideas and are very widely used. (Speaking may be varied by using diagrams, posters, poems, etc. to hold people’s attention). However, trainers need to recognise the limitations of these methods and combine them with other methods involving more learner participation.


Information flows in one direction only – from trainer to learners.

EXAMPLES: lectures, videos, demonstrations, radio programmes.

2. Participatory Methods

These methods are learner-centred. Learners are encouraged to participate, so there is a two-way flow of information between trainer and learners. Adult learners have much experience and knowledge; with participatory methods this is respected. Each person is encouraged to share their experiences and to listen to and learn from others. The role of the animator is to set up training situations where open discussion of issues can take place. Participation helps to motivate learners. Motivation is a key requirement for effective learning. Greater involvement means that changes in attitudes and skills are more easily achieved.


There is communication in all directions – between trainer and learner and among the learners themselves.

EXAMPLES: group discussions, seminars, meetings, role plays

3. Exploratory Methods

These methods use the important principle of ‘learning by discovery’. In this situation the trainer is truly a facilitator who provides material and sets tasks, leaving the learners to find out for themselves. The trainer is still in control and needs to check on the learner’s progress from time to time. At the end, new learning needs to be demonstrated to the trainer. This can take many forms – demonstration of new skills, exhibitions of work done, presentations.

Exploratory methods can take a lot of time. They usually result in deeper, more permanent learning changes. Learners enjoy the challenge of finding out for themselves.


The trainer provides material or information and helps the learners to work together to discover things for themselves.

EXAMPLES: exhibitions, case studies, projects, workshops, reading assignments 

Similarly Tagged Content

Share this resource

If you found this resource useful, please share it with others so they can benefit too.

Subscribe to Footsteps magazine

A free digital and print magazine for community development workers. Covering a diverse range of topics, it is published three times a year.

Sign up now - Subscribe to Footsteps magazine

Cookie preferences

Your privacy and peace of mind are important to us. We are committed to keeping your data safe. We only collect data from people for specific purposes and once that purpose has finished, we won’t hold on to the data.

For further information, including a full list of individual cookies, please see our privacy policy.

  • These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

  • These cookies allow us to measure and improve the performance of our site. All information these cookies collect is anonymous.

  • These allow for a more personalised experience. For example, they can remember the region you are in, as well as your accessibility settings.

  • These cookies help us to make our adverts personalised to you and allow us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.