Reflections on a term as IAF Chair

the International Association of FacilitatorsThis post was first published in the IAF newsletter the Global Flipchart, January 2013.

After a little over four years on the IAF Board and a two year term as Chair, my term is now over.  I have had a tremendous time – I have learned a lot, and I have very much enjoyed working closely with many talented and dedicated colleagues among our membership. I am delighted to have passed on the baton to our very capable new Chair Kimberly Bain, along with the symbol that was passed on to me by my predecessor Gary Rush two years ago – a beautiful glass globe engraved with the IAF logo.

I would like to share some of things I find myself proud of and sorry about, as I reflect on my term and on the accomplishments of the Board, and of IAF as a whole, relative to the Board’s strategic priorities for these last two years.  These were:

  1. Marketing & Communications ( branding, online and regional) to position IAF as ‘the International Association’ for professional facilitators and all those who have an interest in facilitation
  2. Increased member retention and membership growth, particularly through chapter development & support and transformation of affiliation to new partnership relationships
  3. Diversification of income sources for financial strength & sustainability
  4. Growth & diversification of certification programmes, to strengthen global pathways to CPF
  5. Good governance & management, including succession planning and role definition

I am proud that we have the new Board role of Marketing & Partnerships Director to bring a new emphasis to this priority area, and that the new Board is embarking on this New Year with that post filled and with marketing as a central and cross-cutting theme in its business planning.  I am sorry that the role remained vacant for most of last year, and that we have not been able to invest as much energy in repositioning IAF as we had planned.

I am proud of the much improved visitor experience of the new IAF website introduced two years ago.  I am sorry that the functionality of the membership database behind the new website has proven inadequate to our needs, and that this has been an obstacle to serving our members as well and as easily as we would like.

I am proud that total membership has increased slightly over the past two years, in spite of severe economic recession in parts of the world where many of our members are located – we have 1,269 members today as compared with 1,210 at the end of 2010.  I am sorry that we have yet to attract back or replace many former members – the total was 1,453 when I joined the Board in October 2008.

I am proud that IAF chapters have seen such growth these past two years, after development of the model had taken such great investment of Board time and attention the previous two.  Since the first IAF chapter was established in 2010 the Board has approved 18 new chapters around the world and many more are in development, and local activity and membership are growing in many places as a direct result.  I am sorry that we are still not yet as clear as we would like on the principles and the practicalities of how local chapters and regional teams should expect to relate with each other and with IAF at the global level.

I am proud that IAF’s financial strength and sustainability are much improved, to the point that the Board is increasingly concerned by how to spend money wisely rather than how to conserve it.  I am sorry that income sources are not yet significantly diversified (they are still mainly membership dues, certification fees and to some extent conference surpluses), and that membership dues remain the only significant source of finance for membership services.

I am proud of the fantastic learning communities that IAF conferences continue to provide, and of the many successful and increasingly innovative conferences that have been held the past few years – not least the two that I attended myself last year in Halifax and in Geneva.  I am sorry that I did not manage to attend any IAF conferences as Chair in regions other than Europe and North America.

I am proud that the Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) programme has grown to over 100 candidates assessed worldwide in 2012, as compared to 69 in 2009, and that the new recertification programme has now become well established these past two years.  I am proud that a model for accreditation of facilitation training programmes is now out for consultation among members and training providers.  I am sorry that certification is still available only in English and Dutch, and that the cost of such a rigorous assessment process continues to be an obstacle for many.

In terms of governance, I am proud that IAF has completed its third year of online Board elections and now its first online Annual General Meeting, accessible to all members.  I am proud that the Board has been ready invest in a substantial face-to-face Board planning meeting early each year, and of the impact I think that has had on the culture and performance of the Board.  I am sorry that participation in this year’s election was so much reduced compared to the last two years – most likely I think as a result of problems with our email blast not reaching some members.

Most of all I am proud of the extraordinary talent and energy that is volunteered by so many of our fellow members every year in so many ways, for the advancement of our global profession and its social impact worldwide as well as for the learning and growth of ourselves and each other.  I thank you all.

In some ways I am sorry that my time on the Board is at an end.  I am looking forward to remaining an active member in other ways, however, and I am enjoying a major fall in my daily email traffic since transferring the IAF Chair’s account to Kimberly!

Also I am already enjoying many opportunities to apply learnings from my time on the IAF Board in my new volunteer role as President of ICA International, and as a newly independent CPF Facilitator, Trainer and Consultant as well. You can now find me at www.martingilbraith.com, and I look forward to staying in touch with fellow members online and I hope occasionally face to face.

I would welcome any reflections from you on changes that you’ve noticed in IAF in recent years, for better or for worse – you can reach me now at martin@martingilbraith.com.  I expect Kimberly and the Board will also welcome input and suggestions for their 2013 business planning meeting, taking place the week of 21 January in Tokyo – you can now reach Kimberly at my old address chair@iaf-world.org.  I wish them all the very best, with my support and confidence.

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