Mitigating COVID risks for in person and hybrid events

Much of my work remains online, as it was exclusively through the first two years of the COVID pandemic.

I have returned to providing facilitation and training in person as well, however, and where appropriate by a hybrid approach involving both in person and online at once.

While many of my clients and groups have been delighted to discover in the past two years just how engaging and effective online events can be, many are now for good reasons keen to gather in person again as well when they can.

Like them, I have been considering how best to respond to the continuing risk of infection and disruption due to COVID. In discussing and agreeing with them how best to respond to such risks together, I have drafted the following to inform such discussions with future clients and groups.

What conclusions have you drawn about how to respond to such risks, and what resources have you developed? Please do share in a comment below.


For clients

In my contracting with clients, I propose that:

  • As long as COVID remains a risk to the health and the work of all of us, we should all continue to take such risks into account as we agree how to work together
  • Our respective attitudes and appetite for risk are likely to be affected by the prevalence and impact of COVID and associated regulations where we are, by our own personal experience, and by cultural, economic and other factors – all of which may vary between us
  • COVID safety should be taken into account in the selection of venues for in person and hybrid events by, for example, ensuring adequate space, windows that can be opened to allow fresh air ventilation, and a notice of the venue’s COVID safety measures that might reassure attendees
  • Those invited to in person and hybrid events should be informed in advance of any COVID safety measures put in place by the client, the venue and/or by relevant local authorities, and requested or invited to take additional measures themselves as well (see below)
  • In case it may be appropriate to offer some element of remote participation in an otherwise in person event, thus making it a hybrid event, this should be agreed in advance and reflected in the budget and scope of work – to add remote participation to an event designed and prepared for only in person participation can be a great deal more complex, risky and time-consuming than designing and preparing a hybrid (or wholly online) event from the outset
  • In that case it will be important to clarify the aims and scope of remote participation relative to those of in-person participation in the hybrid event – to provide a truly equitable experience for both remote and in-person participants can be done, and can be one well, but often at the cost of greater complexity and risk, and therefore also time and budget
  • In the event that one or more members of the group are unable to attend in person due to COVID (see below), it will be assumed that the event will go ahead without them (or with them participating remotely if it is a hybrid event) unless some explicit arrangement is agreed for cancellation or postponement
  • In the event that one or more facilitators or trainers are unable to attend in person due to COVID (see below), I shall reschedule or arrange for a suitably experienced colleague to substitute in person where possible, and/or we will take part remotely where appropriate. Failing that, if appropriate, I shall offer to support the client or one or more of the group to lead the event without me. Unless some explicit arrangement is agreed for such an eventuality, I shall charge as agreed (only) for work delivered, for example consultation, design, preparation, facilitation and/or documentation
  • Clients may be reassured to know that to date I have had three COVID vaccinations and I have recovered from one COVID infection.

For groups

In my advance invitation to groups attending in person, and in contracting with them at the start of an event, I propose that:

  • COVID remains a risk to your health and that of others, and thus to all of our work as well, so we should continue to take such risks into account as we agree how to work together
  • Some of us may be anxious about attending in person, and/or particularly vulnerable to COVID infection, even as others may be less so – please take measures to reduce anxiety and risk for others if not also for yourself
  • Please comply with any COVID safety measures required by the client, the venue and by relevant local authorities (links provided)
  • Please test for COVID soon before attending
  • Please do not attend in person if you test positive or if you have COVID-like symptoms – mindful that COVID symptoms may be similar to those of a cold or flu, and we can test negative for several days before we test positive
  • Please bring a mask with you and feel welcome to wear it, and be prepared to wear it if asked to do so – masks may also be provided
  • Please pay attention to your distance from others, and respect each other’s personal space as best you can
  • Windows will be opened where possible to allow fresh air ventilation
  • Please let us know of any other particular concerns or suggestions you have in relation to COVID safety, in advance or at the start of the event, and be prepared to respect each others’ concerns and suggestions.

Thank you!


See also about me, how I work, who I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Are you planning an online conference, Forum or General Assembly?

Free facilitation webinar: Taking your event online: what could possibly go wrong?


Below is a ‘menu of services’ that I have been able to provide to a number of clients planning such online events in recent years. Please contact me as early as you can if you could benefit from such support as you plan, prepare and deliver your own event.

The scope and scale of service delivered for these recent projects has ranged from just a few days of consulting and coaching from myself alone over a week or two, to a larger package of consultation, coaching and Introduction to Facilitation Online training with multiple teams from myself and a co-facilitator over several weeks, to anything from 10 to 50 days or more of comprehensive support over several months from myself and a larger team with diverse skills able to provide many if not all of the menu of services.

Colleagues that I have collaborated with on such projects recently have included Orla Cronin, Marie Dubost, Charo Lanao, Judy Rees, Hector Villarreal Lozoya and Bruno Selun – I am thankful to them for the teamwork that has made many of these projects possible.

Recent such client contracts have included:

  • with Action Aid International, facilitation coaching and support for the Convener, Organising Committee and Governance staff of the Global Secretariat in preparation for sessions of the online 2021 Annual General Meeting
  • with Amnesty International, design and lead facilitation of a series of 17 sessions of the online 2021 Global Assembly, involving a multilingual team of 5 facilitators and 3-4 delegates of each of almost 70 member entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish
  • with Amnesty International, Europe & Central Asia region, lead design and facilitation of a 4-week online 2021 Regional Forum involving over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations in over 20 sessions
  • with OMCT, design consulting and facilitation training over 3 months in support of the first online Global Week Against Torture in 2021
  • with Oxfam Ireland, online facilitation training and coaching with staff in Ireland and of six African programme partners, in support of their first online Annual Partnership Meeting together in 2020
  • with the ISEAL Alliance, online facilitation training and coaching in support of their first online ‘Members’ Month’ in 2020
  • with ILGA Europe on behalf of Kumquat Consult, design consulting and facilitation training in support of the first online ILGA Europe 2020 Annual Conference
  • with Amnesty International, design and facilitation of a series of six online Global Strategy Labs involving around 150 delegates representing 70 national entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish in 2020
  • with the Amnesty International Europe & Central Asia region, lead design and facilitation of a 3-day online 2020 Regional Forum involving over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations – blog post
  • with FAO, design and facilitation of the 2015 online conference “Economics of Climate Change Mitigation Options in the Forest Sector” engaging over 900 international experts – case study

“Martin and his team provided outstanding support during Amnesty International’s 2021 Global Assembly which for the first time was held entirely online. They were integral in the planning of the model which helped to ensure broad participation and access for delegates of almost 70 member entities. Their experience and familiarity with facilitating online spaces were game changing and were critical in helping to build trust in the process and in a new model of digital governance.” – Ann Burroughs, Chair of the 2021 Global Assembly and Preparatory Committee, Amnesty International – Sep 16, 2021

“Together with other folks at the Kumquat team Martin helped us to organize the ILGA-Europe Gathering Online 2020. Organizing a large event online for the first time came with many questions and challenges. Martin particularly helped us with providing training and assistance to put together the flow of the programme and to ensure that we were ready to facilitate the many spaces that our event was made up with. It was a pleasure working with Martin!” – Björn van Roozendaal, Programmes Director at ILGA-Europe – Feb 25, 2021

“In November 2020, Martin provided invaluable support to Oxfam Ireland in the build-up to a series of multi-stakeholder online workshops. He provided tailored ‘coaching sessions’ to our team, which helped us to prepare and deliver several engaging virtual sessions. These sessions directly catered to our needs, building our ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ virtual facilitation skills and knowledge. Furthermore, he also co-facilitated an in-house “Introduction to Facilitation Online” workshop with colleagues across Southern and Eastern Africa. This excellent workshop was well received by all participants. Thanks, Martin!” – Rosa Brandon, Programme Quality Officer at Oxfam Ireland – Feb 22, 2021

“WOW! Awesome contributions from 200+ participants at the #ECCMOFS REDD+ online conference session. Feeling inspired @FAOForestry”  – Ruth Mallett, Consultant at UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – February 13, 2013


Menu of services

Before

Project management: We can work with you to clearly define the project and its boundaries, starting from a clear purpose statement (including outputs and outcomes) that will help align your various stakeholders’ expectations of the event. We can help you make it operational by translating it into a clear project plan and division of responsibilities, and we can accompany you in delivery.

We will recommend using an online project management tool across the entire team (internal and external) to achieve and maintain this throughout – we can provide and support you to use Basecamp or Asana, or join an existing platform you’re already using internally, or we can support you to acquire and use your own platform. Such a platform will be crucial to deliver such a complex project on schedule.

Conceptualisation: Support for the overall design and conceptualisation of a coherent event, including flow, timing, duration and format to maximise engagement and participation to best meet your aims and ambitions within your constraints, including budget and capacity. We can help you to identify what types of sessions should be offered (including format, degree of participation, types of outcomes, etc.), allowing you to then populate the programme using those session types.

Participation design: We can work with you to identify what sort of participation (how much, how broad, how deep) each session type will require, and the number of participants expected or desired. These will make up the event’s participation requirements, which with security & accessibility requirements will allow us to advise which service(s), platform(s) and/or tool(s) you should consider.

Session call & selection: We can support you in the setup and running of a session call, proposal and selection system for submitters, reviewers and decision-makers – including technical support, training and assistance

Communication: We can advise you on how and when to communicate with prospective and confirmed participants, session leaders, speakers and other stakeholders in order to manage their expectations and preparations in alignment with those of the event as a whole.

Platform selection & setup: We can help you in researching and reviewing available options and selecting an online event platform to meet your specific requirements, including in relation to security, pricing, functionality and much more. We can help you with setup and troubleshooting of your selected platform, including the pre-registration, registration, event and post-event phases

Additional tools: Depending on your requirements and choice of platform, we can support you to select, configure and use additional tools for participant inclusion and engagement, e.g. for interpretation, voting, Q&A, brainstorming, visualisation, networking etc.

Facilitation training & coaching: We can help you determine how to best recruit additional facilitators if needed, whether volunteers or professionals. We can design and deliver bespoke facilitation training, drawing on a range of existing and well-established training modules (see above). We can offer tailored coaching & troubleshooting sessions for session facilitators and producers, individually or in pairs or small teams, to support them in their session design and preparation.

Technical preparation: We can help you with the technical preparation of your team, speakers and moderators to run their sessions through the event platform – technical checks, testing all platforms & tools used to ensure they’re familiar with them on the day

During

Technical support (a.k.a. production): On-call technical support for the full duration of the event, both inside and between sessions, to ensure everything goes according to plan, and to deliver backup solutions in the event of a failure (e.g. if a speaker or session leader can’t connect)

Facilitation support: We can help by facilitating or producing particular sessions or parts of sessions for you, or the whole event, or by co-facilitating or co-producing to support your own session teams to do so

After

Evaluation: Design, delivery and analysis of a bespoke evaluation survey to collect actionable feedback from your participants regarding what went well, what didn’t, and how to improve future events


See also free facilitation webinars including:

See also about mehow I work and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Are you interested to meet or socialise with other GOC members online, from the comfort of your home?

Join our new Online group, Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events!

Probably like most members, I didn’t join the Gay Outdoors Club to attend online meetings – least of all to lead them. It turns out, however, that there is now an interest in connecting, meeting and socialising online, even among members of an outdoor club like GOC.

So, after managing GOC’s Twitter and Facebook feeds for a year or more, I have stepped up to launch and co-ordinate a new Online group as well. Initially at least, I am offering to support GOC’s 1,400+ members (assuming that not all will be interested!) to use Wonder and Zoom, in conjunction with Calendly, to connect and socialize informally and to schedule and host their own online meetings and events.

What follows is todays’ news post launching the new Online group, and the member-only page How to use Zoom and Wonder with member-only links and passwords omitted.


Join our new Online group, Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events!

Are you interested to meet or socialise with other GOC members online, from the comfort of your home?

Perhaps you don’t find it easy to join many of our outdoor events for one reason our another, or you’re interested to connect with members beyond those that you usually meet in person? Perhaps you are a co-ordinator of one of our other local or specialist groups and you are interested to host events online as well as outdoors, or to meet online to co-ordinate and plan your group and its outdoor events?

Since we first announced our new online meeting tools in a news post just before Christmas, members have taken the opportunity to mingle and socialize informally online with others from around the country and even to schedule and host their own online events for their own groups. There has been sufficient interest that we are now launching a new specialist Online group to co-ordinate and promote the new Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events.

Whatever your interest, and whatever your level of technical experience or expertise, please join us – you are welcome!

  • For further details of the group, the weekly Tuesday night social and other events, and how to join, please check out our new Online group page.
  • For further details of our new online meeting tools, available to all members and groups, check out our new member-only page How to use Zoom and Wonder.

I hope to see you online soon, if not also outdoors!

Martin Gilbraith, Online group co-ordinator.


Join our new Online group, Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events!

How to use Zoom and Wonder

Are you interested to network or meet with other GOC members, online from the comfort of your home?

Please join our new Online group to receive group updates of news and online events, however you don’t need to join the group to use new our online meeting tools – they are available for all membership:

  • Our Zoom meeting room is suitable for the kind of private online meeting that you might otherwise hold in a physical meeting room. It is accessible on a computer, tablet or smartphone via an app, or with more limited functionality via your browser or you can even dial-in by telephone. Scroll down for how to schedule a meeting in Zoom and invite other members, whether for GOC social or ‘business’ purposes.
  • Our Wonder networking space is suitable for the more fluid kind of online socialising that you might otherwise do at a GOC event outdoors, or in the pub or tea room afterwards. It is accessible on a computer via Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge – sorry, not yet on a tablet or smartphone or via Safari or other browsers. Read on for how to meet, mingle and network freely with other members in Wonder.

Meet and mingle in Wonder – from 8pm every Tuesday, or whenever you please

Our Wonder space is open 24/7, and it is entirely free to GOC. You can meet others there by arrangement, or you can drop by to see if anyone is there – for our Weekly Online Social from 8pm every Tuesday, or whenever you please. You are welcome to use it any time, and for as long as you like.

Wonder can accommodate up to 1,500 at a time in self-organising ‘circles’ of up to 15 – like zoom breakout groups, but more fluid and more fun. You can lock your circle for a private meeting, or you can leave it open to allow others to join you. If you are curious to know more about Wonder, see this report from Tech Crunch.

To use Wonder for the first time, take a few minutes in advance to view the short video (here and below) and follow the steps access the space. There’s no need to create a new account or log-in, or to download or install new software. Your browser will remember your settings for your future visits, so you will only have to go through these steps once. You can view the same steps also in writing here, and you can find additional support at Wonder Help and Troubleshooting Guide.

To add an event in Wonder to the GOC events calendar for other members to join, just submit an event in the usual way. You don’t need to worry about whether anyone else will be using the space at the same time, because there is plenty of room for everyone. In the member-only information under ‘meeting point’, include a link to this page How to use Zoom and Wonder and the following link and password for direct access to our Wonder space:

  • To access our Wonder space click here – the password is XXX.
To use Wonder for the first time, take a few minutes in advance to view the short video

Schedule a Zoom meeting and invite other members

Our Zoom meeting room can accommodate just one meeting at a time, so you will need to schedule your meeting in advance at a time that is not already booked. Use the Zoom calendar (below) to schedule a one-off meeting in the next 30 days, or email Online group co-ordinator Martin Gilbraith to request a recurring meeting or a meeting more than 30 days ahead.

When scheduling your meeting in the calendar, allow an additional 15 minutes before and after if you need it as another meeting may be scheduled directly before or after yours. Please do not schedule more time than you need, however, so as to leave time available for others. If you find the date and time that you want is not available in the calendar for a longer meeting, you might find that it is available for a shorter one. After scheduling your meeting you will receive login details by email that you can share with your guests, and a ‘host key’ that you can use to ‘claim host’ and access host features.

A small group can meet quite successfully for a short conversation in Zoom with minimal technical expertise or experience of Zoom, and with minimal hosting by the meeting leader. For a more complex meeting or with a group of more than around 10 or 15, you will probably need enough familiarity with Zoom to manage breakout groups and other host features such as screen-sharing, recording and security settings, and you will need one or two people to be prepared to lead the meeting and manage the technology. Our Zoom meeting room can accommodate up to 100, and it has a wide variety of features and functions available. For support or with questions about Zoom see Zoom Help, and for a guide to remote facilitation and online meetings see SessionLab.

To add an event in Zoom to the GOC events calendar for other members to join, just submit an event in the usual way. In the member-only information under ‘meeting point’, include the login details that you received by email. Share the host key only with anyone that will need and be able to use the additional host features to host the meeting.

  • To schedule a Zoom meeting and receive login details to share, use the Zoom calendar (below):

Use this Zoom calendar to schedule a one-off meeting in the next 30 days.

If you have any other questions or requests for networking and meeting online with GOC, please email Online group co-ordinator Martin Gilbraith.

Our Code of Conduct and other GOC polices and guidelines apply to online events as they do to others.


See also about me, how I work, who I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Free facilitation coaching for youth social justice and sustainability work

Amnesty International Activism Hackathon, 2017 in London - photo Amnesty, facilitation Martin Gilbraith #ToPfacilitation 3


Could you use some support to address a facilitation question or challenge you are facing, to design or prepare an upcoming workshop or process, or to reflect and learn from some recent experience?

Are you up to 35 years old and using facilitation in your work for climate justice, gender equity or anti-racism, or otherwise in response to systemic injustice and oppression or toward achieving a just and sustainable world for all?

If so, read on and feel free to request a first free facilitation coaching session via my online scheduling calendar below.

If you are over 35, working on something else or able to pay, if you are interested in coaching for others or in longer-term support for your professional development as a facilitator, please contact me to ask about my availability and rates for paid facilitation coaching and mentoring – including discounted rates for voluntary organisations & independent professionals.

Free facilitation coaching

I am happy to offer, free of charge:

  • up to three online sessions of up to 45 minutes each, over up to six weeks
  • support for you only, or for you plus one or two others sharing the same question or challenge
  • to review any material that you share in confidence with me in advance of each session
  • to listen actively with curiosity, care and respect
  • to ask questions, to support you to reflect and learn from your experience and come to your own conclusions or solutions
  • to offer feedback and ideas from my experience, and refer you to any relevant resources and sources of support that I can.

In return, I hope that I may be inspired by your work and that I may learn from your experience.  If you find the coaching helpful, I shall be grateful for a short recommendation outlining how it helped.

Rosa BrandonRosa Brandon, Programme Quality Officer at Oxfam Ireland, wrote Feb 22, 2021:

“Martin provided invaluable support to Oxfam Ireland in the build-up to a series of multi-stakeholder online workshops. He provided tailored ‘coaching sessions’ to our team, which helped us to prepare and deliver several engaging virtual sessions. These sessions directly catered to our needs, building our ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ virtual facilitation skills and knowledge. Thanks, Martin!”

Request a first free session

Please scroll down in my scheduling calendar to request a first free session from 2-10 days ahead:


I may cancel your session if your request or eligibility is unclear or if my availability changes. Please give at least 24 hours notice if you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment for any reason, and I shall do the same for you.

If you do not find a suitable session time available, please try again after a few days or more. Please contact me with any queries.


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Join us in promoting the power of facilitation worldwide this #FacWeek!

Happy Facilitation Week 2021, starting today!

Facilitation Week is a participatory experience that inspires synergy and celebrates the act of group facilitation. Held in the third week of October each year, it’s purpose is to showcase the power of facilitation to both new and existing audiences, and to create a sense of community among facilitators and their groups worldwide. To join in as a participant, facilitator or sponsor, see facilitationweek.org.

The mission of our #FacPower book project too is to promote the power of facilitation worldwide. So, what better opportunity could there be for us to share a brief update on how we have been working to do just that, and how you can get involved?

The #FacPower story so far…

How you can get involved

Please…

  • download and read the whole book, or whichever chapters interest you most
  • rate the book on Goodreads, and add a brief review there – that will help many other readers to find it
  • share your reflections and questions on your own website, blog or social media with the #FacPower hashtag and a link to facpower.org, and mention or tag the relevant contributors – let’s deepen and broaden the conversation together
  • if you have your own blog, podcast or other publication, contact us to arrange an interview or online session with one or more of our contributors
  • contact us if you are interested to translate of all or some of the book into your own language – see our translation page for what support we are ready to offer and what we will expect from you
  • contact us if you are interested to share your skills to help us to develop new editions including print-on-demand, an audio-book and a podcast series
  • follow, like, connect and engage with us on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn & YouTube
  • refer to our media kit and Creative Commons license for the resources you need to otherwise help to get the word out, or to use excerpts from the book
  • last but not least, please donate generously to the International Association of Facilitators Bursary Fund, to support IAF too to promote the power of facilitation worldwide.

Thank you!


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

More Than Halfway to Somewhere: how exposure to other cultures has shaped our lives

More Than Halfway to Somewhere: how exposure to other cultures has shaped our livesRegister now for this free online session, July 22nd at 3pm UK time.

More Than Halfway to Somewhere: Collected Gems of a World Traveler, by former ICA staff colleague John Burbidge, may look like a collection of travellers’ tales, but probe a little deeper and you could be surprised by what you find.

John was kind enough to allow me to share one of the chapters of the book on my blog in December – Dancing on the Dunes – an excursion in Egypt’s Western Desert.  As I wrote myself for the cover, in this book:

“Burbidge leads you on a whistle-stop world tour of travelers’ tales rich with exotic locations, colourful characters and often extraordinary adventures. These are gems indeed, mined from a life lived as journey and sparkling with compassion and humour!”

See also the three excerpts (pdf) that John has shared as a taster for this session.

Using the book to launch a Zoom discussion, ICA USA Board member Nancy Trask will host this free online event, which will include:

  • John reading extracts from his stories, with a Q&A
  • participants sharing their cross-cultural experiences, and
  • a discussion on how our lives have been changed by living and working in other cultures.

The event is hosted by the ICA Social Research Center as part of its 2021 Global Schedule of Events.  I am pleased to join myself as a co-host.

Participants are encouraged to read the book beforehand. Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Apple and numerous other retailers worldwide. For details, visit the book page on John’s website www.wordswallah.com.

Register now for this free online session, July 22nd at 3pm UK time.


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

The Power of Facilitation – now available!

“Facilitation simply works. It is a critical skill needed in government, civil society, and business, if humanity is to deal with climate chaos, ecocide, racism, fascism, and other challenges. Thank you for this powerful book.”

Robertson Work, author of A Compassionate Civilization, former UNDP policy adviser, New York Professor, New York

 

Download

We are excited to share with you the Power of Facilitation! #FacPower

The book is a compilation of chapters written by different authors or author teams, designed to promote the power of facilitation.

Each chapter connects key perspectives on specific dimensions of facilitation, organisational and community development with the respective authors’ practice and thinking about our craft. Most of the team are members of the International Association of Facilitators, and many are IAF Certified Professional Facilitators.

The book project is a labour of love for all contributors. Our mission is to promote the power of facilitation worldwide. We are making the book available for free in order to enable and encourage everyone to read it and to share it.

Download

The Power of Facilitation #FacPower

Future editions will include an Epub version soon, and we hope a print version in October for International Facilitation Week 2021. In the meantime we will post each chapter in turn to this blog over the summer.

For news – follow the FacPower blog and connect with us also on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn & YouTube.


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.