How engaging can a virtual meeting be? Join us to share and learn!

Our world and our client groups are increasingly moving online, so as facilitators we must be prepared move with them.  Virtual meetings can have advantages over face-to-face, but disadvantages too – not least, shorter attention spans and greater potential for distractions. How can we keep people engaged and focused when meeting online?

In this highly participatory, facilitated webinar hosted by IAF India, Martin Farrell & Martin Gilbraith of IAF England & Wales and Catherine Tornbom of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative share some top tips and practical examples from their own experience and that of other professional facilitators, and invite you to share your some of your own experience and create your own top tips together. We also seek to demonstrate in the webinar itself just how engaging a virtual meeting can be!

Martin Farrell CPF has been facilitating international gatherings since his first assignment with the UN in 2002. Now entering his 6th decade of engagement with civil society organisations in the UK and internationally, he is in demand worldwide as a facilitator and moderator of conferences, meetings and groups large and small. He established his own consultancy, Get2thepoint, in 1999. He continues to play an active part in the vibrant worldwide community of facilitators having been Regional Director (Europe, Middle East, North Africa) of the International Association of Facilitators for three years to 2015.

Martin Gilbraith CPF CTF is an independent facilitator, trainer and consultant based in London. He is an IAF ‘Hall of Famer” and former IAF Chair and IAF Europe Director. He is former President of the Institute of Cultural Affairs International (ICAI), and an Associate and former Chief Executive of ICA:UK. He has been facilitating, specializing in ICA’s ToP facilitation methodology, since he began his career as an international volunteer with ICA India in 1986-87.

Catherine Tornbom CTF is a seasoned consultant, mediator, and Mentor Trainer with ICA-USA. She has successfully resolved issues involving management team conflict, poor communication, productivity roadblocks and stress in her professional work with clients ranging from government, business, nonprofits, education, and community collaboration. She is a partner in the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative supporting virtual teams to achieve their goals through effective online collaboration.


Thank you to the IAF India team for their invitation and to my co-hosts Martin Farrell of get2thepoint and Catherine Tornbom and Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative. Thanks also to all those who participated, and live tweeted on the #FacInd hashtag.

Session materials & additional resources shared include:


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

A Compassionate Civilization: The Urgency of Sustainable Development and Mindful Activism’.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in yesterday’s free facilitation webinar A Compassionate Civilization: The Urgency of Sustainable Development and Mindful Activism’, and for the feedback shared on twitter!

In this session we explored the role of facilitation in sustainable development and ‘mindful activism’ for social change. I was joined by Robertson Work, author of the 2017 book of the same name, and again by Sunny Walker CPF CTF of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

Rob shared something of how his experience of facilitation and ICA’s Technology of Participation influenced his thinking, and the format of the book, and how he sees the role of facilitation in realising a Compassionate Civilization. We invited you to share some of your own experience of facilitation for social change, and to respond with us to questions that are raised.

Session materials & additional resources shared include:


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

Facilitating a culture of participation in organizations: reviewing the past to prepare for the future with IAF Jordan

Thank you to everyone who participated in my session with IAF Jordan in Amman today – Facilitating a culture of participation in organizations: reviewing the past to prepare for the future.

In the session I demonstrated a participatory approach for a group to review the past, to prepare for the future, by applying the ToP (Technology of Participation) Historical Scan method to reflect and learn together from our diverse experience and perspectives on the past, present and prospective futures of participation in organizations and organizational change. We also considered practical ways that we ourselves can contribute to facilitating a culture of participation in our own organizations, and I shared some key insights, tips & tools that enable professional facilitators to engage people effectively in bringing about change and some practical examples from experiences of facilitating participation and organizational change in Europe and elsewhere.

Here I am sharing the slides (pdf) that I shared in the session, with embedded hyperlinks to case studies and further resources, and some of the feedback received via Facebook.

See also my ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’) overview in the IAF Europe Method of the Month, May 2007 (pdf) and Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning.


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. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

ICA International Board update, March 2016

ICAI Global Buzz, October 2015
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, March 2016.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The ICAI network comprises member organisations and related groups in over 40 countries.  The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network, for greater and deeper impact. ICA International maintains consultative status with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.


At our February Board meeting we were pleased to approve a request for financial support toward the cost of an ICA Americas regional gathering to be hosted by ICA Peru in May, and another toward the cost of producing three issues of Winds & Waves magazine in 2016.

We heard updates on prospective candidates for associate membership in India, the Philippines, Poland, France, Russia and the Czech Republic, and on the work of the ICAI Global Conference working group and the ICAI global ToP (Technology of Participation) policy working group.

We approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) to promote and support greater collaboration between our two organisations, our respective members and our local groups around the world. The first step toward implementation will be to establish a joint working group comprised of three representatives each of ICAI & IAF, to identify and follow up opportunities.

We reviewed and updated our Board plans for 2016 in light of developments since our 2015-16 planning meeting in Tanzania last May.  Now that there will be no Global Conference in 2016 at which we might also convene a face-to-face Board meeting, we plan to announce Board elections at a General Assembly in October instead of June (or December).  This will enable a two month induction period for new Board members before their terms begin in January. We will explore options and costs for holding a face-to-face Board meeting in conjunction with an ICA regional gathering during that period, for induction and planning as we did last year in Tanzania, and consider including that in a revised 2016 budget for GA approval.

We invited ICAI members to collaborate to draft a statement for submission to the 15th session of the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration on the topic “Moving from commitments to results: transforming public institutions to facilitate inclusive policy formulation and integration in the implementation and monitoring of the sustainable development goals”.  ICAI is invited to contribute a statement on account of our UN Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC.

Svetlana continues to host weekly ICAI online dialogues in google hangout, including this month a session facilitated by Martin “What is Human Development?“.

We are grateful to the many ICAs that have renewed their dues to ICAI since the General Assembly in December, and those that have updated and completed their ICA profiles on the ICAI website. We are grateful also to the 64 ICA representatives and other readers who have responded already to our Winds & Waves magazine online readership survey.

What is Human Development? Join our Global Online Dialogue!

Tuesday 23 February, 10-11am GMT – facilitated by Martin Gilbraith of ICA:UK, President of ICA International

In this session today we explored what is meant by Human Development, taking a definition from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as our starting point:

“Human development… is about expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of the economy in which human beings live. It is an approach that is focused on people and their opportunities and choices” – http://hdr.undp.org/en/humandev

What questions or concerns does the UN description raise for us? How does it relate to our own experience of development, and development practice? What do we find helpful in this description, or lacking? What are some key challenges and opportunties for human development in the world today, in our own understanding and from our own experience and perspectives? What sort of responses are called for, from those who care to make a positive contribution?

Approaches that work in Human Development

Tuesday 1 March, 10-11am GMT – facilitated by Larry Philbrook of ICA Taiwan, past President of ICA International

In our next session next week we will begin with a brief review of the first conversion. We will then explore the groups experience and reflections on distinctions of this approach to development and change. We will explore actions involved and context or values that sustain that action?

What are projects or actions you would call Human Development? How does a human development approach impact formulation and implementation in a development context? What are approaches or applications that have worked

What are the values and beliefs we or others try to live out of to support Human Development? What does it look like to live into these values or beliefs in our organizational as well as developmental work? How might we individually or collectively use this in our own work?


Thank you to ICA International Europe MENA Vice President Svetlana Salamatova and Media IC (Poland) for hosting our dialogues, and to all who participated today!

Please join us! To join next week’s dialogue with Larry Philbrook and future sessions, and to view recordings of past sessions, please join us at ICA International on Google+.

ICAI Board report to the December General Assembly

strategic directionsThis short report to the upcoming  online  meetings of the ICAI General Assembly (GA) on 10 December was prepared to summarise the ICAI Board‘s activity since the last GA in July, relative to the 3 strategic directions of our 2015-16 strategy:

Fostering Global Connections & Collaboration to Support ICAs to Thrive

Support Peer-to-Peer Collaboration & Capacity Building

Facilitate Inclusive Global Communications

  • We have supported the Global Communications team to produce regular issues of Winds & Waves (W&W) magazine and the monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, and amplified distribution on social media
  • We have developed and launched a new website in WordPress and enabled member ICAs to post and update their own ICA Worldwide profiles and news updates – 11 ICA profiles updated to date, and W&W and Buzz updates cross-posted to the website
  • We have grown the ICAI presence on Facebook & Twitter and integrated them with the website
  • We have used the ICA Global channel on Youtube to host weekly online dialogues on development and disability, and  other topics

Gather, Synthesize & Share Info/Data of Value to our Membership

  • We have surveyed the global membership on their ToP facilitation capacity, use and aspirations for the Global ToP working group – 28 responses received to date

Develop & Strengthen Global Partnerships

  • We have agreed in principle to enter into a global partnership with IAF, and invited the Global ToP working group to respond to IAF’s draft Memorandum of Understanding

Boosting ICAI Resilience and Safeguarding the Integrity of our Global Community

Strengthen Organizational Resilience & Sustainability

  • We are developing more robust financial management and reporting systems – for this reason invoicing (and therefore payment) of member’s dues has been delayed, however all are now invoiced
  • We have received the investments that were left to ICAI as a legacy last year

Safeguard the Integrity of the Global Membership

  • We have welcomed 3 new members approved at July GA – SNF Uganda, ORP Korea & EPDI Nigeria
  • We have supported members & applicants for memberships to complete nomination papers for 2 new Associate members, NCOC Kenya & SCR Kenya
  • We have continued to work with prospective applicants in Russia (Moscow & Siberia), Poland, France & the Philippines
  • We have supported colleagues of NIRADO Nigeria and Itereleng Itereleng ICA South Africa working on renewing ICAs on those countries

Recognizing & Leveraging ICA Wisdom & Nurturing New Leadership

Recognize & Appreciate Contributions/ Achievements

  • We have regularly published available ICA news updates to new website

Strengthen and Share our Collective Wisdom & Approaches

Share & Nurture Global Leadership within the Membership

  • We have begun to prepare for ICAI Board nominations & elections process leading to election in June prior to face-to-face Board meeting at August Global Conference – may delay to election in December of Global Conference is postponed

What does it take for people to align behind change? Six top tips & tools from #FacWeekchat

#FacWeekChat 2015This is the question that brought together 69 facilitation, communications and change management professionals over two one-hour twitter chats on October 23, during International Facilitation Week. In this post I’ll share six top tips and some of the tools that were shared in response.

The twitter chats were co-hosted by Michael Ambjorn of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Faith Forster of the Change Management Institute (CMI) and myself for the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). Our aims were to bring people together to connect with and learn from each other on a topic of mutual interest, and also to make connections and foster broader collaboration between our associations and between our professions.

Participants were located as far afield as Canada, USA, Serbia, UK and India. Our experience of change included local and international work with large and small organisations in a variety of sectors and industries including health, education, IT, faith and international aid & development.

So what did we learn? What does it take for people to align behind change?

1. The context must be conducive. People align behind change “when external pressures have made the need for change evident”.  “The facilitator as midwife can only help a client that is already pregnant”!

2. High level vision and goals, and ideally values as well, must be clear and shared. Alignment happens when there is “a clear purpose… before a decision on what to do, a focus on energy & momentum for change”.

3. There must be inclusive and authentic participation. “Holistic participation in co-creating vision is the key to create buy in”.  “Co-design, co-creation, collaboration”. “Convene all with a stake in change”. “Everyone wants change, but no-one wants to be changed”.  Alignment does not happen “when when people forget that changes requires the involvement of others” or “when change is imposed from above without proper consultation or facilitation”.

4. Humility, patience and deep listening is required. “Be honest and transparent about the challenges that will be faced, otherwise when failure happens you lose people’s trust”. “Take time, constant process checks, take time, listen, take time, acknowledge resistance (did I mention take time?)”. “Come to terms with the antibodies in the system and talk candidly about them”. “The disruptive power of good listening skills”. “Pay as much attention to the intangibles amongst people as to what is explicitly being said”.

5. Be open to what needs to emerge, while remaining focused on the vision. “Start with possibilities rather than a project plan” and “be aware of groups emerging needs… [allow] the group synergy to flow”.  Alignment did not happen “when people didn’t respond to emerging needs, and when personal issues took precidence over common vison”.

6. Nevertheless, leadership must also be be clear, decisive and inspiring.  “Be a leader that makes tough decisions. The notion of change is disruptive, but strong leadership can mitigate people risk”. Make a “powerful invitation, expressed openly with integrity”. “Discussions about change are so often are negative, ie. about failure – we need to inspire people, enable them”.

What tools and techniques can help?

Favoured approaches to addressing the challenges of aligment and change included the Art of Hosting/Art of Participatory Leadership, Organisational Development, Quality Management, Coaching and Mediation, Graphic Facilitation (especially in multilingual contexts), the work of Perry Timms on ‘hacking adaptable organisations’ and of course ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP).

Some of the particular tools referenced were Story Boarding and Lead with a Story, My Goals My Action Steps, Power/Interest Matrix, RASCI, Ladder of inference, CSITO’s Constellation Collaboration model and the ToP Focused Conversation method.

What can we learn from each other?

What can communications and change management professionals learn from facilitation? “If you want to bring people with you you have to involve others, and facilitation is a great way to do that”. Facilitation “can help transform communications ‘from cascade to conversation'” – “communicators can learn from facilitators about how to structure conversations once people are engaged”. “Change management can get caught up in project management processes – facilitation keeps the focus on what is important”. “At a simple level, facilitation can help managers learn to run more productive and enjoyable meetings”.

What can facilitators learn from communications and change management? How “to get people ‘in the room’ for facilitation, to engage all those who will never be ‘in the room’… and to communicate the results”.  Also “good use of data gathering tools”, “ways to measure/evaluate the outcomes of their facilitation work” and how to “draw out stories as they relate to the task at hand, and use these stories for sense making”.

We could all benefit from each other’s professional standards and competency models – IAF’s Facilitation Core Competencies, IABC’s communications Global Standard andCMI’s Change Management Foundation & Master Competencies.

For more of what we shared, including links to many of the examples and tools referred to, see the edited highlights on Storify or find all 707 tweets at #FacWeekchat on Twitter.

Please add your own thoughts in a comment below, or of course on Twitter with the hashtag #FacWeekchat!


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.