How I work

See also Reflecting on a year in freelance facilitation, 2022-23

As a facilitator, I design and lead processes that help groups to learn together, to make decisions and plans together, and to achieve common goals together. As a trainer, I design and deliver courses that help people to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to facilitate groups effectively themselves. As a consultant and coach, I share my expertise with clients and groups as I work with them to achieve the change that they are seeking. I draw a clear distinction between these three roles, but often I play two or more of the roles in a single project to develop capacity for the future while accomplishing the task at hand. As a coach and mentor I draw on all three.

IAF Core CompetenciesAs an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator | Master (CPF | M), my clients are assured that I uphold the IAF Code of Ethics and that I demonstrate the full range of core Facilitator Competencies:

  • Create Collaborative Client Relationships
  • Plan Appropriate Group Processes
  • Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
  • Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
  • Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
  • Model Positive Professional Attitude

I draw on a wide range of methods and approaches in my tailored facilitation work, including Appreciative Inquiry, Lego Serious Play, Liberating Structures, Open Space and World Cafe among others. In all of my work, however, I draw on ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) – the approach pioneered and refined by the Institute of Cultural Affairs in over 50 years of experience worldwide. This is a proven system of methods and tools that can be adapted and applied to help all sorts of groups accomplish a wide variety of tasks together. The main methods and tools are described in the descriptions of the ToP facilitation training courses in which they are taught. The core values of the ToP approach, which inform all of my work, are:

  • inclusive participation
  • teamwork and collaboration
  • individual and group creativity
  • ownership and action
  • reflection and learning.

ICAUK ToP Participatory Strategic Planning training, 2013 at NCVO in London - photo Adam Swann, facilitation Martin Gilbraith #ToPfacilitation 7My facilitation work is all tailored to help a particular group achieve a particular goal in a particular context. There are, however, a number of common scenarios for which I am often asked to help. These include:

  • project planning, strategic planning, and progress reviews
  • organisational development and transformation
  • stakeholder engagement and consultation
  • team building and partnership working
  • team and Board retreats or away days
  • seminars, conferences, forums and assemblies
  • leadership development and capacity building.

ToP Group Facilitation Methods training, 2016 at Social Platform in Brussels - photo Christopher Malapitan, facilitation Martin Gilbraith #ToPfacilitationMy training work is primarily focused on the methods and skills of ICA’s Technology of Participation and the wider IAF Facilitator Competencies. I draw on my own experience and the wealth of curriculum developed by ICA over many years to design and deliver tailored programmes to help particular groups to meet their learning goals. I provide facilitation coaching for individuals and small teams, and mentoring for individuals.

I am an ICA Certified ToP Facilitator, an experienced lead trainer and licensed provider of ‘ICA’s ‘ToP’ facilitation training, a trainer of ICAI’s IAF-endorsed ToP Facilitation Essentials programme and a member of the ICAI Global ToP Advisory Group. I serve as a volunteer mentor with the IAF mentoring programme.

I work in English, and in English with simultaneous interpretation. I draw on the worldwide ICA network to provide ToP training materials in other languages, and to arrange for experienced local ToP trainers and facilitators to deliver with me (or without me) in other languages.

Photo by Red Dot on UnsplashI seek to take a feminist and anti-racist approach to my work, informed by an understanding of the way people’s intersecting identities (age, language, race, citizenship, sexuality, gender, class, ability etc.) impact the ways that they have power and privilege, and the ways they face marginalization and discrimination. Mindful of such inequalities, I strive to create a safe environment that is inclusive of diverse lived experience, and ensure that even the most excluded have an equal voice and opportunity to contribute.

I recognize that my own intersecting identities as an older, anglophone, white British gay man, middle class and with hearing loss, may position me to be better able to achieve those goals with some groups than with others. With clients and groups for whom I may not be best positioned to facilitate myself, I recommend others and/or offer to partner or co-facilitate with others as appropriate – see Exploring feminist facilitation.

I seek to limit and reduce my own personal & professional carbon footprint, and I seek to use what influence I can to challenge and support others to respond constructively themselves to the climate crisis – see What can I do about climate change, personally and as a facilitator?

As long as COVID remains a risk to the health and the work of all of us, I propose that we should all continue to take such risks into account as we agree how to work together – see Mitigating COVID risks for in person and hybrid events.

I work online and face-to-face, and where appropriate by a hybrid approach involving both face-to-face and online at once.

I am in business as Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd – registered company #08583435, VAT Registration No: 389873319, registered address c/o Crunch Accounting,The Knoll Business Centre Unit W8A, 325-327 Old Shoreham Road, Hove BN3 7GS, United Kingdom.

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

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