What skills, knowledge, and behaviours must facilitators have in order to be successful facilitating in a wide variety of environments? To what extent do these vary, if at all, when working online rather than face-to-face? What can we do, individually and together as Agilists and as peers, to develop our own facilitation competence?
In this session participants acquainted themselves in breakout groups with the IAF Core Facilitation Competencies and shared experience of their application, both online and face-to-face. In plenary we reflected on the extent to which these competencies vary when working online rather than face-to-face, if at all. Participants also reflected on what they could do, individually and together as peers and Agilists, to develop their own facilitation competence.
For more on ICA’s Technology of Participation and facilitation online, register now for Introduction to Facilitation Online – Introducing the role of the facilitator and the ToP approach, plus some key tips & tools, 2.5 hours, next on 11 November.
The recording and other outputs follow:
the slides and mentimeter outputs shared on SlideShare
All of this time I have worked remotely, in and with geographically distributed groups, as well as face-to-face. I have been using online technology in this work for as long as it has been available.
I have never sought to make online facilitation a particular speciality, however – until now, of course. I have not made LEGO® Serious Play® a speciality either, in spite of having enjoyed a long and distinguished early childhood career in LEGO®!
I believe that a facilitator is first a facilitator, and only second an online facilitator or a LEGO Serious Play facilitator. I believe that the keys to mastering facilitation lie in the values and the stance of the facilitator, the competencies and the disciplines, rather than the space or the platform, the methods or the tools.
I know Sean, and that he is a competent, experienced and accomplished facilitator. Questions are the primary tool of every facilitator, and I know that he asks good questions and that he asks them well. In an early meetup of IAF England & Wales, in London in perhaps 2013, he posed the question: “Is there such a thing as a universal principle of facilitation?”
It didn’t take me long to think and respond that, in my own facilitation at least, there is certainly something approaching that – the ‘ORID’ model underlies of the ToP Focused Conversation method and the ToP methodology as a whole.
I know that Sean has since integrated this approach in his practice, and in his previous book ‘Mastering The LEGO Serious Play Method’. I was sufficiently inspired by the metaphor of ORID as a universal principle that I blogged about it then and have used it in my training ever since.
Many facilitators have rapidly developed a speciality in working online this year, as Sean and I have as well. Some have done so more quickly and easily than others, and some with greater enthusiasm. Most, in my experience, have had reservations about some of the very real limitations of online facilitation. Only recently I think more of us are becoming belatedly more aware of some equally real limitations of face-to-face, and some real advantages of working online.
So, it is not only LEGO Serious Play practitioners that might take heart and find inspiration in the many innovations that Sean shares in this book. There is much here for all of us to learn from – not least, the rigour and creativity with which he has designed ‘a digital process that uses bricks’ [substitute your preferred tool or method here] ‘rather than an analogue process poorly rendered online’.
I’ve heard it said that, in online facilitation, every participant brings their share of the meeting room with them. This is a challenge for LEGO Serious Play practitioners perhaps more than most, and one to which this book rises admirably.
As Sean makes clear in his Guiding Principles, success in achieving outcomes rather than just engagement through facilitation comes largely from the planning and preparation, and from the capacity to divert nimbly from the plan when the moment requires improvisation.
All of this can be considerably more complex and difficult online than face-to-face. So, if this is what can be done with LEGO Serious Play, think what else can be possible online!
Finally, we are in the midst of a climate emergency, as well as a public health emergency. I believe that the two are not unrelated, and that they demand new ways of connecting, communicating and collaborating that are less carbon intensive as well as more COVID-19 secure, and that are more creative, compassionate and empowering as well. I believe that facilitation has a central role to play on the latter, with bricks as well as without, and that designing and delivering facilitation well online must play a part on the former.
I have witnessed an extraordinary flourishing of creativity and innovation among facilitators in response to the pandemic and lockdown of recent months, and an extraordinary generosity of sharing of it as well – largely, of course, online.
I am delighted to see this valuable and timely new book enter the fray, and just in time for International Facilitation Week! I am proud to be able to welcome you to it, and grateful to Sean for sharing it.
October 1 will be exactly seven years since I went freelance as a facilitator, and on June 30 Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd completed its sixth full financial year. So, a relatively quiet week in the August holiday season offers a good opportunity again to pause and review the last year, and look ahead to the next. It is timely too, after 6-7 years, that the coming year offers an opportunity for something of a sabbatical (again)!
In the year to June 2019 I delivered 25 contracts for 14 clients in 7 countries. These involved 31 face-to-face events and one virtual, 14 facilitated processes and 14 facilitation training courses. I spent 47 nights away from home – 14 in the UK and 33 abroad. That all compares to 20 contracts for 16 clients involving 21 events in the previous year – and over the previous five complete years a total of 90 contracts to 53 clients involving 121 events. I also declined 25 prospective client projects during the past year, compared to 11 the year before, mostly because I was not available. I failed to win 11 that had I quoted for, compared to 9 the year before.
So, slightly fewer clients and nights away, but considerably more contracts and events – those declined and lost, as well as those delivered. Again, about half-and-half facilitation and training, and all but one face-to-face.
So I have continued to work with international NGOs, foundations, associations, networks and alliances, and a few others, largely in Europe and the Middle East and particularly in London and Brussels. However, this year has seen the return of UK local authorities and multi-sector partnerships, after many years working with such clients on behalf of ICA:UK in the 2000s. New fields for me this year include agile coaching, software development, Results Based Management and remote team working.
I have extended my partnerships with ICA:UK and ICA Associates in the past year to offer more scheduled public facilitation training than ever before. These include courses of the IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ series and, in new partnerships with local IAF colleagues, public course dates in Edinburgh, Lisbon and Pisa as well as London and Brussels. Two courses in Brussels also included a kitten (pictured above), affectionately named ORID by the group!
My leadership role with IAF England & Wales again accounted for most of my volunteer time. My role was formalised this year by election to a new chapter Board, and appointment as Chair. Our programme of peer networking and learning meetups has grown to reach our growing E&W chapter membership of now 90, plus over 1,000 members of five regional meetup groups. Monthly tea and coffee networking meetups are held in 12 cities in most major population centres of England & Wales, and online, and longer networking and learning meetups are held bi-monthly in London and three times per year in other regions.
Our all E&W meetup for International Facilitation Week has been extended to a 2-day Annual Conference for 2019 – the Power and Practice of Facilitation, 18-19 October, with 55 already registered. Meetup hosts across the country have joined an expanded Leadership Team of now 24 members. We are supporting new sister meetup groups in Scotland and Ireland, and a new IAF E&W podcast team has begun to create a series of 10 episodes to support the programme, inspired by a session at a meetup.
I also joined the new IAF Global Mentorship Programme as a mentor, and began to meet regularly online with my mentee in Jordan. I attended the IAF Europe conference Agile Facilitation in Milan and participated in monthly online meetings of Europe MENA chapter leadership. I continued to participate in events of IABC UK, but not the IABC EuroComm conference this year in Bahrain. I continued to participate in the ICA:UK ToP trainers’ network and to serve as volunteer webmaster for ICA International, but I did not attend this year’s conference of the US ToP Network. Regrettably also I missed my first ICA Europe regional gathering for about 20 years, in Kiev.
After collaborating for some years with Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg to explore the intersect between communication and facilitation, and the power of applying facilitation and communications in partnership, we have co-authored a chapter on that topic for a forthcoming book on the Power of facilitation. We are part of a wider team of authors involving expert facilitators from around the world. The shorthand for the project is #FacPower and each chapter of the book will have a different focus. In combination the aim is to show the power of facilitation in various fields and contexts.
Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have not found so much time this year for blogging. I published just 15 posts during the past year, of the 180 published in the seven full years since my first welcome post – but of course I have been no less active micro-blogging on twitter.
So, what of a sabbatical? October to March in Sitges in Spain will be mostly for my husband, following his recent retirement from career-long, full-time employment. I shall continue to work and travel as necessary, not least for existing client commitments in London and elsewhere, for scheduled public ToP facilitation training most months in London or Brussels, and for events including the IAF England & Wales annual conference in Birmingham and the ICA Europe regional gathering in Vienna.
However, I shall welcome opportunities to work virtually and locally in Spain during that time, including perhaps with ICA Spain and with the forthcoming IAF Spain chapter – starting with its timely launch event in Barcelona during International Facilitation Week in October.
I do intend to take time for myself also to reflect, write and learn, to look ahead to my next seven years of freelance facilitation – and to enjoy a little less busyness and a little more sunshine! I hope that regular readers may notice the difference on this blog, and that Spanish speakers may notice the difference next time they greet me with “Hola”!
This June completed my fourth year in business as Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd, and in October it will be 5 years since I went freelance from ICA:UK. Following what has been a bumper year for client work, for the first time in probably 15 months I am looking forward to several consecutive weeks of desk time, free of delivering client contracts – and a holiday in August after that!
In the last 12 months, it turns out, I have delivered 26 contracts for 18 clients in 9 countries, involving 32 face-to-face and 3 virtual events and 24 facilitated processes and 11 facilitation training courses. That has involved 73 nights away from home, 18 in the UK and 55 abroad. No wonder it felt like a bumper year – that represents an increase of around 70% in client work compared to my first four years of freelance practice, and the contracts on average were larger too.
I have been fortunate and grateful to enjoy a diverse and stimulating, often inspiring, range of groups and contexts to work with this past year. Recent client contracts for facilitation have included large and multi-event, multi-stakeholder strategic planning processes with international NGO networks such as ICUU, Girls Not Brides and Eurochild (above), and smaller, relatively simpler strategy and planning retreats such as with CENTR, Wells For India, Lorensbergs and the Peel Institute. Also large and relatively complex and challenging international team meetings such as with Amnesty International and Oxfam OPTI, and a small but complex and challenging closed Ministerial Forum with the International Union on Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Also a conference of activists on refugee and migration issues with Amnesty UK, and facilitated leadership development labs, face-to-face & virtual, for managers of Astra Zeneca. Facilitation training has included courses with civil servants of Ofgem and the Care Quality Commission, for agile finance software project managers of Santander and bereavement counselors of the Dove Service, and for diverse groups on public courses in London, Brussels, Geneva and Moscow. I lost some bids for work, and had to turn down some opportunities as well, but I wouldn’t have wished for any other workload.
So, what do I hope to make of this opportunity to pause and reflect?
Mostly, I hope to take the opportunity to reflect and learn from this recent experience, and share some insights here on my blog – so watch this space!
I hope to review my recent years’ ToP facilitation training end-of-course participant evaluations, and launch an online survey to invite past participants to share something of what they have applied of their learning and how, and what difference their training has made to them and the groups they work with. I hope to draft and begin to post some more facilitation case studies from my facilitation work of this last year, and request further client feedback.
I hope to catch upon some reading – next up after Penny Pullan CPF’s Virtual Leadership, Responsible Facilitation by Jim Campbell formerly of ICA Belgium.
Also, I have some advance preparation to do for delivery work in the autumn, including for my new IAF-endorsed Meetings That Work courses in London & Brussels in September, with Bill Staples of ICA Associates (book here). And I hope that my calendar for the autumn will continue to fill itself – so do feel free to contact me if you’d like to help with that!
In the meantime, I am hoping also to enjoy some more summery good weather, and all that goes with it – at home in London, at the WOMAD music festival later this month and in Sitges in August.
Wishing you an opportunity to pause and reflect as well when you can…
Meeting Tips Radio is an online podcast that pledges “to share stories, tips and advice from the best meeting facilitators in the world, so you can improve your meetings, improve your career, and improve your life“.
The site is published by Meeting Tips Radio host and interviewer Reine Kassulker, based in Minneapolis USA. Many of the world-class facilitators he has interviewed before me are among those who developed ICA’s Technology of Participation facilitation methodology in the 1970-80s, and who founded the International Association of Facilitators in the early 1990s. So I feel honoured indeed to be included now in this distinguished company, and to be the first guest interviewed outside of North America as well.
To hear my own stories, tips and advice, click on the image above and then click play – or download to listen later. In the 43 minute interview, I share something of my experience of the recent ICA Ukraine PEACE Summit in Kiev, some of the challenges I have experienced in virtual facilitation, my own ‘universal principle facilitation‘ ORID, my approach to meeting preparation, and how I use social media in my facilitation and in my facilitation business. I also share some tips and advice for fellow facilitators just starting out in social media, and for people just starting out as faciliators. Also, not least, I share how to get in touch if you are ready to offer me a six-figure facilitation contract…
Do also check out the archive of fascinating previous interviews at Meeting Tips Radio – listen to Marilyn Oyler on the invention of the sticky wall, Sunny Walker on virtual facilitation, Catherine Tornbom on conflict resolution, Mirja Hanson on lessons from her book Clues to Achieving Consensus, Nathaniel Cadwell on Agile meetings and innovation games, Rebecca Gilgen on ‘stealth facilitation’, Deb Burnight on strategic planning, Irina Fursman on her work in Ukraine, Linda Alton on the origins of ORID and the ToP Focused Conversation method – and much more!