Dancing on the Dunes – an excursion in Egypt’s Western Desert

This piece is reprinted with thanks from the new book by my old friend and ICA International colleague John Burbidge, titled “More Than Halfway to Somewhere: Collected Gems of a World Traveler“.

As I wrote 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!

The book is now available, just in time for Christmas, from John’s site wordswallah.com.

I was not involved in the writing of this, but I was very much involved in the adventure. I first visited Bahariya probably in the first of my six years in Egypt with ICA MENA. After befriending Reda (aka ‘Desert Fox’) early on, we led a series of jeep trips together from 1993-95 for groups that I recruited from the lively social network of the Cairo Hash House Harriers

The ‘never-ending book’ that John was editing at the time of this, my last trip in 1996, was “Beyond Prince and Merchant: Citizen Participation and the Rise of Civil Society”. John and I had been corresponding extensively on this as I was writing my own masters dissertation at the time, “Building Civil Society for a Humane and Sustainable Future Toward a Global Role for the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the UK”.


Do not take this trip…

  • if you prefer things to go according to plan
  • if you don’t like sand in your food, hair and underwear
  • if you object to going unwashed for days on end
  • if you’re overly sensitive to heat and sun or local food
  • if you’re not prepared to dig jeeps out of sand, or perhaps wait until dawn to do so
  • if being thrown around in the back of a moving vehicle is not your idea of fun
  • if you’ll be upset when, after three days in the desert, you get back to your oasis hotel to find there’s no water in the bathroom…

This was the disclaimer that trip organizer, Martin Gilbraith, offered those contemplating the five-day excursion in Egypt’s Western Desert following the ICA International 1996 international conference in Cairo. It was enough to turn away most conferees in favor of trips down the Nile or snorkeling in the Red Sea, but for 20 adventurous souls — young and old, men and women from 10 countries — it was just the turn-on we needed.

Were we disappointed? No way. Not only was the disclaimer fulfilled in detail, it was surpassed on several fronts. But the lure of the desert’s ever-changing landscapes, the warm and generous welcome of its inhabitants, and the unputdownable spirit of our Egypt guide team made the disclaimer fade into insignificance.

Before we headed out of Cairo in two minibuses we picked up our last but possibly most important passenger, Reda Abdel Rasoul.

“I am Reda, zee Desert Fox,” exclaimed this vibrant young Egyptian with the most engaging smile and thick black moustache. His exuberance masked the fact that he’d been in Cairo to visit his seriously ill brother and had only just decided to make the trip.

Reda was the local organizer of our desert safari. His slick, photographic business card described him as a ‘histary’ teacher but like a number of other educators in desert oases he turned to tour guiding to supplement his meager income. He lived in Bawiti, the largest town in the Bahariya Oasis with a population of 18,000.

Having a history teacher as our guide was an unexpected and valuable bonus. Egypt’s ancient roots as a land of pharaohs, pyramids and the fertile Nile Valley is well documented but the vast Western Desert that occupies much of the country is less well known. Its harsh terrain is not conducive to human settlement but people have managed to eke out a living there for eons. It’s a place where myth and history have intertwined, such as the puzzling disappearance of the 50,000-man Persian army under Cambyses II, son of Cyrus the Great, in a sandstorm in the 6th century BC. No trace of this massive force has ever been found.

Throughout the 365-kilometer journey to Bahariya our minds were on more immediate things, as Reda patiently answered our endless questions. Why don’t those telegraph poles have wires connecting them? Why are there railway stations in what appears to be nowhere in particular? Where do all those vehicle tracks into the desert lead? What is the Arabic word for…? And more frequently as the hours progressed, how far is it to the nearest rest stop?

The answer to the latter was simple. There is only one stop between Cairo and Bahariya, almost half way. As we entered the cavernous refreshment room we were greeted with ecstatic cries of “Martin! Martin!” Recognizing our British expat leader from many previous trips, the operators of this lonely outpost were effusive in their welcome. Clearly we were in friendly territory. The cold drinks and snacks were delightful, the chance to stretch our legs most welcome, and the toilets were, well…better left to themselves.

Our first clue we were approaching landfall in this endless sea of sand and rock was the police checkpoint near the mining town of Managum, site of Egypt’s main source of iron ore, which is transported to Cairo by rail. Some ore never made it that far, given the number of damaged wagons that littered the tracks along the way. We saw our first vegetation in five hours at Managum when we entered an avenue of oleander bushes and eucalyptus trees so reminiscent of Australia. The entire landscape had a distinctive ‘outback’ feel to it, especially those parts of the land down under that are sandy desert. It increased the sense of connection I’d already begun to feel with this vast, seemingly empty terrain.

Shortly after Managum we drove through a gap in the escarpment and descended into an oasis. For the first time I began to understand what an oasis is. Far from the popularized Hollywood image of a cluster of date palms around a spring and a pond, oases are vast depressions in the desert plateau formed as a result of the combined action of wind, tectonics and water. They are near or at sea level where the massive reserves of underground water flowing north from central Africa come to the surface. The 2,000 square kilometer Bahariya depression is the smallest of the four major oases in the Western Desert. It is surrounded by several tiers of high escarpment which enclose a valley full of hills and mountains, some conical, some mesas, and others folded like the layers of an ancient garment.

One of the most dramatic parts of the Bahariya oasis is the White Desert near Farafara. Entering this area was like walking into a Salvador Dali painting. The numerous bleached, wind-eroded limestone sculptures gave the appearance of a bizarre collection of pieces on a gigantic chessboard. Arriving late afternoon, we were fortunate to experience the White Desert at three of its most enchanting moments — sunset, moonlight, and sunrise. Wandering among this surreal setting, I found a flat-topped piece about waist high and long enough to accommodate my body. I stripped to my underwear, hoisted myself atop the rock, and after checking for scorpions and other creatures, lay down on my towel. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the evening star appeared in a seamless transition. I wanted to capture and hold on to this precious moment but that was not to be. The air temperature quickly dropped, reminding me it was time to get dressed and rejoin the group.

While the days were a test of endurance with long drives in intense heat, the evenings were like a reward for our labors. Our first night in the desert we camped at Bir Ghaba, the Well in the Forest — ‘forest’ being a highly relative term. Situated on the old caravan route to Cairo, this popular well was shrouded in a grove of eucalyptus trees adjacent to a campsite operated by Bawiti’s ironically named Alpenblick (view of the Alps) Hotel. Later that evening when the buzz around the campfire had died down to hushed whispers, I grabbed my towel and swimsuit and headed to the well. It was empty and silent, except for the torrent of water gushing out of the massive pipe at the deep end of the pool. As I lowered myself into the 38°C water, the moon appeared over the horizon in the most star-studded sky I had ever seen. The desert breeze, an ever-present companion, wafted through the trees. As I floated in the highly mineralized water I unloaded the six-day conference I had just come from, the never-ending book I was editing, and the long drive from Cairo.

We had two other opportunities during our trip to explore desert springs and wells. Although there are hundreds scattered throughout the oases, most are known only to locals and used by them for bathing and washing. Although some springs have cool water, many are hot, often severely so. One spring in Dakhla Oasis is said to be able to boil eggs. We tried our own egg boiler in Bahariya Oasis on our last night in the desert. With water at 45°C, Bir Ramla is the hottest spring in the oasis. While most of our group decided to pass, a few daring souls put their toes in the water to test the temperature. Shrieks filled the air. It reminded me of the copper cauldron in which we cooked crabs in when I was a boy. I took a deep breath and sank into the steaming water. While I’ve always handled hot water better than cold, this pushed me to my limits. After the initial shock my body adjusted to the intense heat, but I soon joined the others on the sidelines. I didn’t want to become like the proverbial frog that boils itself to death while gradually adapting to the rising temperature.

Another spring captured my imagination in a totally different way. Known as the Magic Spring, it was identifiable by a lone clump of palm trees in an otherwise barren landscape. Our arrival at the Magic Spring came after a particularly harrowing ordeal. When we arrived at Bahariya, we transferred from our two minibuses into three Toyota jeeps to go on off-road excursions. A fourth jeep was our supply vehicle. On our second afternoon we were behind schedule and keen to arrive at our destination before sunset, so two of the drivers entered into a friendly race. The lead driver tried taking a short cut and strayed off course. As he started to descend a steep dune he lost control of the vehicle. It plummeted down the slope and rolled over before landing on its side. The other jeep arrived at the top of the dune seconds after, and seeing what had happened its driver managed to bring it to an abrupt halt.

A front-seat passenger, our oldest member, suffered cuts and abrasions to his head but others escaped injury. Built to withstand this kind of treatment, the jeeps came through in better shape. I was in the third vehicle, considerably behind the other two. We knew nothing about the accident, but when the faint sound of a horn kept repeating in the distance our driver sensed something was amiss. He entered into an intense discussion in Arabic with his companion but  didn’t divulge anything to the rest of us. When we joined the others and learned what had happened, a dramatic change of mood came over the whole group. After a brief discussion, the Egyptian crew decided to put 19 of us into two vehicles, while the supply truck went ahead to set up camp and the other jeep was retrieved from the bottom of the dune. By now it was pitch dark but remarkably the drivers managed to find the Magic Spring with nothing but headlights, their memory and instinct to guide them.

There was none of the usual singing and dancing that night, although a hearty meal of roast chicken and rice, along with an extra ration of beer, helped raise our spirits. The mood was subdued as we nursed our wounds and reflected on what we’d been through. We had just had a hard lesson in the dangers that lurk just beneath the surface of this beguiling place. As we huddled together under camelhair blankets beneath a blazing sky, the silence of the desert enveloped us. Conversation died away as the last embers of the campfire glowed in the dark. Fennec foxes, hedgehogs and other animals that frequent this place stayed away that night. The Magic Spring cast its spell over us and sleep became our welcome friend.

Most evenings weren’t so restrained. Reminiscent of scenes from the film The English Patient, we would gather after dinner around the campfire, sip mint tea or down a mildly warm beer, and let the show begin — the kind of show in which we were both audience and actor. To loosen us up, our Egyptian friends would ply us with rousing renditions of local folk tunes. The real act began when Mohammed, alias Baghdadi, took centre stage. With black, loose-fitting, drawstring pants and buttocks made for hard seats on long trips in fast-moving vehicles over rough terrain, he demonstrated the art of male belly dancing. Pounding the sand with his bare feet, he could move his middle body in gyrations that would rival those of many a professional female dancer.

Once Mohammed led the way, Reda and others followed. First among the foreigners to shed his European reticence was Cristian Nacht, who in his other life was the president of one of Brazil’s largest steel construction companies. Clad in a flowing gray galabiya, Cristian tossed propriety to the wind, and with his feet and hips in sync, shuffled around the campfire like an old pro. After he’d broken the ice there was barely room to move, as the more timid among us took to the sand and made it sing.

While some found a way to escape this public celebration-cum-humiliation, there was one occasion when this was not possible. It was our last night in the desert before returning to Cairo. We had traveled all afternoon, run out of fuel, and arrived at Bawiti tired, dirty and starving. After freshening up at the Hotel Alpenblick — where the water was running this time — we headed to the home of our host, Mohammed Ahmed el-Bayumi. El Bayumi was the proprietor of one of Bawiti’s most popular restaurants, El Ghash (the Little Donkey). El Bayumi’s reputation extended far beyond Bawiti or Bahariya Oasis. We had been warned that before entering the hallowed halls of his mud-floor establishment, we should be able to count to ten in Arabic or expect a clip over the ears. Should we master that feat we would be prime candidates to marry his sons or daughters, most of whom were in his employ.

But we had not been warned about El Bayumi’s habit of blowing a shrill whistle to command the attention of his customers, like a sergeant-major drilling new recruits. Was this some ancient Bedouin custom or El Bayumi’s way of asserting his dominance over this corralled band of foreigners? We first encountered this practice after our long drive from Cairo when we had lunch at El Ghash. Seated on the floor, we were eating and chatting among ourselves when El Bayumi strode into the room, let forth with his whistle, and asked in brusque Arabic, “Do you like my food?” Under the circumstances there seemed only one possible reply. We all agreed it was terrific.

Although we were now primed to expect the unexpected, none of us quite anticipated what El Bayumi had in store for us on this last night. The feast on the rooftop terrace of his sprawling home was a much grander affair than our earlier restaurant meal, with endless plates of barley soup, vegetable stew, roasted chicken, rice and hummus, along with plentiful supplies of beer. Our Egyptian guides decided it was their last chance to put their captive foreigners through the hoops. One by one, Baghdadi chose each of us to join him on the dance floor and get our bodies moving in time with the Bedouin music booming out of a ghetto blaster. Now and again a donkey would join in the festivities by braying loudly.

Next day as we contemplated our return to Cairo and our different countries, each of us reflected on this five-day excursion into what the Greek historian Herodotus called the ‘Islands of the Blest.’ Indeed, we had been blessed in a number of ways — the rich variety of time-tested landforms, the ever-welcome presence of water in the most surprising places, the engulfing silence of the starry desert nights. Most of all, we had been blessed by the effervescent spirit of our Egyptian colleagues. One experience captured this for me more than all others.

On our second day in the desert, after a quiet lunch in the shady palms of Ain el Ris (Spring of the Source), our convoy headed up the escarpment that marks the southern boundary of Bahariya Oasis. Although dunes cover 40 per cent of the Western Desert, they are not dominant in this oasis. This was our first encounter with these deceptively picturesque but potentially destructive desert landforms.

Of the four vehicles, the one I was in was the Cinderella of the group. Since it lacked a radiator cap, we had to stop frequently to let it cool and refill with water, which it consumed in endless quantities. On this occasion, the other three vehicles had reached the top of the dune and were watching us flail away in the sand. I couldn’t tell whether their intermittent cheers were urging us on or lording it over us. Mahmoud, our driver, would thrust the gears into four-wheel drive, stomp on the accelerator, and let it fly. In Sisyphean style, we would make it almost to the top of the dune, peter out, and roll back down, only to have to repeat it.

At our fourth attempt we made it. Without hesitating Reda grabbed his drum and Mohammed his flute and goaded this motley group of sunburned foreigners into action. “Dance? Did you say dance?” It was Zorba the Greek, Egyptian-style. It was time to rehearse that great Islamic expression, insha’ allah — if God wills it. Clearly, Allah was willing a little celebration.

Some say the people of the Western Desert have a greater sense of humor and a more light-hearted spirit than inhabitants of other parts of Egypt. Those we encountered during these five days certainly possessed that and more. Their willingness to embrace life’s mysteries and intrusions, its highs and lows, its blessings and curses was something to admire and emulate. It has, no doubt, enabled them to survive in unbelievably severe conditions for tens of thousands of years. It is not surprising, perhaps, that several of the world’s religions emerged from places like this. If only a little of their spirit rubbed off on us during our brief encounter with the Western Desert we were so much the richer for it.


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 also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels, and now also online.

Scaling up engagement and dialogue – the power of facilitation and communications in partnership

Scaling up engagement and dialogue - the power of facilitation and communications in partnershipFree facilitation webinar hosted by IAF

1.30-3pm UK time, Wednesday 16 December 2020

Join us in exploring the ladder of engagement, and how we can climb it with those that we work with. Share your experience in changing the conversation, at scale, so we can all become better at it.

In this 90-minute workshop we’ll explore together how the roles, skills and tools of the facilitation and communications professions can complement each other, and help us to scale up engagement and dialogue for positive social change.

We’ll draw on some insights of previous work on the power of partnership between facilitation and communication, and we’ll apply some of the tools of the two professions to generate new insights together.

Join usregister now with IAF!


It is two years ago already that I blogged that I was working with Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg on a book project, as part of a wider team of expert facilitators from around the world. The book aims to showcase the power of facilitation in various fields and contexts, and the shorthand for the project is #FacPower – now at https://facpower.org/

We are now eagerly anticipating publication of the book this month, we hope!  Watch this space…

Our chapter focuses on the intersect between communication and facilitation, and exploring the power of applying facilitation and communications in partnership. We share stories of how we’ve used some of their complementing (and contrasting) professional competencies, and the professional frameworks available. 

We are grateful to all those who contributed to the chapter, including those who participated in our previous free facilitation webinar back in February 2019 – and to Narsi (V Narasimhan) of IAF India, host of the IAF global webinar series, for the invitation to lead a webinar. 

This session was originally proposed and accepted as a face-to-face conference workshop for the IAF Global Summit to have been held in Stockholm in October of this year, so we are also grateful to have the opportunity to share it now online.

Join usregister now with IAF!


Martin GilbraithMartin Gilbraith CPF|M, London

I work as a facilitator, trainer and consultant. What drives me is my passion and commitment to make a positive difference in the world, and to support and enable others to do so as well. I believe that facilitation and facilitative leadership will be key to achieving a just and sustainable world for all. I am a IAF Certified Professional Facilitator | Master (CPF|M), an ICA Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF) and experienced lead trainer and licensed provider of ‘ICA’s ‘ToP’ facilitation training. I have been a facilitator and trainer since 1986 and I have been providing facilitation, training and consulting professionally to clients since 1997. I began my career in grassroots community development work in India, Africa and the Middle East, after awakening to my own passion and commitment as an international volunteer. Since 1997 I have worked with a wide range of clients in the UK and overseas, and since 2012 online.

Michael AmbjornMichael Ambjorn, Copenhagen

20+ years of leading people. I’ve run organisations, chaired boards and developed changemakers. As a mentor I provide 1:1 advice to Chairs, Chief Execs and senior leaders – and the next generation of changemakers – with a particular focus on strategy, change and turnarounds. I’m particularly interested in how strategic alignment can focus people – and enable sustainable growth and renewal. And I am a committed espresso drinker. I also run an accelerator based on Urbantech – and I am a past chair of the International Association of Business Communicators.


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 also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels, and now also online.

Facilitating Authentic Participation – free facilitation webinar recording & resources

Thank you again to everyone who participated in yesterday’s free facilitation webinar Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative Steps to Empower Groups, and especially to our guest presenter Jim Campbell. Here below you will find the session recording, presentation slides and other resources shared.

Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative Steps to Empower Groups

Tuesday 18 June 2019, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we go behind the scenes of the usually hidden planning and diagnostic process that leads to the “magic” of guiding a group process that allows the group’s deepest wisdom to be shared in a feasible action plan that everyone is motivated to accomplish.

I was joined for this session by Jim Campbell, former ICA Belguim and IAF Europe Director and author of Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative Steps to Empower Groups; and again by Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

What may look simple, effortless, and easy to accomplish is the culmination of an intensive series of consultative stages of preparation requiring the listening, analytical, and collaborative skills of a master facilitator. This new book shares the process that Jim taught in university-level courses in Ireland, after a lifetime of innovative process work with groups on four continents.

Jim has written elsewhere:

“…people know that participating in creating their destiny is an essential part of their humanity… The process whereby people are enabled to experience this combination of the freeing of their humanity and the ownership which generates commitment and motivation is truly transformative. By the force of their own experience people realise that they can participate in creating their future and the future of their organisation or community.

Thus people experience themselves as responsible for their destiny, and so resignation and despair are transformed into hope and belief-in-self. People’s anger and frustration at their disenfranchisement is transformed into energy invested in creating their destiny.”

This conviction—that authentic participation is transformative—has been the foundation of Jim’s work as a facilitator.

Jim shares insights and stories from the book, and from his own wealth of experience of the facilitation cycle and the transformative power of facilitation. We invite you to share your own reflections, insights and stories as well.

The book is available from Amazon and from reputable booksellers – we do encourage you to read it before the session if you can! Read more about the book at ICA International, and join the conversation with Jim on Facebook.

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.

Free facilitation webinar – Nimble: off script but still on track

Are you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well? Register now on Eventbrite for this latest addition to my series of free facilitation webinars.


Nimble: off script but still on track

Thursday 11 April 2019, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we will explore how to be nimble and responsive in facilitation, how to improvise and stay on track – even when you go off script.

I shall be joined for this session by Rebecca Sutherns CPF, author of the newly published book “Nimble: Off Script but Still On Track – a coaching guide for responsive facilitation“, and again by Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

If you have ever worried about how to respond to difficulties in leading a group, you are in good company. If you have (and, perhaps more importantly, if you have not), Rebecca’s book will help you to avoid being the “Oblivious Facilitator”. Nimble is packed with valuable and practical tips for before, during & after a session, all richly illustrated from Rebecca’s extensive professional experience. Your most powerful tool as facilitator is yourself – learn the Anticipation, Agility and Absorption that will give you the capacity and courage to facilitate Nimbly!

Rebecca writes: “None of us can predict with 100% accuracy what will happen when we’re in front of a group of people. We need to be prepared, but also prepared to adapt. Whether you are a presenter, facilitator, teacher, chairperson or negotiator, Nimble will equip you to respond effectively when you’re taken by surprise. Learn how to craft a careful script, then to hold that script loosely so that you can adjust in real time to whatever’s happening in the room. Find out how to achieve the purpose of your session, even when the route you took to get there contained a few unexpected detours along the way.”

Rebecca will share insights and stories from the book, and from her our own wealth of experience.

We will invite you to share your own reflections, insights and stories as well – some of the difficulties you have experienced or worried about, how you have responded to the unexpected and what you have learned along the way.

The book is available from Amazon and reputable booksellers – we do encourage you to read it before the session if you can!


Each session in this series is hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience. Each topic is addressed by a short case study or other presentation, with links to further online material for later reference. In the sessions we apply tools and techniques of virtual facilitation to help participants to engage with the material and the presenter, and with their own and each other’s experience on the topic. A short technical orientation directly before the session introduces the features of the virtual meeting room, and the tools to be used. A brief closing reflection at the end of the session invites reflection and learning on the facilitation process and virtual tools, as well as on the content of the session

Register now on Eventbrite.


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.

The Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership – your insights!

Free facilitation webinar - the Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership #FacPower #ETF20Thank you again to everyone who participated in this week’s free facilitation webinar The Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership – here below you will find the session recording, presentation slides and other resources shared.

If you did not attend, and even if you did, please do share something of your own experience and insights in a comment below:

  • Where & how have you used facilitation & communication skills and tools in partnership with each other?
  • What stories, examples or references can you share to illustrate how facilitation and communications competencies (and facilitators and communicators themselves) can support and add value to each each other?

All those who registered for the session will receive the final draft of our book chapter by email next month with an invitation to share any further feedback or input before publication – please contact me to let me know if you would like to be added to that list, or removed from it.  Of course, we will be please to credit you for any contribution that we use in the chapter – thank you!


In this session we explored the intersect between communication and facilitation, and the power of applying the professional skills and tools of facilitation and communication in partnership with each other.

I was joined for this session by Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg; and again by Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

Michael and I are currently working on this theme to draft a chapter for a forthcoming book that aims to showcase the power of facilitation in various fields and contexts. The shorthand for the book project is #FacPower, and chapters are being authored and illustrated by a global team of expert facilitators and visual practitioners from all around the world.

We have been exploring this intersect between facilitation and communication, and working to build bridges and promote learning & collaboration between the two professions and their professional associations, since around 2013 – when I had just completed a term as Chair of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and Michael was just embarking on a term as Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). We were joined by members of both associations and both professions, and others.

We shared insights and stories from our own experience and others, from both professions, on how facilitation and communications competencies (and facilitators and communicators themselves) can support and add value to each each other. Just one such example that we drew on (which won awards from both IABC and IAF) is #ETF20.

We invited you to share your own reflections, insights and stories as well – for you to learn from each other during the session, and perhaps also (with permission and attribution) to contribute to the chapter and help to bring it to life.

We also sought to demonstrate what we are talking about, through co-creating with you a highly engaging and interactive online session – the power of facilitation and communication in partnership!

The session, like the chapter, drew on IABC’s Global Standard of the Communications Profession and IAF’s Core Facilitation Competencies.

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.

Free facilitation webinar – the Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership

Free facilitation webinar - the Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership #FacPower #ETF20

Are you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well? Register now on Eventbrite for this latest addition to my series of free facilitation webinars.


The Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership

Tuesday 26 February 2019, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we will explore the intersect between communication and facilitation, and the power of applying the professional skills and tools of facilitation and communication in partnership with each other.

I shall be joined for this session by Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg; and again by Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

Michael and I are currently working on this theme to draft a chapter for a forthcoming book that aims to showcase the power of facilitation in various fields and contexts. The shorthand for the book project is #FacPower, and chapters are being authored and illustrated by a global team of expert facilitators and visual practitioners from all around the world.

We have been exploring this intersect between facilitation and communication, and working to build bridges and promote learning & collaboration between the two professions and their professional associations, since around 2013 – when I had just completed a term as Chair of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and Michael was just embarking on a term as Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). We encourage members of both associations and and both professions, and others, to join us – all welcome!

We will share insights and stories from our own experience and others, from both professions, on how facilitation and communications competencies (and facilitators and communicators themselves) can support and add value to each each other. Just one such example that we’ll be drawing on (which won awards from both IABC and IAF) is #ETF20.

We will invite you to share your own reflections, insights and stories as well – for you to learn from each other during the session, and perhaps also (with permission and attribution) to contribute to the chapter and help to bring it to life.

We will also seek to demonstrate what we are talking about, through co-creating with you a highly engaging and interactive online session – the power of facilitation and communication in partnership!

The session, like the chapter, will draw on IABC’s Global Standard of the Communications Profession and IAF’s Core Facilitation Competencies.


Each session in this series is hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience. Each topic is addressed by a short case study or other presentation, with links to further online material for later reference. In the sessions we apply tools and techniques of virtual facilitation to help participants to engage with the material and the presenter, and with their own and each other’s experience on the topic. A short technical orientation directly before the session introduces the features of the virtual meeting room, and the tools to be used. A brief closing reflection at the end of the session invites reflection and learning on the facilitation process and virtual tools, as well as on the content of the session

Register now on Eventbrite.


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.

The power facilitation and communications in partnership

#ETF20 - celebrating 20 years with the European Training FoundationI am working with Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg on a book project, as part of a wider team of 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.

In our chapter we’ll be focusing on the intersect between communication and facilitation, and exploring the power of applying facilitation and communications in partnership. We will be sharing stories of how we’ve used some of their complementing (and contrasting) professional competencies, and the professional frameworks available.

To help organise this we’ll use a framework from the field of communications: The Global Standard of the Communications Profession. It covers:

  • Ethics
  • Consistency
  • Context
  • Analysis
  • Strategy
  • Engagement

We want to bring these to life – and we’ll be asking the global facilitation and comms communities to add ideas, and share their own stories.

Ultimately the aim is to help you deliver award-winning work. Work with an impact that stands the test of time. Work that matters.

Here’s just one such example we’ll be drawing on (which won awards from both IABC and IAF) – #ETF20.  Please go ahead and share your own ideas, stories and links in a comment below, or online with the hashtag #FacPower!

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.