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.

Facilitating collaboration, breakthrough and transformation – three new publications for 2021

I have been pleased to have the opportunity to contribute endorsements to three forthcoming books recently, and to be able to recommend them all wholeheartedly – see below.

I have been a fan of Adam Kahane’s writing since his 2004 book “Solving Tough Problems: an open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities”, so I was delighted to learn that his latest (forthcoming in August) would focus in particular on his facilitation practice.  For an in-depth preview, I recommend also the series of conversations he recorded with Carol Sherriff CPF|M in her Facilitation Diversely series for International Facilitation Week last year.

I have known Penny Pullan personally for I think at least as long as that, as a fellow IAF member and Certified Professional Facilitator, now also a CPF|Master.  I have widely recommended her 2016 book Virtual Leadership. I particularly appreciate that this next book (forthcoming in July), of our present time, addresses what it takes to ‘make workshops work’ irrespective of whether they are online or face-to-face or both.

I have met Gwen Stirling Wilkie only this past year, through the online meetups of IAF England & Wales. Her new book (published this month) captures beautifully for me something of the journey that so many of us have traveled this past year, as we and are clients have had to take all of our work online.

See Publications for more books and articles for which I have contributed an endorsement, foreword or editorial support, others that I have reviewed in a blog post or on which I have hosted a free facilitation webinar with the author, and some which I have authored or co-authored myself.


From Physical Place to Virtual Space, Gwen Stirling WilkieFrom Physical Place to Virtual Space: How to design and host transformative spaces online

by Gwen Stirling Wilkie (Feb 2021)

This book provides a fascinating insight into the theory and practice of Dialogic OD, and the heartening story of how an initially skeptical facilitator and her client found that they could apply this approach online via Zoom, during the 2020 pandemic, and be delighted with the results as well! Many of the practical tips that Gwen shares here have broader application to other facilitation approaches and platforms as well – a valuable resource.


Making Workshops Work, Penny PullanMaking Workshops Work: Creative Collaboration for Our Time

by Penny Pullan (Jul 2021 forthcoming)

This is a wide-ranging introduction and an invaluable resource for anyone leading any sort of workshop, whether in-person or online or both – it is packed with tips and tools and rich with insightful stories… highly recommended!


Facilitating Breakthrough, Adam KahaneFacilitating Breakthrough: How to Remove Obstacles, Bridge Differences, and Move Forward Together

by Adam Kahane (Aug 2021 forthcoming)

Facilitating Breakthrough is thoughtful, reflective, and inspiring. To achieve breakthrough results on high-stakes challenges, facilitators need to raise their game. This book explains how.


See also about mehow I work and who I work with, 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 and now online too.

Free facilitation webinar – Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative steps to empower groups

Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative Steps to Empower Groups

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.


Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative Steps to Empower Groups

Tuesday 18 June 2019, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we will 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 shall be 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 will share insights and stories from the book, and from his own wealth of experience of the facilitation cycle and the transformative power of facilitation. We will invite you to share your own reflections, insights and stories as well.

The book is available from Amazon (at the special review price of just $5 until 31 May) 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.


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.

A welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer

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.

It is no wonder then that I have spent less time on other things. My volunteer time has reduced since I completed my four year term as ICAI President in December, although since then I have somewhat increased my time growing IAF England & Wales‘ activity and leadership team and partnership with IABC.

Readers may have noticed that I have managed fewer blog posts (only 20 this past year from an average of 32 the past four), and only one of my “bi-monthly” free facilitation webinars – plus in May What does it take for people to align behind change? with Michael Ambjorn, published today by MILE Madinah on YouTube.

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 schedule one or two more free facilitation webinars for the autumn, and share a recording of one already scheduled for this month with IAF India – with Martin Farrell of IAF England & Wales, on the topic of co-facilitation (below).

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…


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.

Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory in Copenhagen

Facilitating #FacHistory workshop - photo @jppoupardThank you to everyone who joined my session Reviewing the past to prepare for the future on Friday, at the IAF Europe conference in Copenhagen Facilitation Reloaded.  Here I am sharing links to the resources and case studies that I mentioned during the session – both on our topic, which was the history of facilitation, and on the process we used, which was the ICA ‘ToP’ Historical Scan method.

FacHistory Historical ScanFor more on the history of facilitation, and the events and links shared online and at various IAF conferences this year, cick to enlarge the photos here of our own session and of the IAF travelling timeline, andIAF travelling timeline see also:

On ICA’s ToP Historical Scan method, see:

For case studies of real-life applications of the method in different contexts, see:

To join me and other faciliators worldwide in reflecting together on the past and future development of facilitation and our profession, please join our #FacWeekChat twitter chats, October 22 & 23 during International Facilitation Week 2014., or do also share any comments on the post, here below. Thank you!

My facilitation stories, tips and advice on Meeting Tips Radio

Meeting Tips RadioMeeting 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!

And on that six-figure contract… just contact me!

Evidencing facilitation competencies – reflecting on lessons learned

Building a future together: Broadening ownership in corporate planningThis ‘from the archive’ post is the essay I wrote for my IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) re-certification in 2012. I was reminded of it as I am now preparing a portfolio for my ICA Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF) assessment. This requires up-to-date evidence of all the IAF core competencies (broadly speaking), as well as of mastery in applying the core facilitation methods of ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP). The requirement of the essay was to “link lessons learned since your original certification date to the IAF Core Competences, demonstrating changes in your facilitation style / behaviour, and indicating what growth you have experienced as a facilitator during the period since your last certification”.


I shall use the IAF competencies as a framework by which to reflect on and illustrate some of my professional experience and development since my CPF assessment in 2008.

A. Create Collaborative Client Relationships
Since my 2008 CPF assessment I have had the opportunity to lead the contracting and design of my largest client project to date, a 12 month process of facilitation capacity building and facilitated strategic planning delivered by myself and two colleagues [Jonathan Dudding and Ann Lukens] over 60 person days.  The project involved 90 manager trainees and around 400 staff and 1,000 members and other stakeholders of a community-based housing association in South Wales. It was later written up in an article Building a future together: Broadening ownership in corporate planning for the joint AMED & IAF Europe issue of the AMED Journal last year, and presented at the joint AMED & IAF Europe workshop in London in March 2012.

The contracting & design process itself comprised multiple meetings and project drafts over several months, but the investment in developing clarity and trust in advance proved invaluable to later success.  This whole process served to stretch and develop greatly my capacity for creating collaborative relationships with clients, and also with co-facilitators and partners. One key insight was the importance of frequent, regular face-to-face meetings between ICA:UK’s local Associate and the client’s internal project team as well as between myself and the client’s leadership.  Another related insight was to recognize that our intervention was but a small component of a much larger transformation process for the client, to which we could and did make a significant contribution but which we could not and need not fully understand or influence.

B. Plan Appropriate Group Processes
Since 2008 I have facilitated a second ‘Big Meeting’ for a user-led organisation of people with learning difficulties, the first of which served as the focus of my essay for my CPF assessment then (Evidencing facilitation competencies: planning with people with learning difficulties). This second event was conceived by the client as a ‘planning party’, in order to better engage participants than would a straightforward facilitated planning session, so atmosphere and drama were key to success.  This was achieved with the aid of plenty of games, balloons, cakes and craft materials, through a process designed collaboratively with the client.

In working with 60 academic researchers more recently in May of this year, the key was to allow plenty of time and space for participants to engage in lengthy, free-ranging and in-depth discussion in small groups. I was able to achieve this by giving them free reign of the beautiful and sunny botanical gardens adjacent to the venue for their small group sessions.  In spite of some resistance to what some perceived as over-simplification and dumbing down of complex issues, I was also able finally to bring the group to a collective conclusion in order to meet the needs of the client.

C. Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
I made a point of developing experience and skills in virtual facilitation since my CPF in 2008, by selecting relevant sessions at each IAF conference attended and also by attending an 8-week virtual training course in ToP facilitation (Virtual Facilitation Online).  I have also had plenty of opportunity to practice virtual collaboration through my roles with the global IAF Board, and through participating in increasingly regular and sophisticated online global gatherings of members of ICA International (eg: ICAI online regional gatherings facilitate peer to peer support and collaboration). As a result I am increasingly proficient in the use of a variety of virtual tools myself, and my raised awareness of what is now possible encouraged me to lead the Board in scheduling IAF’s first online Annual Members Meeting later this year and procuring technical support through an open and competitive tendering process.

I have also made a point since 2008 of further exploring approaches to conflict, including by selecting conference sessions accordingly, by reading on conflict resolution and by some involvement in ICA:UK’s partnership work developing the Kumi method for social transformation in conflict situations on which I presented at the IAF Istanbul conference.  I am not aware that my facilitation practice has changed significantly as a result, but I certainly feel more confident in relation to conflict.

D. Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
I have experimented with a number of new tools and techniques since 2008.  In addition to virtual approaches mentioned above, these have included the suite tools of ICA’s Organisational Transformation course, which was new to me when I supported Bill Staples of ICA Associates to deliver it as a pre-conference course at the IAF Oxford conference in 2009. I have subsequently been able to apply some of these with success within ICA:UK and with ICA:UK clients as well.

I have adapted and applied multiple approaches in combination, including for example ToP, Open Space and Solutions Focus with the South Wales Housing Association mentioned above; and ToP and world café with a number or clients. I adapted a well-known ice-breaker to create on the hoof “Just one lie” for use at the IAF Board meeting in London in 2011, and subsequently wrote it up and contributed it to the IAF Methods Database and Global Flipchart Method of the Month [see Creativity in facilitation, and Just One Lie].

E. Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
Since applying to join the IAF Board and take my CPF assessment in 2008 I have read through all the back issues of the IAF Journal and the IAF Handbooks and a number of other facilitation titles as well.  I have attended two IAF conferences each year.

My IAF Board roles have helped me to expand my professional network and relationships greatly, which has been enormously valuable for my learning and professional development.  This has also been aided by my increased use of social media in the last few years, particularly LinkedIn and twitter, which I find invaluable sources of new material of interest as well as new personal and professional connections.

In drafting this essay I have learned that I need to become more methodical in maintaining a record of my professional development in order to more easily and effectively renew my CPF in four years from now!  I have plans to start blogging regularly so I hope that will help greatly [Welcome to my new website and blog!].

In my forthcoming freelance career I am looking forward to focusing my professional practice more on the international development and humanitarian sector, and to the opportunities for learning and development that that will afford me.

F. Model Positive Professional Attitude
Since I have begun inviting professional recommendations via LinkedIn, I am proud that values professionalism and integrity have been referred to repeatedly.

I am excited as well as somewhat apprehensive to have given notice to step down from my role as Chief Executive from the end of September, after 16 years with ICA:UK [A new transition for ICA:UK – and for me], with a view to working freelance as a professional facilitator and facilitation trainer for at least some time.  With my IAF Chair role ending soon as well, in December [Reflections on a term as IAF Chair], I am relishing the prospect that my reduced responsibilities might allow more time for reflection and learning, and exploration of new opportunities and new avenues for professional development and service.