Introducing ICA’s Technology of Participation

iaf-geneva-bannerThank you to all who attended my workshop in Geneva last Friday Introducing ICA’s Technology of Participation, including Nadene Canning who tweeted the photo of some of us, above. Special thanks also to Pamela Lupton-Bowers and all at IAF Geneva for hosting me and for arranging the workshop.

The one-day tailored master-class (pdf) introduced four core methods of ICA’s ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) methodology. Below are links to some of the case studies and other resources I shared on the day, and some that I didn’t.

ToP Focused Conversation

A structured, four-level process for effective communication which ensures that everyone in a group has the opportunity to participate:

  • ToP Focused Conversation method overview – pdf
  • Three dimensions of the facilitator role – a focused conversation with video – blog post
  • Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning – blog post
  • Is there a single, universal principle of facilitation? – slides & webinar recording featuring 6 case studies
  • The Art of Focused Conversation – book

ToP Consensus Workshop

A five stage process that enables a facilitator to draw out and weave together everybody’s wisdom into a clear and practical consensus:

  • ToP Consensus Workshop method overview – pdf
  • Evidencing facilitation competencies: planning with people with learning difficulties – case study
  • Clinical Leadership Evaluation and Development with Manchester Primary Care Trust – case study
  • Getting Ready for Wigan LINK with Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council – case study
  • The Workshop Book – book

ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’)

A powerful tool to enable a group to share and learn from their varied perspectives of a journey through history, and in context, to review the past in order to prepare for the future:

  • ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’) overview – pdf
  • Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory in Copenhagen – blog post
  • Facilitation case study: Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20 – case study
  • Staff Away Day with George House Trust – case study

ToP Participatory Strategic Planning

A structured long-range planning process which incorporates ToP Consensus Workshop for building consensus, ToP Focused Conversation for effective group communication, and an implementation process for turning ideas into productive action and concrete accomplishments:

  • ToP Participatory Strategic Planning overview – pdf
  • Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’ – case study slides & webinar recording
  • Facilitating change in complexity – the Oxfam Lebanon ‘One Country Strategy’ process – case study
  • Building a future together – broadening ownership in corporate planning – case study
  • Transformational Strategy – book review & book

The workshop was adapted from elements of ICA:UK’s 2-day Group Facilitation Methods, Participatory Strategic Planning and Organisational Transformation courses, and IAF conference sessions presented in Moscow and Copenhagen in 2014 and in Stockholm in 2015.

Public courses are available monthly in the UK with ICA:UK and 2 or 3 times per year in Geneva with Initiatives of Change. Watch this space for details of my own schedule of public courses in Brussels for 2017, and see also ToP facilitation training – what’s it like, and is it worthwhile? and ToP facilitation training at your place – and free places for you!

Regularly scheduled public ToP training courses are also provided by ICAs elsewhere including in AustraliaCanada, TaiwanUkraine & the USA.  Other ICAs also offer public courses, and in-house courses on request – see ICA Worldwide.

The famous sticky walls are available from ICA:UK.


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.

Facilitating change in complexity – the Oxfam Lebanon ‘One Country Strategy’ process

Beirut seafront 525x296“What would it take for multiple and diverse stakeholders to align behind a complex and demanding change process, in a complex and demanding environment?”  This was the question that intrigued me as I became engaged with the Oxfam Lebanon ‘One Country Strategy’ process.

It was in September 2014 that I was approached to help with the design and facilitation of a ‘One Country Strategy’ (OCS) process for Oxfam in Lebanon.

PSP case study thumbnailFran Beytrison had recently taken up the role of Oxfam GB Country Director for Lebanon, after moving from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in Geneva where she had participated in a strategic planning process that I had facilitated the previous year – see Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’.

A complex and demanding context

Oxfam is one of the world’s largest and best-known international NGOs, founded in 1942 in Oxford in the UK.  Today it comprises 17 national Oxfam Affiliates that are federated as Oxfam International and work in over 90 countries worldwide. It’s work includes emergency humanitarian relief, long-term development programmes and policy research and advocacy. It describes the scope of its work in terms of six key issues: active citizenship, gender justice, inequality and essential services, natural resources, saving lives and sustainable food.

Oxfam GB had launched a major emergency response to the Syria crisis in Lebanon in January 2013. Oxfam Novib and Oxfam Italia had been operating long term development programmes in Lebanon for some years before that. Oxfam GB’s Middle East regional Gender Justice programme was also located in Beirut, and Oxfam France and Oxfam Quebec were also involved in work in Lebanon.

By the autumn of 2014 it had become clear that an emergency humanitarian response could no longer be regarded as an adequate response to the ongoing and increasing effects of the Syria crisis in Lebanon. By then already over a million Syrian refugees were living among a pre-crisis population of around 4 million in Lebanon.  Also in 2014 Oxfam International had launched a major organisational change process to achieve a new ‘2020 Vision’. This required a single ‘One Country Strategy’ to bring together the work of all Oxfam Affiliates in each country, as a first step toward to eventual merger as, for example, Oxfam Lebanon.

To plan and implement such a complex and demanding change process successfully, in the context of complex and demanding work in a complex and demanding environment, it was felt essential to effectively engage with all 150 or so in-country staff and other key stakeholders through a robust and professionally facilitated process.

The aims and scope of work

The Terms of Reference agreed for my role in October described the aims of the process to develop a One Country Strategy for Oxfam in Lebanon as threefold:

  • to bring the three Oxfam affiliates operational in Lebanon and the Lebanon components of the Oxfam GB regional Gender Justice programmes together behind a single vision and shared operational plan, as a basis for moving to a country programme structure in line with the Oxfam 2020 Vision, while enabling other interested affiliates to engage as well
  • to clearly detail a gender-mainstreamed One Programme approach (humanitarian, development and policy) as a means of improving programme quality and building a more integrated response, fully leveraging existing expertise across all relevant affiliates
  • to position Oxfam as a leader in the increasingly consensual debate around a ‘Lebanese response’, as opposed to a ‘Syria response in Lebanon, through clear and evidence-based programmatic and policy shifts including strong sectoral leadership in key areas.

The process was therefore to guide both ‘technical visioning’ of Oxfam’s added value and role in Lebanon and organisational change to support implementation in the immediate and in the longer-term. It was to demonstrate a systematic, inclusive and participatory approach to strategic and operational planning and collaborative working, and so build shared commitment, confidence and trust for a new way forward together.

It was agreed to include also work with key actors within the country programme to develop skills for additional facilitation across various departments and sectors, particularly with a view to supporting the development of technical sectoral and departmental action plans in line with the broader Oxfam Country Strategy.

The contract allowed for up to 50 days’ work over six months from November to April, structured in four phases and including four trips to Lebanon. In the event my role required just 40 days’ work including three trips in November, December & January.

How the process unfolded

Phase 1 was conceived as a Preparation & Design phase. The aims were to develop a clear and agreed plan and budget for the process as a whole, and to develop shared clarity, confidence and commitment among staff and any other key stakeholders to the project and its 6-month timeframe.

A one-week trip in November allowed for a series of in-country consultation and process design meetings with large and small groups of staff of the various Oxfam affiliates in Lebanon, in Beirut and two field offices.

OCS Orientation day - outlineThe week included a one day OCS Orientation day for a cross-section of around 45 staff.  The World Cafe method was demonstrated and applied to share questions, concerns and possibilities for the OCS process. The ToP Focused Conversation method was demonstrated and applied to introduce my own role as facilitator of the OCS process. The ToP Consensus Workshop method was demonstrated and applied to inform the design and delivery of the OCS process by agreeing “What do we need to take into account to ensure the success of this OCS process?”.

The IDMC case study was used to outline the ToP Particpatory Strategic Planning process that would provide a framework for the OCS process as a whole. A project steering committee of 6-8 staff was established, to act as a soundboard and guide to the design process and oversee subsequent implementation.

Additional remote consultation was conducted with stakeholders based outside Lebanon. All the questions, concerns and aspirations raised during this first phase were documented and reviewed with the steering committee, and helped to informed the design and delivery of the remaining phases.

ToP Participatory Strategic PlanningPhase 2 was conceived as the Launch phase. The ‘rational’ aim was to develop a clear and agreed strategic framework as a basis for the single country strategy. This was to include an analysis of the changing strategic context; Practical Vision, Underlying Contradictions and Strategic Directions of the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process; and a 3-month action plan for completion of the strategy.  The ‘experiential’ aim was again to develop shared clarity, confidence and commitment among staff and any other key stakeholders, this time to the emerging strategy and the plan for its completion.

By this stage the steering group had clarified the ‘Focus Question’ for the overall strategic planning process as: “What can we do over the next 5 years as one Oxfam in Lebanon working with others to address suffering and inequality in Lebanon?”

A 10-day trip in December allowed for the preparation and facilitation of a 4-day OCS Launch Week event, involving a series of sessions with different sub-groups.

OCS Launch week - outlineThe morning of Tuesday’s ‘Consultation Day’ involved key staff and external stakeholders invited for their knowledge and experience of Oxfam Lebanon’s changing strategic context.  The ToP ‘Wave’ exercise was used to chart and analyse trends, ‘on the horizon, emerging, peaking and dying’, to inform the subsequent strategic planning process.

The afternoon of the Consultation day involved around 150 staff of the various Oxfam affiliates in Lebanon plus key regional staff and local partners. The World Cafe method was used to enable this larger group (in 15 tables of 10, each including a team of 3 conversation hosts) to deliberate and to share responses to the three ‘focus questions’ that would guide the consensus building and strategy building for the remainder of the week:

  1. OCS Consultation day - world cafe table instructionsPractical Vision: “What would we like to see in place in 5 years’ time, as a result of the work of Oxfam in Lebanon?”  (indicators of external impact and internal effectiveness)
  2. Current reality: “What in our current reality is blocking us from realising our Vision?” (both internal & external to Oxfam Lebanon)  “What strengths do we have to address these obstacles?”
  3. Strategic Directions: “What practical projects or initiatives over the next 5 years could address these obstacles and help to realise our Vision?”

The remaining three days involved a cross-section of around 45 staff, each of whom had hosted one of the three World Cafe conversations at the 15 tables of 10 on Tuesday.  Each day involved an extended and adapted ToP Consensus Workshop process. First in groups of six, pairs of table host teams reviewed and clustered the ideas that they had harvested from their World Cafe table conversations on the question for that day – Practical Vision, Current Reality or Strategic Directions. Second, each Oxfam affiliate, field office, department and programme team met separately to add any further ideas from their own distinct perspective that they felt may not yet have been adequately reflected in the ideas shared.  Third, the whole group of 45 worked together for most of the afternoon to weave all the ideas generated into clusters, and to name the emerging consensus.  Finally, at the end of the week, outline action plans were agreed by work team for communicating the outcomes to those not present, and engaging with them over the coming weeks and months in finalising the framework and planning for implementation.

Strategic deployment of breaks and energisers helped to just about sustain the group’s energy throughout the week – to deal with large volumes of complex data, and to build consensus on often contentious issues among a group that was itself in many ways reflective of the diversity of perspectives and interests at play in Oxfam’s humanitarian, development and advocacy work in Lebanon.

A brief review of Oxfam International’s global change goals just before the naming of Strategic Directions enabled the group to align their names with Oxfam’s global strategy without having been overly constrained by them in their own visioning or in their analysis and response to their own local and regional realities. The outcome was four Strategic Directions, each articulated by a number of distinct ‘strategic intents’, designed to collectively address the Underlying Contradictions to the Practical Vision:

  • Designing and implementing integrated & effective, rights-based humanitarian & development programmes
  • Working with others to achieve high quality programmes
  • Investing in staff
  • Influencing to create change from the local to the global.

Doubtless the steering committee or Fran alone might have developed a very similar framework without such an elaborate and inclusive engagement process, but of course the experiential aims of shared clarity, confidence and commitment  were central and critical to the OCS process. Feedback indicated that the group had indeed found the week long and tiring, and in some cases it was felt that key issues or perspectives had not been adequately addressed or not in proper proportion. Nevertheless it was clear that the visual and participatory approach had been appreciated, and the open and frank discussions, diversity in participation and perspectives, and the clarity and consensus achieved. Fionna Smyth, then Oxfam GB Regional Campaigns and Policy Manager for the Middle East, Eastern Europe and CIS, commented recently on LinkedIn:

“I was at this particular meeting and it really was a phenomenal experience. It developed a clear vision, and was inclusive of many diverse voices. I loved Martin’s approach.”

By the end of the week, it was high time to enjoy the staff Christmas party! Having documented each workshop on the day, in preparation for the next day’s workshop, it was then a simple matter to compile a first draft OCS strategic framework document for circulation and feedback between December and January.

Phase 3 was originally conceived to include the resolution of any key issues in finalising the strategy document for approval in April, and development of clear and agreed (and comprehensive) operational plans for implementation of the first year of the new strategy. The ‘experiential’ aim again was to promote shared clarity, confidence and commitment among staff and other key stakeholders to the emerging strategy, and also now to plans for its completion and implementation.

It was agreed with the steering group after the Launch Week, however, that to continue such a comprehensive approach with such broad engagement could be asking too much of the staff in the midst of the many other demands on their time and energy.  Moreover, on reflection, it was felt that some areas of programming and organisational change could benefit more than others of facilitation support to enable effective engagement and an appropriate and successful implementation planning process.

For these reasons it was agreed switch from a comprehensive to a targeted approach to facilitation support in the implementation planning. Instead of working again with a cross-section of the whole staff on planning the whole of the implementation together, I would work with key stakeholders in three particular programme areas to apply the new strategic framework to tailored planning implementation in those particular areas.  Also I would offer ToP Group Facilitation Methods training to a cadre of 30 staff and partners from across the work teams and affiliates. These two elements became the twin focus of a two-week trip to Beirut in January.

Phase 4 had been conceived to allow for a collective review of experience and learning from the project and first quarter implementation, and to agree clear 90-day workplans for the second quarter, with the experiential aim of consolidating pride in the strategy and support for the structural merger.  However we had already transitioned from a comprehensive and collective approach in phase 3, to an approach in which the (already somewhat restructured) work teams were able to integrate the agreed new strategic framework in their operational work planning and in their longer-term programme development work.  Much had changed meanwhile as well in the strategic context, not least in the the Syria crisis itself and in its unfolding impact in Lebanon.  For these various reasons a fourth trip was not felt necessary, and my own role in the OCS project was concluded.

As it turned out, I made another two trips to Beirut for another client in May and June of 2015, to design and facilitate a participatory strategic planning for the Safety & Security Committee for Lebanon of which Oxfam is a member.  It was a pleasure to be able to reconnect with some of the Oxfam team while I was there, and learn something of what had happened next in the OCS process.  That, however, is another story…


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

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 – How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?

blog-imageAre you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) methodology in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well? Please join me for my new series of free facilitation webinars.

Register now on Eventbrite for the next scheduled session on April 18, and register your interest on Surveymonkey for future dates & times and topics to be scheduled. To review past session topics and to view recordings and materials, and for provisional future dates & times and suggested topics, see free facilitation webinars.


blog-image 500x250How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?

Monday 18 April, 13.00 BST

In this session I shall share some learnings from the design and facilitation of an online conference of the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), that involved more than 900 participants over six 2-hour sessions. I shall be joined for the session by my client for the conference, Illias Animon of the FAO Forestry Economics department.

For more information on the FAO online conference, and links to the conference website and session recordings, see my February 2015 blog post How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?

Read further details and register now on Eventbrite.


Each session in this series of free facilitation webinars will be hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience.

Each topic will be addressed by a short case study or other presentation, supplemented by links to further online material for later reference. Sessions will 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 will introduce the features of the virtual meeting room and the tools to be used. A brief closing reflection at the end of the session will invite reflection and learning on the facilitation process and virtual tools as well as on the content of the session.

For full voice participation in the session for a more conversational experience, microphone rights will be available to up to 15 participants who are first to login and set up their audio. Others will be able to listen and interact via their keyboard alone.


Register now on Eventbrite, and register your interests on Surveymonkey.

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 IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Join me for my new series of free facilitation webinars in 2016!

Are you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) methodology in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well?

Please join me for my new series of free facilitation webinars!

Register now on Eventbrite for the first scheduled session (below), and register your interest on Surveymonkey for future dates & times and topics to be scheduled – scroll down for provisional dates & times and suggested topics.


ORID as a universal principle of facilitation 950x475Is there a single, universal principle of facilitation?

Monday 15 February, 13.00 GMT

This session will introduce a simple but powerful and versatile model, that can be applied as a tool and even as a guiding principle. It can help facilitators to engage and empower their groups with greater confidence and versatility, to better enable them to make the change that they are seeking in the world.  The session will be equally suitable for newcomers to facilitation and for experienced facilitators who are new to ToP, and those who would like to deepen their understanding of ORID as a design tool.

This session is adapted from a face-to-face session delivered at the October 2015 IAF Europe MENA conference in Stockholm, Making Waves.

Read further details and register now on Eventbrite.


Provisional future dates and suggested topics

I plan to schedule monthly or bi-monthly sessions, on weekdays at 13.00 GMT for convenience of multiple time zones. Provisional future dates for 2016 are: Wednesday 2 March, Monday 18 April, Wednesday 4 May, Monday 20 June, Wednesday 6 July, Monday 15 August, Wednesday 7 September, Monday 17 October, Wednesday 2 November, Monday 19 December. Please register your interest in these or other dates and times via Surveymonkey.

I shall invite clients and colleagues where possible to join me to share their own perspective on topics drawn from my experience, and I may also invite IAF and ICA colleagues to join me as guest presenters on additional topics drawn from their experience.

Please share your feedback and suggestions for additional topics and guest presenters via Surveymonkey, in response to these suggested topics drawn from posts to my blog:


Each session will be hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience.

Each topic will be addressed by a short case study or other presentation, supplemented by links to further online material for later reference. Sessions will 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. Participants will be invited to share contact details privately in order to reconnect with each other after the session should they wish. Sessions will be recorded, and recordings also made available.

Participants should be ready to login to the meeting room from 45 minutes in advance for any technical support that may be required to enable their participation, then they may ‘step away’ until it is time to begin. Login details will be circulated to registered participants within 7 days of the session.


Register now on Eventbrite, and register your interests on Surveymonkey.

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 IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Is there a single, universal principle of facilitation? #IAFemena15

Thank you to everyone attending my session today at the 2015 IAF Europe MENA conference in Stockholm, Making Waves. I am pleased to share the slides I used here below, and below that the session description.

The session was inspired by an earlier blog post Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning and drew on the Focused Conversation with video Three dimensions of the facilitator role.

ORID and the ToP Focused Conversation method are featured in the Group Facilitation Methods courses, coming up November 17-18 in Brussels and monthly with ICA:UK in London & Manchester.

Please share your own experience of ORID or your own ‘universal principle’ in a comment, or contact me with any questions or for further information.


 


 

Is there a single, universal principle of facilitation? Mine’s ORID!

At a monthly meet-up of the International Association of Facilitators in London, the question was posed “is there a single, universal principle of facilitation?”  More to the point of course, if there is – what is it!

It didn’t take me long to think and respond that, in my own facilitation at least, there is certainly something approaching that – a simple four-level model of human behaviour that is always in my mind as I design and facilitate any learning or collaborative process, and that is very often explicitly the basis of the design.  Anyone who has worked or taken training with me, or who is familiar with ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) approach, will know immediately what I am talking about.  It is the basis of the ToP Focused Conversation method, featured in the foundational ToP Group Facilitation Methods course, and it is affectionately known as ORID.

In this session I shall introduce the ORID model, first by demonstrating the ToP Focused Conversation method in leading a conversation on the role of the facilitator, and then by talking through the theory behind the model and by giving some examples of broader application as a universal principle of process design and facilitation. Participants will have an opportunity to consider how they might apply the model themselves in their own situations, and what they can learn about their own ‘universal principle of facilitation’.

The session will introduce a simple but powerful and versatile model, that can be applied as a tool and even as a guiding principle. It will help facilitators to engage and empower their groups with greater confidence and versatility, to better enable them to make the change that they are seeking in the world.  The session will be equally suitable for newcomers to facilitation and for experienced facilitators who are new to ToP, and those who would like to deepen their understanding of ORID as a design tool.


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.

How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?

Economics of climate change mitigation options in the forest sectorThis was the question that intrigued me when I was first invited to work with with the Forestry Economics team of FAO, to design and facilitate an online conference this month on the Economics of climate change mitigation options in the forest sector.  The answer, as it turns out, is pretty engaging!

FAO approached me last September for my experience with the Adobe Connect online meeting platform, with which they are also familiar and which they had chosen to use for the project. Their aims for the conference were to connect researchers, practitioners and others to learn from each other on the costs and benefits of various mitigation options in the forestry sector in different countries, to gather data for a forthcoming FAO publication and perhaps also to establish a community of practice among participants for further learning and collaboration in the future.

The team had not before convened such a substantial online conference, however, and were uncertain how many people they would attract to be involved. Our initial design was for a series of six 90-minute sessions for up to 100 people each, involving a keynote presentation and two shorter case studies followed by questions and answers with the presenters and some small group discussion in break-out rooms. As registrations came in from prospective participants and presenters we were keen to accommodate as many of them as as we could, and our ambitions grew.  I was thankful to have partnered on the project with Sheila Cooke of 5Deep, as meeting producer and co-facilitator, for her extensive experience of working with Adobe Connect and with FAO as well.

In the end the conference attracted more than 1,600 registrations from 127 countries, and 126 case studies from 47 counties. Fifty-one presentations on the six conference themes have been shared on the conference website, and over 700 people already have attended the first three sessions.  Our remaining sessions continue tomorrow and next week – see below for how to join.

The design we settled on is for six sessions of two hours, using an Adobe Connect ‘seminar room’ with a maximum capacity of 1,500. Participants engage through submitting typed questions for presenters, and responding to questions themselves by text chat and polls. Pre-recorded presentations are replayed by video, to reduce the technical risks of delivering the presentations live. Up to a dozen presenters and expert panellists respond live to questions put to them, and they discuss participants’ typed responses to questions put to them. We dispensed with the idea of small group discussion in breakout rooms because of the technical challenge of supporting so many people to configure their own audio to be heard effectively.

The conference teamThe FAO team (led by Illias Animon, Forestry Officer- Economics, and comprising Ruth Mallet, Eros Fornari, Sarah Butler, Marcelo Rezende and Johan Trennestam) lead all content-related tasks, select and assign questions for presenters and also provide technical support behind the scenes to participants and panellists.

After a brief technical orienation and introduction, each session begins with a series of questions to participants to help them and the panellists know something of who is in the room and what experience and interests they bring to the session. The keynote presentation then provides an overview of the topic, followed by questions and answers with the keynote presenter. Each of the additional presenters is then invited to introduce themselves and their presentations briefly, before participants vote for one presentation to view together in full during the session followed by questions and answers with that presenter.

A panel discussion follows, where all panellists share and discuss responses to questions raised by participants before and during the session, on all of their presentations. During the following plenary discussion, participants are invited to share what successes they are proud of, what challenges they face and what resources and other support they can share, while panellists respond and discuss verbally.

The session closes with a brief summary of key points raised, and an opportunity for participants to evaluate the session and share feedback, and what follow-up actions they would like to see or take themselves. Feedback has been largely very positive so far, with more than 60% rating yesterday’s session 9 or 10 out of 10 overall.

If you are wondering just how engaging such a large facilitated online session can be, then join us for one of the remaining sessions, or watch out for the session recordings to be posted to the conference website.

If you are wondering how you might engage large or smaller numbers of people through virtual facilitation, then please do contact me – and see Sheila’s Virtual Facilitation Online training course with ICA USA.

In the meantime, for a flavour of the conference and the importance of its content, take a look at the opening remarks recorded for our first session by Dr. Eva Muller, Director of FAO’s Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division:


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.

Team-building and planning with EMERGE Manchester

This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in ICA:UK Network News #5, January 1998. It was one of my first client contracts as a freelancer and ICA:UK Associate (the first time, before I was an ICA:UK employee).

It was early days also for Emerge,then just newly registered as a company and with an all-volunteer team. EMERGE now provides a full range of waste, recycling and confidential shredding services to businesses and schools, and promotes sustainable resource management by offering advice, information and educational services within the wider community.


Emerge

Emerge (East Manchester Environment and Resources Group) is a local community-based initiative operating in Manchester since early 1996 and involving a pilot door-to-door recycling scheme and a complementary arts and education programme.  Through a referral from Manchester LETS, I was invited to help facilitate a team-building and planning weekend for around 20 Emerge volunteers and associates, November 21-23.  The fee was negotiated in sterling and Bobbins (local currency).

In a couple of preparatory meetings in Manchester we agreed a schedule for the weekend that included a number of sessions to be facilitated by me using ToP methods, and sessions led by other guest speakers and facilitators, with me co-ordinating the overall event.  When the weekend came, we all descended by minibus on the venue, Stanford Hall Co-operative College near Loughborough – a beautiful stately home with woods and a lake, kindly donated by the Co-operative Bank and well worth returning to for future ICA events!

The weekend opened with introductions, a review of the group’s anticipations and the schedule for the weekend, and then a Wall of Wonder looking at key events of the period 1982-2007 at the levels of the world, the community recycling movement and the individual.  The “Evolution of Consciousness’, as the group titled this journey, progressed through periods of Consumerism, Realisation and Action to culminate in Sustainability by 2007 – an optimistic start to the weekend!

Saturday morning’s presentations from Urban Mines and the Community Recycling Network were followed in the afternoon by an outdoor team-building exercise.  Modifying the indoor Tower Game I learned in ICA Egypt’s annual International Development Practitioner’s  Exchange Programme, I had three teams gather organic matter from the nearby woods and each build a tower to be judged on the basis of height, strength and beauty.  The teams took their tasks quite seriously and produced some fantastic structures, and seemed to have lots of fun in the process.

Although participants were all involved in some way or another in the daily work of Emerge, many had not met or worked much together, so this was an important part of the weekend.  This was followed by a presentation from Emerge’s Arts & Education team and, after dinner, by a pub quiz.

Sunday was given over entirely to a six-month planning session using the ToP Action Planning method, the project being defined as – “a demonstration community recycling project, including education and awareness raising, to impact Greater Manchester’s waste disposal policy toward ‘Reduce Reuse Recycle’”.  Although the session took half as long again as I had anticipated, finally finishing around 4pm, the group’s energy was sustained throughout and they came away committed to a six month calendar of tasks assigned to new work teams and including regular follow-up sessions – and a long-term Participatory Strategic Planning to look at the next 3-5 years.

Matthew Adams of Emerge writes:

“Our first excursion as a group was a resounding success.  All in all we came away feeling more positive, more organised, with a better idea of where we are heading, and with realistic targets that can be achieved. Oh, and it was a good laugh as well!  Thanks to all those who helped out, including Martin from ICA – lets hope we can keep the momentum up, and see a cleaner brighter future around the corner”

Four members of Emerge subsequently attended the January Group Facilitation Methods course in Manchester.