Become a Certified Professional Facilitator in the UK this year!

ToP facilitation with a group of people with learning difficulties

Are you interested in taking the Certified Professional Facilitator assessment of the International Association of Facilitators in the UK this year, likely in London or Birmingham in December?

I and other CPFs have found the process a tremendous learning experience, and the designation itself a valuable professional distinction. Now is a great time to take the plunge yourself, as a group of around a dozen prospective candidates already is beginning to form to support each other through the process and get assessed together locally – and because the fee, which has remained unchanged for many years, is about to rise significantly in the new year.

The IAF CertifiedTM Professional Facilitator (CPF) is the professional designation for IAF members who demonstrate having Core Facilitator Competencies.  The Core Competencies represent a fundamental set of skills, knowledge, and behaviours that support effective facilitation in a wide variety of contexts.

The CPF designation benefits both facilitators and their clients. Facilitators achieve a formal certification and undertake valuable self-reflection and learning. For clients, working with a CPF provides an assurance that the facilitator has met the internationally recognised standard for effective facilitation of group processes.

To learn more about the CPF and its principle advantages, please visit Benefits of the CPF. To learn more about the CPF assessment process, please visit Becoming a CPF. For scheduled CPF assessment events worldwide, see CPF events.

There is no need to make any immediate decision or commitment, however you can help to make it possible to be assessed in the UK this year by expressing an interest now.

If you are interested, please:

  • email the IAF office <certification@iaf-world.org> to express an interest in registering for a CPF assessment event in the UK this year – this is what it takes to ensure that an event is scheduled and available for registrations
  • RVSP for our IAF E&W Certified Professional Facilitator assessment meetup (dates & locations to be confirmed) in order to connect with other prospective candidates and to join the online conversation on how to support each other through the process
  • respond to the doodle poll to indicate which dates would suit you best for a one-day assessment event in the UK – so far mid-December dates are most popular

For an indication of the type of documentary evidence that is required prior to the assessment day, and for re-certification each 4 years, see my own Evidencing facilitation competencies: planning with people with learning difficulties and Evidencing facilitation competencies – reflecting on lessons learned – and watch this space as I am due to re-certify again later this year…

For more on why you might want to get professionally certified as a facilitator, and on which certification process to follow, see also this short clip from IAF CPF and ICA CTF assessor Barbara MacKay of North Star Facilitators in the US:

If you are interested in facilitation, regardless of whether you are ready to consider certification or whether you are an IAF member, do join IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups to meet, network and learn with others near you:


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, and by joining my free facilitation webinars.

Excellence in facilitation

W&W April 2016 cover image 900x600Welcome to this April 2016 issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, on the theme “Excellence in Facilitation”.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) has for decades employed facilitation as a core strategy in our mission of ‘advancing human development worldwide’. When I myself first trained with ICA in the UK, as an international volunteer to a Human Development Project of ICA in India in 1986, a core element of that training was in what was then referred to as ‘ICA methods’ – what is now known worldwide as ICA’s ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) facilitation methodology. Facilitation remains central to our approach to doing human development, and to being ICA.

This facilitative approach is more critical today than ever in enabling the human family to address the great challenges and opportunities that are now facing us and our planet. We argue, in an ICAI statement submitted this month to the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA), that facilitation has a key role to play in moving from commitments to results, transforming public institutions and leadership for the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this issue you will find a diverse collection of stories illustrating how ICAs and colleagues of our global network are applying such a facilitative approach in a variety of settings, from local to global, often in peer-to-peer collaboration with each each other.

A rehabilitation project of ICA Nepal brings hope to those affected by that country’s earthquake, supported by ICA Australia. ICA Taiwan builds a learning community through ‘Truth About Life’ dialogues. ICA Chile partners with the Ministry of Social development and with Global Facilitators Serving Communities (GFSC) in leadership development work with disabled people.  ICA Peru supports comprehensive community development programmes in high altitude mountain communities affected by climate change. Emerging Ecology USA and ICA India develop a capacity building curriculum, building on ICA’s original Human Development Training Institutes of the 1970s.

Ann Epps of LENS International Malaysia reflects on the Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) programme of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), founded in 1994 by 70 ICA ToP facilitators including Ann herself. Winds & Waves editor Rosemary Cairns reflects on the role played by facilitation in turning volunteers into a social movement, through a Community Revitalization through Democratic Action programme in Serbia following the NATO bombing of 1999.  I myself share a reflection on how facilitation, and ICA’s ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process in particular, helped Oxfam in Lebanon last year embark on a complex and challenging change process in the midst of a complex and challenging response to the unfolding Syria crisis (see also Facilitating change in complexity).

Meanwhile, ICAI members continue to step up their peer-to-peer support and collaboration through means of online and regional ICA gatherings, and ICAI global working groups as well.  ICAs in East & Southern Africa met in Zimbabwe in March, ICAs of the Americas are now preparing to meet in Peru in May and ICAs of West Africa, Europe MENA and Asia Pacific are making plans for their own regional gatherings later in the year.

In order to enhance the reach and impact of our ToP facilitation approach worldwide, the ICAI global ToP working group is busy developing proposals to support implementation of the global ToP policy agreed last year, drawing on insights gleaned responses to a recent global ToP survey. The ICAI Board is pleased to have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) to promote and support greater collaboration between our two organizations, our respective members and our local groups around the world.

Thank you to all who have contributed to this new issue of Winds & Waves.  Enjoy this issue, and please share it and encourage others to do so.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
hyperlinks are to the regular online version

President’s message

Winds & Waves Masthead

Behind the scenes

Polish your writing skills

Facilitation

Turning volunteers into social
movement
 by Rosemary Cairns

The truth about life experience
By Richard West

Designing a strategy  process
for Oxfam
by Martin Gilbraith

Setting sharp standards by Ann Epps

Training

Life skills for building communities by Nelson Stover                              

Education

Studying sports and mind-body
link in India
 by Nelson Stover

ICA Reports

ICA NEPAL

Rehab project brings hope to quake
victims
by Binita Subedi

ICA CHILE

Working with the disabled in 2016by Isabel dela Maza

ICA PERU

Economic plan inspires mountain towns by Gloria Santos and Jesusa Aburto

Perspectives

Being present to life (English) by Teresa Sosa Vegas

Estando Presente (Spanish) by Teresa Sosa Vegas

Poetry

Manilamen: the ‘Outsiders’ within by Deborah Ruiz Wall

The litmus test of Worth by Deborah Ruiz Wall


This post was first published in Winds and Waves, April 2016. For past issues, please visit our Winds and Waves archive.

Join IAF facilitators & friends for regular facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere

IAF EMENA meetupPlease take a moment to join IAF London facilitators and friends for free on MeetUp, in order to join IAF facilitators & friends for regular facilitation meetups in London – or now also join IAF South West England facilitators and friends and IAF North of England facilitators and friends, and please contact me if you are interested in helping to establish a sister group for the English Midlands or for Wales!

I have recently taken over the role of meetup group organiser from IAF England & Wales Chair Julia Goga-Cooke, who has been our meetup group organiser for the past two years. Thanks are due to her, and to IAF Europe MENA Director Martin Farrell, who has hosted our monthly meetups at Connexions Trafalgar Square until now.

Julia & Martin were both ready to be relieved of their responsibilities for the group, so with their support I have identified some new venues near me in Kings Cross, which I hope others will find convenient as well, and I have scheduled a new pattern of meetups for the new year – starting now.  Thanks to the continued sponsorship of IAF, they will all remain entirely free – to IAF members and non-members alike.

Please also take a look at our upcoming meetups, outlined below and in detail on meetup, and RSVP now for those that you plan to attend.

chaosThursday 12 November, 6-8pm will see the last of the monthly Informal networking & sharing meetup that we have been running for two years on the second Thursday evening of each month. For this month only I have booked the meeting room at the Travelodge Kings Cross Royal Scot Hotel, as we have 11 already booked and a presentation from Sheila & Christopher Cooke of 5Deep on “Facilitating Through Chaos”.

IAF coffee cupWednesday 2 December, 8.30-9.30am will see the first of a new monthly Morning coffee meetup, on the first Wednesday morning of every month. I have scheduled the first at Half Cup, midway between Kings Cross and Euston. For future morning meetups I’ll welcome suggestions of other coffee shops elsewhere – somewhere different every month, or Half Cup if that works well enough. I’ll be glad to start earlier or stay later if that would suit others better.

IAF wine glassMonday 14 December, 6-8pm will see the first of a new bi-monthly Informal networking and social meetup, over drinks and/or food in a pub, cafe or restaurant on the 3rd Monday evening of every other month (except for this first one on December 14) . For this first one I shall book a table at the dining room of the spacious Parcel Yard gastropub within Kings Cross station.  For future evenings I’ll welcome offers from others to book us anywhere else in London that you want to suggest – we could meet somewhere different every time, or we could continue with the Parcel Yard.

IAFEMENA15 chaptersTuesday 19 January, 2-6pm will see the first of a more substantial bi-monthly Networking and learning meetup, for four hours on the 3rd Tuesday afternoon of every other month (alternating with the Monday evening social meetups). For these I have prebooked the meeting room of the Calthorpe Project community centre on Grays Inn Road, overlooking the community garden.

I hope that these meetups will allow time and space for us to demonstrate, practice and experiment with our facilitation together, and share feedback on that, as well as share presentations and support through discussion as we have been doing on our monthly Thursday evenings to date. I hope that the timing and location might also attract and enable people to travel from outside of London to join us as well – even from neigbouring IAF groups in Scotland, Paris or Brussels (we will be a 10 minute walk from the Eurostar terminal). There are of course plenty of pubs and restaurants nearby for those wishing to continue informally afterwards over food or drink, including a great value pre-7pm menu at the Union Taven.

IAFEMENA15 story tellingI have also suggested a one-day annual conference, perhaps during International Facilitation Week 2016 next October; and a CPF assessment event for IAF Certified Professional Facilitator candidates.  If we have enough CPF candidates for an assessment in London then that can be arranged with IAF, and we could even arrange some meetup support for candidates as they prepare their applications and portfolios.

Please contact me if you have any questions or other suggestions, or if you are interested to join me as a co-organiser of the London group – to share the leadership, to help to attract people to attend, present and facilitate at events, and to schedule any additional events.

For those based elsewhere in England & Wales, please join IAF South West England facilitators and friends and IAF North of England facilitators and friends, and please contact me if you are interested in helping to establish a sister group for the English Midlands or for Wales.

Finally, please let me know also if you are an IAF member and interested in joining the IAF England & Wales leadership team, as there are also vacancies for that. There is surely potential for further local activity beyond these meetup groups so, if you have ideas and are ready to help to make them happen, please step forward!

Join us now to RSVP for upcoming events, and for news and updates on future events.  I hope to see you soon!

From Bromley to Stockholm – the IAF Europe MENA facilitation conference

This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in ICA:UK Network News #5, January 1998.  Join me and around 200 others from across the region and beyond at the 2015 IAF Europe EMENA conference, 16-18 October in Stockholm, #IAFEMENA15.


IAF EMENA Stockholm 2015

Sixty-seven participants attended this, the 3rd IAF Europe conference at a beautiful conference centre set in its own grounds in Bromley, Kent, on the weekend of November 1-2 [1997].  Participants came from as far afield as South Africa, Kenya, Israel and the USA as well as from a number of European countries.  Many came directly from the European Facilitators’ Network (EFUG) meeting hosted by BT in the City of London on the Friday, and three went on to attend the ICA:UK Group Facilitation Methods course in London on the Monday and Tuesday.

Although the majority came from a private sector background there were a number from the voluntary sector too.  Some came with a wealth of experience of a variety of facilitation approaches, others were relative novices.  Many were full-time facilitators, either employed as such by a large company or working independently on a consultancy basis.  Other ICA:UK members participating were Alan Berresford and Ann Lukens, and ICA colleagues from Belgium and the Netherlands also attended.

Sessions, presented by participants themselves, explored such issues as client-centred consulting, gender roles in facilitation, the 7 learning intelligences, celebrating cultural diversity, participatory approaches in rehabilitation of the blind and a facilitation perspective on educational change. Other sessions presented particular methodologies or facilitation approaches such as GroupSystems facilitation software, Future Search, thinking with hexagons and – the Technology of Participation (ToP) Consensus Workshop Method.

With the help of Dick Alton of ICA International, I took on the task of demonstrating the ToP Workshop method to a group of 25 or so, looking at “what are the essential “do’s and don’ts” of effective facilitation.  Given that we had only an hour to demonstrate and discuss the method, and given that many of the experienced facilitators in the group were more interested in taking the method apart as we went along than experiencing it as a participant first, I think the session went remarkably well!

IAF launches the International Facilitators’ Hall of Fame

IAF Hall of FameIt is an honour indeed to find myself among such distinguished company inducted today, during International Facilitation Week, into the IAFInternational Facilitators’ Hall of Fame”. There are certainly many other facilitators around the world who are equally or more deserving of such an accolade, so I thank IAF for this wonderful recognition and I thank all of them as well for their own contributions to our profession and to our association. I am proud to contribute what I can to both.

The full text of the IAF press release is below, and here to download in pdf – IAF Hall of Fame Press Release.


International Association of Facilitators

Date: October 22, 2014

The International Association of Facilitators is pleased to announce the induction of the following people into the International Facilitators’ Hall of Fame:

  • Nadine Bell (USA)
  • Gilbert Brenson-Lazan (Latin Am & Caribbean)
  • Ann Epps (Asia)
  • Martin Gilbraith (Europe, Middle East & North Africa)
  • Jo Nelson (Canada)
  • Theresa Ratnam-Thong (Asia)
  • Keith Ryall (Oceania)
  • Dr. Sandor Schuman (USA)
  • Bill Staples (Canada)
  • Dr. Tom Schwarz (Oceania)

The Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who: have contributed to our field of practice; have made ‘significant contributions’ to the field of facilitation through publication, promotion, etc.; and who have shown a high level of dedication and service to the international professional association. The individuals named above have been nominated and received unanimous agreement from the IAF Board of Directors as being worthy of this, our Association’s, highest distinction. The bios for each of this year’s inductees are attached.

The International Association of Facilitators is a professional association that sets internationally accepted industry standards, provides accreditation, supports a community of practice, advocates and educates on the power of facilitation and embraces the diversity of facilitators and methods of facilitation around the world. It’s mission is to grow the community of practice for all those who facilitate, establish internationally accepted professional standards, build credibility and promote the value of facilitation around the world.

IAF 20 year celebrationThis is the IAF’s 20th anniversary providing internationally recognized professional certification, professional development, peer networking and advancement of the art and science of facilitation. IAF members are committed to the IAF values and code of ethics providing impartial facilitation so that all voices and ideas are heard and considered.

Contact: Julie Larsen, Director of Communications, communications@iaf-world.org or: Kimberly Bain, Chair, chair@iaf-world.org.


BACKGROUNDER:

Nadine Bell CPF (US)

Nadine (Plavnick) BellNadine Bell, CPF, is a founding member of IAF, a past Board member and an assessor. Nadine has served on the Board of Directors as Chair elect in 1997; as Chair in 1998; as Past Chair in 1999; as Co-Chair of Professional Development in 2000; and, as Co-chair of the IAF Conference in Texas in 2002. Nadine also contributed to the IAF Handbook as an author. Nadine has been an important and driving figure in the US Region for many years. Nadine has attended almost all North American IAF conferences as well as many IAF conferences in Europe and Southeast Asia. Nadine is an experienced facilitator, trained mediator and mentor trainer of the Technology of Participation Group Facilitation Methods, Nadine is the only facilitator to hold the Certified Professional Facilitator, Certified Master Facilitator and Certified ToP Facilitator designations and she has assessed facilitator candidates for all three certifications globally..

Gilbert Brenson-Lazan (LAC)

Gilbert Brenson-LazanGilbert Brenson-Lazan, has been a driving force in the Latin American and Caribbean facilitation community for many years. Gilbert has served on the Board of Directors as both Regional Director and Vice-Chair International, hosts an important facilitation blog in Latin America and was Co-Chair of the first IAF Conference in Latin America with over 600 attendees from 19 countries. Gilbert is a Founding Member, Past President and Member of the Advisory Board of the Global Facilitator Service Corp (GFSC) and developed and applied the basic model used for psychosocial intervention in disasters recognized around the world.

Ann Epps CPF (Asia)

Ann (Stanley) Epps, MA, IAF CPFAnn Epps, CPF, is a founding member of IAF, served on the Board of Directors as the Director of Conferences and is a CPF assessor. Having served on the planning committee for ten of the early IAF Asia conferences, Ann has also attended many IAFNA and Europe conferences and most of the IAF Asia conferences. Ann is a mentor trainer in the Technology of the Participation methods and divides her time training and
facilitating between Southeast Asia and the US. Ann and her husband John are regular presenters at conferences and are tireless supporters of IAF.

Martin Gilbraith CPF (Europe MENA)

Martin GilbraithMartin Gilbraith, CPF, is the most recent past Chair of IAF. Previously he served on the Board as IAF Vice Chair and as IAF Europe Director. Martin has served IAF in many ways, he hosts Facilitation Daily and a widely subscribed facilitation blog, and he manages the @FacWeek twitter account and co-hosts the IAF Twitter Chats during IFW. Martin is an independent facilitator, trainer and consultant based in London, UK. He currently serves as President of the Institute of Cultural Affairs International (ICAI) and is an Associate and former Chief Executive of ICA:UK. He has been facilitating and training, specialising in ICA’s ToP facilitation methodology, since 1986.

Jo Nelson CPF (Canada)

Jo NelsonJo Nelson, CPF, CTF, is a founding member of IAF, a sustaining member and a past Board member who has served as both Secretary and Chair of the Board. Jo has served on numerous committees including the Professional Development Task Force and most recently chaired the working group that developed the training endorsement strategy and program. Jo also facilitated the development of the IAF competencies. Jo has attended every IAFNA conference since their inception and continues to promote IAF in everything she does. Jo has published many particles and one book on facilitation. Jo also is recipient of a Gold Facilitation Impact Award.

Theresa Ratnam Thong CPF (Asia)

Theresa Ratnam ThongTheresa Ratnam Thong, is the first Malaysian Certified Professional Facilitator and is an Assessor and a past Board member, serving as Vice-Chair International from 2007 – 2008 and again from 2001 – 2003. Theresa has organized IAF conferences in the Asia Region and has been an important member of the Asian facilitation community. Theresa has been active in the Local Government of her locality and was Lead Facilitator for the Women@Work Summit, the Malaysia Water Forum under the auspices of the Global Water Partnership. She was also selected to be part of the Facilitation Team consisting of 25 Global Facilitators to facilitate at the World Summit on Sustainable development held in South Africa and was also invited to be part of the Generative Dialogue Project, a global initiative in New York.

Keith Ryall CPF (Oceania)

Keith RyallKeith Ryall, CPF, is an assessor, a past Board member (Regional Director for Oceania) and a sustaining member. Keith worked very hard to increase IAF’s Oceania and much of the growth there today is based on the solid foundations set up by Keith over the years. Since 2009, Keith has been heavily involved with introducing the magic of Process Facilitation to Rotary International and specifically to Strategic Planning Workshops for Australian Rotary Clubs and other Not for Profits. Keith is a regular presence at IAF conferences around the world and a great promoter of IAF and our profession.

Dr. Sandor Schuman (US)

Sandor SchumanSandy Schuman is a sustaining member. He edited the IAF Journal, Group Facilitation (1997–2007) and IAF Handbook Series (2003-2011), co-founded and moderated the IAF email discussion list, grp-facl (1994-2008), and co-chaired the Ethics and Values Think Tank, which created the Statement of Values and Code of Ethics for Group Facilitators (2000-2004). He was a member of the Research and Publications Task Force (1996-2001),the Board of Directors (2000-2001) and was the primary researcher of the 1996-1997 Survey of Group Facilitators. Sandy has worked hard to promote the profession through mainstream and academic literature. He continues to present professional development workshops at IAF conferences and regional meetings. His most recent blog post, You know you’re a group facilitator if …, is his most popular.

Bill Staples CPF (Canada)

Bill StaplesBill Staples, CPF, is a founding member and has been the publisher of the IAF Journal since 2001. Bill was chair of the IAF 2000 Conference Toronto with 1100 participants. He was on the Association Coordinating Team from 1999 to 2005 and was the IAF Global Conference Team chair from 2002-05. Bill is also a Certified ToP Facilitator and has published articles and books on facilitation, working hard to increase the profile of the association and the profession.

Dr. Tom Schwarz CPF (Oceania)

Tom Schwarz CPFTom Schwarz, CPF, if a past member of the Board of Directors, was Director of Oceania Region and is a CPF Assessor. Tom was the first facilitator in the Oceania Region to be awarded the CPF designation. Tom has been a fixture at IAF conferences around the world and often presents at PD events in Asia and Oceania. Tom has published articles on the power of facilitation and regularly advocates for and promotes our profession.

Facilitation ethics and values – where do you draw a line?

no go zoneMembers of the International Association of Facilitators commit to upholding the IAF Code of Ethics. The code was the result of a 4 year collaborative development process of the IAF Ethics & Values Think Tank, and was adopted in 2004.

I find the code a helpful tool to support me in reflecting on my own practice and values as a facilitator, and I have been referring to it again as I have been preparing my portfolio for ICA’s Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF) assessment – see also Evidencing facilitation competencies: reflecting on lessons learned. However, it does not provide an easy blueprint for what you should and should not do as a facilitator. It is not as simple as that – there are sometimes ethical dilemmas to negotitate.

Where do you draw a line, based on your own ethics and values, beyond which you are not prepared to go as a facilitator?  Perhaps more problematically, how do you negotiate the drawing of such a line with your client and group, especially when a contract or a facilitated process is already underway?  There are no right  or easy answers, but as IAF Chair Kimberly Bain writes in her new Reflective Ethical Facilitator’s Guide:

“As facilitators we are architects of trust. We owe it to our clients to act with an informed appreciation of the ethical issues and competencies needed to help groups build consensus and produce meaningful outcomes”.

One precaution I take is to try to communicate my professional boundaries clearly well in advance, just as many facilitators aim to establish ground rules at the start of a session. I have found an easy and helpful way to do that is to include in my proposals a simple and positive statement (with hyperlinks included) to the effect that: “As a Certified Professional Facilitator, my clients are assured that I uphold the IAF Code of Ethics in my work, and that I demonstrate the full range of core Facilitator Competencies. Nevertheless I can recall occasions in which I have had to draw a line.

In one case, it took a series of contracting meetings with increasingly senior officers in a local authority before I was able to understand what was the unspoken aim driving the event that I was being invited to design and facilitate. Ostensibly the event was for a variety of stakeholders to share and learn from experiences of what was working in tackling a particularly intractable social issue in the borough, and to plan next steps for collaborative action. The covert aim, however, as it was eventually disclosed to me in hushed tones, was to convince and reassure senior officers and elected members that the Council’s approach was working just fine and was not in need of review. The 80 delegates had been invited to participate in order to be guided to this pre-determined conclusion.

I responded, in hushed tones myself and as tactifully as I could, that that was not something that I would be able to help with as a facilitator. As the code makes clear, “As group facilitators, we practice stewardship of process and impartiality toward content”. I explained what I could offer instead, and drafted and submitted a proposal on that basis. My cover note stressed: “How I can help is to design and facilitate an event that enables poeple to share their views and perspectives in such a way that they feel heard and understood, and that they have contributed meaningfully to something that will make a difference; but I will not be seeking to ensure that they reach any particular conclusion”.  My proposal was not accepted, but privately I was thanked for having helped to surface an issue that had been concerning officers involved.

In another case, my proposal had won a competitive bidding process and I had had been awarded a contract for a team to design and facilitate an extensive community consultation process over several months. At our first team meeting with the client to plan for delivery of the contract, the client insisted on a more extensive process than we had proposed, and in a shorter timeframe. When I suggested that it might not be possible for us to deliver an appropriate quality of service under such constraints, I was advised that we were committed under the terms of the bidding process to deliver and that these would be the constraints.

Following a long and late discussion among the team that evening after the meeting, I wrote to the client the next morning to advise that with regret we were withdrawing our proposal. As the code makes clear, “It is our responsibility to ensure that we are competent to handle the intervention”. The client was unhappy, to say the least, and felt that we had reneged on a contract and left them in the lurch at the last minute. We learned later that they had said as much to another of our clients.  On balance, however, we felt that we had done the best thing that we could have done in the circumstances.

Where do you draw a line, and how do you negotiate such a dilemma?


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.

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.