Facilitation case study: Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20

“How might you creatively engage a diverse, international group of around 120, both face-to-face and online, to reflect, learn and bond together in celebrating 20 years of collective achievement?”

This was the question facing Michael Ambjorn and I as we prepared to work with the European Training Foundation (ETF) in Turin earlier this month. Part of the answer lay in the ‘Wall of Wonder’ method of ICA’s Technology of Participation, captured by Michael in a timelapse (below – the #FacHistory hashtag at the end refers to another 20-year anniversary project currently underway and using the method, Celebrating the development of facilitation – world-wide and history long.)

#ETF20 #ToPfacilitation Wall of Wonder – next #FacHistory…

A post shared by Michael Ambjorn (@michaelambjorn) on

ETF is a decentralised agency of the European Union that supports transitional and developing countries “to harness the potential of their human capital through the reform of education, training and labour market systems”, within the context of the EU’s external relations policy.  Michael and I were engaged on behalf of AlignYourOrg to design and facilitate a one day celebration and team-building event for current and former staff, with an element of online digital engagement as well. We had some fun with that, as you can see here!

The ETF team had arranged for professors and students of Turin’s Albertina Academy of Fine Arts to lead creative arts workshops on the day, so we were to integrate that into the programme. A launch event in early April (see prezi below) enabled us and the artists to meet many of the staff, and to begin to prepare together for the main event. Art teams were formed and team badges distributed, team ‘historians’ and ‘archaelogists’ were appointed to unearth and collect artefacts and mementoes to share, and the all-important #ETF20 hashtag was announced to curate online contributions.

The day itself was held at a fabulous venue, the former munitions factory Arsenale of Peace, which allowed us the use of multiple large indoor spaces and a beautiful sunny courtyard as well. In our opening session in the theatre space we presented the aims and agenda of the day, below (click the image to enlarge).

#ETF20 aims & agenda

We then moved to the courtyard for a ‘constellations’ energiser, captured by Michael in another timelapse. First participants formed ‘human’ maps’ depicting where they were born, and then the location of a memorable event with ETF. Then they lined up in order of day & month of birth, and then in order of their first involvement with ETF. This warmed people up literally, as well as in terms of sharing something of themselves and their stories of involvement with ETF. We then distributed playing cards in order of participants’ first involvement, to assign them to 12 groups of 10 (by card number, excluding aces) such that each group had an equal mix of ‘old-timers’ and ‘new comers’.

The ToP Wall of Wonder (or Historical Scan) method is a powerful tool to enable a group to share and learn from their varied perspectives of a journey through history, to review the past in order to prepare for the future. In the first stage of this Wall of Wonder session, the 12 groups were invited to brainstorm and share memorable events and milestones in the 20 years history of ETF from 1994 to 2014, and anticipate future events to 2020 and beyond as well. Events were brainstormed and stories were shared at the personal and world level, as well as at the level of ETF itself, and written on cards and plotted on a timeline on the ‘sticky wall‘ at the front of the room. Participants drew on their collected artefacts and mementoes for inspiration, and plotted photographs alongside their cards – including polaroids of each of them, taken by Michael on the day, and plotted to indicate their date of first involvement with ETF.  You can see all their movement in the timelapse above, as the timeline takes shape as the front of the room.

For the second stage of the session, we introduced an element of the World Cafe conversation method by inviting participants to move tables to form 12 new groups – this time according to the suit of the playing card they had each been given (3 groups for each of the four suits). In these new groups they shared some of the stories they had told and heard, and some more, and began to discern impacts between world, ETF and personal levels, and trends over time. After each stage of the session the 12 tables shared stories and insights with each other in plenary, culminating in suggestions for what name to give to their shared journey of 20+ years.

Below are just a few of the day’s tweets, to indicate how it was received, and a handsome recommendation received from Bent Sorensen, ETF Director of Communications, on LinkedIn. For more on the day as a whole (in tweets, images and more timelapses!) click on the final image below for #ETF20 on storify, and see the beautiful ETF video of the day.

If you find yourself struggling with a similar question, or if you could use any help with engaging and aligning your stakeholders, please contact me or Michael. Otherwise do anyway join us on twitter! @martingilbraith @michaelambjorn

Bent Sorensen ETF recommendation

#ETF20 storify

The jazz of facilitation is magnificent in Moscow

This article was first written for the IAF Europe newsletter, April 2013

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The first week of April was Facilitation Week in Moscow.  The centrepiece of the week was the 4th annual Moscow Facilitators Conference, held on April 5th. This was accompanied by two days of facilitation training before the conference and another two days afterwards.  The conference week was convened by Liudmila Dudorova, chair of the IAF Russia chapter, and her facilitation company Personal Image.  The annual conference under Liudmila’s leadership has clearly played a significant role in promoting facilitation in Russia and attracting increasing numbers of Russian facilitators to IAF, as evidenced by the ever growing numbers of Russian delegates at the annual IAF Europe conference.

The conference itself attracted around 65 delegates at the four star Vega conference hotel, for a full day programme from 10am-7pm.  Most came from Moscow, but some also from other regions of Russia and from neighbouring countries.  Most were leaders, managers and practitioners within large Russian companies, or independent professional facilitators and other professional contractors who offer facilitation alongside other services.

St Basils Cathedral MoscowThe conference theme of idea generation, innovation and the exchange of experience was explored through eight sessions, in plenary and in two parallel groups.  I was delighted to be invited to join as an international guest presenter, along with Bruce Rowling of Pinpoint Facilitation.  Bruce has worked with Liudmila and her company in Russia over several years, but for me it was my first visit so I was delighted to be able to see something of Moscow while I was there.

I provided two days of pre-conference training to a group of 28, introducing three of ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitation methods, namely Focused Conversation, Consensus Workshop and Action Planning.  I also provided a keynote presentation to the conference, sharing some experience of how these methods have been applied by ICA:UK in partnership with the Royal Society of Arts – in engaging and mobilising the RSA’s 27,000 Fellows to contribute to social impact through civic innovation, toward achieving the RSA’s ambition to be ‘the best place to have an idea’. My presentation can be viewed in my recent post. Bruce provided a conference session and post-conference training drawing on the Pinpoint approach and graphic facilitation.  Neither of us would have been of much use to anyone without the expert and tireless interpretation of Mikhail Rossus, although Bruce was at least adept at Russian small talk involving hello, vodka, thank you and goodbye! I am grateful to ICA Ukraine for providing ToP training materials in Russian for me.

Further conference sessions included Liudmila’s own masterclass on facilitating creativity and innovation in companies, Tim Nestik on knowledge management, Alexander Dudurov on graphic facilitation, Alexandra Kosulina & Mariya Pronina on idea generation, Victoria Bekhtereva on innovation projects and Julia Linkin with a case study of Open Space facilitation in a bank.  Creativity was emphasised throughout the day, starting with a jazz duo accompanying our opening exercise to depict how we generate ideas, by collage in the style of Matisse!

ToP facilitation training in MoscowI experienced a great spirit of sharing and learning at the conference, just as at all the IAF conferences I have attended, and clearly a great passion for facilitation. I also experienced a great hunger for tools and methods, and a particular sense of urgency in learning and applying them.  When I asked what participants hoped to gain from my conference session, the majority of responses were to do with tools and methods to apply. In tailoring my pre-conference training in advance, I was advised that participants would appreciate more methods and want little time on practice and planning to apply what they had learned, and this was certainly borne out in my experience.  In another conversation a conference delegate suggested to me that Russians like to learn and apply quickly because they feel they have some catching up to do – and they intend to catch up and overtake.  Certainly few UK courses I have delivered have attracted such close (and very welcome) attention as this one. Every moment’s break was taken as an opportunity to photograph the latest graphics, flipcharts or cards on the sticky wall for later reference, and several audio devices were recording the whole course for later playback.  I left in no doubt that ToP methods will find a valuable and active place in the toolkits of many Russian facilitators, and that facilitation itself has an important role to play in Russia.

I gained many new Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections from my visit, so I invited them to share some of their own reflections on the conference. This is what they wrote:

“This year’s conference was dynamic and really energy-intensive. It was nice to see a lot of new members and enthusiastic people who are so involved in facilitation. During our work-shop we were happy to feel the engagement of the group, their enthusiasm, genuine interest and active position. And it is very important that our European colleagues have time to visit our conference, thank you Martin for coming!” – Alexandra Kosulina, Moscow

“What I can say about this conference? There were a lot of people who know what is facilitation and who use facilitation at work, and if compared with last year’s conference the number of such people has increased considerably. This is really good, and says that the facilitation in Russia goes forward at a steady gait. The conference was very instrumental and practical – speakers, case studies, master classes – everything was very useful.” – Mariya Pronina, Moscow

“I really enjoyed it. I especially liked your examples and case studies. Thank you” – Alex Kuznetsov, Moscow

“The conference was full of new knowledge and techniques, but the most important discovery for me was the ToP method of Focused Conversation (ORID) which you set out in the training before. Last week I used it in a discussion on our annual report with the employees of our company, and I was impressed by the results – it really involved them in the discussion, and most importantly in the process of developing specific solutions for the future in a meaningful and constructive way.” – Sergey Shupletsov, Moscow

“The training was very useful to me. It broadened my knowledge of effective methods of facilitation: the ToP methods of Focused Conversation, Consensus Workshop etc. The method of Action Planning was especially interesting to me. I already practiced this method when carrying out a session on implementation of organizational decisions. It helped the group while being focused on the purposes to draw up effectively the plan of action. In addition, I also applied this method to accomplish my personal decisions. The model of behaviour shown by Martin during his facilitation has also been very inspiring to me. It is a striking example of the possibility to operate the group progressing towards making the decision, showing respect and trust for the ability of a group to create the decision by itself” – Leonid Bogdanov, Kiev

“It was interesting for me to see your style, new methods and especially new materials. Your training was just really important to me. The conference was rich in new contacts, insights and ideas. For example, just tomorrow I’ll use some new methods from that day. The Jazz of facilitation in the beginning was so magnificent!” – Victoria Bekhtereva, Moscow

 “For me it was great to discover the way to plan a project with ToP Action Planning. Especially the idea of grouping actions by teams that allows the project teams to form and work afterwards in those teams. The idea of using the Focused Conversation method in personal life is also very interesting. I certainly will try to do it. And of course the networking process during the session was valuable. My next step is to go deeply into the ICA books for more information and cases.” – Ariadna Denisova, Moscow

I am very grateful top Liudmila and Mikhail for hosting me so generously, and to everyone involved for making my first trip to Moscow such a memorable and enjoyable one.  I look forward to following the further growth and development of facilitation and IAF in Russia through the many new connections I made in Moscow.  Also I hope that other chapters of IAF in Europe and elsewhere (my own England & Wales chapter included) might emulate the Moscow Facilitators Conference in its approach!

Facilitating innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges

Facilitating innovative practical solutionsMany thanks to Liudmila Dudorov and Mikhail Rossus and all at GoTraining & IAF Russia for hosting me so well, and to them and all who attended my course and conference presentation for making my first trip to Moscow such a memorable and enjoyable one.

Facilitating innovative practical solutions RUSThe 4th annual Moscow Facilitators conference attracted around 60 delegates, and my pre-conference training 28. There is clearly a passion for facilitation here in Russia, and a hunger for methods and tools – and a sense of urgency about getting and applying them. It seems to be an exciting place to be a facilitator!

My full conference presentation is available in English & Russian by clicking on the images above.

Facilitating innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges – bringing together IAF, ICA and the RSA in Moscow

conference image

I am delighted to have the opportunity to deliver a conference master class and two days of pre-conference training for the 4th annual Facilitators Conference of IAF Russia, in Moscow from April 3-5.

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See the conference website in Russian or an approximate English translation, including a video clip (above) of me conveying greetings as IAF Chair to last year’s conference. This clip was recorded by conference organiser Liudmila Dudorova during the ICA:UK Participatory Strategic Planning training that she attended with me in London last year.  I shall be joined as international VIP presenter by Bruce Rowling of UK-based Pinpoint Facilitation.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Facilitating the creation of ideas, innovation and sharing of experience‘.  I therefore thought immediately of ICA:UK’s work with the RSA over recent years, as a source of insight and inspiration for my conference masterclass.  See the session description below, and watch this space for some of that insight and inspiration in a future blog post…

ICA UkraineThe pre-conference training will be specially adapted from ICA:UK’s Group Facilitation Methods and Action Planning courses, with Russian language materials kindly supplied by ICA Ukraine. Both the training and the conference session will be delivered in Russian by simultaneous interpretation.

Conference masterclass: Facilitating innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges

the RSAThe RSA (www.thersa.org) is an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world.

ICA:UK, the participation & developpment charityICA:UK, the participation and development charity (www.ica-uk.org.uk), is one of the Institute of Cultural Affairs’ (ICA’s) global network of non-profit, non-governmental organisations working to develop, test and demonstrate effective approaches to personal, organisational and social transformation.  ICA:UK applies this approach to developing and sustaining a culture of participation, specialising in the Technology of Participation and working with others both nationally and internationally to demonstrate effective facilitation, to train people in facilitation methods and skills, and to research the application of participatory approaches in new areas.

Since 2011 ICA:UK has partnered with the RSA to help it engage with and mobilise its Fellowship, to increase it’s social impact and achieve its ambition of being ‘the best place to have an idea’.  In this highly interactive session, Martin Gilbraith will share some examples of the approach used and its impact to date, and some of the learnings of those involved.  Participants will be introduced to some key elements of the ToP methodology, including simple but powerful tools that they can take away and try.

Martin Gilbraith is an independent facilitator, trainer and consultant based in London, UK.  He is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator, and former IAF Chair and IAF Europe Director.  He has been facilitating and training ICA’s ToP facilitation methods since 1986.  He is an Associate and former Chief Executive of ICA:UK, and is currently serving as President of ICA International. He is a Fellow of the RSA

Creativity in facilitation, and Just One Lie

IAF Europe February 2013Last week I read the latest February issue of the IAF (International Association of Facilitators) Europe magazine. Gillian Martin Mehers, in her article Workshop Games Everywhere, writes of how she found herself creating a new workshop activity from an unexpected source of inspiration, in order not to fall back on repeating familiar exercises with a group with which she works regularly. In this case she drew on questions she found in the ‘Proust Interview’ in Vanity Fair magazine.

I was reminded of an experience of my own of a couple of years ago, preparing to lead a rare 3-day face-to-face meeting of the IAF global Board, after almost half of it’s members had been newly elected. In this case I was looking for some activity or activities to break the ice and help us all get to know each other better, but also to enable me to punctuate a long and intense meeting with some moments of light relief.  I ended up adapting the well-known icebreaker ‘two truths and a lie’ to create an activity that I could return to throughout the meeting. I was sufficfiently pleased with the result that I wrote up the exercise for the IAF Methods Database, and I thought it might bear repeating here (see below).  See what you think!

I find the IAF an endless and invaluable source of creative inspiration for my own practice as a facilitator – the magazine and newsletters, the conferences and events, and of course the many creative members that contribute to them. Gillian is a great example, as you will see also in her own blog You Learn Somthing New Every Day.

If you find yourself stuck for inspiration some time, you may indeed find inspiration in the most unexpected places.  If you don’t, you could do worse than browse the hundreds of activities contributed to the IAF Methods Database for ideas!

Just One Lie

Have one-half a flipchart page and a pad of post-its for each individual in the meeting.  At the start, have each participant write their name at the top of their flipchart page and hang it on the wall.  Then have each individual put the names of all of their colleagues on post-its, one name per post-it.

  1. At the start of the session, ask the group to mingle, asking one another questions to get acquainted, such as “What sports do you like?” “Where do you like to take your holidays?” “What is your favorite food?”; or about their career, such as “How did you get into facilitation”, “When you do join IAF”, “What was your greatest  facilitation achievement?”; or about the meeting, such as “What is your worst fear for this meeting?”.  Or just ask for one fact they would like to share with the group.
  2. Tell the participants, “For every person you meet, put their name and one fact you have learned about them onto the post-it with their name.  As you meet every person in the group, you should accumulate a post-it for each person.
  3. “However, as you answer questions about yourself, please ensure that one (and only one) answer you give is a lie, something entirely not true of you.”
  4. When everyone has accumulated one fact post-it about everyone else, have participants distribute the post-its onto each individual’s flipchart pages.
  5. Introduce yourself by reading out the flip chart page with your own name and facts, and then invite the group to guess which is a lie.  Use a red marker to identify tick every true fact until the lie is revealed, then a cross to identify that.
  6. Next, introduce another participant in the same way.  When the lie is revealed, it is their turn to select and introduce another.
  7. As the meeting proceeds, start sessions and end breaks with the last person introduced to select and introduce another
  8. By the end of the meeting everyone should have been introduced, and all but one have introduced another.  Then you can celebrate the success of the person whose lie took the most guesses to reveal