News from the IAF Europe team, April 2009

Martin facilitating our team discussions in Manchester, November 2008This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in the IAF Europe newsletter, April 2009. An archive of 43 monthly issues from 2010-2013 may now be found online at IAFThe photo by editor Rosemary Cairns shows me facilitating the first meeting of the new IAF Europe team in Manchester in November 2008. For details of the IAF Europe MENA region and its 18 chapters today, see IAF EMENA.


At the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) Europe 2008 conference in Groningen in October, Rosemary Cairns, Gary Purser and I were appointed to form a new leadership team for the IAF Europe region. Soon after the conference the three of us met in Manchester, in November, to plan our work for 2009.

We published profiles of the three of us in the IAF newsletter in November, and a brief report of that planning meeting in the December issue. We felt that now would be a good time to report to you in some more depth on the plans we made then and how they are progressing, and to share an overview of the financial position of the region.

The following is drawn from a more comprehensive 5‐page report drafted for the IAF global Board meeting to be held prior to the IAF North America conference in Vancouver this month. The full report can be found with this article on our online Forum at www. iaf‐europe. eu, under ‘News from the European team’.

Do please share any queries or feedback, either on the Forum or directly with any of us – and do please let us know if you are interested to get involved in this work, whether at the regional level or locally in your area. There is much to do, and we rely largely on volunteers from among the membership to do it. We are grateful to all those of you who have contributed, and are contributing, to the life of the Association.

Communications & publicity

This is Rosemary’s area of responsibility. In this area, we planned to establish a monthly IAF newsletter and an active IAF Europe website, make use of social networking sites and other collaborative e‐technologies to promote IAF and enable networking among members and other facilitators, and encourage and enable the use of more languages within the IAF region.

This is the 6th issue of the new newsletter. The new regional website is live at www. iaf‐europe. eu, and includes a Forum with a ‘language café’ and events notice board, back issues of the newsletter to download, and links to & from other IAF sites. Rosemary has posted messages and links on various Facebook and YouTube pages, and uses Google Docs to distribute the newsletter.

Professional development

This is Gary’s area of responsibility, and includes the annual conference and Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) programme. In this area, we planned to ensure an annual IAF European conference to deliver satisfaction to members and income to the region, to make 12 conference scholarships available in 2009, and to support and promote two CPF assessment events in the region.

Oxford was selected as the location for the 2009 conference from among three contenders, a local conference team has been established, and contracts have been signed with Keble College Oxford as the conference venue and Entendu as the conference management company. The conference was launched in February, and open for early‐bird registrations at www. iaf‐europeconference. org.

Early promotion has led to five conference sponsors being secured already, and delegate bookings are ahead of the last two years’ conferences by around 12 weeks. A good number of applications have been received for conference & pre‐conference sessions, and the draft programme is almost ready to publish. We have committed to provide a minimum of 5 scholarships from our reserves, and more depending on conference income.

One CPF event was held in Switzerland in December, two events in Dutch are scheduled for the Netherlands and a pre‐conference event is scheduled for September.

Organisational growth

This is also Gary’s area of responsibility, but Rosemary has agreed to cover for Gary temporarily to allow him to focus on getting the conference underway. In this area, we planned to ensure effective management of memberships (new, renewing & expiring members and promotion of membership), to achieve a total of 500 members and 12 chapters or affiliates in Europe in 2009, including expanded membership in Eastern Europe.

We have established regular and systematic communications to welcome new and returning members, and to follow up with expiring members to encourage them to renew or learn why they will not. New chapters in Germany & Serbia have been approved by the Board, and we are following up interest in possible new chapters in Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Turkey and the UK.

Total membership in Europe has varied since November between a high of around 360 and a low of around 320, with an underlying trend of decline if anything. Growing the membership remains a key strategic priority for the region, and for IAF globally, for the year. We are hopeful that the conference will better attract new and returning members once the programme is published shortly, and that new partnerships with facilitation training providers offering 1‐year student‐rate memberships will also attract new members.

Governance & support systems

This is Martin’s area of responsibility. Within this area, we planned to participate fully in the global IAF Board, publish a brief 2008 annual report and finance report, establish formal and transparent governance links between IAF Europe and IAF globally, hold monthly team conference calls and another face‐to‐face team meeting, achieve a closing reserve balance of €40k, and each spend on average a day per month on IAF business.

I have participated in two global Board conference calls and almost daily in ongoing electronic discussions, and shall be attending the 1‐ day face‐to‐face Board meeting in Vancouver in April and the 2‐day meeting in Cape Town in October.

In the detailed report on the IAF Europe Forum, you will find our financial report for 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. The paperwork is underway to have the three of us appointed as Board members of the region’s Netherlands‐ registered foundation ‘IAF Europe Stichting’, along with existing Board member Maureen Jenkins and in place of Jim Campbell. Maureen and Gary Austin, authorised signatories on IAF’s Netherlands and UK (Euro & Sterling) bank accounts respectively, have agreed to continue for the time being in those roles and provide us with regular consolidated financial reports.

We have established a team Yahoo group and a routine of monthly internal team reports and conference calls, and plan a second face‐toface team meeting in Oxford, with the conference team, in June.

We are finding our plan to each spend on average one day per month on IAF work somewhat naive – one day per week (or more) would be closer to reality!

Finances

In terms of the financial report, there is as established policy that a share of members’ dues are paid by the globe to the regions and that in return a share of regional conference surpluses are paid by the regions to the globe, however this has not yet been implemented.

For the time being, IAF Europe’s primary source of income is the annual conference, and the main expenses (beyond the conference itself) are member services and communications. Our present reserve balance is largely the product of the lucrative 2006 conference in Stockholm. The 2007 conference in Edinburgh earned a small surplus with 182 delegates (just received, after a delay caused by the hiatus in the regional team), and the 2008 conference in Groningen made a small loss with just 109 delegates.

Given that we have only a minimal reserve after two poor years for conference income, and given the current economic climate as well, we have taken a prudent approach to budgeting for 2009. The projection shown allows just a skeleton expense budget, and assumes the conference just breaks even, in order to indicate what conference loss we could afford to sustain within our existing reserves.

The 2009 conference budget breaks even on 160 delegates with no sponsors, and would take around 250 delegates and €10k of sponsorship income to enable us to achieve our ambition of a closing reserve balance of €40k – so please help us to rebuild a reserve that will allow a more ambitious plan for member services in the region next year, by booking to attend the Oxford conference yourself and by helping to promoting it to potential delegates and sponsors!

ICA Netherlands hosts the ICA Europe MENA gathering 2015

ICA Europe MENA gathering 2015Twenty ICA colleagues were hosted by ICA Netherlands for the 2015 ICA Europe MENA regional gathering last weekend near Amersfoort. We represented existing ICAs and emerging groups from across the region, and came from Egypt, France, Germany, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, UK, Ukraine and Siberia. We were joined virtually at times by colleagues in Austria, Australia, France, Moscow and Taiwan, and by many more on twitter and facebook.  Thank you all for joining us, and thank you to ICA Netherlands for hosting!

Follow the story of our gathering here in tweets and images, or at Storify. Visit again to discover more  images and video clips as they are added.

Best wishes to the 2015 ICA Asia Pacific regional gathering being hosted this coming weekend by ICA India near Pune – over to you!

Exploring the human factor in global change, and prospects for partnership, at Caux

This post was written for ICAI Winds and Waves, September 2015 issue.


Caux PalaceThe week before last I was in Switzerland to support the design and facilitation of Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business, a conference of Initiatives of Change (IofC) at Caux Palace – a fairy-tale castle of an international conference centre, high above Montreux and enjoying stupendous views down along Lake Geneva.  As luck would have it, Jonathan Dudding of ICA:UK was there the same week supporting the parallel International Peacebuilders Forum conference, and world leaders of IofC International were beginning to gather for their IofC Global Assembly the following week. As a result, Jonathan and I were able to meet together with leaders of IofC Caux and IofC International to discuss prospects for a global partnership conference of ICA and IofC at Caux next year.

I came away (‘down from the mountain’, as they say with good reason at Caux) encouraged and enthused for the prospects of such a partnership – by my experience of the conference and the conference centre, and by what I learned of IofC and the commonalities and potential for synergies between it and ICA.  I am excited therefore that, since then, ICA International has decided in its online General Assembly in the last week to seek to develop such a partnership with IofC. So, how did such a proposal come about, and what can I say from my own experience at Caux about how I see the prospects for such a partnership?

ICA:UK and ICA Spain have partnered with IofC Caux over several years now to support the design and facilitation of their annual summer season of international conferences, and in providing ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) facilitation training for IofC members and others – next scheduled for 25-26 November in Geneva. Other connections and collaborations between individual members of ICA and IofC around the world date back over 30 years in some cases, in countries including Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and Ukraine. Ideas for building on these foundations to explore the potential for broader collaboration have been brewing for a year or two among those involved on both sides.

A partnership approach to a global conference in Caux in 2016 was proposed to ICAI last December by ICA:UK, with the support of ICA Spain and other European ICAs, to follow ICAI’s 8th quadrennial Global Conference on Human Development in Kathmandu in 2012.  This proposal was recommended to the ICAI General Assembly by its Global Conference working group, and approved in principle this last week. Parallel conversations have been underway within IofC, including at its recent Global Assembly in Caux, and we hope to be able establish a joint committee in the autumn to develop a partnership and our approach to the conference together.

I have found numerous encouraging parallels in our respective histories and approaches. Initiatives of Change describes itself as ‘a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own’. It was founded in the late 1930s as the Moral Rearmament Movement by Frank Buchman, a charismatic American minister whose ideas and practices had been developed largely working with students in what had been known as the Oxford Group. The once-grand but then derelict Caux Palace Hotel was purchased and refurbished by Swiss supporters, in time to open in 1946 as an international conference centre where those who had suffered in the war could come together and build new relationships. Further centres were established in the USA and around the world, supporting reconciliation and peace-building through dialogue and, particularly at the Westminster Theatre in London, also through drama.  Today IofC international comprises member organisations in around 40 countries worldwide. IofC Caux hosts a series of international conferences over three months every summer, under the banner “Exploring the human factor in global change” and with the aim “to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves”.

ICA (the Institute of Cultural Affairs) was founded somewhat later, but also from a faith-based movement, as the secular successor organisation to the earlier Ecumenical Institute and University-based Faith and Life Community founded by the American former Methodist minister Joseph Wesley Mathews in the 1950s & 60s. ICA describes itself as a global community of non-profit organisations ‘advancing human development worldwide’ – sharing a ‘concern with the human factor in world development’ and seeking to mobilise and support individuals to transform themselves in order to transform their communities, organisations and societies (‘Changing Lives, Changing Societies‘). ICA pioneered its approach, including ‘imaginal education’ and what became known as the ‘Technology of Participation’ facilitation methods, in the west side of Chicago in the 1960s. ICA USA’s GreenRise building in Chicago was rescued from dereliction by volunteer labour and in-kind contributions in the early 1970s, to serve for many years as ICAs global headquarters and venue for its annual summer Global Research Assemblies, forerunners to the quadrennial ICA Global Conference on Human Development since 1984.  The ‘Band of 24’ pilot Human Development Projects in each of the 24 time zones worldwide, launched in 1976 (40 years ago next year), became the basis of today’s network of member organisations and groups in around 40 countries – about half of them countries in common with IofC.

My experience of the AEUB conference at Caux suggests that we have more in common than aspects of our histories, the language we use to describe our approaches, and our shared vision of a just and sustainable world for all.  Participants familiar with ICA’s centres in Chicago, Brussels and elsewhere, and with our tradition of living and working together in community, will welcome the expectation at Caux that everyone contributes to the care of the community and broadens and deepens their relationships by taking part in kitchen duties together. They will also welcome the time for collective reflection and for other spirit practice that is scheduled daily at Caux, as a reflection of ICA’s tradition and practice as well. They may be pleased to find that most bedrooms in the former Caux Palace Hotel have their own bathrooms (unlike many ICA facilities of the same era), and they will likely find the simple and even antique furnishings and fixtures as charming as I did. Certainly few visitors will fail to be impressed by the views from their windows and balconies, and from the garden and terrace below – the mountain location, accessed by funicular from the lakeside, was well chosen indeed for a retreat centre.

I hope that we may find plenty to learn from our differences, as well as our similarities. Whereas ICA’s focus is primarily on community and more recently organisational development, and through demonstration projects engaging the disempowered, I understand that IofC’s focus is primarily on reconciliation and peace-building, and through dialogue engaging citizens with those in power. I expect that IofC’s activities and emphases have diversified over time and geography as ICA’s have, however, and that our own people and our partners worldwide would find much to share with and learn from each other on their diverse experiences of leadership and change in their own contexts.

AEUB opening plenaryFrom a practical point of view, I think ICA could benefit greatly from Caux’s well established year-round capacity to manage the logistics of conference organisation, from handling international registrations and finances to mobilising and managing teams of summer interns and volunteer interpreters. I expect IofC could also benefit more from ICA’s participatory process design and facilitation expertise, as it has begun to do in recent years for its own conferences. The venue itself I found to be well equipped with a wide variety of spaces and facilities, from small break-out rooms and gallery spaces, terraces and gardens, to a tiered auditorium, a large and fully-equipped theatre and of course the Grand Hall. I understand that the capacity of around 400 in total allows comfortably for around 270 conference delegates at a time, in addition to the many resident volunteers, staff and other visitors.

This year’s AEUB conference seemed to me to be very well received by its impressively international, multi-lingual and multi-generational participants.  I look forward to being able to share in making the ‘magic of Caux’ again in future conferences – starting, I hope, with a 2016 partnership conference ‘exploring the human factor’ in global change and development.

For more on Initiatives of Change at Caux, find them on twitter, flickr and youtube.

Join me for ToP Group Facilitation Methods and Action Planning training in Brussels!

MG ToPBOOK NOW! ToP Group Facilitation MethodsEventbrite ToP BOOK NOW - AP15I am excited to announce these two new public courses in Brussels, repeated this November. Please join me if you can, and share these details with friends, colleagues and networks who might be interested.

These courses are scheduled in partnership with Social Platform, the largest platform of European rights and value-based NGOs working in the social sector; and provided under license with ICA:UK, the participation & development charity.  It was following an earlier course with Social Platform in Brussels that I blogged Three dimensions of the facilitator role – a focused conversation with video.

“I would recommend the course to others as something that can easily be used in practise for leaders, facilitators and participants of group meetings” – Pierre Baussand, Director, Social Platform, Brussels.

Group Facilitation Methods

Introducing the foundations of the Technology of Participation (ToP) approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus – 2 days, November 17-18

How can I have more purposeful & productive conversations, bring out the wisdom of a group, encourage feedback between people, and reach shared awareness in meetings? How can I generate and weave together a diverse range of ideas, develop creative solutions and build a group consensus?

This course provides a structured introduction to the ToP Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods, which form the foundations of the ToP Action Planning method, Participatory Strategic Planning and other applications.

Action Plannning

Participatory planning for short-term projects and events – 1 day, November 19

How can I get all members of a group to participate in planning a project or event together, and build their commitment and responsibility so that they can successfully implement their plan?

This course introduces a structured, participatory process to enable the successful implementation of a group project or event.  The ToP Action Planning method uses the ToP Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods to engage all members of a group effectively, and so it builds commitment and ownership at all stages. The method is suitable for planning short to medium-term projects, or completing projects that have stalled.

BOOK NOW for Group Facilitation Methods, November 17-18 and Action Planning, November 19 – or please contact me with any questions or for further details.

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!

Power to the People, and the power of facilitation and communications in partnership

CCjkUYmXIAAZqK9.jpg large

In my last post I blogged on Power to the People – why I am excited to be attending #EuroComm 2015, the April 12-14 Europe MENA conference of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in London. Here I’d like to share a few of my reflections on that event, and something of the potential that I see for mutual learning and collaboration between facilitators and communicators, and for partnership between IAF and IABC.

I was struck at the event, as I was in browsing the agenda in advance, by the emphasis on the changing role of the communications profession, ‘from cascade to conversation’ (Katie MacAulay) and ‘from crafting and controlling messages to facilitator, coach and guide’ (Barbara Gibson). Highlights for me among the presentations were stories of large-scale staff engagement at HSBC Exchange from Ulrike Felber and on the Art of Participatory Leadership at the European Commisison  from Ian Andersen, and on ‘bringing values alive’ at Newsweaver from Andrew O’Shaughnessy.  There was a lot valuable experience evident of engaging people at scale in change processes, from which I think facilitators could learn a great deal – particularly when it comes to engaging all those stakeholders who, for one reason or another, will never be ‘in the room’ to participate directly in a facilitated process.

I was also struck, however, that there seemed less awareness of the body of knowledge and experience that the facilitation profession has accumulated – in particular, the value of designing and leading a group through a structured series of questions and activities to achieve a particular purpose. Mention was made of using workshops to engage people, but (with the exception of the Art of Participatory Leadership) I gained little sense of their methodology or process design. While it was made clear that communications today must involve listening, and no longer just talking, I reflected that a third element that is key to making conversation productive as well as engaging is to ask purposeful questions. It seems to me that this is an area where communications professional may be able to learn from facilitators.

In spite of the emphasis in the content of the conference on communications as dialogue rather than broadcast, in terms of process I found the sessions mostly structured as presentations with dialogue limited to questions from the floor – between the stage and the tiered seating of a lecture theatre. I dare say that IAF facilitators could have learned a thing or two about making presentations engaging, but certainly I find that IAF conferences enable a greater depth and breadth of conversation.

It was partly for this reason that another highlight for me was the session on the future of the communications profession, which was held in a large classroom rather than a lecture theatre and facilitated as a number of parallel small table conversations. This session also highlighted for me the potential for the two professions and the two associations to learn from each other’s experience of common issues and challenges, such as upholding and raising professional standards and mobilising and managing volunteers and chapters.

I was impressed (as you might hope) by the use of social media at EuroComm, including vox pop videos on facebook and especially the very cool Whova mobile app for conference networking – also by the speed and number of conference reviews published online, for example by Daniel Munslow and by the AB team, and by IABC on storify. So imagine my surprise when, as #EuroComm twitter statistics were projected at the closing session, it turned out that the most prolific tweeter with the widest reach was… me, the facilitator at a conference of communicators!

Already IAF and IABC members are able to enjoy reciprocal discounts at each others’ conferences, at least in Europe. I want to encourage members of both associations to take advantage of that, and connect with each other to further explore the potential for mutual learning and collaboration, and for partnership. The door is open – step through and see what you find!

IAF members, attend the IABC World Conference, 14-17 June in San Francisco, or check the IABC global calendar for an event near you or online.

IABC members, attend the IAF North America Conference, 14-16 May in Banff; or the IAF Asia Conference, 20-22 August in Mumbai – or join me at the IAF Europe MENA Conference, 16-18 October in Stockholm

Chapters of both IAF and IABC, connect with each other locally and see what opportunities emerge!

ICA International Board update, November 2014

ICAI Global Buzz, Sseptember 2014
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, November 2014.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The ICAI network comprises member organisations and related groups in over 40 countries.  The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network, for greater and deeper impact. ICA International maintains consultative status with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.


In October the Board has been beginning to prepare for the upcoming General Assembly (GA) on December 12.  We have been supporting the ICAI working group on Global Conferencing to solicit and review expressions of interest from ICAs to host an ICAI global conference in 2016, for discussion and vote at the GA.  We have been supporting the ICAI working group on global Technology of Participation (ToP) policy to continue to consult with members and others to produce a final draft policy for discussion and vote at the GA.  We have been supporting the Board nominations & elections committee to receive nominations and speak with candidates in order to finalise a slate for GA election to four Board positions becoming vacant from January.  We have received a complete set of nomination papers for a prospective new Associate member in Ghana, and have been liaising with other prospective candidates for Associate membership from the USA, Korea and the Philippines.

Also the Board in October awarded small sums of financial support to ICAI members ICA Ukraine and to Bospo for their delegates to attend the ICA European interchange to be hosted by ICA Spain in November, and for members of the ICAI Winds & Waves team, the ICA Asia Pacific region and others to be trained in virtual facilitation using Adobe Connect in order to support peer-to-peer communication and collaboration among ICAs.  We supported the Asia Pacific region in an online meeting on the topic of community development. The Winds & Waves team has been receiving contributions and preparing for its next issue of the magazine.