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

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

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

On ICA’s ToP Historical Scan method, see:

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

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

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

MG ToPEventbrite - ToP Group Facilitation MethodsEventbrite - ToP Action PlanningI am excited to announce these two new public courses in Brussels in 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 last December 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 25-26

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 27

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 25-26 and Action Planning, November 27 – or please contact me with any questions or for further details.

ICA International Board update, September 2014

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


The ICAI Board at its August meeting reviewed the progress and status of several ICAI working groups which are now underway or getting established.  The Technology of Participation (ToP) global policy working group is now consulting with ICAI members and ToP facilitation & training providers worldwide on the draft global ToP policy paper that it had presented to the June General Assembly.  A diverse and experienced team of ten ICA representatives have now accepted nominations to join the new ICAI Global Conference working group that was agreed at the June General Assembly, in order to work with prospective host ICAs to present one or more strong proposals for hosting a 2016 global conference (or conferences) for vote at the December General Assembly.  Nominations are now invited to join the continuing members of the ICAI Board nominations and elections committee, and/or to stand for election to the Board itself next year, in preparation for an election at the December General Assembly to four Board positions coming vacant from January – Vice President Africa, Vice President Asia Pacific, Vice President Americas and Treasurer.  Staci Kentish, Seva Gandhi and I will continue as VP Communications, Secretary and President respectively.

Since the General Assembly clarified criteria for ICAI Associate membership in June, the Board noted expressions of interest in August from prospective new members in Ghana, Korea, Russia and the Phillipines.  We plan to agree a simple new form and process in September for these and/or other nominations to be made formal in time for vote at the December General Assembly.

No further formal requests had yet been received for ICAI financial support toward member initiatives for peer-to-peer support and collaboration, however there is interest from some ICAs wishing to attend the ICA European Interchange to be hosted by ICA Spain near Madrid in November.   Around 20 representatives of ICAs in Latin America have been able to benefit already from ICAI financial support for online training in Spanish on online ToP facilitation using the Adobe Connect platform.

Aziz Rahman at #UNNGO2014We are grateful to Aziz Rahman of ICA Bangladesh for travelling to New York this month to attend the 65th United Nations NGO Conference on behalf of ICAI, on the theme “2015 and beyond: our action agenda”.  Aziz was one of 4,000 registered to attend from over 900 NGOs in 100 countries.

We are grateful also for the editorial team and contributors to the August edition of ICAI’s Winds & Waves magazine “Back to the Future“, which features a series of articles related to the work of ICA’s Global Archives Project (GAP).

The Board agreed to present certificates of appreciation from ICAI to the more than 20 international ToP facilitators and others who had contributed to the successful and high profile Ukraine PEACE Summit of ICA Ukraine in Kiev in July.

Facilitation Reloaded: Reviewing the past to prepare for the future

Facilitation ReloadedI am excited to be included among an impressive range of international presenters offering no less than 40 workshops at the upcoming IAF Europe MENA conference Facilitation Reloaded, October 3-5 in Copenhagen. It is shaping up to be a fantastic learning and networking event, so do join us – it is not too late to register at www.facilitationreloaded.com!

The conference theme will be explored through a wide range of highly interactive sessions in 12 conference tracks.  In my own workshop, Reviewing the past to prepare for the future, I will demonstrate the Technology of Participation (ToP) ‘Historical Scan’ method (or ‘Wall of Wonder’). This 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.

IAF 20 year logo 500The session will draw on, and contribute to, a wider six-month collaborative process to develop a collective story of the history of facilitation (past, present and future), as IAF celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. This has included a ‘travelling timeline’ that will be coming to Copenhagen with contributions from IAF conferences earlier this year in Orlando and Singapore, and it will culminate with a series of online and and local events during International Facilitation Week, October 20-26. For more on that wider process, see my recent post How has facilitation developed over time, and where might it be heading?, and see #FacHistory on twitter.

During the Copenhagen session we will plot key events in the unfolding history of facilitation on a timeline, alongside key events in our own lives and work and in the wider environment. We will reflect together to share stories, successes and challenges, to draw insights, and to discern chapters and trends for the future. We will have time to reflect together on the method and it’s applicability to participants’ own work situations, and a method handout will be provided as a resource.

For a recent example of the ToP Historical Scan method in action, with a diverse, international group of around 120 in Turin, see also Facilitation case study: Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20.

Do join us in Copenhagen if you can, and if you can’t be with us in person then please join us by sharing and discussing online – Celebrating the development of facilitation – world-wide and history long!

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.)

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 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

On the Road

This article was first written for and published in the IAF Europe MENA newsletter, May 2014.

Moscow facilitators planning ‘What can we do over the next 3 years to promote a culture of participation in our organisations?’Moscow facilitators learned the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process last month by planning ‘What can we do over the next 3 years to promote a culture of participation in our organisations?’

When Julia Goga-Cooke invited me to contribute to this new ‘On The Road’ section of the newsletter, I think she may have known what sort of month I have been having. As well as visiting some interesting places, I have been able to meet and work with some wonderful IAF colleagues.

I began writing this from Marrakech, where I was facilitating last week for the first Arab Regional Forum on Youth Volunteering. This was convened by UN Volunteers, and brought together over 100 stakeholders from across the region and beyond to share, learn and plan together. On exchanging business cards with one delegate from Jordan, he told me that he had just emailed with IAF about joining or setting up a local chapter. So I was happy to share what I knew about the IAF membership in the region, and IAF’s chapter approach, and to learn from his experience of facilitation and facilitators in Jordan.

Prior to this I was in Turin with IAF member Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg , in preparation for facilitating an event there together this week with the 120 staff of the European Training Foundation to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. It was in designing this event, including a ToP ‘Wall of Wonder’ historical scanning process, that I had the idea for the rather more elaborate process to contribute to IAF’s 20th anniversary year celebration that became ‘Celebrating the development of facilitation – world-wide and history long’. This was launched in April, online and at the IAF North America conference in Orlando. Please do join in, online and at future conferences and chapter events between now and International Facilitation Week in October.

Prior to that, I was in Moscow at the start of April for the 5th annual Moscow Facilitators’ conference. It was great to be back, having attended for my first time last year and contributing a keynote and pre-conference ToP Group Facilitation Methods training. This year I presented a case study of the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process with an international humanitarian agency in Geneva, ‘Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’’, and post-conference ToP Participatory Strategic Planning training (see photo above). The 100 or so participants came from the regions of Russia and Ukraine and Finland as well as from Moscow and the UK.

I have been privileged these last few weeks as well to serve as a mentor to one of ICA Ukraine’s ToP facilitation trainers, and to learn something of how she and ICA are working to network diverse actors in Ukraine and to re-envisage and rebuild their country’s future together. It was a privilege also (and fun!) to help to network ICA Ukraine’s facilitators with Russian facilitators attending the Moscow Facilitators conference by exchanging real-time Facebook updates between my post-conference ToP strategic planning course in Moscow and Natasha’s simultaneous ToP strategic planning course in Lviv.

It is a great disappointment to me to learn that this year’s IAF Europe MENA conference Facilitation Reloaded will no longer be held in Moscow, although recent events have made it increasingly self-evident that it would not be able to go ahead as planned. It seems to me that there is a need, now more than ever, for facilitation to grow and make a valuable impact in the region. I am delighted to know that the conference will be relocated rather than cancelled, and that the Moscow team will remain involved, and I shall be delighted for the opportunity to visit Copenhagen instead in October. I hope to see you there, and I hope that colleagues from Russia and Ukraine will be able to attend.

In the midst of all this I was also able to squeeze in a day of facilitation training with ICA:UK, for an international firm of sustainability consultants in London – happily, and rather appropriately, I was able to travel to that on foot!

Announcing ToP Group Facilitation Methods training in Brussels, 20-21 May

MG ToPEventbrite - ToP Group Facilitation MethodsI am excited to announce this public course in Brussels, 20-21 May 2014.

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

“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?”

Group Facilitation Methods 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.

This May 20-21 course in Brussels is scheduled in partnership with Social Platform, the largest platform of European rights and value-based NGOs working in the social sector; and it is provided under license with ICA:UK, the participation & development charity.  It was at my last course with Social Platform in Brussels in December that I piloted Three dimensions of the facilitator role – a focused conversation with video.

BOOK NOW, recommend to a friend, or contact me with any questions or for further details.

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Also coming up, and subject of a future post – Group Facilitation Methods and Participatory Strategic Planning, April 2-3 & 5-6 in Moscow (in Russian with interpretation), in conjunction with the 5th annual Russian Facilitators Conference.