Three dimensions of the facilitator role – a focused conversation

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I used this great little 4 minute video in a Group Facilitation Methods course in Brussels yesterday (to be repeated as a public course in Brussels in November), to launch a conversation on the role of the facilitator and to demonstrate the ToP Focused Conversation method in the process. The group of 18 were mostly staff members of a variety of European-level social NGO networks, supporting their member NGOs to learn, collaborate and campaign together. It produced a rich conversation and a great demonstration of the method, and many insights that we were able to refer back to again and again during the remainder of the course.

I shall certainly use the video and my conversation questions again, so I thought I would share them here for others to try as well. If you use them, please do let me know how it goes for you!  I allowed 20 minutes for the conversation, which worked well for us. We pretty much followed the sequence of questions as shown below, although by the interpretive level the conversation has taken off such that I used the questions to steer the conversation rather than to stimulate it.

The video is by the International Institute of Facilitation and Change (IIFAC) and is now available also in multiple languages.  For more on the ToP Focused Conversation method, see the ICA:UK ToP method overview (pdf) and Brian Stanfield’s ‘Art of Focused Conversation: 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace‘. When I first shared the video in an earlier post, I quoted John Miller of ICA Associates on his experience of using the video for a Focused Conversation with a high school class in Canada.

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Objective level questions

1. What words and phrases do you recall from the clip?

2. What images do you remember?

3. What people or characters?

4. What else about the clip did you notice, such as sound, colour, design?

Reflective level questions

5. What particularly surprised or intrigued you in the clip?

6. Which ideas were most familiar to you?

7. What reminded you of your own experience of meetings that you have designed and facilitated, or participated in?

8. What other metaphors for facilitation come to mind for you?

Interpretive level questions

9. How well do these three metaphors capture the role of the facilitator in your experience? What would you add?

10. Which of these three dimensions is best understood and appreciated in your own situations?

11. What aspects of the facilitator role would you most like to learn and practice more? How?

Decisional level questions

12. What is one insight from this clip or conversation that will you take away and apply in your own work?

13. Who would you like to share this clip with?

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EU-funded places available on ToP facilitation training next week!

Facilitative Leadership and Group Facilitation Methods for Social Cohesion and Gender Equality

Two places have become available at short notice on an EU-funded facilitation training to be held next week, December 9-14, in English & Spanish in Madrid, Spain.

The course is titled “Facilitative Leadership & Group Facilitation Methods for Social Inclusion and Gender Equality“, and is organised and delivered by ICA Spain with ICA:UK.

For full details, please download the course information and practicalities (pdf), and for enquiries and bookings please email catalina@iac-es.org or info@iac-es.org.

The course starts Monday 9th at 17.00 and finishes Saturday 14th, at 13.30. ICA Spain will be glad to cover the 750 Euros course fee. Participants are asked to cover their own accommodation, meals and travel (round trip). If interested they could discuss these expenses.

The course is designed for people responsible for facilitating multicultural and interdisciplinary groups more effectively within educational, social, political, cultural sectors; for team leaders and managers dealing with social inclusion and gender equality policy making; and for youth and community workers and social development agents responsible for implementing social cohesion and gender equality policies.

Comments from the evaluations of last year’s course include:

…. a solid and intelligent combination of professional competence and personal drive and engagement. Great attention to detail was evident from the logistical organization to the high quality of delivery.” (Participant from Switzerland).

Excellent course, excellent facilitation, truly an opportunity to learn valuable skills. Highly recommend it.” (Participant from Spain).

It was an excellent course both on providing knowledge and skills on the topic.” (Participant from Greece).

What stood out especially was the trainers’ attention to each particpants’ professional development and the strong participatory elements.” (Participant from Germany).

The approach was very successful because we had moments of theory, demonstration and practice of the new methodologies. We had the opportunity to participate in some cultural and study visits which make us connect with the contents of the course and know more about the host country.” (Participant from Portugal).

ICAI Winds and Waves – facilitating new directions

This article was first published in ICAI Winds and Waves, April 2013.

Winds and Waves April 2013Welcome to this new issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, on the theme of change and new directions.

Inside you will find stories of some of the change that ICAs around the world are enabling in the communities and organisations that they work with, including in the USA, Spain, Ukraine, India, Guatemala and Chile.  Also you will find stories of some of the change that ICAs themselves are undertaking within their own organisations, including in Togo, the UK and Peru.  You will also find news, reviews and feature articles, including from the new book of long-time ICA colleague Jean Houston. I hope you will find plenty to interest you, and to spark ideas for your own work and change in your own locations and in collaboration with others elsewhere.  I am grateful to the virtual global editorial team, and to all of our contributors, for so generously sharing their time, expertise, experience and ideas with us all.

ICA International is itself entering a period of significant change and development, with a new global Board in place since January and a new business plan for the new year.   I am grateful also to my predecessor as President Larry Philbrook of ICA Taiwan, and to other ICAI Board members past and present, for volunteering their time and leadership to help to shape and guide the development of our global network.  As a result of their sound management and leadership over the past years, the ICAI Board has been able to engage with members and colleagues over recent months to develop ambitious plans for strengthening and growing the ICA worldwide network this year.  You will find news of these developments also inside, and the Board would welcome your questions and feedback, and most of all your involvement.

Since my own ICA work has been mostly focused on the UK context in recent years, it has been exciting and energising for me to reconnect and re-engage internationally with ICA colleagues more in this new role, especially when I have had the opportunity to do so face to face – at the ICA global conference in Kathmandu last October, and at the ICA European Interchange in Paris in March.  Our virtual connections are also growing ever stronger. Our first online regional gatherings of the global network this year, in March, were also a real highlight for me.  Do please join us for the next regional gatherings in July.

The role of ICAI in the ICA global network is to facilitate and communicate ‘peer to peer’ support and collaboration among ICAs and ICA colleagues – in pursuit of our shared mission “to empower, through methods and values, an authentic and sustainable transformation of individuals, communities and organizations.”  I hope that this magazine may do something to help strengthen your international connections and collaborations.  Please do let us know how it does, and how it might better do so.

Café, croissant and facilitation – and balancing the social process in Paris

This article was reprinted in ICA:UK Network News, issue 49 and ICAI Winds and Waves, issue 3.ParisThe annual ICA European Interchange is an informal face-to-face gathering for networking and mutual support, open to everyone with an interest in the Institute of Cultural Affairs in Europe. A total of 14 people from six countries participated in this year’s event, held from March 15-17 2013 in Paris.

The gathering was kindly hosted and led this year by Lan Levy, Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitator of www.coactiv.fr, in her office in central Paris. Lan also kept us well fuelled with café, croissant and pain au chocolat! Also from Paris were Lorraine Margherita, Pascal Dubois and Marc Enguix, recent graduates of Lan’s ToP training courses and members of her local facilitation community of practice. From Luxembourg was Elisabeth Wille, long-time Associate of ICA Belgium. From ICA Spain were Catalina Quiroz and Iman Moutaouakil. From ICA:UK were Alan, Shelley and Oliver Heckman, plus Derek McAuley and me (mostly this time from ICA International). Joining us briefly by Skype were John Miesen of ICA Australia and Linda Starodub in Austria.

We shared introductions, and reports on our last interchange in Vienna, and on the ICAI global conference and meetings in Nepal last October. In sharing reports on our ICAs and our own activities we noted many instances of beneficial past collaboration and mutual support, arising from previous interchanges and otherwise.  Among these were two joint EU-funded 5-day courses of ICA:UK and ICA Spain in the past year. After attending last year’s interchange and one of these courses, former ICA Croatia director Zlata Pavic has now begun work to re-activate ICA Croatia. Michael Pannwitz & Mia Konstantinidou of ICA Germany had facilitated strategic planning with ICA Netherlands, who have ToP courses now coming up in April.  Larry Philbrook of ICA Taiwan had led ToP courses in Paris with Lan, and will lead an Imaginal Learning course in Paris in June. I reported on my own collaboration with ICA Ukraine and ICA Tajikistan, in preparation for my ToP training at the IAF Russia conference in Moscow in April.

We looked in some depth at ToP training materials used in France and the UK, and how ToP had been applied to religious diversity training by ICA Spain in its EU-funded Belieforama project. We were excited to learn of Elisabeth’s work with EU institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg, and the opportunities she sees emerging there. We looked at the ICA International 2013-14 business plan that I had circulated globally a few days before, and reflected on the state and direction of our global ICA network and the role of Europe in it. We shared our own involvement and experience with IAF, the International Association of Facilitators, and our aspirations for that. We also enjoyed snails, tripe and other classic French dishes at dinner at a delightful local restaurant next to Lan’s apartment! Most of all, we drew from all of these discussions to identify numerous opportunities for further practical collaboration and mutual support.

A key thrust of our plans for future collaboration are to revisit previous plans for a European international ToP training of trainers programme, informed by our now greater experience of successful fundraising from the EU for such work.  We agreed to share and publicise our own and each other’s training schedules and training of trainer opportunities. We agreed to explore ways to engage further with ICA International, and with IAF, and to collaborate to deepen our understanding of ICA and ICA methods beyond ToP – for example by means of an online Courage To Lead study group.  We agreed to use the longstanding ICA Europe yahoogroup as a means of communication and a forum for exchange, so as engage as well with other ICA colleagues in Europe and beyond who were not present in Paris.

Although fewer ICAs were directly represented at this year’s interchange than in recent years, I myself was very excited by how the gathering seems to draw in new and returning people each year – and how each year we hear of more collaboration and support going on, and even greater appetite for more in the future.

A key insight for me in my role as ICAI President came in a side discussion with one of our new Paris colleagues, who seemed quite intrigued by what they learned of ICA.  I had briefly explained our historic global mission, and our name the Institute of Cultural Affairs, in relation to ICA’s Social Process Triangles model – as seeking to bring balance to the social process by strengthening the cultural, meaning-giving dynamic in society.  We had earlier been reflecting that perhaps too much of our attention, together in Paris and more broadly, was at the level of the business of facilitation and facilitation training rather than at the deeper level of mission, values and spirit. It occurred to me that in our own global network we might well conclude that we have allowed our economic dynamic to become dominant, the political to be allied to the economic, and the cultural to be collapsed. In contrast I suspect that in the 1970s and 80s, at the height of ICA’s global reach, we might conclude that the cultural dynamic was dominant and the economic collapsed in relation to it.  In recent years at the global level we have necessarily devoted much of our collective attention to the economic and political dynamics of our international network, and there remains much still to be done to put these on a strong and sustainable footing.  If we are to collaborate and support each other effectively to have impact at the global level, however, it will be the cultural dynamic that mobilises and sustains us in doing so. Details of ICA’s Social Process triangles can be found in ICA Canada’s ‘The Courage To Lead’.

We were all asked to write a few lines of text for Winds & Waves before we closed the meeting.  Reflections included:

  • Good time together, Stronger connection with ICA Europe. Practical actions to take forward. Thank you for coming! – Lan, Paris
  • Saturday I went to Paris and participated in part of the European Interchange. It was really a very inspiring day, lots of interesting project and nice to meet people from UK, Spain and France. Quite a lot is actually happening in France, very interesting! – Elisabeth, Luxembourg
  • First of all, I’m very glad and pleased to be in my first ICA European Interchange. It was really exciting and very interesting, gathering where we could know about each other in a personal and professional level. The most exciting point is that we created a great network in order to collaborate and participate all together.  There were a lot of new ideas and projects that were born in this gathering! I’m looking forward to start co-operation with all ICA members – Iman, ICA Spain
  • As a recent ToP student/trainee, I was invited to join the participants of the ICA European Interchange meeting for the 3rd and last day. I was happy to hear what other chapters of ICA in Europe are up to, and to learn more about the story of the organisation, its mission and values. It was great being part of the conversation about the ways ICAs could co-operate. We came up with practical ideas. I’m looking forward to sharing more ideas and insights with other ICA members throughout Europe – Lorraine, Paris
  • We had fun hanging out, building and sustaining relationships. We learned from and were inspired by each other. We made practical and realistic plans to keep doing things together and supporting each other – Alan, ICA:UK
  • It has been a very inspiring Paris gathering. Key information shared and reviewed for well-informed future decisions on a European and international level. Key questions raised about our mission and values beside the added value of ToP in our network. Great step in having ICAI’s ‘Plan de Trabajo’ in different languages! Very nice having French colleagues joining on Sunday and letting all of us refresh and learn more about ICA and our history – Catalina, ICA Spain
  • It was very interesting to see so much enthusiasm for learning and exchange in Europe for ICA values and ToP methods. Nice to see concrete actions coming out of three days of talking! – Shelley, ICA:UK
  • A very positive and action-oriented ICA Europe gathering in Paris.  Good to meet new people and look to the future – Derek, ICA:UK
  • A great day with wide open minds and ideas to contribute to an enthusiastic human-oriented project! With enthusiastic people and a lot of energy. Big action plan and quite exciting possibilities
  • Meeting nice people. Impressed by the process to handle the implementation part of the meeting. Long way to go…

Many thanks indeed to Lan and everyone for a great event!

Anyone wishing to connect with the ICA European network is invited to email ICAEurope-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

ICA International Board update, March 2013

ICAI Global BuzzThis post was first published in ICAI’s monthly bulletin, the Global Buzz.

The ICAI Board has met three times in January & February. Much of our time has been spent developing our new 2013-14 business plan, in consultation with numerous members and volunteers.  This is now about to be circulated in English, French & Spanish – please ask if you would like a copy, and please let us know if you have any questions or feedback.  In the process of these meetings we we have been establishing our meeting practices, including use of technology and formats of agendas, reports and minutes.

We have been able to use the @ica-international.org domain to establish new ICAI email addresses for all Board members and an email list for the Board.  We have now also established an ICAI email list for the global network of ICAs, with over 100 ICA represenatives in over 40 countries, to facilitate dialogue among and between ICAs.  Having overcome some technical hurdles, we are now in a position to establish lists also for the conference teams wishing to continue their dialogue by email after the Nepal conference.

We have submitted overdue reports in order to maintain and update ICAI’s UN consultative status with ECOSOC, and we have confirmed that ICAI’s consultative status remains valid with FAO and UNESCO as well.

We have agreed with ICA Nepal to make it’s new book Changing Lives Changing Societes available globally on a print-on-demand basis via Amazon and other channels, and will be arranging that soon.  In the meantime copies are available from the USA via Ebay.

We are now making preparations to survey the network over the coming months in order to update basic data on the current status and activities of ICAs worldwide, as a baseline for further supporting peer-to-peer activities within the network.  As we do that we will also be inviting ICAs to pay annual dues for 2013 to renew their membership with ICAI, and to participate in the first online regional gatherings of the year, on March 25-26.

Martin will be attending the ICA European Interchange in Paris, March 15-17, and hosting online sessions for those who would like to connect virtually – if you are interested to do that please contact Martin.

We are also beginning to work with ICA Canada to prepare the annual audit report for 2012.

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

Celebrating diversity and facilitation in Europe

IAF Europe January 2013 newsletterThe latest newsletter of IAF Europe is a great read as usual – click on the cover image (right) to download it or view it online.

I particularly enjoyed Pamela Lupton-Bowers’ reflections on last October’s IAF Europe Conference in Geneva, Facilitating Across Cultures: Unleashing the Power of Diversity. It reminded me of the many rich insights at the conference into the role and impact of facilitation in international humanitarian work, not least from our keynote speakers from the World Economic Forum, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs. This is as diverse and complex a context as a facilitator is likely to meet! There’s also a great piece from Fran O’Hara on her use of graphic facilitation in conjunction with the World Cafe method at our closing plenary, and well-deserved acknowledgement and thanks to all who made the conference happen.

Gillian Martin Mehers, Kathy Jourdain and Simon Burall also contribute this issue, on ‘tinkering, making and mashing’, ‘Hosting Self’ and ‘Supporting public engagement’ respectively. And of course there is news of IAF, not least from Pamela as she retires as IAF Europe Director and from Martin Farrell as he succeeds her.

Well done and thank you to editor Rosemary Cairns, the IAF Europe team and to all involved, for helping to make Europe such a stimulating place to be a facilitator!