Join a free facilitation meetup near you!

Are you interested in connecting, networking & learning with other facilitators and with others with an interest in facilitation in England & Wales?

Join us online, and at one of our free facilitation meetups near you!

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) is a participatory organisation with around 1,600 members in over 65 countries, and 40 local groups including IAF England & Wales (IAF E&W). As a professional association we set internationally accepted industry standards, provide accreditation, support a community of practice, advocate and educate on the power of facilitation and embrace the diversity of those who facilitate. To connect with others elsewhere in the world see IAF worldwide.

We are now over 400 ‘IAF facilitators & friends’ in three regional meetup groups, including over 65 members of IAF and 15 IAF Certified Professional Facilitators (CPFs), spread throughout England.

Everyone with an interest in group process facilitation is welcome, including facilitators and others who use or commission facilitation, and IAF members and non-members alike.

Please RSVP now for one of our regular free facilitation meetups near you:

RSVP now also for a special one-off meetup on June 15 in London with Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge introducing Cynefin and implications for ‘complex’­ facilitation.

All three regional groups will join together again for an all-day, all-England & Wales meetup for International Facilitation Week, in Birmingham on Saturday 21 October.  Join & RSVP in whichever group is more convenient to you – London & SE, North or South West.

We are working with IAF to schedule an additional Certified Professional Facilitator assessment event in the UK in November or December – for more information and to express an interest with IAF, please follow the link.

Please take a few minutes to complete our online survey, if you haven’t already, to help to make IAF England & Wales and our free facilitation meetups more valuable to you in the future. A new IAF E&W leadership team of nine will meet face-to-face in late May, to review your responses and to plan ahead to grow and develop our network and activities further, so please let us know your feedback and ideas now.

Please connect with us online also, by joining over 140 IAF England & Wales facilitators & friends in our facebook group, and by following and tweeting with IAF England & Wales on twitter. Join us also in the UK Facilitation Network group on LinkedIn.

For further information or with any questions, please contact me.

Adapt • Invent • Evolve: reviewing the past to prepare for the future at #EuroComm17

Thank you to everyone who participated in my plenary session Facilitating transformation: reviewing the past to prepare for the future at this year’s IABC Europe MENA conference #EuroComm17 in London today.

In the session I demonstrated a participatory approach for a group to review the past to prepare for the future, by applying the ToP Historical Scan method to reflect together on the journey of development of the communications profession.

Here I am sharing some links to some resources and case studies that I mentioned during the session, and perhaps some that I didn’t, plus (below) some some tweets from the session the timeline we created:

etf20

  • ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’) overview – pdf
  • The Art of Focused Conversation – book
  • Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning – blog post
  • Facilitation case study: Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20 – case study
  • Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’ – case study
  • Staff Away Day with George House Trust – case study
  • Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory in Copenhagen – blog post
  • #IAFEMENA17 conference, 13-15 October in Paris – IAF
  • ToP (Technology of Participation) facilitation training – blog
  • books and sticky walls – ICA:UK

Please share your own reflections in a comment below:

  • What can we learn from experience of the ever-changing and growing communications profession about how communicators might best adapt, invent, evolve and transform, as professionals and as a profession?
  • How might you apply this method, and facilitation more broadly, in your communications work?
  • What potential do you see for greater mutual learning and collaboration between facilitators and communicators, and for partnership between IAF and IABC?

For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Facilitating transformation: reviewing the past to prepare for the future at #EuroComm17

#eurocomm17

I am excited to be attending and presenting at this year’s IABC Europe MENA conference #EuroComm17 in London in March. It promises to be a fantastic opportunity for facilitation professionals to connect, learn & collaborate with their counterparts in the communications profession. Register now to join me, or contact me first to benefit from my ‘invite a friend’ discount code.

CCjkUYmXIAAZqK9.jpg largeIt seems that the time is increasingly ripe to bring our two communities and skill sets closer together. I was inspired by attending EuroComm15 in London two years to blog, in Power to the People, and the power of facilitation and communications in partnership, on the potential that I saw for greater mutual learning and collaboration between facilitators and communicators and for partnership between IAF and IABC.

#FacWeekChat 2015Since then I have collaborated with fellow IAF London member and past-IABC Chair Michael Ambjorn to engage members of both associations & professions on the question What does it take for people to align behind change? – first in a twitter chat and then in a webinar. Several IABC members have taken ToP facilitation training with me, joined IAF and even gained the IAF Certified Professional Facilitator designation. More recently IABC EMENA Board member Kasha Dougall has blogged on When communicators become facilitators, and IAF Denmark member Charlotte Ditloev Jensen has joined the EuroComm17 speaker list with her session Transformation from within: How facilitation techniques can expand the organizational impact of communication.

The theme of EuroComm this year  – TRANSFORMATION: Adapt • Invent • Evolve – is a key aspect of any ever-changing and growing profession. Presentations will cover everything from constantly reinventing ourselves as professionals, to keeping pace with technology, to navigating the ever-changing political, social and workplace landscape.

etf20In my own workshop, Facilitating transformation: reviewing the past to prepare for the future, I shall demonstrate a participatory approach for a group to review the past to prepare for the future, by applying the ToP Historical Scan method to reflect together on the journey of development of the communications profession. I will be joined by IABC past­-chair Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg and Alastair Macphail of the European Training Foundation (ETF) to share a case study of the method in action “Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20”  This project in 2015 won an IABC Gold Quill Award and an IAF Facilitation Impact Award. Participants will have an opportunity to reflect on how they might apply the method themselves. The session is adapted from my 2014 IAF conference session on the history of facilitation, in IAF’s 20th anniversary year, Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory in Copenhagen.

Register now to join me, or contact me first to benefit from my ‘invite a friend’ discount code. See you then!


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Evidencing facilitation competencies – four years on

CPF pinThis is the essay I wrote and submitted for my IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) re-certification in October, which has just now been approved. The requirement of the essay was to “link lessons learned since your original certification date to the IAF Core Competences, demonstrating changes in your facilitation style / behaviour, and indicating what growth you have experienced as a facilitator during the period since your last certification”.


In my 2012 recertification essay Evidencing facilitation competencies – reflecting on lessons learned I wrote “I have learned that I need to become more methodical in maintaining a record of my professional development in order to more easily and effectively renew my CPF in four years from now!”  Soon after that I established a spreadsheet to track contracts and events delivered and bid for, and clients and other relationships maintained, and I began a blog to publish and archive recommendations, case studies and other writing. As a result, I can now write with some confidence that, in four years since recertifying and going freelance in October 2012, I have delivered 62 contracts to 41 clients in 16 countries, involving 77 face-to-face and 13 virtual events and 52 facilitated processes and 38 facilitation training courses.

I shall use the IAF competencies again as a framework by which to reflect on and illustrate some of my professional experience, learnings and development in these past four years.

A. Create Collaborative Client Relationships

Beirut seafront 525x296I have continued to design and deliver longer and more complex processes with increasingly diverse and international clients groups. Increasingly these have involved virtual as well as face-to-face facilitation. Examples include a 9-month programme of member engagement and strategic planning with the International Council of Unitarians & Universalists (see UUA blog); a ‘One Country Strategy process’ with Oxfam in Lebanon (see case study) engaging around 150 stakeholders and multiple Oxfam affiliates; and an online conference “Economics of Climate Change Mitigation Options in the Forest Sector” with FAO for over 1,600 international experts (see case study).

Increasingly I find I am contracting remotely with overseas clients for multi-event processes that enable a launch event to include an element of co-design for later phases, for example in strategic planning with the Nansen Centre for Peace & Dialogue in Norway and with SSCL in Lebanon. Increasingly also I find that I am undertaking more complex contracting processes with more complex configurations of stakeholders. For example, collaborative design of a team retreat with the 60 staff of the Amnesty International Europe & Central Asia Regional Office this year engaged a fluid and semi-virtual working group of from 6-12 self-selecting group members over several meetings over several weeks. John Dalhuisen, my client for that retreat, wrote in a recommendation “Martin… will help you structure a meeting and think carefully about what you want from it.  Then he will get it for you.”

case study: Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20I continue to work solo with my clients very often, but also as appropriate with a co-facilitator, as with Our ETF, a Journey Together in Turin, or with a larger team. I was one of 6 international and 14 Ukrainian facilitators to co-design and facilitate the Ukraine PEACE Summit with ICA Ukraine in 2014, for 250 delegates from local government, business and civil society from the 27 regions of Ukraine to “dialogue on ways to solve issues locally, restore goodwill among all peoples of Ukraine and establish greater regional and city control while strengthening the country of Ukraine”. With Initiatives of Change I provided design and facilitation support to the international conference team of around 8 for the Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business conference at Caux, Switzerland (see recommendations).

B. Plan Appropriate Group Processes

I think the size as well as the diversity of my clients and groups has grown in the last four years. One of my aspirations for going freelance was to work more internationally, and now in fact most of my work is international. My clients have begun to include larger international NGOs, UN & EU agencies and global corporations as well small charities, social enterprises and consulting firms. I have worked much less with the UK public sector than before, perhaps in part as a result of public spending cuts in recent years.

My clients tell me that they appreciate my capacity work effectively with diverse groups. Eve Geddie wrote in a recommendation  “As a diverse, transnational, multilingual membership network, successful meetings are key to our internal and external successes. Many of our staff mentioned Martin’s [facilitation] training as a highlight in their end of year reviews – several said it was the most useful training they had ever attended”.

This week for the first time I facilitated with an international group of nine Health Ministers and ministerial representatives plus key advisors, in a one-day, closed and off-the-record Ministerial Forum as part of the 47th Union World Conference on Lung Health. In preparing the processes, time and space to be appropriate to this group and its needs I found myself departing significantly from my more typical facilitation practice. The meeting was not documented, and involved no writing or visuals except one wall poster and copies of the aims, agenda & delegate list.  The room layout and process allowed half of those present to attend as observers and advisers to individual participants, rather than as participants themselves, and protocol was carefully observed in the seating arrangement and speaking order.  The process involved several series of brief presentations followed by questions and discussion and interspersed with short breaks and opportunities for country delegations to confer among themselves. Participants remarked afterwards on the high level of interaction, hard work and accomplishment they had achieved together.

C. Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment

Case study: How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?In a blog post titled How engaging can a large facilitated online session be? I reflected on that question relative to my experience of an online conference designed and facilitated with FAO, involving over 1,000 participants in six 2-hour sessions over a  four week period. This turned out to be a steep learning curve for all of us in many respects, but the conclusion was largely very positive. My FAO clients joined me in sharing something of our experience in one of my free facilitation webinars.

I have found myself working more and more confidently with conflict in the past four years. This had been an explicit goal for myself in the previous four since my initial CPF assessment in 2008. The Ukraine PEACE Summit is an obvious and extreme example where conflict was front and centre in context and design, but many strategic planning and other processes I have facilitated in recent years have involved a more or less explicit element of conflict to be addressed. Several others have also involved conflict very directly in the context and content of the facilitation, for example working on strategic planning with Oxfam and SSCL in Lebanon in the context of the Syria crisis, with the Nansen Centre for Peace & Dialogue in Norway and with the Initiatives of Change Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business conference at Caux, Switzerland.

Working with interpretation in multi-lingual groups in recent years has stretched my communication & listening skills and my capacity for developing rapport with groups. I have found working with consecutive interpretation in Russia and Ukraine to be less of an obstacle to understanding and rapport than working with simultaneous translation between multiple languages, such as at IofC’s Caux conferences in Switzerland.

D. Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes

ORIDICA’s Technology of Participation methodology continues to serve me well as the foundation of my facilitation approach, to the extent that I have blogged and presented on the ORID model of ToP in Is there a Single, Universal Principle of Facilitation?  The presentation, shared at several IAF conferences & meetups, includes examples of how I have applied ORID in session design to produce a naturally flowing, focused and productive process, often in conjunction with other methods & tools of ToP and other approaches including World Café, Open Space and twitter chats.

E. Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge

Since 2012 I have attended 14 international conferences & regional gatherings of IAF, ICA & other Associations. In 2014 I led a six-month collaborative process, online and face-to-face at IAF conferences, to develop a collective story of facilitation as IAF celebrated its 20th anniversary –  Celebrating the development of facilitation – world-wide and history long. I have tweeted for International Facilitation Week @FacWeek since its inception in 2013.

What does it take for people to align behind change?I have organised IAF England & Wales free facilitation meetups since 2015, and I have attended, hosted and facilitated at dozens of IAF E&W free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere since 2013.  I have pursued and promoted interdisciplinary learning and collaboration among facilitation, communications and change management professionals, and between members of their Associations IAF, IABC & CMI – see What does it take for people to align behind change? and Power to the People, and the power of facilitation and communications in partnership.

Cast Study: IAF Facilitation Impact AwardI was awarded ICA Certified ToP Facilitator status in 2016 after an extensive process of reflection, documentation and assessment to evidence my ToP methods competencies in addition to core facilitation competencies. I won an IAF Facilitation Impact Award in 2015 for Our ETF, a Journey Together. I was inducted into the IAF Hall of Fame in 2014.

F. Model Positive Professional Attitude

I have practiced self-assessment and self-awareness through my blogging and through my CTF certification, as for example in Facilitation ethics and values – where do you draw a line?  In that blog post I gave examples of when I have declined opportunities to facilitate where I felt my integrity required it.

On my website and routinely in proposals I declare that “As a Certified Professional Facilitator, my clients are assured that I uphold the IAF Code of Ethics and that I demonstrate the full range of core Facilitator Competencies.”


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

IAF England & Wales facilitators & friends – please complete our survey!

iaf-england-wales-facilitators-friends-750x480

Are you interested in connecting, networking & learning with other facilitators and with others with an interest in facilitation in England & Wales?

Please take a few minutes to complete our survey, to help to make IAF England & Wales and our free facilitation meetups more valuable to you in 2017. See below for a preview of the 8 simple survey questions, and please complete your responses at surveymonkey.

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) is a participatory organisation with around 1,600 members in over 65 countries, and 40 local groups including IAF England & Wales (IAF E&W). As a professional association, we set internationally accepted industry standards, provide accreditation, support a community of practice, advocate and educate on the power of facilitation and embrace the diversity of facilitators.

If you have any questions about this survey or about IAF E&W, please contact me.

Thank you!
Martin Gilbraith, IAF E&W meetups organiser #IAFMeetUp


  1. First, please tell us about your connection with IAF E&W to date (please tick all that apply)
  2. Next, please tell us about your interest or experience in facilitation (please tick all that apply)
  3. Now please tell us what IAF events have you attended at least once in the past 2 years (please tick all that apply)
  4. What have you appreciated most about the events you have attended?
  5. What could have been better about the events you have attended?
  6. What different events, times or locations would encourage or enable you to attend, or attend more, in future?
  7. What other activities would you like to see from IAF E&W, or how else would you like to see IAF E&W develop?
  8. Please let us know where you are located – and, if you may be interested to help us to grow and develop our network and activities in 2017, your name & how to reach you.

Join me for ToP facilitation training in Brussels & London in 2017!

New! (April 2017) – Meetings That Work in Brussels and London in September – scroll down for details…


I am pleased to announce three pairs of public courses in Brussels again for 2017, plus a new Meetings That Work course in Brussels and London in September. Please join me if you can, and share these details with friends, colleagues and networks who might be interested.

Now in their 4th year in Brussels, 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.  Most are again scheduled in pairs to allow 1, 2, 3 or 4 days of training at once, in March, June, September & November – read on for courses and dates. For full details of each course, and to book, just follow the links from the course dates below.

I am pleased to offer discounted rates again to voluntary organisations and independent professionals, and in particular to ICA colleagues, to staff and members of Social Platform and other European NGO platforms, and to members of IAF & IABC. Please ask for details if you do not receive them through those channels.

Please contact me with any questions or for further details – including how to commission a tailored course for your group, and availability of scheduled public courses in the UK and worldwide.

See also ToP facilitation training – what’s it like, and is it worthwhile? and ToP facilitation training at your place – and free places for you!


Chris Mapitlan with certificate

“Meetings are a key part of what we do. As a diverse, transnational, multilingual membership network, successful meetings are key to our internal and external successes. Many of our staff mentioned Martin’s training as a highlight in their end of year reviews – several said it was the most useful training they had ever attended, and there was a clear consensus that we should work with him again.”

Eve Geddie, Deputy Director at Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)


Meetings That Work (New for 2017)

Practical tools to design and lead effective meetings 

2 days14-15 September in Brussels & 18-19 September 2017 in London.

How can I turn meetings into “events” that people want to attend? How can I increase participation, and get the best input and results from everyone?  How can I increase commitment to action, and handle difficult or controversial items?

This course will provide you with tips, templates and practical tools from professional facilitators that will enable you to get more from meetings than you ever thought possible. For this new course I shall be joined by Bill Staples of ICA Associates Inc of Canada as guest trainer.

Bill Staples is one of the founders of ICA’s Technology of Participation, a principal partner of ICA Associates Inc. of Canada, and one of the designers of Meetings That Work. Bill is happy to bring Meetings That Work to Europe for the first time in 2017, and will make the course come alive will illustrations from many fields. Bill has worked around the world with many organization and is well known in the field of facilitation. He is the author of Transformational Strategy: Facilitating ToP Participatory Planning, and is the publishing editor of the IAF Journal Group Facilitation. Bill is also a founding member of IAF, and was among the first facilitators to be inducted into the IAF Hall of Fame.


FC&CW method imagesGroup Facilitation Methods

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

2 days21-22 March, 20-21 June & 7-8 November 2017 in Brussels

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 PlanningAction Planning

Participatory planning for short-term projects and events 

1 day – 23 March & 22 June  2017 in Brussels.

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.


Participatory Strategic PlanningToP Participatory Strategic Planning

Bringing people together to create strategies for action

2 days – November 9-10 2017 in Brussels

“How can I enable my group to come to a common vision for their future? How can I help them make their vision happen by creatively addressing the root causes of the challenges that are blocking them, rather than focus simply on fire-fighting and problem-solving? How can I ensure a real sense of ownership, so that for once their plan actually happens?”

The course presents a structured long-range planning process which incorporates the ToP Consensus Workshop method for building consensus, the ToP Focused Conversation method for effective group communication, and an implementation process for turning ideas into productive action and concrete accomplishments. Those with more experience of facilitation, strategic planning or ToP facilitation may need no further support to apply the process effectively in their own situations, and for others the course serves as a powerful, experiential introduction to the process.


BOOK NOWor please contact me with any questions or for further details.

For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Aligning behind change for International Facilitation Week

What does it take for people to align behind change?
It’s International Facilitation Week! I began the week yesterday by hosting the latest of my free facilitation webinars “What does it take for people to align behind change?” and the latest of IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London, a social & networking evening at Kings Cross. A recording of the webinar is below with links to futher details and other outputs.

iaf_logo_ifw2015_rgb-01International Facilitation Week takes place each year during the month of October. Its purpose is to showcase the power of facilitation to both new and existing audiences and to create a sense of community among facilitators and their groups worldwide. Since its launch in 2013 the week has become a spark that ignites activities around the world to highlight the benefits of facilitation, the gifts of facilitators and the comradeship of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

To participate yourself in International Facilitation Week, simply follow and use the #FacWeek hashtag on twitter or other social media, and use it and the IAF global event listing to find and join an event near you or online.

This Saturday 22 October in central Birmingham I shall be hosting IAF’s first all-England & Wales, all-day free facilitation MeetUp – all with an interest in facilitation are welcome, IAF members & non-members alike.  RSVP now to join us there for networking & learning with other facilitators, and to help to celebrate & promote the power of facilitation worldwide!

In this session we explored what it takes for people to align behind change. This is the question that brought together 69 facilitation, communications and change management professionals over two one-hour twitter chats last October during International Facilitation Week 2015.

I was joined for this session by Michael Ambjorn, immediate past Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and one of my London-based co-hosts for the twitter chats; and again by Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

We invited you to share some of your own experience and insights on what can be done to help people to align together to make change happen. We shared six top tips and tools that were shared during the twitter chats, and how the 4-level ‘ORID’ model of ICA’s ToP Focused Conversation method was applied to structure the process. We shared examples of practical application including how over 1,000 IABC leaders were engaged, aligned and activated to extend the organisation’s reach and deepen its impact.

A particular aim for the session, as for the twitter chats, was to bring together facilitation, communications and change professionals, and all those with an interest in these fields, to connect with and learn from each other and to make connections and foster broader collaboration between our associations and between our professions.

Session materials & additional resources shared include:


Register soon on Eventbrite for the next webinar, and register your interests now on Surveymonkey.

For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.