Another year in freelance facilitation, now both online and in-person again

Wallace Space Euston

Scaling up engagement and dialogue the power of facilitation and communications in partnership #FacPower

Last summer as I reviewed the year to June 2021, I wondered when I might finally be tempted to accept any face-to-face work again. As it turned out, after 2 years of the COVID19 pandemic spent working exclusively online, the last quarter of this year to June (and July too) were all about in-person events.

As in previous years, I shall share here in this longer read some data and reflections on the last year of my professional practice, and some insights and implications for my future practice and professional development. It is broadly a four-level ORID reflection again, of course.

In this past year to June 2022 I delivered 19 contracts for 15 clients. That compares with 32 contracts for 22 clients the year before, and 25 for 19 the year before that. I had been so busy in 2020-21 that I had resolved to be more selective this year in my client commitments. Whether that is what resulted in the reduced workload or whether fewer opportunities came my way, the outcome was welcome and I was very pleased to have had the contracts that I did.

This past year’s contracts involved a total 76 individual online sessions and 2 in-person events in Belfast and London. That compares with more than 100 online sessions and none in-person the year before; and before that 14 in-person, one ‘hybrid’ and 16 wholly virtual events (of one or more sessions).

I Declare A Climate Emergency

I resolved in January 2020 to restrict my travel mostly to places accessible to London without flying, and of course to try to travel less and work more online (that worked out well). So it suited me well that my international clients continued largely to request online work and my first two contracts for in-person events were both in the UK and one within walking distance in London. I have been happy to return to working in-person only in the last quarter and to return to hybrid working not at all (yet), and I have been happy to better acquaint myself with rail & ferry routes to Northern Ireland.

For one contract this year I was sub-contracted to a colleague and for nine I sub-contracted to one or more colleagues myself (or in one case licensed a colleague to deliver a training session independently). That compares to 10 & 19 last year and 7 & 4 the year before. So I have returned to working more on my own client contracts, compared to last year. Compared to before the pandemic, however, my work has continued to be more collaborative and involve much more co-facilitation. My contracts have often been larger as well.

Partners that I have contracted with this past year include again ICA:UK colleagues Megan Evans and Orla Cronin, and this year IAF colleagues Marie Dubost, Charo Lanao and Hector Villarreal Lozoya. I have otherwise collaborated also with others of the ICA:UK team and that of Orla Cronin, and with many IAF colleagues – some mentioned below.

Clients I have worked with have again included largely UK charities and international NGOs, although this year also UK devolved government and no European agencies, contractors, associations or NGO networks.

Of this past year’s contracts, 7 involved facilitation while 7 involved training and 6 involved coaching and consulting. That compares to 11 facilitation, 18 training and 7 coaching & consulting the year before, and 7 facilitation & 16 training the year before that. So my facilitation and training work have returned to their previous more or less equal balance, and the proportion of contracts involving coaching and consulting has continued to rise – that too has been welcome.

Facilitation contracts this past year have ranged in scale from a single session of 60-90 minutes at relatively short notice to as many as 17 sessions collaboratively designed and prepared over several months:

  • with Amnesty International, design and lead facilitation of a series of 17 sessions of the online 2021 Global Assembly, involving a multilingual team of 5 facilitators and 3-4 delegates of each of almost 70 member entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish
  • with Oxford Properties on behalf of Traction Strategy, breakout session facilitation for an online Global Leadership Conference of around 300 delegates
  • with the Portuguese Refugee Council and Amnesty International Ireland, design and facilitation of a second online Best Practice Convening session of around 50 key actors in Community Sponsorship of Refugees across Europe
  • with Amnesty International, design and facilitation of an online team-building session for the International Board, Coalition Leadership Team and Governance Programme staff of the International Secretariat
  • with the Natural History Consortium, design and facilitation of a series of six online conversations bringing together 90 diverse stakeholders at ‘Communicate’, the UK’s conference for environmental communicators
  • with Amnesty International, Europe & Central Asia region, lead design and facilitation of a 5-session online Regional Forum involving over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations
  • with Global Fishing Watch, design and facilitation of a 3-day retreat of the global Executive Team of 14 in London

Ann Burroughs

Ann Burroughs, Chair of the 2021 Global Assembly and Preparatory Committee, Amnesty International, wrote in a recommendation:

“Martin and his team provided outstanding support during Amnesty International’s 2021 Global Assembly which for the first time was held entirely online. They were integral in the planning of the model which helped to ensure broad participation and access for delegates of almost 70 member entities. Their experience and familiarity with facilitating online spaces were game changing and were critical in helping to build trust in the process and in a new model of digital governance.”

Savita Wilmott

Savita Willmott, CEO, The Natural History Consortium, wrote:

“Martin supported our charity in January 2022 to bring together 90 diverse stakeholders into a series of six online conversations in a single day. We were looking to tackle complex environmental topics, and have strong outputs. His advice and support was invaluable to design an effective programme for the day as well as to expertly facilitate the session alongside another facilitator. We achieved our aim of avoiding a “talking shop” – the outputs of the session are informing our strategic work six months later, and the connections made between organisations are thriving. Martin strikes a brilliant balance between flexibility and attention to detail, and we’d recommend him without hesitation.”

Training contracts this past year have ranged in scale from a single introductory session for one group to a series of multi-session courses for multiple groups:

For the first year since 2014, I offered no scheduled public ToP facilitation training myself this past year. Instead, I have invited participants to register with ICA:UK or another ICA worldwide. I have welcomed the reduced workload and risk that has resulted, and I have no plans at present to resume a paid public training offering.

I have expanded and clarified my offering of in-house facilitation training to include tailored courses that were not previously offered on a public schedule, and to make clearer which courses are now available online or in-person or both.

Coaching and consulting contracts this past year have again ranged in scale from one or two one-hour sessions with a single coachee to providing coaching and consulting support for multiple teams to design and lead a multi-session international event:

  • with Lindsey Green of Frankly Green +Webb, facilitation coaching in support of strategic planning with clients in the museum and arts sector
  • with Nicole Moran of Advisory & Facilitation Services, facilitation coaching in support of online strategic planning and focus group sessions
  • with Action Aid International, facilitation coaching and support for the Convener, Organising Committee and Governance staff of the Global Secretariat in preparation for sessions of the online Annual General Meeting

Nicole Moran, Global Development Advisory & Facilitation Services, wrote in a recommendation:

“Martin is the perfect coach, blending expertise and experience in the finest manner to provide excellent coaching and training support to me. His professional, encouraging and non-judgmental approach helped me venture to use a range of approaches, online platforms and tools – whether for training, review meetings, presenting the results of an evaluation. Since 2020 when Covid redefined our ways of working and relating, my work has shifted almost entirely to the virtual platform. I felt it important to get some expert guidance to ensure that I select the right tools and approaches for online working and continue to remain as efficient and effective as possible with my clients, my team and others. I am grateful for the professional support and guidance of Martin and looking forward to Martin’s continued guidance.”

In my volunteering, I have not (yet) been tempted to take up any new leadership role and have instead enjoyed contributing on a more ad hoc basis to a number of projects, more and less facilitation-related.

I continued my social media support by tweeting for Facilitation Week, as I have since the first #FacWeek in 2013, and by managing the website and social media for the Power of Facilitation book project. Having managed the website and social media for ICA International since I stood down as President in 2016, I was pleased to be able to support the new ICAI Board this year to appoint a new website and social media manager to succeed me (the fabulous Rena Koç) and to see a welcome refresh of the ICAI website.

IAF Facilitation Summit 2021

For Facilitation Week I also co-hosted two sessions of the IAF Facilitation Summit in October – ‘Facilitating Breakthrough: How to Remove Obstacles, Bridge Differences, and Move Forward Together’ with Adam Kahane and ‘Scaling Up Engagement & Dialogue’ with Michael Ambjorn, both drawing on recently released publications.

For the Power of Facilitation I also continued to work with fellow contributors to promote the book, during Facilitation Week and otherwise, and so to use the book to promote the power of facilitation worldwide. As well as supporting and promoting online ‘meet the author’ sessions and articles, book reviews etc, I supported more than 80 IAF colleagues around the world to convene and start to work to translate the book into more than a dozen languages.

For ICA:UK and ICA International, I also continued to participate in the UK ToP Associates network and the ICAI Global ToP Advisory Group, and latterly in the new ICAI Global ToP Community of Practice.

For IAF, I continued to serve as a mentor in the IAF mentoring programme, working again with two mentees in parallel this past year.

Manal Sayid, Facilitator, Consultant and Trainer, wrote:

“Martin has provided everything I could hope for in a mentorship relationship! He was super helpful in his sharing of relevant resources, his guidance in terms of all the questions I had, and I felt like we built great rapport and therefore could share some challenges and vulnerabilities candidly!”

I began to offer free facilitation coaching in November, which enabled me to support six young people during the year in their work for climate justice, gender equity or anti-racism.

Jacob Warn, Activist, Teacher & Consultant, Europe Must Act, wrote:

“What a fabulous [free facilitation coaching] session! Can I just say on behalf of us all how thankful we are – what an ‘espresso-shot’ of insight and wisdom, it’s really so generous of you to support in this open way and just so appreciated. I can’t wait to explore the various links you’ve shared and reflect more on the questions you’ve prompted, and we would really gladly take up your offer to have another session to workshop our upcoming strategy session in 2022!”

Ukraine anti-war protest, 6 March 2022 in London

I have been glad to be able to support Ukrainian colleagues in Ukraine and elsewhere since the Russian invasion in February, not least as part of a loose network of facilitators, trainers and consultants in Ukraine and around the world that has met weekly online led by ICA USA ToP colleagues of the Global Synergy Group.

I have been awed and inspired by much of the resolve, resistance, solidarity and leadership that I have seen in response to the war, and grateful to those colleagues in Kyiv who have challenged me to realise that every show of support is valued, and that support that is unseen and unheard is no support at all – see Facilitator neutrality in the context of war and oppression #StandWithUkraine.

Join our new Online group, Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events!

For the Gay Outdoor Club I stepped up from my social media support role to launch and co-ordinate a new Online group as well, and to host regular online socials – inspired in no small part by my 5 years of hosting free facilitation meetups of IAF England & Wales. Of course I didn’t join GOC to attend online meetings, least of all to lead them! It has turned out, however, that there is a real interest in connecting, meeting and socialising online, even among members of an outdoor club like GOC, as evidenced by responses to a feedback survey in May. I have been glad to be able to apply my professional skills to support the club and fellow members in this way.

Exploring feminist facilitation

My professional development has been focused largely on Exploring feminist facilitation and, more broadly, how I can ensure that my own practice as a professional facilitator is more effectively and explicitly feminist, anti-racist and anti-oppressive.

What was most helpful for me in this was participating this year in the 12-week online feminist leadership development programme of We Are Feminist Leaders. This provided me with a comprehensive framework by which to understand what feminism brings to leadership, and thus to facilitation, and also a powerful demonstration of what feminist, anti-racist and anti-oppressive facilitation can look like in practice.

I have continued to value the professional community and facilitation meetups of IAF England & Wales as a participant, and particularly this year’s hybrid Re-Facilitation Conference which I attended online. I found that an inspiring demonstration of how effective hybrid facilitation can be, even with a minimal budget but at least a collaborative team of experienced facilitators and a lot of good will. It inspired a number of valuable articles and blog posts too, not least from SessionLab the very thorough An honest* guide to planning and facilitating successful hybrid events.

My recent return to in-person working has led me to reflect and draw some initial conclusions on Mitigating COVID risks for in person and hybrid events to inform contracting discussions with future clients and groups.

While for many in the UK the COVID pandemic is effectively over, for others here and elsewhere it clearly isn’t. There are risks to my own work and health to consider as well as those of my clients and groups, and some potential for ethical dilemmas to arise. With a more or less equal mix of online and in-person events in the pipeline for the coming months, I do now feel better prepared to navigate the risks.

I shall certainly take advantage of the autumn booster vaccination promised for over-50s in the UK as soon as that is available. I shall continue to approach opportunities for prospective hybrid events with even greater caution than I did before the pandemic, careful to try to ensure that expectation and ambition are aligned with resources (or vice versa) and that valuable opportunities for asynchronous collaboration are not overlooked in a rush to synchronous hybrid working.

Another rail route that I have been happy to acquaint myself with has been the high-speed line from Paris to Barcelona, after I resolved during something of a sabbatical in Sitges two years ago to try to spend more time there more often. It is a real privilege to be able to work in such a way as to be able to do that, and I am thankful that COVID-related travel disruptions affected our last trip barely at all for the first time since we went back.

Such disruptions did prevent me from taking more than one week of intensive Spanish class while I was there, but I have taken to attending Spanish conversation meetups in London now as well. It was a wet and windy week in the Outer Hebrides this month that distracted me from my daily Duolingo Spanish practice sufficiently to bring and end to more than a year-long streak in the Diamond League – if you are familiar with that little green owl, you may feel my disappointment!

Thank you for following…


See also about me, how I work, who I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Are you planning an online conference, Forum or General Assembly?

Free facilitation webinar: Taking your event online: what could possibly go wrong?


Below is a ‘menu of services’ that I have been able to provide to a number of clients planning such online events in recent years. Please contact me as early as you can if you could benefit from such support as you plan, prepare and deliver your own event.

The scope and scale of service delivered for these recent projects has ranged from just a few days of consulting and coaching from myself alone over a week or two, to a larger package of consultation, coaching and Introduction to Facilitation Online training with multiple teams from myself and a co-facilitator over several weeks, to anything from 10 to 50 days or more of comprehensive support over several months from myself and a larger team with diverse skills able to provide many if not all of the menu of services.

Colleagues that I have collaborated with on such projects recently have included Orla Cronin, Marie Dubost, Charo Lanao, Judy Rees, Hector Villarreal Lozoya and Bruno Selun – I am thankful to them for the teamwork that has made many of these projects possible.

Recent such client contracts have included:

  • with Action Aid International, facilitation coaching and support for the Convener, Organising Committee and Governance staff of the Global Secretariat in preparation for sessions of the online 2021 Annual General Meeting
  • with Amnesty International, design and lead facilitation of a series of 17 sessions of the online 2021 Global Assembly, involving a multilingual team of 5 facilitators and 3-4 delegates of each of almost 70 member entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish
  • with Amnesty International, Europe & Central Asia region, lead design and facilitation of a 4-week online 2021 Regional Forum involving over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations in over 20 sessions
  • with OMCT, design consulting and facilitation training over 3 months in support of the first online Global Week Against Torture in 2021
  • with Oxfam Ireland, online facilitation training and coaching with staff in Ireland and of six African programme partners, in support of their first online Annual Partnership Meeting together in 2020
  • with the ISEAL Alliance, online facilitation training and coaching in support of their first online ‘Members’ Month’ in 2020
  • with ILGA Europe on behalf of Kumquat Consult, design consulting and facilitation training in support of the first online ILGA Europe 2020 Annual Conference
  • with Amnesty International, design and facilitation of a series of six online Global Strategy Labs involving around 150 delegates representing 70 national entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish in 2020
  • with the Amnesty International Europe & Central Asia region, lead design and facilitation of a 3-day online 2020 Regional Forum involving over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations – blog post
  • with FAO, design and facilitation of the 2015 online conference “Economics of Climate Change Mitigation Options in the Forest Sector” engaging over 900 international experts – case study

“Martin and his team provided outstanding support during Amnesty International’s 2021 Global Assembly which for the first time was held entirely online. They were integral in the planning of the model which helped to ensure broad participation and access for delegates of almost 70 member entities. Their experience and familiarity with facilitating online spaces were game changing and were critical in helping to build trust in the process and in a new model of digital governance.” – Ann Burroughs, Chair of the 2021 Global Assembly and Preparatory Committee, Amnesty International – Sep 16, 2021

“Together with other folks at the Kumquat team Martin helped us to organize the ILGA-Europe Gathering Online 2020. Organizing a large event online for the first time came with many questions and challenges. Martin particularly helped us with providing training and assistance to put together the flow of the programme and to ensure that we were ready to facilitate the many spaces that our event was made up with. It was a pleasure working with Martin!” – Björn van Roozendaal, Programmes Director at ILGA-Europe – Feb 25, 2021

“In November 2020, Martin provided invaluable support to Oxfam Ireland in the build-up to a series of multi-stakeholder online workshops. He provided tailored ‘coaching sessions’ to our team, which helped us to prepare and deliver several engaging virtual sessions. These sessions directly catered to our needs, building our ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ virtual facilitation skills and knowledge. Furthermore, he also co-facilitated an in-house “Introduction to Facilitation Online” workshop with colleagues across Southern and Eastern Africa. This excellent workshop was well received by all participants. Thanks, Martin!” – Rosa Brandon, Programme Quality Officer at Oxfam Ireland – Feb 22, 2021

“WOW! Awesome contributions from 200+ participants at the #ECCMOFS REDD+ online conference session. Feeling inspired @FAOForestry”  – Ruth Mallett, Consultant at UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – February 13, 2013


Menu of services

Before

Project management: We can work with you to clearly define the project and its boundaries, starting from a clear purpose statement (including outputs and outcomes) that will help align your various stakeholders’ expectations of the event. We can help you make it operational by translating it into a clear project plan and division of responsibilities, and we can accompany you in delivery.

We will recommend using an online project management tool across the entire team (internal and external) to achieve and maintain this throughout – we can provide and support you to use Basecamp or Asana, or join an existing platform you’re already using internally, or we can support you to acquire and use your own platform. Such a platform will be crucial to deliver such a complex project on schedule.

Conceptualisation: Support for the overall design and conceptualisation of a coherent event, including flow, timing, duration and format to maximise engagement and participation to best meet your aims and ambitions within your constraints, including budget and capacity. We can help you to identify what types of sessions should be offered (including format, degree of participation, types of outcomes, etc.), allowing you to then populate the programme using those session types.

Participation design: We can work with you to identify what sort of participation (how much, how broad, how deep) each session type will require, and the number of participants expected or desired. These will make up the event’s participation requirements, which with security & accessibility requirements will allow us to advise which service(s), platform(s) and/or tool(s) you should consider.

Session call & selection: We can support you in the setup and running of a session call, proposal and selection system for submitters, reviewers and decision-makers – including technical support, training and assistance

Communication: We can advise you on how and when to communicate with prospective and confirmed participants, session leaders, speakers and other stakeholders in order to manage their expectations and preparations in alignment with those of the event as a whole.

Platform selection & setup: We can help you in researching and reviewing available options and selecting an online event platform to meet your specific requirements, including in relation to security, pricing, functionality and much more. We can help you with setup and troubleshooting of your selected platform, including the pre-registration, registration, event and post-event phases

Additional tools: Depending on your requirements and choice of platform, we can support you to select, configure and use additional tools for participant inclusion and engagement, e.g. for interpretation, voting, Q&A, brainstorming, visualisation, networking etc.

Facilitation training & coaching: We can help you determine how to best recruit additional facilitators if needed, whether volunteers or professionals. We can design and deliver bespoke facilitation training, drawing on a range of existing and well-established training modules (see above). We can offer tailored coaching & troubleshooting sessions for session facilitators and producers, individually or in pairs or small teams, to support them in their session design and preparation.

Technical preparation: We can help you with the technical preparation of your team, speakers and moderators to run their sessions through the event platform – technical checks, testing all platforms & tools used to ensure they’re familiar with them on the day

During

Technical support (a.k.a. production): On-call technical support for the full duration of the event, both inside and between sessions, to ensure everything goes according to plan, and to deliver backup solutions in the event of a failure (e.g. if a speaker or session leader can’t connect)

Facilitation support: We can help by facilitating or producing particular sessions or parts of sessions for you, or the whole event, or by co-facilitating or co-producing to support your own session teams to do so

After

Evaluation: Design, delivery and analysis of a bespoke evaluation survey to collect actionable feedback from your participants regarding what went well, what didn’t, and how to improve future events


See also free facilitation webinars including:

See also about mehow I work and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Free facilitation coaching for youth social justice and sustainability work

Amnesty International Activism Hackathon, 2017 in London - photo Amnesty, facilitation Martin Gilbraith #ToPfacilitation 3


Could you use some support to address a facilitation question or challenge you are facing, to design or prepare an upcoming workshop or process, or to reflect and learn from some recent experience?

Are you up to 35 years old and using facilitation in your work for climate justice, gender equity or anti-racism, or otherwise in response to systemic injustice and oppression or toward achieving a just and sustainable world for all?

If so, read on and feel free to request a first free facilitation coaching session via my online scheduling calendar below.

If you are over 35, working on something else or able to pay, if you are interested in coaching for others or in longer-term support for your professional development as a facilitator, please contact me to ask about my availability and rates for paid facilitation coaching and mentoring – including discounted rates for voluntary organisations & independent professionals.

Free facilitation coaching

I am happy to offer, free of charge:

  • up to three online sessions of up to 45 minutes each, over up to six weeks
  • support for you only, or for you plus one or two others sharing the same question or challenge
  • to review any material that you share in confidence with me in advance of each session
  • to listen actively with curiosity, care and respect
  • to ask questions, to support you to reflect and learn from your experience and come to your own conclusions or solutions
  • to offer feedback and ideas from my experience, and refer you to any relevant resources and sources of support that I can.

In return, I hope that I may be inspired by your work and that I may learn from your experience.  If you find the coaching helpful, I shall be grateful for a short recommendation outlining how it helped.

Rosa BrandonRosa Brandon, Programme Quality Officer at Oxfam Ireland, wrote Feb 22, 2021:

“Martin provided invaluable support to Oxfam Ireland in the build-up to a series of multi-stakeholder online workshops. He provided tailored ‘coaching sessions’ to our team, which helped us to prepare and deliver several engaging virtual sessions. These sessions directly catered to our needs, building our ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ virtual facilitation skills and knowledge. Thanks, Martin!”

Request a first free session

Please scroll down in my scheduling calendar to request a first free session from 2-10 days ahead:


I may cancel your session if your request or eligibility is unclear or if my availability changes. Please give at least 24 hours notice if you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment for any reason, and I shall do the same for you.

If you do not find a suitable session time available, please try again after a few days or more. Please contact me with any queries.


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Reflecting on a year of freelance facilitation online, and looking ahead

Scaling up engagement and dialogue the power of facilitation and communications in partnership #FacPower

I Declare A Climate Emergency

This time last summer, as I reviewed the year to June 2020, I reflected that my January 2020 resolution to travel less and work more online had worked out well so far. I am still wondering when I might finally be tempted to accept any face-to-face work.

As in previous years, I shall share here some data and reflections on the last year of my professional practice, and some insights and implications for my future practice and professional development. It is a four-level ORID reflection, of course.

In the year to June 2021 I delivered 32 contracts for 22 clients. That compares with 25 contracts for 19 clients the year before, and 25 for 14 the year before that. As my work has gone wholly online the past year, and part of the year before, numbers of contracts and clients have risen. It has felt busier too. After deciding and then failing to keep this summer largely free of client commitments, I am appreciating that I have now finally made some time to catch up and reflect.

This past year’s contracts involved a total of more than 100 individual online sessions and no travel at all. That compares to 14 face-to-face, one ‘hybrid’ and 16 wholly virtual events (of one or more sessions) the year before, involving 28 nights away from home for work; and 31 face-to-face and just one virtual event the year before that, with 47 nights away. My business expenses for travel and accommodation fell to zero for the past year, and with them the associated carbon impact (and the many transactions to be recorded and reconciled in the accounts).

Introduction to Producing Virtual Events

Because most online sessions require a producer as well as a facilitator, or two or more facilitators to share those roles, most of these these contracts have involved working as a team. For ten I was sub-contracted to a colleague, and for 19 I sub-contracted one or more colleagues myself. That compares to 7 and 4 the year before. This past year I have worked solo hardly at all, whereas before the pandemic I worked alone more often than not. I have very much enjoyed the opportunities for broader and deeper collaboration with colleagues.

Partners that I have contracted with this past year include ICA colleagues Megan Evans, Alan Heckman, Jo Nelson and particularly Orla Cronin, and IAF collegues Marie Dubost and Bruno Selun. I have collaborated too with others of the ICA:UK team, and that of Orla Cronin, and with many IAF colleagues – some mentioned below.

Clients I have worked with have again been largely UK charities and international NGOs, European agencies and contractors, NGO networks, Associations and a few others. In addition to my usual mix of clients and projects in the fields of international development, humanitarian response and human rights, this past year has seen a welcome increase for me in environmental and climate justice work (another January 2020 resolution) as well as in health and education.

Of this past year’s contracts, 11 involved facilitation while 18 involved training and 7 involved coaching and consulting. That compares to 7 facilitation & 16 training the year before, and 14 facilitation & 14 training the year before that. So I find myself providing increasingly more training relative to facilitation, and increasingly coaching and consulting as well. I have enjoyed devoting more of my energy to supporting others in their facilitation roles and practice, and less doing it for them myself.

Tired but hopeful after an online Management Team “Away Day”

Facilitation contracts this past year have ranged in scale from a single session of 90 minutes at relatively short notice to a series of 20 sessions collaboratively designed and prepared over several months:

Julie Deutschmann, ACE

Julie Deutschmann, Communication Officer at Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE-CAE), wrote in a recommendation:

“We would like to thank and congratulate Martin for the work done to facilitate the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE) online Strategic Development Session. The preparation went very well and the integration of new digital tools into the session was very helpful in allowing for the valuable contribution from our members. The excellent facilitation provided by Martin and his colleague Orla allowed participants to articulate strategic thinking while sticking to the aims of the workshop.”

Barbara Weber

Barbara Weber, Director, Global Strategy and Impact at Amnesty International, wrote:

“Thanks for facilitating our online Strategy Labs – cross-regional, multiple languages. You supported us in focusing on the main issues. Very much appreciated.”

Introduction to Facilitation Online

My scheduled public training this past year has been limited to my Introduction to Facilitation Online session, which I provided 6 times publicly during the year and 9 times in-house. I worked with fellow ICA:UK trainers to develop and deliver the new Group Facilitation Methods I Online and with Orla Cronin to deliver and offer the new Introduction to Producing Virtual Events I Online session and Facilitating Virtual Events I Online course as well. Instead of offering the longer courses publicly myself, I have chosen to offer them in-house only and to refer individuals to the ICA:UK schedule.

Training contracts this past year have ranged in scale from a single introductory session for one group to a series of multi-session courses for multiple groups:

Louise Reeve, Policy and Communications Business Partner at Newcastle City Council, wrote in a recommendation:

“Some training to recommend from Martin Gilbraith – I attended his Introduction to Facilitation Online course. Whatever your experience level, you should find something in this training which can make your online sessions just that bit better and more enjoyable”

Enrico Teotti

Enrico Teotti, Agile coach and (visual) facilitator at Avanscoperta, wrote:

“I attended Martin’s ORID class online Group Facilitation Methods Online. The class was divided with practical homework and exercises which I find a great way to learn. Martin and Jo were great hosts able get in to deeper conversations when the group desired that still respecting the course agenda.”

Coaching and consulting contracts this past year have ranged in scale from one or two one-hour sessions with a single coachee to providing training, coaching and consulting support for multiple teams to design and lead multi-session and multi-lingual international conferences for hundreds of delegates:

Rosa Brandon

Rosa Brandon, Programme Quality Officer at Oxfam Ireland, wrote in a recommendation:

“Martin provided invaluable support to Oxfam Ireland in the build-up to a series of multi-stakeholder online workshops. He provided tailored ‘coaching sessions’ to our team, which helped us to prepare and deliver several engaging virtual sessions. These sessions directly catered to our needs, building our ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ virtual facilitation skills and knowledge. Furthermore, he also co-facilitated an in-house “Introduction to Facilitation Online” workshop with colleagues across Southern and Eastern Africa. This excellent workshop was well received by all participants. Thanks, Martin!”

Björn van Roozendaal

Björn van Roozendaal, Programmes Director at ILGA-Europe, wrote:

“Together with other folks at the Kumquat team Martin helped us to organize the ILGA-Europe Gathering Online 2020. Organizing a large event online for the first time came with many questions and challenges. Martin particularly helped us with providing training and assistance to put together the flow of the programme and to ensure that we were ready to facilitate the many spaces that our event was made up with. It was a pleasure working with Martin!”

Just as last year was drawing to a close in June, a new contract with Amnesty International was getting underway in preparation for its first online Global Assembly. This involved me and my team of Marie Dubost, Orla Cronin, Hector Villarreal Lozoya & Charo Lanao in the design and facilitation of a series of 16 Discussion Group sessions in July & August and parts of last week’s plenary meeting as well, with 3-4 delegates of each of 65 national entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish.

Dr. Anjhula Mya Singh Bais

Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, Interim Chair of the International Board, wrote:

“Martin has been an asset to Amnesty International. He was a consistent and compassionate presence through multicultural regional meetings and strategy sessions. Throughout 16 sessions of the online 2021 Global Assembly of Amnesty International, he demonstrated a high technical proficiency on the complexity of organisational procedures, terminology, and processes. He demonstrates that he truly hears and sees everyone and increased the quality of our participation.”

In my volunteering, I completed 5 years of chapter leadership with IAF England & Wales in December. That left me (happily) without regular Board meetings to attend for the first time in perhaps 25 years!

IAF E&W 2020 Annual Conference

For International Facilitation Week in October, the first online IAF England & Wales Annual Conference had attracted over 100 participants for a full week’s programme of over 25 peer-led learning and networking sessions, led largely this year by Susannah Raffe and others of the IAF E&W Leadership Team. The regular schedule of several free, online facilitation meetups each month continues still.

I continued to serve as a mentor in the IAF mentoring programme, stepping up my commitment this year to working with two mentees in parallel. I have continued to gain as much as I have given, and have very much enjoyed the opportunity to accompany fellow facilitators on their professional journey in this way.

Chizu Matsushita, Facilitator of dialogue and participatory community/team development, wrote:

“I grew from being not confident at all to quite confident about the facilitation skills I have been developing. I have felt a tangible impact. I now believe that a professional facilitator is a real and incredibly impactful profession through which I can make contributions in areas I deeply care.”

I have not been anxious to take on another long-term leadership role, but I have diversified my volunteer interests a little by turning my social media experience to tweeting since last September for the Gay Outdoor Club. This is a group that I have appreciated participating in for many years, all the more since I have been travelling less and keen to be outdoors more. I have continued to serve as volunteer webmaster for ICA International and to tweet for International Facilitation Week.

Facilitation Competencies for Agilists

I continued to host free facilitation webinars, although somewhat less regularly this past year and mostly only in response to invitations from partners. This happened to result in two sessions for different groups on Facilitation Competencies for Agilists, plus Is there a single, universal principle of facilitation? with IAF Belgium and Scaling up engagement and dialogue for the IAF global webinar series.

This last session drew on insights of previous work with Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg on the power of partnership between facilitation and communication, including research for a chapter in the book the Power of Facilitation #FacPower.

FacPower out now!

Now available since May, this book is free to download in order to enable and encourage everyone to read it and to share it.

For your free copy please click here or on the image (right), and for recordings of ‘meet the author’ sessions held over the summer see News – #FacPower.

Facilitating Breakthrough, Adam Kahane

I have been increasingly been invited this past year to contribute to, endorse or help to promote the publications of other colleagues as well, and I have been pleased to be able to do that. This has included an endorsement and an online session in support of More Than Halfway to Somewhere: how exposure to other cultures has shaped our lives with ICA colleague John Burbidge, a Foreword to How to Facilitate LEGO Serious Play Online by Sean Blair and most recently an endorsement and an online session (next month) in support of Facilitating Breakthrough: How to Remove Obstacles, Bridge Differences, and Move Forward Together by Adam Kahane. I am more than a little awe-struck to find my endorsement for that latter book listed next to one from Nelson Mandela.

In September I joined IAF Chair Vinay Kumar in exploring the rapidly growing field of virtual facilitation in a podcast Re-Tooling for Virtual Facilitation.

So what I have learned, and what are some implications for my future practice and professional development?

If keeping my resolution to travel less and work more online was ever going to be difficult, it didn’t turn out that way. Before the pandemic I had found it difficult to commit to multiple short online sessions over time while remaining available to commit to several days or a week at a time for a face-to-face event plus travel. Since my schedule has filled with short online sessions that can be delivered from home, or even elsewhere, I have had no appetite to commit to being in a particular place to deliver, nor to accept the risks and uncertainties now associated with working face-to-face. When I am finally tempted to accept face-to-face work again, it will most likely be at short notice and local to me or at least easy to reach without flying. My expectation is that I shall continue to work mostly if not wholly online.

When is online better than face-to-face

I find that there is ample continuing demand for online facilitation services, not least among international organizations and other distributed groups who may also be concerned to reduce the expense and carbon impact associated with meeting face-to-face. My experience has been that many clients and groups have been pleasantly surprised and impressed over the past year and more by what can be achieved online, that they continue to recognize that they have much to learn in order to best reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls, and so they continue to recognize the potential added value of professional facilitation services more than for the face-to-face context with which they are still much more familiar. While they are finding that meeting effectively online does not save all of the costs of meeting face-to-face, the savings can allow them to budget for facilitation that they otherwise may not have.

After growing and leading a team of Associates with ICA:UK over many years, and leading and managing larger and more collaborative client projects, I chose to keep my practice small and work largely solo since I went freelance in 2012. While I have enjoyed that, I find now that I have enjoyed leading and managing larger and more collaborative client projects again, online, so I am inclined to allow that to grow further.

After choosing to keep my taxable business turnover below the threshold at which I would be required to register for VAT, partly in order not to make my services more expensive to unregistered smaller clients and individuals on public courses, I have found myself unable to maintain that this year and I have had to apply to register. So I am inclined to accept the administration of VAT in preference to that of public courses, and to accept the potential loss of smaller clients and projects in favour of fewer larger ones.

I have enjoyed the growth of coaching, consulting and mentoring that has occurred organically in my practice over the past year and more, so I shall include those more explicitly in my offer in order to grow them further.

I have enjoyed working on several client projects involving international governance this past year, and finding my own governance experience relevant and helpful for that, so I am interested to see that grow further – and therefore I am interested that two such new opportunities have just arisen already in the past weeks.

I have been challenged by the Black Lives Matter movement and other recent manifestations and responses to systemic injustice and oppression, and by clients who have been similarly challenged, to reflect on how I might ensure that my own practice is more effectively and explicitly anti-racist, feminist and anti-oppressive, and to commit to working on that.

I have enjoyed continuing to advance my Spanish learning since returning from Sitges into lockdown last year, and finally being able to return for a first visit again last month. I hope to continue advance, and to continue to visit.

Thank you for following!


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

More Than Halfway to Somewhere: how exposure to other cultures has shaped our lives

More Than Halfway to Somewhere: how exposure to other cultures has shaped our livesRegister now for this free online session, July 22nd at 3pm UK time.

More Than Halfway to Somewhere: Collected Gems of a World Traveler, by former ICA staff colleague John Burbidge, may look like a collection of travellers’ tales, but probe a little deeper and you could be surprised by what you find.

John was kind enough to allow me to share one of the chapters of the book on my blog in December – Dancing on the Dunes – an excursion in Egypt’s Western Desert.  As I wrote myself for the cover, in this book:

“Burbidge leads you on a whistle-stop world tour of travelers’ tales rich with exotic locations, colourful characters and often extraordinary adventures. These are gems indeed, mined from a life lived as journey and sparkling with compassion and humour!”

See also the three excerpts (pdf) that John has shared as a taster for this session.

Using the book to launch a Zoom discussion, ICA USA Board member Nancy Trask will host this free online event, which will include:

  • John reading extracts from his stories, with a Q&A
  • participants sharing their cross-cultural experiences, and
  • a discussion on how our lives have been changed by living and working in other cultures.

The event is hosted by the ICA Social Research Center as part of its 2021 Global Schedule of Events.  I am pleased to join myself as a co-host.

Participants are encouraged to read the book beforehand. Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Apple and numerous other retailers worldwide. For details, visit the book page on John’s website www.wordswallah.com.

Register now for this free online session, July 22nd at 3pm UK time.


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Facilitating collaboration, breakthrough and transformation – three new publications for 2021

I have been pleased to have the opportunity to contribute endorsements to three forthcoming books recently, and to be able to recommend them all wholeheartedly – see below.

I have been a fan of Adam Kahane’s writing since his 2004 book “Solving Tough Problems: an open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities”, so I was delighted to learn that his latest (forthcoming in August) would focus in particular on his facilitation practice.  For an in-depth preview, I recommend also the series of conversations he recorded with Carol Sherriff CPF|M in her Facilitation Diversely series for International Facilitation Week last year.

I have known Penny Pullan personally for I think at least as long as that, as a fellow IAF member and Certified Professional Facilitator, now also a CPF|Master.  I have widely recommended her 2016 book Virtual Leadership. I particularly appreciate that this next book (forthcoming in July), of our present time, addresses what it takes to ‘make workshops work’ irrespective of whether they are online or face-to-face or both.

I have met Gwen Stirling Wilkie only this past year, through the online meetups of IAF England & Wales. Her new book (published this month) captures beautifully for me something of the journey that so many of us have traveled this past year, as we and are clients have had to take all of our work online.

See Publications for more books and articles for which I have contributed an endorsement, foreword or editorial support, others that I have reviewed in a blog post or on which I have hosted a free facilitation webinar with the author, and some which I have authored or co-authored myself.


From Physical Place to Virtual Space, Gwen Stirling WilkieFrom Physical Place to Virtual Space: How to design and host transformative spaces online

by Gwen Stirling Wilkie (Feb 2021)

This book provides a fascinating insight into the theory and practice of Dialogic OD, and the heartening story of how an initially skeptical facilitator and her client found that they could apply this approach online via Zoom, during the 2020 pandemic, and be delighted with the results as well! Many of the practical tips that Gwen shares here have broader application to other facilitation approaches and platforms as well – a valuable resource.


Making Workshops Work, Penny PullanMaking Workshops Work: Creative Collaboration for Our Time

by Penny Pullan (Jul 2021 forthcoming)

This is a wide-ranging introduction and an invaluable resource for anyone leading any sort of workshop, whether in-person or online or both – it is packed with tips and tools and rich with insightful stories… highly recommended!


Facilitating Breakthrough, Adam KahaneFacilitating Breakthrough: How to Remove Obstacles, Bridge Differences, and Move Forward Together

by Adam Kahane (Aug 2021 forthcoming)

Facilitating Breakthrough is thoughtful, reflective, and inspiring. To achieve breakthrough results on high-stakes challenges, facilitators need to raise their game. This book explains how.


See also about mehow I work and who I work with, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels and now online too.

Scaling up engagement and dialogue – IAF webinar recording & outputs

Scaling up engagement and dialogue - the power of facilitation and communications in partnership

Thank you again to the 100 or so who attended this session yesterday, and especially to IAF for the invitation and to Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg for co-hosting with me.

In this session we explored the ladder of engagement, and how we can climb it with those that we work with. We invited you to share your experience in changing the conversation, at scale, so we can all become better at it.  We explored together how the roles, skills and tools of the facilitation and communications professions can complement each other, and help us to scale up engagement and dialogue for positive social change.

We drew on some insights of previous work on the power of partnership between facilitation and communication, including research for our chapter in the forthcoming book the Power of Facilitation #FacPower.

We applied some of the tools of the two professions to generate new insights together, including four external digital tools in addition to zoom – Google Docs, Easyretro, Flinga and Mentimeter.


The slides, recording and other session outputs follow here:

Contact details and zoom chat have been shared by email with participants only – if you have not received yours, please contact me.


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels, and now also online.