Welcome to IAF England & Wales facilitators & friends’ free facilitation meetups!

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Welcome to IAF England & Wales of the International Association of Facilitators, and our IAF facilitators & friends’ free facilitation meetups!

iaf-ew-members-jul-2016We are currently around 300 ‘IAF facilitators & friends’ in three regional meetup groups, including around 65 IAF members and 12 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 free facilitation meetups near you:

All three regional groups will join together for an all-day, all-England & Wales meetup in Birmingham on Saturday 22 October for International Facilitation Week 2016. Join & RSVP in whichever group is more convenient to you – London & SE, North or South West.

Two CPF facilitator certification assessment days are scheduled for December 12 & 13 in London or Birmingham – to register for this event and be assessed before CPF fees rise in January, act now to submit your Part 1 application before the 15 September deadline – see Becoming a CPF.

Please use the meetup groups to convene additional meetups wherever & whenever suits you, according to your own interests in facilitation – please let me or another organiser know if we can be of any support.

Please connect with us online also, by joining over 100 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, you are welcome also to contact me as IAF E&W meetup organiser. I look forward to meeting up with you soon!

Join IAF facilitators & friends for regular facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere

IAF EMENA meetupPlease take a moment to join IAF London facilitators and friends for free on MeetUp, in order to join IAF facilitators & friends for regular facilitation meetups in London – or now also join IAF South West England facilitators and friends and IAF North of England facilitators and friends, and please contact me if you are interested in helping to establish a sister group for the English Midlands or for Wales!

I have recently taken over the role of meetup group organiser from IAF England & Wales Chair Julia Goga-Cooke, who has been our meetup group organiser for the past two years. Thanks are due to her, and to IAF Europe MENA Director Martin Farrell, who has hosted our monthly meetups at Connexions Trafalgar Square until now.

Julia & Martin were both ready to be relieved of their responsibilities for the group, so with their support I have identified some new venues near me in Kings Cross, which I hope others will find convenient as well, and I have scheduled a new pattern of meetups for the new year – starting now.  Thanks to the continued sponsorship of IAF, they will all remain entirely free – to IAF members and non-members alike.

Please also take a look at our upcoming meetups, outlined below and in detail on meetup, and RSVP now for those that you plan to attend.

chaosThursday 12 November, 6-8pm will see the last of the monthly Informal networking & sharing meetup that we have been running for two years on the second Thursday evening of each month. For this month only I have booked the meeting room at the Travelodge Kings Cross Royal Scot Hotel, as we have 11 already booked and a presentation from Sheila & Christopher Cooke of 5Deep on “Facilitating Through Chaos”.

IAF coffee cupWednesday 2 December, 8.30-9.30am will see the first of a new monthly Morning coffee meetup, on the first Wednesday morning of every month. I have scheduled the first at Half Cup, midway between Kings Cross and Euston. For future morning meetups I’ll welcome suggestions of other coffee shops elsewhere – somewhere different every month, or Half Cup if that works well enough. I’ll be glad to start earlier or stay later if that would suit others better.

IAF wine glassMonday 14 December, 6-8pm will see the first of a new bi-monthly Informal networking and social meetup, over drinks and/or food in a pub, cafe or restaurant on the 3rd Monday evening of every other month (except for this first one on December 14) . For this first one I shall book a table at the dining room of the spacious Parcel Yard gastropub within Kings Cross station.  For future evenings I’ll welcome offers from others to book us anywhere else in London that you want to suggest – we could meet somewhere different every time, or we could continue with the Parcel Yard.

IAFEMENA15 chaptersTuesday 19 January, 2-6pm will see the first of a more substantial bi-monthly Networking and learning meetup, for four hours on the 3rd Tuesday afternoon of every other month (alternating with the Monday evening social meetups). For these I have prebooked the meeting room of the Calthorpe Project community centre on Grays Inn Road, overlooking the community garden.

I hope that these meetups will allow time and space for us to demonstrate, practice and experiment with our facilitation together, and share feedback on that, as well as share presentations and support through discussion as we have been doing on our monthly Thursday evenings to date. I hope that the timing and location might also attract and enable people to travel from outside of London to join us as well – even from neigbouring IAF groups in Scotland, Paris or Brussels (we will be a 10 minute walk from the Eurostar terminal). There are of course plenty of pubs and restaurants nearby for those wishing to continue informally afterwards over food or drink, including a great value pre-7pm menu at the Union Taven.

IAFEMENA15 story tellingI have also suggested a one-day annual conference, perhaps during International Facilitation Week 2016 next October; and a CPF assessment event for IAF Certified Professional Facilitator candidates.  If we have enough CPF candidates for an assessment in London then that can be arranged with IAF, and we could even arrange some meetup support for candidates as they prepare their applications and portfolios.

Please contact me if you have any questions or other suggestions, or if you are interested to join me as a co-organiser of the London group – to share the leadership, to help to attract people to attend, present and facilitate at events, and to schedule any additional events.

For those based elsewhere in England & Wales, please join IAF South West England facilitators and friends and IAF North of England facilitators and friends, and please contact me if you are interested in helping to establish a sister group for the English Midlands or for Wales.

Finally, please let me know also if you are an IAF member and interested in joining the IAF England & Wales leadership team, as there are also vacancies for that. There is surely potential for further local activity beyond these meetup groups so, if you have ideas and are ready to help to make them happen, please step forward!

Join us now to RSVP for upcoming events, and for news and updates on future events.  I hope to see you soon!

IAF Brussels facilitators & friends meet up, 20 October

IAF_Logo_IFW2015_RGBAre you interested in meeting up in Brussels with other facilitators and others interested in facilitation, for informal networking & sharing – and to join in celebrating and promoting the power of facilitation during International Facilitation Week, 19-15 October?

Join me and IAF Belgium members from 5-7pm on Tuesday 20 October in central Brussels. Members and non-members of IAF (International Association of Facilitators) are equally welcome. The meetup will be free and informal.

Please RVSP on the doodle poll to indicate if you can join us and to see who else is coming, and contact me or add a comment to the poll if you can host us at your place or suggest a suitable central place to meet, or if you are interested in future meetups. Be sure to leave your email address if I may not not have it.  I shall confirm the venue on the doodle poll for those attending.

This is the first time for such a gathering in recent years, so the emphasis will be on getting to know each other and exploring interests and possibilities for future networking, learning and collaboration.  I shall be there to share the experience of the IAF London facilitators and friends meetup group, now in its third year of regular monthly gatherings. Your experience and suggestions are invited, for this first gathering and for the future.

I have been involved with ICA in Belgium for many years, and I have been delivering ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitation training in Brussels two or three time a year in recent years, from my base in London – my next Brussels courses are Group Facilitation Methods & Action Planning, November 17-18 & 19.

My experience suggests to me that there is a great opportunity to further promote facilitation and IAF in Brussels, at least – I am less familiar with Belgium as a whole. I am hoping to be able to refer participants on my Brussels courses to a local group, perhaps a future chapter of the IAF EMENA region, where they can network and learn with others and perhaps find other opportunities for mutual support and collaboration.

How do you see as the opportunities for networking with other facilitators in Belgium?

If you can’t join us in Brussels, please join us on twitter with the hashtags #FacWeek and #IAFMeetUp!

From Bromley to Stockholm – the IAF Europe MENA facilitation conference

This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in ICA:UK Network News #5, January 1998.  Join me and around 200 others from across the region and beyond at the 2015 IAF Europe EMENA conference, 16-18 October in Stockholm, #IAFEMENA15.


IAF EMENA Stockholm 2015

Sixty-seven participants attended this, the 3rd IAF Europe conference at a beautiful conference centre set in its own grounds in Bromley, Kent, on the weekend of November 1-2 [1997].  Participants came from as far afield as South Africa, Kenya, Israel and the USA as well as from a number of European countries.  Many came directly from the European Facilitators’ Network (EFUG) meeting hosted by BT in the City of London on the Friday, and three went on to attend the ICA:UK Group Facilitation Methods course in London on the Monday and Tuesday.

Although the majority came from a private sector background there were a number from the voluntary sector too.  Some came with a wealth of experience of a variety of facilitation approaches, others were relative novices.  Many were full-time facilitators, either employed as such by a large company or working independently on a consultancy basis.  Other ICA:UK members participating were Alan Berresford and Ann Lukens, and ICA colleagues from Belgium and the Netherlands also attended.

Sessions, presented by participants themselves, explored such issues as client-centred consulting, gender roles in facilitation, the 7 learning intelligences, celebrating cultural diversity, participatory approaches in rehabilitation of the blind and a facilitation perspective on educational change. Other sessions presented particular methodologies or facilitation approaches such as GroupSystems facilitation software, Future Search, thinking with hexagons and – the Technology of Participation (ToP) Consensus Workshop Method.

With the help of Dick Alton of ICA International, I took on the task of demonstrating the ToP Workshop method to a group of 25 or so, looking at “what are the essential “do’s and don’ts” of effective facilitation.  Given that we had only an hour to demonstrate and discuss the method, and given that many of the experienced facilitators in the group were more interested in taking the method apart as we went along than experiencing it as a participant first, I think the session went remarkably well!

ToP facilitation and Lessons from the Village

This article was written for ICAI Winds and Waves, April 2015 issue.

Welcome to this new issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, entitled ‘Lessons from the Village’.

ICA is perhaps most widely known today for its group facilitation methodology the Technology of Participation (ToP). This proven approach is applied by many hundreds if not thousands of professional facilitators around the world, to help groups to connect, learn and collaborate together in a wide variety of contexts. The International Association of Facilitators was founded in 1994 by some seventy such ToP facilitators, and many ICAs around the world today provide professional facilitation, training and consulting services to clients on a social enterprise basis, specialising in the ToP approach.  ICAI members ICA USA and ICA Associates and the ToP Network are proud to sponsor this year’s upcoming IAF North America conference in Banff, Canada, from May 14-16.  But what has all this got to do with Lessons from the Village?

Jawale village viewThe methods and tools of the Technology of Participation have been developed and refined by ICA in over 50 years of experience working in grassroots rural community development, in villages around the world. Most if not all ICAs continue to apply this approach to empower poor and marginalised people to participate meaningfully in bringing about positive change for themselves, for their communities and for the world, even as these ICAs work with other approaches and in other contexts as well.  There is more to the Technology of Participation than the methods and tools, and there is more to ICA than ToP, but it might be fair to say that ToP is among the most enduring of the Lessons from the Village that ICA has learned in its first half century.

Jawale ICA centreThis issue begins with a series of stories (pages 4, 8 & 10) of ICA colleagues revisiting today the Indian villages in which they were involved in ICA’s pioneering of the ToP approach in the rural Human Development Projects of the 1970s and 1980s. I began my own journey with ICA (and as a facilitator) as a fresh-faced international volunteer in one of these very villages in 1986, so I share a few of my own archive photos of Jawale here as well. Emerging lessons from these stories include the impact of urbanisation, the importance of connecting communities with local authorities, and the importance of values and methods to inspire, mobilise and empower volunteers.

Jawale ICA staff teamAlso in this issue you will find stories of peer-to-peer collaboration between ICAs today, including a youth media project involving students in Nepal and the USA (page 16); an online event on cross-border peace-building of ICA Ukraine with ICA Taiwan (page 23); and lessons learned by Global Facilitators Serving Communities on the role that ToP facilitation can play in supporting the recovery process and resilience of communities affected by disaster (page 20).

Jawale 9 programmes chartAs our colleagues of ICA Nepal now respond to the impact of April’s devastating earthquake, in Kathmandu and in rural areas, we encouarge you to show your support by responding to the appeal that they have launched – for details see page 28 and ICA Nepal on Facebook, and donate online now.  Many more of ICA’s Lessons from the Village can be found in the 2012 book of ICA Nepal ‘Changing Lives Changing Societies‘, published in conjunction with the 8th ICA Global Conference on Human Development hosted by ICA Nepal in Kathmandu.

This 11th issue of Winds and Waves is the last to be co-edited and laid out by John Miesen of ICA Australia, after some 30 years involvement in ICA publications in Australia and internationally. On behalf of the Board and ICAI as a whole, I thank John wholeheartedly for his years of service, and in particular for his central role in establishing Winds and Waves as ICAI’s flagship publication and a key tool of our peer-to-peer approach to facilitaing mutual support, learning and collaboration among ICAs.

The ICAI Board will meet face-to-face in Tanzania in May, prior to a regional gathering of East & Southern African ICAs. We plan to meet virtually during that time with the ICAI global communications team, to plan for the continuity and development of this magazine and our communications more generally, in the light of the new ICAI website and blog that is now in development in WordPress.

Please do contribute your own stories of advancing human development around the world to the next issue of Winds and Waves in August.

Please also get in touch if you may be interested in joining the team to support with commissioning, reporting, editing, layout and design, social media, or in any other way.

Enjoy this issue!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting started as a facilitator, a social entrepeneur and a freelancer

This interview was conducted by iGenius as part of their Getting Started interview series, and it is republished today to mark National Freelancers Day 2014. See also My first 416 days as a freelance facilitator, published this day last year.


 

As a facilitator, trainer and consultant, Martin Gilbraith help groups, teams and partnerships work more effectively together to bring about lasting change. What drives Martin is his passion and commitment to make a positive difference in the world, and to support and enable others to do so as well. Through his freelance work, Martin Gilbraith believes that facilitation and facilitative leadership will be key to achieving a just and sustainable world for all. The great reward of his work today is to see people awaken to their own power to make a difference, and to their capacity to join and align with others to achieve common goals for the greater good – to awaken to the power of their participation and their leadership. We spoke with i-genius member Martin Gilbraith to find out more.

i-genius: Why did you decide to go freelance?
Martin Gilbraith: I had been working with clients for years in my previous employed role, so when I stepped down from that I thought I’d carry on with whatever client work came to me while I considered my next move.  I pretty soon decided that I had found my next move, so I registered my own company and never looked back.  After years in management roles, it is a treat to be responsible for and accountable only to myself.

i-genius: What a good ingredient for a freelance consultant?
Martin: A friend and fellow freelancer once suggested to me that anyone who could be comfortable without a regular pay cheque every month could do no better than be their own boss and work freelance, and I think she has a point.

i-genius: Who’s/what’s been your continued source of inspiration?
Martin: For my whole career I have been involved in various ways with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), a global community of non-profit organisations and groups ‘advancing human development worldwide’. Many of the people I have met and worked with through ICA have been a source of inspiration for me, but most of all the practical methods ICA has pioneered by which ordinary people can and do change the world

i-genius: In what way is the work you do related to social enterprise?
Martin: Just as when I was employed as a charity Chief Executive, my income from client work enables me to volunteer and offer reduced rates and pro bono services to those causes that can’t pay higher rates. My most substantial volunteer commitment is as President of ICA International, supporting member ICAs in around 40 countries to support each other in their work. Many ICAs operate primarily through social enterprise, and most are actively seeking to to expand their social enterprise work.

i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up your freelance work?

Martin: I think I had it relatively easy because I had worked freelance before, and because I came back to freelance work after 15+ years working with clients and building my networks through that and various volunteer roles.  So I had my first freelance contract within weeks, and I was able to hit the ground running. The hardest part was stepping down from my previous role after so many years!

i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your client list?
Martin: I have relied primarily on social media, especially LinkedIn to stay in touch with people I know and meet and twitter to reach out to new people. WordPress has been great for a simple but effective website and blog.

i-genius: Whilst freelancing do you find it hard to balance free time?
Martin: Yes, but it helps that my partner has a regular job so when he gets home I know it is time to stop work! Scheduling and booking holidays can be tricky, especially if clients are proving slow to commit to dates

i-genius: How does facilitating play an important role in today’s society?
Martin: People increasingly expect and demand to have a say and an influence in matters that affect them, and increasingly organisations are expected to engage with people to enable that – and increasingly they recognise the value of doing so for themselves and their own goals.  Fortunately, facilitation skills and tools are available and can be learned, and the facilitation community is growing to help people to participate effectively and to enable others do so as well.  I can’t think of any more important work to be involved in, than to support and enable others to bring about positive change

i-genius: What is your favourite motto in life?
Martin: “The past is approved, the future is open and the present is a gift”


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.