Reflecting on another year of freelance facilitation

ORID the kitten at Group Facilitation Methods training in Brussels

October 1 will be exactly seven years since I went freelance as a facilitator, and on June 30 Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd completed its sixth full financial year. So, a relatively quiet week in the August holiday season offers a good opportunity again to pause and review the last year, and look ahead to the next. It is timely too, after 6-7 years, that the coming year offers an opportunity for something of a sabbatical (again)!

In the year to June 2019 I delivered 25 contracts for 14 clients in 7 countries. These involved 31 face-to-face events and one virtual, 14 facilitated processes and 14 facilitation training courses. I spent 47 nights away from home – 14 in the UK and 33 abroad. That all compares to 20 contracts for 16 clients involving 21 events in the previous year – and over the previous five complete years a total of 90 contracts to 53 clients involving 121 events. I also declined 25 prospective client projects during the past year, compared to 11 the year before, mostly because I was not available. I failed to win 11 that had I quoted for, compared to 9 the year before.

So, slightly fewer clients and nights away, but considerably more contracts and events – those declined and lost, as well as those delivered. Again, about half-and-half facilitation and training, and all but one face-to-face.

Returning clients in the past year have included Amnesty International, Oxfam, Water Harvest (formerly Wells for India), Xpedio and of course ICA:UK. New clients have included ABBYY (with CircleIndigo), BeLiminal, Greater Cambridge Partnership, EASL, Heinrich Boell Foundation Turkey, Malaria Consortium, Octopus Network, St. Luke’s Community Centre and Virtual Not Distant. I joined Nordic Consulting Group as an Associate on a new framework contract with SIDA.

So I have continued to work with international NGOs, foundations, associations, networks and alliances, and a few others, largely in Europe and the Middle East and particularly in London and Brussels. However, this year has seen the return of UK local authorities and multi-sector partnerships, after many years working with such clients on behalf of ICA:UK in the 2000s. New fields for me this year include agile coaching, software development, Results Based Management and remote team working.

I have extended my partnerships with ICA:UK and ICA Associates in the past year to offer more scheduled public facilitation training than ever before. These include courses of the IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ series and, in new partnerships with local IAF colleagues, public course dates in Edinburgh, Lisbon and Pisa as well as London and Brussels. Two courses in Brussels also included a kitten (pictured above), affectionately named ORID by the group!

My leadership role with IAF England & Wales again accounted for most of my volunteer time. My role was formalised this year by election to a new chapter Board, and appointment as Chair. Our programme of peer networking and learning meetups has grown to reach our growing E&W chapter membership of now 90, plus over 1,000 members of five regional meetup groups. Monthly tea and coffee networking meetups are held in 12 cities in most major population centres of England & Wales, and online, and longer networking and learning meetups are held bi-monthly in London and three times per year in other regions.

Our all E&W meetup for International Facilitation Week has been extended to a 2-day Annual Conference for 2019 – the Power and Practice of Facilitation, 18-19 October, with 55 already registered. Meetup hosts across the country have joined an expanded Leadership Team of now 24 members. We are supporting new sister meetup groups in Scotland and Ireland, and a new IAF E&W podcast team has begun to create a series of 10 episodes to support the programme, inspired by a session at a meetup.

I also joined the new IAF Global Mentorship Programme as a mentor, and began to meet regularly online with my mentee in Jordan. I attended the IAF Europe conference Agile Facilitation in Milan and participated in monthly online meetings of Europe MENA chapter leadership. I continued to participate in events of IABC UK, but not the IABC EuroComm conference this year in Bahrain. I continued to participate in the ICA:UK ToP trainers’ network and to serve as volunteer webmaster for ICA International, but I did not attend this year’s conference of the US ToP Network. Regrettably also I missed my first ICA Europe regional gathering for about 20 years, in Kiev.

After collaborating for some years with Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg to explore the intersect between communication and facilitation, and the power of applying facilitation and communications in partnership, we have co-authored a chapter on that topic for a forthcoming book on the Power of facilitation. We are part of a wider team of authors involving expert facilitators from around the world. The shorthand for the project is #FacPower and each chapter of the book will have a different focus. In combination the aim is to show the power of facilitation in various fields and contexts.

I have hosted four free facilitation webinars during the year, including one on that book project and two with the authors of two new books published during the year that I have been pleased to endorse – Rebecca Sutherns on Nimble facilitation and Jim Campbell on Facilitating Authentic Participation and the facilitation cycle.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have not found so much time this year for blogging. I published just 15 posts during the past year, of the 180 published in the seven full years since my first welcome post – but of course I have been no less active micro-blogging on twitter.

So, what of a sabbatical? October to March in Sitges in Spain will be mostly for my husband, following his recent retirement from career-long, full-time employment. I shall continue to work and travel as necessary, not least for existing client commitments in London and elsewhere, for scheduled public ToP facilitation training most months in London or Brussels, and for events including the IAF England & Wales annual conference in Birmingham and the ICA Europe regional gathering in Vienna.

However, I shall welcome opportunities to work virtually and locally in Spain during that time, including perhaps with ICA Spain and with the forthcoming IAF Spain chapter – starting with its timely launch event in Barcelona during International Facilitation Week in October.

I do intend to take time for myself also to reflect, write and learn, to look ahead to my next seven years of freelance facilitation – and to enjoy a little less busyness and a little more sunshine! I hope that regular readers may notice the difference on this blog, and that Spanish speakers may notice the difference next time they greet me with “Hola”!

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. 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.

ToP facilitation courses, taster sessions & webinars – what difference do they make?

While enjoying a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer, I have taken (quite) some time to review what ToP facilitation training courses, taster sessions and webinars I have delivered in recent years, and what I can learn from feedback shared by participants at the time.

Full results are shared in the slides above. This draws on the experience of 47 training courses, 13 conference & meetup taster sessions and 7 webinars in the past 5 years, reaching a total of 1,089 participants. This is in addition to tailored facilitation processes that I have delivered – 24 in the past year and 52 in my first four years of freelance practice.  See also ToP facilitation training – what’s it like, and is it worthwhile?

Feedback for ToP training courses in particular is largely very high, as it has been for the 20 years I have been delivering them – the average of participant ratings for design & delivery, of all the 37 courses over the past 5 years for which data is available, is 9.1 out of 10. Included in the slides are some conclusions of my own on what is most appreciated and what suggestions for improvement I should consider, and how I have already begun to act on some suggestions.

But… what difference do they make?  

What do participants remember and apply of what they have learned, months and years later? With whom do they apply what they have learned, and what (greater) difference are they now able to make with them? What supports or hinders them from applying what they have learned? What additional recommendations can they make for the courses, sessions & webinars, with the benefit of hindsight? What additional training or support might they find helpful – from me or from others?

If you have participated with me in courses, taster sessions or webinars within the past 5 years, or within the past 20 years, please respond now to a short survey to help me to assess and improve what difference they make – at surveymonkey. This survey is in partnership with ICA:UK, with whom I have been delivering ToP facilitation training since 1996 – for the past 5 years as a licensed Associate, and before that as employed staff. If you have received a link by email, please follow the link in the email to respond.

I plan to analyse and share the results in the autumn, based on what responses I have received by mid-September.  After that I plan to leave the survey open indefinitely for further responses, and systematically request responses of future participants by email 6-12 months after each event.

As a token of appreciation for your feedback, three of those responding before the mid-September deadline (tbc) will be randomly selected to receive a free gift of an ICA:UK sticky wall or book of their choice (subject to availability).

Finally, if you have participated or not, join me!


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.

A welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer

This June completed my fourth year in business as Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd, and in October it will be 5 years since I went freelance from ICA:UK. Following what has been a bumper year for client work, for the first time in probably 15 months I am looking forward to several consecutive weeks of desk time, free of delivering client contracts – and a holiday in August after that!

In the last 12 months, it turns out, I have delivered 26 contracts for 18 clients in 9 countries, involving 32 face-to-face and 3 virtual events and 24 facilitated processes and 11 facilitation training courses. That has involved 73 nights away from home, 18 in the UK and 55 abroad. No wonder it felt like a bumper year – that represents an increase of around 70% in client work compared to my first four years of freelance practice, and the contracts on average were larger too.

I have been fortunate and grateful to enjoy a diverse and stimulating, often inspiring, range of groups and contexts to work with this past year. Recent client contracts for facilitation have included large and multi-event, multi-stakeholder strategic planning processes with international NGO networks such as ICUU, Girls Not Brides and Eurochild (above), and smaller, relatively simpler strategy and planning retreats such as with CENTR, Wells For India, Lorensbergs and the Peel Institute. Also large and relatively complex and challenging international team meetings such as with Amnesty International and Oxfam OPTI, and a small but complex and challenging closed Ministerial Forum with the International Union on Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Also a conference of activists on refugee and migration issues with Amnesty UK, and facilitated leadership development labs, face-to-face & virtual, for managers of Astra Zeneca. Facilitation training has included courses with civil servants of Ofgem and the Care Quality Commission, for agile finance software project managers of Santander and bereavement counselors of the Dove Service, and for diverse groups on public courses in London, Brussels, Geneva and Moscow. I lost some bids for work, and had to turn down some opportunities as well, but I wouldn’t have wished for any other workload.

It is no wonder then that I have spent less time on other things. My volunteer time has reduced since I completed my four year term as ICAI President in December, although since then I have somewhat increased my time growing IAF England & Wales‘ activity and leadership team and partnership with IABC.

Readers may have noticed that I have managed fewer blog posts (only 20 this past year from an average of 32 the past four), and only one of my “bi-monthly” free facilitation webinars – plus in May What does it take for people to align behind change? with Michael Ambjorn, published today by MILE Madinah on YouTube.

So, what do I hope to make of this opportunity to pause and reflect?

Mostly, I hope to take the opportunity to reflect and learn from this recent experience, and share some insights here on my blog – so watch this space!

I hope to review my recent years’ ToP facilitation training end-of-course participant evaluations, and launch an online survey to invite past participants to share something of what they have applied of their learning and how, and what difference their training has made to them and the groups they work with. I hope to draft and begin to post some more facilitation case studies from my facilitation work of this last year, and request further client feedback.

I hope to schedule one or two more free facilitation webinars for the autumn, and share a recording of one already scheduled for this month with IAF India – with Martin Farrell of IAF England & Wales, on the topic of co-facilitation (below).

I hope to catch upon some reading – next up after Penny Pullan CPF’s Virtual Leadership, Responsible Facilitation by Jim Campbell formerly of ICA Belgium.

Also, I have some advance preparation to do for delivery work in the autumn, including for my new IAF-endorsed Meetings That Work courses in London & Brussels in September, with Bill Staples of ICA Associates (book here). And I hope that my calendar for the autumn will continue to fill itself – so do feel free to contact me if you’d like to help with that!

In the meantime, I am hoping also to enjoy some more summery good weather, and all that goes with it – at home in London, at the WOMAD music festival later this month and in Sitges in August.

Wishing you an opportunity to pause and reflect as well when you can…


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.