Join me for ToP facilitation training in Brussels & London in 2018!


ToP facilitation training in Brussels & London in 2018Register now on Eventbrite, and please share these details with friends, colleagues and networks who might be interested.

I am an ICA Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF), and a licensed provider and experienced lead trainer of ICA ToP facilitation training. I offer these courses in partnership with ICA:UK and ICA Associates Inc, and in Brussels with Social Platform. I am excited to extend these partnerships now to offer more and new public courses, dates and locations for 2018.

Looking for accredited learning? Group Facilitation Methods, Action Planning and Participatory Strategic Planning are accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management for an ILM Development Award.

IAF endorsed trainingPreparing for certification? Group Facilitation Methods and Meetings That Work are two of three modules of the ICA Associates Professional Facilitator Program endorsed by the International Association of Facilitators for those preparing to become an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF). Together with Facilitating Client Collaboration they comprise the new ToP Facilitation Essentials Program that has been submitted for IAF endorsement. These three courses plus Action Planning and Participatory Strategic Planning cover most of the competencies required for Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF) assessment. To learn more, join my next free facilitation webinar Facilitator certification: what’s it like, and is it worthwhile?

Interested to join IAF? Participants in all these ICA:UK ToP courses are eligible for a 50% discount on their first year’s IAF membership, a requirement for CPF certification.

Most courses are scheduled in pairs to allow 1, 2, 3 or 4 days of training at once.  Follow the links for details and to register for each course.


Group Facilitation Methods – introducing the foundations of the ToP approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus – 2 days

“I found it really helpful. Martin established a really good group learning process and displayed mastery of his subject. I am very glad I went on it and very glad he ran it!” – Mike Pounsford, Employee engagement, communication and change specialist

“As a diverse, transnational, multilingual membership network, successful meetings are key to our internal and external successes. Many of our staff mentioned Martin’s training as a highlight in their end of year reviews – several said it was the most useful training they had ever attended.” – Eve Geddie, Deputy Director at Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)


Action Planning – participatory planning for short-term projects and events – 1 day

“Martin is a very inspiring trainer, he is very skilled and knows how to facilitate facilitators in a structured and insightful way. I have been able to succesfully use his personal advice and facilitation techniques straight away!” – Miriam Elst, Facilitator Design Thinking and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, Lead UX researcher & strategist, Service designer


Meetings That Work – practical tools to design and lead effective meetings – 2 days

“Meetings That Work ticked all the boxes. It was very interesting to hear the theory and useful to have to put it in practice during the many exercises. I use the templates and ideas from this course on a weekly basis. It improves planning and preparing for our 20 meetings (annually). Feedback on the improved meeting format is excellent.” – Peter Van Roste, General Manager CENTR


International Facilitation WeekFacilitating Client Collaboration – practical tools to design facilitation approaches with your client – 2 days

“I got confidence in how to deal with my clients. I had not expected that this course would boost me up to be more open to the customers and speak with them more freely, but it did. The methods and processes will not only be helpful in my regular work, but also in solving my family, community and society problems.” –  Neha Shrestha

Bill Staples of ICA Associates Inc. CanadaI shall be joined for this new course for 2018 by Bill Staples of ICA Associates Inc as guest trainer. Bill is one of the founders of ICA’s Technology of Participation, a principal partner of ICA Associates Inc. and the main designer of Facilitating Client Collaboration.


Participatory Strategic Planning – bringing people together to create strategies for action – 2 days

“Martin created a good atmosphere in an international group. His presentations were crispy clear, illustrated by carefully chosen, practical examples from his rich facilitator experience. Martin helped me to understand countless details of preparation and running a successful Participatory Strategic Planning session for various customers.” – Marzena Dębska-Matuszak, Experienced Trainer, Facilitator and Coach


For early bird rates, register by 10 January on Eventbrite.

Register on two or more courses at once to enjoy a 10% discount on all additional courses. Register on Eventbrite for any course, then add additional courses before you check out.

Additional discounts are available all year to members of Social Platform and other European NGO networks, and to members of ICA, IAF & IABC. If you have not received a promotional code directly from them, please contact me. Enter your code for your chosen course on Eventbrite to reveal your discounted rates.


For in-house and tailored training see ToP facilitation training at your place – and free places for you! and please contact me.

See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies.

Facilitating positive transformation: Reviewing the past to prepare for the future at #IAFIndia17

IAF India conference 2017Thank you to everyone who participated in my plenary session at this year’s IAF India conference in Chennai today – Facilitation: the key to positive transformation#IAFIndia17.

In the session, Facilitating positive transformation: Reviewing the past to prepare for the future, I demonstrated a participatory approach for a group to review the past, to prepare for the future, by applying the ToP (Technology of Participation) Historical Scan method to reflect together on the unfolding history of participation and facilitation in India and beyond. I also shared some insights into the theory behind the method, and examples of the method in action. Participants had a brief opportunity to reflect on how they might apply the method.

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

ToP Historical Scan method

Examples of the method in action

  • etf20Adapt • Invent • Evolve: reviewing the past to prepare for the future at the IABC EMENA 2017 conference in London, #EuroComm17 – blog post
  • Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20 – case study
  • Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’ with IDMC in Geneva – case study
  • Staff Away Day with George House Trust in Manchester – case study
  • Clinical Leadership Evaluation and Development with Manchester Primary Care Trust – case study

Facilitation history

  • How has facilitation developed over time, and where might it be heading? A six-month collaborative process to develop our collective story of facilitation, as IAF celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014 – blog post, plus #FacHistory on twitter and  storify
  • Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory at the IAF EMENA 2014 conference in Copenhagen, #IAFEMENA14 – blog post
  • Reflections on the history of professional process facilitation, an article by Richard Chapman published by IAF Europe & AMED in 2011 – pdf
  • The past, present & future of the facilitation profession: Reviewing the past to prepare for the future at the IAF Europe 2007 conference in Edinburgh – (pdf)

ToP facilitation training & sticky walls

  • Join me for ToP facilitation training in Brussels & London (2018 dates to be scheduled soon) – blog
  • Join ICA India or other ICAs worldwide for ToP facilitation training near you
  • Sticky walls are available from ICA:UK and other ICAs, and in India from BangOn Facilitation.


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.

Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop – #FacWeek

This is the 6th and last of a series of six weekly posts to mark International Facilitation Week 2017, starting today! Drafted as I enjoyed a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer, the posts share a series of examples of how I have applied, customised and adapted the ToP Consensus Workshop method in my practice over the past year. 

How will you celebrate and promote the power of facilitation this week? Please share online with the #FacWeek hashtag, or in a comment below…


Example 6 – IABC UK, London

In May I facilitated a 2-hour evening strategy workshop with the UK Board of the International Association of Business Communicators. For more on my work with IABC, and my session at the recent IABC Europe MENA conference, see Facilitating transformation: reviewing the past to prepare for the future at #EuroComm17.

New IABC UK President Mike Pounsford is a keen ToP facilitator himself, and an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator. He had approached me to apply the Consensus Workshop method with the new Board of nine so that he could participate fully.  For an example of his own application of the method see Facilitation and Communication to lead ‘The Big Conversation’: Digital Transformation.

We quickly agreed that a ‘textbook’ Consensus Workshop process could help to meet the group’s needs well. These were articulated in terms of Rational & Experiential Aims as ‘to outline our strategic focus for IABC UK for the next 24 months, and what roles we will each play to help to deliver it‘ and ‘to build shared clarity, commitment and enthusiasm for the way forward together‘. The workshop Focus Question was to be ‘What practical projects & initiatives could help to deliver IABC’s mission & strategy in the UK in 2017-18?’.

The workshop was preceded by an opening conversation and a short presentation from Mike on the vision, purpose and philosophy of IABC as a whole, as parameters for IABC UK’s own strategy.

According to the textbook approach, Board members brainstormed their responses to the Focus Question individually, with the parameters in mind. They wrote ideas on half-sheets in pairs, which they shared on the sticky wall and clarified as necessary before pairing and clustering. The ‘adaptation in the moment’ came in finalising the Clustering stage of the workshop prior to Naming the clusters. It made no sense to the group to discern and name clusters unique to IABC UK’s 2017-18 strategy – what made sense was to map the brainstorm ideas to the three components of IABC’s global Purpose: ‘to advance the profession, to create connection and to develop strategic communicators’ .

So that is what we did. That allowed time then for members to self-select into three teams to to articulate the UK’s new strategic focus for each of the three areas, and to propose collective commitments.

I reflected to Mike, ‘I suppose we could have presented as a parameter that these [advance, connect and develop] would be the UK’s strategic focus, and we could have asked instead about collective commitments aligned with them. That might have saved a moment of doubt & confusion, but as you say perhaps at the expense of a sense of openness, possibility & engagement. A bit of challenge can be a valuable opportunity for a group to find its own way!’

Mike PounsfordMike replied: “I thought it was great, thank you for your help and for your agility in responding to the group’s needs. Most importantly we achieved consensus on a focus for our work for the next two years, which is to enhance the strategic communication capabilities of our members”.


Finally, in case you’re still wondering…

  • no group is too small for the ToP Consensus Workshop method – page 52 of the ICA:UK Group Facilitation Methods course workbook includes procedures for using the method on your own as an individual.
  • the method can work online as well as face-to-face, although like all online facilitation it will be different than when done face-to-face – see for example the Spilter ToP Consensus platform, specially developed to provide full digital support for the method, and see below a youtube video of an online ToP Consensus Workshop of ICA Ukraine using LinoIt with Google Hangout.
  • if you have nowhere to put a sticky wall, take advice from US ToP trainer Barbara MacKay of Northstar Facilitators, also in a youtube video below.

Start again from example 1…


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.

Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop – #FacWeek -1

This is the 5th of a series of six weekly posts to mark International Facilitation Week 2017, starting just 1 week from today. Drafted as I enjoyed a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer, the posts share a series of examples of how I have applied, customised and adapted the ToP Consensus Workshop method in my practice over the past year. 

How will you celebrate and promote the power of facilitation this year? Please share online with the #FacWeek hashtag, or in a comment below…


Example 5 – Eurochild, Brussels

A good example of both customised design and adaptation in the moment was the General Assembly in Brussels in April of Eurochild, ‘a network of organisations and individuals working in and across Europe to promote the rights and well-being of children and young people‘. This involved around 100 individual members and member representatives plus Board members and Secretariat staff over two days.

One morning of the GA was designed as an opportunity to engage members in a year-long process to develop a new strategy for the network as a whole for 2019-21. The event had been preceded by an online survey of members, and was followed by a Participatory Strategic Planning retreat with Board, staff and a few key member representatives to develop the basis of the new strategy – for more in-depth consultation this autumn, with a view to final adoption at the next GA in April 2018. The Focus Question for the planning process as a whole was ‘How could Eurochild best mobilise and add value to the work of its members from 2019-21, to promote the rights & well-being of children & young people in Europe?

The design of the half-day member consultation began with an opening conversation and brief contextual presentations, followed by a 90 minute Consensus Workshop and then a series of ‘World Café’ style table conversations – to brainstorm and capture ideas for the Practical Vision, Current Reality and Strategic Directions stages of the Participatory Strategic Planning process respectively.

Participants sat at 13 pre-assigned tables of 8, each hosted by a Board or staff member. The workshop process was ‘super-sized’ as with ICUU, with whole-A4 sheets for writing ideas and all table hosts coming to the sticky wall at once to share ideas in turn and cluster quickly in columns under symbols as they did so. Cluster titles were drafted at tables and accepted without lengthy discussion or revision.

Also as with ICUU, it had been clear in the design process that a deep level of consensus would not be possible with such a large group in such a short time. It was also clear that such a consensus would not be necessary for this workshop, just one consultative element in a much longer and more elaborate process of consensus building over the course of a year.

The adaptation in the moment came in the Naming stage of the workshop. The Focus Question was ‘What would make us happy that the strategic planning process has been a success? (in terms of the new strategy & membership model themselves, in terms of member engagement in the process, and otherwise)’. The intent had been that the resulting ‘indicators of success’ would serve as guidelines and a means of accountability for the process of strategy development and member engagement over the year, and that substantive content for the new strategy would be contributed during the following World Cafe session.

What happened was that many of the ideas contributed in the workshop were in fact answers to the Practical Vision question ‘What do we want to see in place by 2021 as a result of delivering our new strategy? (how will Eurochild be different, and what difference will Eurochild have made?)‘. It made no sense to address the Vision question again separately, and it seemed to make more sense to accept that the group was ready to work on its Vision right away rather than to spend time first trying to name indicators of success. So what we did was to cluster the mix of ideas into 11 columns representing 11 vision elements, with just the original symbol to identify each. Then participants self-selected into 11 table groups to name the vision element on a flip chart, and also articulate relative to that element any indicators of success, current reality and practical projects and initiatives.

Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General at Eurochild, wrote in September:

“Great that we had structure, but also great that we could think on our feet to adjust the planning according to what we were hearing from members. All in all we got a huge amount of raw material for development of the strategic plan. The methodology clearly helped.”

Read on for example 6…


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.

Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop – #FacWeek -2

This is the 4th of a series of six weekly posts to mark International Facilitation Week 2017, starting just 2 weeks from today. Drafted as I enjoyed a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer, the posts share a series of examples of how I have applied, customised and adapted the ToP Consensus Workshop method in my practice over the past year. 

How will you celebrate and promote the power of facilitation this year? Please share online with the #FacWeek hashtag, or in a comment below…


Example 4 – Oxfam, Gaza & Jerusalem

In February of this year I worked with Oxfam in OPTI to support its staff team of around 100, based in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza, to operationalise the new ‘One Country Strategy’ and ‘Country Operating Model’ that had been developed last year. An explicit experiential aim was ‘to help staff & teams to align with each other and with the new strategy & structures, and to renew staff solidarity, motivation and team spirit as One Oxfam OPTI’. However, travel restrictions meant that there would be no opportunity for all the staff from the three locations to meet together at once.

As in the earlier cases of Manchester Primary Care Trust and the Oxfam in Lebanon One Country Strategy process, we used separate Consensus Workshops with the same Focus Question to consult with different groups in series. In this case two ‘consultation workshops’ were held, one in Gaza and one in Jerusalem, each for all staff who could attend. A third ‘consensus-building workshop’ involved a cross-section of around 40 staff, who had been members of either or both of the consultation groups, to build consensus from the results of them both.

The Focus Question was ‘what can we learn from our survey responses and from our experience of recent years, internal & external to OPTI & the OCS process, to inform our plans for OCS operationalisation?‘. The result informed a further two days of review, learning and planning with the cross-section of around 40 staff.

Fabrizio Biondi Morra, Program Manager at Oxfam in OPTI , wrote in August:

“Following the workshop delivered by Martin with Oxfam in OPTI, the country team had a roadmap that laid out all the next steps sectorial working groups had to carry out. Also, through the consensus building process staff from across sectors and offices could come together and strengthen their relationships. These to elements together enabled us as team to renew our professional and personal bonds and work effectively.”

Read on for example 5…


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.

Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop – #FacWeek -3

This is the 3rd of a series of six weekly posts to mark International Facilitation Week 2017, starting just 3 weeks from today. Drafted as I enjoyed a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer, the posts share a series of examples of how I have applied, customised and adapted the ToP Consensus Workshop method in my practice over the past year. 

How will you celebrate and promote the power of facilitation this year? Please share online with the #FacWeek hashtag, or in a comment below…


Example 3 – Girls Not Brides, London

Last year in August I worked with Girls Not Brides in London, a ‘global partnership of 700+ civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential‘.  The overall aim of the two day event was ‘to engage around 25 secretariat staff and the Board Chair in refreshing and renewing the Girls Not Brides’ partnership strategy, drawing on responses to the 2016 strategy consultation process and emerging themes, and on their own knowledge and experience’.

After a thorough review of responses to the membership strategy consultation in the first morning, we used the Consensus Workshop method that afternoon to draw together and make sense of all the merging themes. The intent was to identify a few key strategic goals that could then be elaborated in terms of SMART objectives, the respective roles of different actors including the Secretariat, members and others, and issues for the Secretariat to consider in order to play its own role effectively. The Focus Question for the Consensus Workshop was ‘What needs to be delivered by 2020, towards ending child marriage, that we can best deliver by working together in partnership?‘.

In this case, the key adaptations to the ‘textbook’ method were in the brainstorming and in the naming stages of the workshop.  Rather than brainstorm simply from their own knowledge and experience, participants drew their brainstorm ideas also from the current strategy and from the wealth of responses to the membership consultation that they had reviewed in the morning. Because of the complexity of the issues and the very large volume of data that needed to be distilled into a small, manageable number of strategic goals, we did not attempt to name the strategic goals in plenary within workshop. Instead the group gave quick, intuitive ‘tag names’ to the 11 clusters that initially emerged from the 50 or so half-sheets, and then we used the quick flip-chart version of the Consensus Workshop method (page 53 of the Group Facilitation Methods course workbook) to cluster the clusters to identify just six strategic goals. Participants then self-selected into six table groups to articulate the six goals more fully. The next day they developed SMART objectives and delivery roles for each goal.

The final 2017-20 strategy and a report on the strategy development process may be found at Girls Not Brides.

heather-hamiltonHeather Hamilton, Deputy Director, Girls Not Brides, wrote last October:

“Martin recently facilitated a strategy retreat for our team. It was a 20-person retreat that was part of a much longer, complicated strategy process. Martin was a partner in helping us think through how to successfully design the retreat to really get what the team needed, which isn’t an easy task when dropping into the middle of an existing process. And the team was impressed – after the retreat I emailed him to say ‘Thanks so much for your incredibly skillful facilitation – we have worked with a lot of different facilitators and many of our staff commented that you were the best ever!'”

Read on for example 4…


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.

Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop – #FacWeek -4

This is the 2nd of a series of six weekly posts to mark International Facilitation Week 2017, starting just 4 weeks from today. Drafted as I enjoyed a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer, the posts share a series of examples of how I have applied, customised and adapted the ToP Consensus Workshop method in my practice over the past year. 

How will you celebrate and promote the power of facilitation this year? Please share online with the #FacWeek hashtag, or in a comment below…


Example 2 – ICUU, Mennorode

In July of last year I facilitated the ‘”Essex 2.0″ Large Group Process’ on the first day of the 5-day International Council Meeting & Conference of the International Council of Unitarians & Universalists (ICUU) in Mennorode, the Netherlands. This was the culmination of a 9-month strategic planning process, involving also a series of online sessions and a Participatory Strategic Planning retreat in Boston in the spring with a focus group of around 25. The Focus Question for planning process as a whole was: ‘21 years since its founding [at Essex Massachusetts], how does ICUU need to change or stay the same to respond effectively to the global Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist community of the century ahead?‘.

The original design had envisaged that we would use a large group process at the summer Council Meeting to involve the 140 or so delegates, of around 40 national member churches and networks, to consult on a draft strategy developed by the spring focus group. In fact the focus group concluded that there was likely not sufficient clarity and consensus on ICUU’s role in the wider movement to gain broad consensus on a new strategy so soon. Instead it was agreed to use the summer council meeting to build consensus on the mission and purpose of the global body, in order to consult further on strategy after that.

In the morning of the first day we used a series of ‘World Café’ style table conversations in changing small groups to discern learnings and implications from the strategy development process, following a few short presentations from those involved and drawing on documentation. In the afternoon we used a ‘super-sized’ Consensus Workshop process to answer the Focus Question ‘“What are key elements of the mission and purpose of ‘ICUU 2.0’, for the next 20 years?”

Participants sat at 16 tables of 8 by country and continent, in order to amplify the voices of regions less represented or otherwise less heard relative to others. Whole A4 sheets were used for sharing ideas on the sticky wall instead of half-sheets, for improved readability for the large group, and ideas were clustered in columns to make best use of sticky wall space with the large sheets. In order to keep the process fast-paced and engaging, all 16 table hosts were invited to come to the front at once and take it in turns to read their table’s ideas, and post them directly in the relevant cluster as they did so. Having a queue of table hosts waiting to share ideas helped to ensure that each was brief and focused. Participants then self-selected into 13 table groups to name the 13 clusters that emerged.

It was clear that meaningful consensus would not be possible with such a large group in just an afternoon, so the workshop was framed as consultative and the cluster titles were accepted as drafted unless any minor revisions could be agreed quickly in the plenary. At the end of the day volunteers were invited to join a working group to discern and articulate the emerging consensus concisely in a revised mission statement for approval by vote of the formal Council Meeting at the end of the week.  A team of half a dozen or so met that evening to do that, mostly members of the ICUU Executive Committee. Some of the 13 named elements they found to represent values and principles that were already agreed and articulated elsewhere, or elements of vision, strategy or implementation that could better contribute to those later stages of the planning process. Remaining elements were distilled into a succinct new mission statement to be submitted to the vote of the Council.

The final statement was strengthened further by some minor revisions suggested during the formal Council Meeting. Once approved, the new mission statement was verbally translated as it was read aloud in all of the 25 or so languages spoken by those present, to symbolise global consensus and commitment: “The Mission of the ICUU is to empower existing and emerging member groups to sustain and grow our global faith community”.

Read on for example 3…


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.