Evidencing facilitation competencies – four years on

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


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

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

A. Create Collaborative Client Relationships

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

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

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

B. Plan Appropriate Group Processes

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

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

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

C. Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment

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

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

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

D. Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes

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

E. Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge

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

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

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

F. Model Positive Professional Attitude

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Introducing ICA’s Technology of Participation

iaf-geneva-bannerThank you to all who attended my workshop in Geneva last Friday Introducing ICA’s Technology of Participation, including Nadene Canning who tweeted the photo of some of us, above. Special thanks also to Pamela Lupton-Bowers and all at IAF Geneva for hosting me and for arranging the workshop.

The one-day tailored master-class (pdf) introduced four core methods of ICA’s ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) methodology. Below are links to some of the case studies and other resources I shared on the day, and some that I didn’t.

ToP Focused Conversation

A structured, four-level process for effective communication which ensures that everyone in a group has the opportunity to participate:

  • ToP Focused Conversation method overview – pdf
  • Three dimensions of the facilitator role – a focused conversation with video – blog post
  • Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning – blog post
  • Is there a single, universal principle of facilitation? – slides & webinar recording featuring 6 case studies
  • The Art of Focused Conversation – book

ToP Consensus Workshop

A five stage process that enables a facilitator to draw out and weave together everybody’s wisdom into a clear and practical consensus:

  • ToP Consensus Workshop method overview – pdf
  • Evidencing facilitation competencies: planning with people with learning difficulties – case study
  • Clinical Leadership Evaluation and Development with Manchester Primary Care Trust – case study
  • Getting Ready for Wigan LINK with Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council – case study
  • The Workshop Book – book

ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’)

A powerful tool to enable a group to share and learn from their varied perspectives of a journey through history, and in context, to review the past in order to prepare for the future:

  • ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’) overview – pdf
  • Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory in Copenhagen – blog post
  • Facilitation case study: Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20 – case study
  • Staff Away Day with George House Trust – case study

ToP Participatory Strategic Planning

A structured long-range planning process which incorporates ToP Consensus Workshop for building consensus, ToP Focused Conversation for effective group communication, and an implementation process for turning ideas into productive action and concrete accomplishments:

  • ToP Participatory Strategic Planning overview – pdf
  • Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’ – case study slides & webinar recording
  • Facilitating change in complexity – the Oxfam Lebanon ‘One Country Strategy’ process – case study
  • Building a future together – broadening ownership in corporate planning – case study
  • Transformational Strategy – book review & book

The workshop was adapted from elements of ICA:UK’s 2-day Group Facilitation Methods, Participatory Strategic Planning and Organisational Transformation courses, and IAF conference sessions presented in Moscow and Copenhagen in 2014 and in Stockholm in 2015.

Public courses are available monthly in the UK with ICA:UK and 2 or 3 times per year in Geneva with Initiatives of Change. Watch this space for details of my own schedule of public courses in Brussels for 2017, and see also ToP facilitation training – what’s it like, and is it worthwhile? and ToP facilitation training at your place – and free places for you!

Regularly scheduled public ToP training courses are also provided by ICAs elsewhere including in AustraliaCanada, TaiwanUkraine & the USA.  Other ICAs also offer public courses, and in-house courses on request – see ICA Worldwide.

The famous sticky walls are available from ICA:UK.


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

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

Aligning behind change for International Facilitation Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session materials & additional resources shared include:


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

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

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!

Greetings to the 2016 IAF Asia Pacific facilitators’ conference in Taiwan

Greetings to IAF AsiaHello and greetings from London to the 2016 IAF Asia Pacific facilitators’ conference now starting in Taiwan, “From Mountain to Sea: Perceiving Systemic Change and the Transformative Role of Facilitation

I am Martin Gilbraith, now President of ICA International and formerly Chair of IAF. I have been involved with both organisations for many years, and I am passionate about both – and about their different but complementary roles in promoting the power of facilitation worldwide.

So I am delighted to know that ICA is well represented at your IAF conference, and that Larry Philbrook, Laura Hsu and other colleagues are taking this opportunity to build connections between our two overlapping communities.

A new global joint working group has recently begun to explore how we might encourage greater connections and collaboration between ICA & IAF and their members worldwide, so this is a great example.

Thank you. Enjoy your conference!  I look forward to following at #IAFAsia2016.

News from the IAF Europe team, April 2009

Martin facilitating our team discussions in Manchester, November 2008This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in the IAF Europe newsletter, April 2009. An archive of 43 monthly issues from 2010-2013 may now be found online at IAFThe photo by editor Rosemary Cairns shows me facilitating the first meeting of the new IAF Europe team in Manchester in November 2008. For details of the IAF Europe MENA region and its 18 chapters today, see IAF EMENA.


At the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) Europe 2008 conference in Groningen in October, Rosemary Cairns, Gary Purser and I were appointed to form a new leadership team for the IAF Europe region. Soon after the conference the three of us met in Manchester, in November, to plan our work for 2009.

We published profiles of the three of us in the IAF newsletter in November, and a brief report of that planning meeting in the December issue. We felt that now would be a good time to report to you in some more depth on the plans we made then and how they are progressing, and to share an overview of the financial position of the region.

The following is drawn from a more comprehensive 5‐page report drafted for the IAF global Board meeting to be held prior to the IAF North America conference in Vancouver this month. The full report can be found with this article on our online Forum at www. iaf‐europe. eu, under ‘News from the European team’.

Do please share any queries or feedback, either on the Forum or directly with any of us – and do please let us know if you are interested to get involved in this work, whether at the regional level or locally in your area. There is much to do, and we rely largely on volunteers from among the membership to do it. We are grateful to all those of you who have contributed, and are contributing, to the life of the Association.

Communications & publicity

This is Rosemary’s area of responsibility. In this area, we planned to establish a monthly IAF newsletter and an active IAF Europe website, make use of social networking sites and other collaborative e‐technologies to promote IAF and enable networking among members and other facilitators, and encourage and enable the use of more languages within the IAF region.

This is the 6th issue of the new newsletter. The new regional website is live at www. iaf‐europe. eu, and includes a Forum with a ‘language café’ and events notice board, back issues of the newsletter to download, and links to & from other IAF sites. Rosemary has posted messages and links on various Facebook and YouTube pages, and uses Google Docs to distribute the newsletter.

Professional development

This is Gary’s area of responsibility, and includes the annual conference and Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) programme. In this area, we planned to ensure an annual IAF European conference to deliver satisfaction to members and income to the region, to make 12 conference scholarships available in 2009, and to support and promote two CPF assessment events in the region.

Oxford was selected as the location for the 2009 conference from among three contenders, a local conference team has been established, and contracts have been signed with Keble College Oxford as the conference venue and Entendu as the conference management company. The conference was launched in February, and open for early‐bird registrations at www. iaf‐europeconference. org.

Early promotion has led to five conference sponsors being secured already, and delegate bookings are ahead of the last two years’ conferences by around 12 weeks. A good number of applications have been received for conference & pre‐conference sessions, and the draft programme is almost ready to publish. We have committed to provide a minimum of 5 scholarships from our reserves, and more depending on conference income.

One CPF event was held in Switzerland in December, two events in Dutch are scheduled for the Netherlands and a pre‐conference event is scheduled for September.

Organisational growth

This is also Gary’s area of responsibility, but Rosemary has agreed to cover for Gary temporarily to allow him to focus on getting the conference underway. In this area, we planned to ensure effective management of memberships (new, renewing & expiring members and promotion of membership), to achieve a total of 500 members and 12 chapters or affiliates in Europe in 2009, including expanded membership in Eastern Europe.

We have established regular and systematic communications to welcome new and returning members, and to follow up with expiring members to encourage them to renew or learn why they will not. New chapters in Germany & Serbia have been approved by the Board, and we are following up interest in possible new chapters in Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Turkey and the UK.

Total membership in Europe has varied since November between a high of around 360 and a low of around 320, with an underlying trend of decline if anything. Growing the membership remains a key strategic priority for the region, and for IAF globally, for the year. We are hopeful that the conference will better attract new and returning members once the programme is published shortly, and that new partnerships with facilitation training providers offering 1‐year student‐rate memberships will also attract new members.

Governance & support systems

This is Martin’s area of responsibility. Within this area, we planned to participate fully in the global IAF Board, publish a brief 2008 annual report and finance report, establish formal and transparent governance links between IAF Europe and IAF globally, hold monthly team conference calls and another face‐to‐face team meeting, achieve a closing reserve balance of €40k, and each spend on average a day per month on IAF business.

I have participated in two global Board conference calls and almost daily in ongoing electronic discussions, and shall be attending the 1‐ day face‐to‐face Board meeting in Vancouver in April and the 2‐day meeting in Cape Town in October.

In the detailed report on the IAF Europe Forum, you will find our financial report for 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. The paperwork is underway to have the three of us appointed as Board members of the region’s Netherlands‐ registered foundation ‘IAF Europe Stichting’, along with existing Board member Maureen Jenkins and in place of Jim Campbell. Maureen and Gary Austin, authorised signatories on IAF’s Netherlands and UK (Euro & Sterling) bank accounts respectively, have agreed to continue for the time being in those roles and provide us with regular consolidated financial reports.

We have established a team Yahoo group and a routine of monthly internal team reports and conference calls, and plan a second face‐toface team meeting in Oxford, with the conference team, in June.

We are finding our plan to each spend on average one day per month on IAF work somewhat naive – one day per week (or more) would be closer to reality!

Finances

In terms of the financial report, there is as established policy that a share of members’ dues are paid by the globe to the regions and that in return a share of regional conference surpluses are paid by the regions to the globe, however this has not yet been implemented.

For the time being, IAF Europe’s primary source of income is the annual conference, and the main expenses (beyond the conference itself) are member services and communications. Our present reserve balance is largely the product of the lucrative 2006 conference in Stockholm. The 2007 conference in Edinburgh earned a small surplus with 182 delegates (just received, after a delay caused by the hiatus in the regional team), and the 2008 conference in Groningen made a small loss with just 109 delegates.

Given that we have only a minimal reserve after two poor years for conference income, and given the current economic climate as well, we have taken a prudent approach to budgeting for 2009. The projection shown allows just a skeleton expense budget, and assumes the conference just breaks even, in order to indicate what conference loss we could afford to sustain within our existing reserves.

The 2009 conference budget breaks even on 160 delegates with no sponsors, and would take around 250 delegates and €10k of sponsorship income to enable us to achieve our ambition of a closing reserve balance of €40k – so please help us to rebuild a reserve that will allow a more ambitious plan for member services in the region next year, by booking to attend the Oxford conference yourself and by helping to promoting it to potential delegates and sponsors!