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.

The Power and Practice of Facilitation – annual conference programme

Annual Conference - the Power and Practice of Facilitation

We are excited to announce the draft programme of our IAF England & Wales Annual Conference on the theme “The Power and Practice of Facilitation” – October 18-19 in Birmingham, for International Facilitation Week #FacWeek 2019.

Check out the 15 sessions already offered, and register by 14 July for early-bird rates, on Eventbrite at https://iafewfacweek2019.eventbrite.com/.

Register now for both days, or just for Friday or Saturday. An additional 25% off all rates is available to IAF members – please ask for the promotional code if you have not received it. If you are not yet an IAF member and would like to join, you can save a whopping 25% on your first year’s membership if you buy it when you register for both days.

Join us to celebrate and promote the power of facilitation, and to connect, network and learn with other IAF facilitators & friends from across England & Wales and beyond – full details and registrations are at https://iafewfacweek2019.eventbrite.com/.


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

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

Join our monthly facilitation networking & learning meetups, now throughout England & Wales and online!

There have never been more opportunities to network with other facilitators and learn about facilitation, near you – now in more than a dozen towns & cities throughout England & Wales and online as well.

If you are a facilitator or use facilitation in your work, or if you are just interested to know more, do take a moment to join one of our 5 regional groups and RSVP now for a free facilitation meetup near you.

If you have already attended or if you are a regular, read on to find out what’s new and how to get more involved.

“A brilliant initiative – a great way to build your faciliation skills whilst networking with like-minded sorts” – Neil Fogarty

“Setting out as a facilitator on my own was a scary decision but I have met so many great people through the meet-ups… Its a really wonderful community to be a part of!” – Camilla Gordon

“There’s a generosity and love of learning which makes these meet-ups special. And a surprisingly wide range of people and ways that they use their skills” – Penny Walker

The first IAF England & Wales ‘facilitators & friends’ meetup group began 5 years ago now with monthly evening meetups in London, and was joined 3 years ago by the South West and North of England groups. That’s when we launched our England & Wales Leadership Team and established our pattern of monthly local morning coffee meetups, quarterly regional afternoon learning meetups and an annual all-day learning meetup for all-England & Wales during International Facilitation Week (#FacWeek) each October. Last year we were joined by the Midlands & East of England group, and our local coffee meetups extended from London, Bristol & Leeds to Birmingham, Oxfordshire, Manchester & Warwick as well.  We are grateful to all our volunteer hosts & session leaders and everyone else who has made all of this possible.

Since our new IAF England & Wales Board was elected last year we have raised our ambition, and now we have adjusted our pattern of meetups accordingly – and identified some new volunteer leadership opportunities as well.

Our new ‘at a glance’ monthly schedule shows the new pattern of meetups, including new monthly local coffee meetups in Cambridge, Cardiff, Newcastle, North Wales & Winchester, and online as well. Click on the image above to enlarge the schedule, and note that if the first day of the month falls midweek then the first Friday may come before the first Monday!

The new pattern will also include afternoon learning meetups in more regions but less frequently in each. Already the schedule shows 3 per year in the South West and two plus our new Annual Conference in the Midlands & East. These will be joined by 3 per year in the North, and ultimately Wales. In London our bi-monthly afternoon learning meetups and evening drinks meetups will shift to quarterly, and be complemented by new evening learning meetups as well.

Our 2-day annual conference “The Power and Practice of Facilitation”, 18-19 October in Birmingham, will extend our previous all-day meetup for International Facilitation Week. You can expect a diverse range of highly interactive, peer-led parallel sessions to choose from, common to previous years, plus this year:

  • an opening keynote session on Friday sharing stories of the power of facilitation from the client perspective
  • a facilitated ‘Open Space’ session on Saturday to raise and address topics of your own, and/or to attend repeats of a few of the most popular parallel sessions
  • networking dinner & drinks on Thursday & Friday evenings
  • a prize raffle on Saturday afternoon including free facilitation kit, free personality profiling, free facilitation books and training, and more!

Discounts are available for early registrations until 30 June, and an additional 25% off all rates is available to IAF members. If you are not yet an IAF member and would like to join, you can save a whopping 25% on your first year’s membership if you buy it when you register for both days. See IAF: who we are and what we do (below) and learn about IAF membership.

We will continue to collaborate with others and share their facilitation-related learning & networking opportunities as well, not least those of our friends at partner Association IABC UK. Check out their upcoming events in London Listening workshop: a critical skill for communicators – why is it dying? on 1 May and Future Fit 2019: what is happening in the world of communications today, and tomorrow? on 23 May. IAF members may book for these at IABC member rates – if interested, please contact me.

We will be expanding our Leadership Team this year by inviting all our local meetup hosts to join us – online in Basecamp and (when they are available) for monthly zoom calls, and face-to-face in Birmingham on June 20 – in conjunction with a Midlands & East regional afternoon learning meetup.

We are also keen to welcome new members to our volunteer Leadership Team. Please contact us if you may be interested in any of the following opportunities in particular:

  • Regional meetup group organisers for the North of England, Wales and London & SE regions
  • Meetup hosts for new local coffee meetups in Brighton, Devon, Leeds, Liverpool, London & Nottingham – or wherever you are!
  • Podcasters to join our brand new new podcast team.

Or, please let us know how you would like to get more involved – for more information and to contact us, please see IAF England & Wales.

Please join us online also in our Facebook and LinkedIn groups and by following on Twitter and Instagram – using the hashtag of course! #IAFmeetup


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

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