Getting to the Bottom of ToP – exploring the foundations of ICA’s Technology of Participation

Free facilitation webinar - Getting to the Bottom of ToPAre you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well? Register now on Eventbrite for this next in my series of free facilitation webinars.


Getting to the Bottom of ToP – exploring the foundations of ICA’s Technology of Participation

Wednesday 4 April 2018, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we will explore the foundations of ICA’s Technology of Participation facilitation methodology.

I shall be joined for this session by Jo Nelson of ICA Associates Inc., co-author with her late husband Wayne Nelson of the new book Getting to the Bottom of ToP, now available from iUniverse; and again by Sunny Walker CPF CTF of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

People demand authentic participation in decisions that affect their lives.  ToP™ methods answer that call because they reflect how humans think, growing out of reflective inquiry into what works in real life, and the study of phenomenology and existentialism. This book explores the foundational understandings of this body of knowledge and its practice.

Getting to the Bottom of ToP works at two levels: as a guide to processes that elicit participation to bring insights to the surface and ensure participants collaborate to bring the resulting plans to fruition; and as a theoretical basis drawn from the field of phenomenology—an answer to any of us who have pondered what principles or theory about personal and group change underlie those processes.

We will invite you to share some of your own experience of ICA’s Technology of Participation, and to respond with us to questions that are raised.

Each session in this series is hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience. Each topic is addressed by a short case study or other presentation, with links to further online material for later reference. In the sessions we apply tools and techniques of virtual facilitation to help participants to engage with the material and the presenter, and with their own and each other’s experience on the topic. A short technical orientation directly before the session introduces the features of the virtual meeting room, and the tools to be used. A brief closing reflection at the end of the session invites reflection and learning on the facilitation process and virtual tools, as well as on the content of the session.

ICA Associates Canada publishes ‘Getting to the Bottom of ToP’Register now on Eventbrite.

To whet your appetite, see the Foreword and Introduction from the book at ICA International and these two recent interviews with Jo, with David Buwalda of ICA Canada and with Reine Kassulker of Facilitation Nation:


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 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. 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.

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

ToP facilitation and Lessons from the Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this issue!

Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory in Copenhagen

Facilitating #FacHistory workshop - photo @jppoupardThank you to everyone who joined my session Reviewing the past to prepare for the future on Friday, at the IAF Europe conference in Copenhagen Facilitation Reloaded.  Here I am sharing links to the resources and case studies that I mentioned during the session – both on our topic, which was the history of facilitation, and on the process we used, which was the ICA ‘ToP’ Historical Scan method.

FacHistory Historical ScanFor more on the history of facilitation, and the events and links shared online and at various IAF conferences this year, cick to enlarge the photos here of our own session and of the IAF travelling timeline, andIAF travelling timeline see also:

On ICA’s ToP Historical Scan method, see:

For case studies of real-life applications of the method in different contexts, see:

To join me and other faciliators worldwide in reflecting together on the past and future development of facilitation and our profession, please join our #FacWeekChat twitter chats, October 22 & 23 during International Facilitation Week 2014., or do also share any comments on the post, here below. Thank you!

ICA International Board update, February 2014

Global BuzzThis post was first published in ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz.

In January the ICAI Board began to develop its Business Plan for 2014, based on the strategic framework and budget included in the 2013 plan that were re-affirmed by the General Assembly in December. We aim to finalise this and circulate it to members for information in February.

We are grateful to 40 respondents so far who have offered their feedback by our online survey on the December online regional gatherings and GA, and particularly the 21 who had not participated in those meetings. This was designed to help the ICAI Board to make this year’s gatherings and GA more inclusive and more effective. Our conclusion at the January Board meeting is to keep doing the Adobe Connect meetings this year, because those who attend appreciate them and are increasingly familiar with the technology. We will try to make them more inclusive by looking into free-phone audio options and by supporting people to improve their internet access or to attend the meeting from somewhere where access is better. However we will do this format of adobe meetings only twice in June and twice in December, instead of three times in each of March, July & December, to allow extra time to support the regions to experiment with other approaches such as google hangout, Skype or simple tele-conferencing.  For the GA we will use adobe for the meeting but do the voting by surveymonkey over 10 days to allow everyone to vote.

The Board has announced a special General Assembly meeting to be held 1-2pm UK time on Wednesday 26 February.  This special meeting will be to discuss and vote on a resolution to revise the ICAI Bylaws, as discussed at the GA in December.  Some minor revisions are needed in order to comply with new requirements under Canadian law  for all Canadian-registered non-profits such as ICAI to obtain a ‘Continuance” in order to continue. The one hour meeting will be held online using Adobe Connect, to allow for questions and discussion as needed, and representatives of statutory ICAs in particular are encouraged to attend.  For the voting we will use surveymonkey, and allow 10 days for responses from the time of the meeting, so that all statutory ICAs are able to vote even if they cannot attend the meeting. Please ask for details if you are interested and have not received them.

I was in New York last week attending a conference, and was able to take the opportunity to collect a UN grounds pass and attend a briefing session on behalf of ICAI for NGOs with consultative status. Also I was glad to meet with Larry Philbrook and Seva Gandhi on Monday, as they were there also to deliver a course.

We have been shocked and saddened by the sudden and unexpected death last week of Wayne Nelson of ICA Associates in Canada. Our thoughts are with Jo and his family, and also his close ICA colleagues in Canada.  Wayne has been greatly involved and supportive of ICAI over his long years with ICA globally and in Canada, and will be sorely missed.

Three dimensions of the facilitator role – a focused conversation

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I used this great little 4 minute video in a Group Facilitation Methods course in Brussels yesterday (to be repeated as a public course in Brussels in November), to launch a conversation on the role of the facilitator and to demonstrate the ToP Focused Conversation method in the process. The group of 18 were mostly staff members of a variety of European-level social NGO networks, supporting their member NGOs to learn, collaborate and campaign together. It produced a rich conversation and a great demonstration of the method, and many insights that we were able to refer back to again and again during the remainder of the course.

I shall certainly use the video and my conversation questions again, so I thought I would share them here for others to try as well. If you use them, please do let me know how it goes for you!  I allowed 20 minutes for the conversation, which worked well for us. We pretty much followed the sequence of questions as shown below, although by the interpretive level the conversation has taken off such that I used the questions to steer the conversation rather than to stimulate it.

The video is by the International Institute of Facilitation and Change (IIFAC) and is now available also in Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Italian and Japanese.  For more on the ToP Focused Conversation method, see the ICA:UK ToP method overview (pdf) and Brian Stanfield’s ‘Art of Focused Conversation: 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace‘. When I first shared the video in an earlier post, I quoted John Miller of ICA Associates on his experience of using the video for a Focused Conversation with a high school class in Canada.

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Objective level questions

1. What words and phrases do you recall from the clip?

2. What images do you remember?

3. What people or characters?

4. What else about the clip did you notice, such as sound, colour, design?

Reflective level questions

5. What particularly surprised or intrigued you in the clip?

6. Which ideas were most familiar to you?

7. What reminded you of your own experience of meetings that you have designed and facilitated, or participated in?

8. What other metaphors for facilitation come to mind for you?

Interpretive level questions

9. How well do these three metaphors capture the role of the facilitator in your experience? What would you add?

10. Which of these three dimensions is best understood and appreciated in your own situations?

11. What aspects of the facilitator role would you most like to learn and practice more? How?

Decisional level questions

12. What is one insight from this clip or conversation that will you take away and apply in your own work?

13. Who would you like to share this clip with?

See also Facilitation, and how it can add value. and my 2017 free facilitation webinar:


 

See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

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

Move beyond ‘seat of the pants’ facilitation


“Move beyond ‘seat of the pants’ facilitation and reliance on instinct, and use the most powerful facilitation methods and processes available in the world today.”

Well done and thank you to Bill Staples and ICA Associates in Canada for another great little video in their series introducing ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitation approach – see also Introducing the Technology of Participation on Vimeo and How I work.

This new 3 minute video (above) previews ICA’s flagship 2-day ToP Group Facilitation Methods training course. This course introduces the foundational ToP Focused Conversation and ToP Consensus Workshop methods, through demonstration, theory, practice and application.

This course, and others building on these two foundational methods, are available from ICAs in all continents worldwide – including ICA Associates and of course ICA:UK.  For links and further details, please see ICA International or contact me.