Now we are global: ICAI facilitates interchange in Brussels

This piece ‘from the archive’ was first written for Network Exchange, newsletter of ICA International, in September 1998 when I had first joined the ICAI Board.  ICAI is now registered in Canada and it’s newsletter is Winds and Waves, but ICA Belgium is still going strong and I continue to visit Brussels – this week for client meetings, and next month to deliver ToP Group Facilitation Methods and Action Plannning training.  Click on the photos to enlarge them, and see who you can recognise!

ICAI 1998 General AssemblyPatrick Mbullu and I represented ICA:UK at the General Assembly of ICA International in August. As Vice Presidents elect, Mangla Gavai of ICA India, Edward Mutiso of ICA Kenya and I also worked in advance with Dick Alton of ICAI to design and facilitate the event.

The 45 delegates represented 23 member ICAs and ICAI. Day 1 was devoted to continental and global reporting and interchange. Days 2 & 3 looked at the global work of ICA including global conferences and networking, and ICAI finances, secretariat, Executive Committee elections and new membership applications. Days 4 & 5 looked at local work of member ICAs, particularly in terms of developing standards for institutional structure and strengthening, for new and existing ICAs. As a whole group we took a Brussels ‘pub crawl’ one night, and we celebrated the acceptance of five new member ICAs in a closing ceremony.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The occasion also provided opportunity for much bilateral interchange among participants between sessions – in my case, related to discussing potential volunteer placements and funding partnerships, but also social.

Minutes of the General Assembly

The Institute of Cultural Affairs International held its General Assembly at its headquarters at rue Amédée Lynen 8, 1210 Bruxelles, from 24 through 28 August 1998.

Members present were: ICA Australia, ICA Belgium, ICA Benin, ICA Bosnia i Herzegovina, ICA Canada, ICA Côte d’Ivoire, ICA Egypt, ICA Germany, ICA Ghana, ICA Guatemala, ICA Hong Kong, ICA India, ICA Japan, ICA Kenya, ICA Nepal, ICA Netherlands, ICA Spain, ICA Tanzania, ICA Uganda, ICA United Kingdom, ICA United States and ICA Zambia.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The Board of Directors elected Donald Elliott, USA, as President; Ruth Lukona, Zambia, as Secretary; Myriam Balbela, Venezuela, as Treasurer; Mangla Gavai, India, Edward Mutiso, Kenya, and Martin Gilbraith, United Kingdom, as Vice Presidents.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The General Assembly voted unanimously to change Article 12 of the statutes to read: “The Institute is administered by a Board of Directors comprised of two to fifty members. One member at least of the Board of Directors must be of Belgian nationality.”

The Assembly unanimously accepted ICA Ghana, ICA Nepal, ICA Tanzania and ICA Uganda as statutory members; and ICA Benin as an Associate Member.

The Assembly unanimously approved the financial accounts for the year 1997 and the budgets for the year 1999.

ICAI General Assembly 1998The General Assembly approved plans for ICAI to sponsor a Global Conference in the USA during the year 2000.

The General Assembly set the date for its next meeting in the year 2002.

Participants’ highlights

“Exchange! Honestly, I felt that’s the value ICA should keep! It’s good to be a part of Global Society, community… We thought we were forgotten, it’s nice to be back…” – Nejira Nalic, ICA:BiH

“We really have so much in common re mission & concerns & care even in the midst of our enriching differences. Face to face connection is invaluable. ICA is ready to really release & enlarge its global impact.” – Kathleen Joyce, ICA:USA

“A new knowledge. It was like an “intensive” training which I had expected since I came in contact with ICAI.” – Tatwa Timsina, ICA Nepal

“At this moment in history, this is readiness for reconciliation, rebuilding, and community within and beyond ICA.” – Wayne Ellsworth, ICA Japan

“Desire to reorganise and build our international image.” – Lambert Okrah, ICA Ghana

“Re-emerging global strategies especially in the Americas” – Ray Caruso, ICA:USA

“With all the wonderful diversity it encompasses, we are closer to a common understanding that will facilitate learning.” – Hala El Kholy, ICA MENA

“The people are open to new ideas and to support and welcome newcomers. There’s a lot of willingness and motivation and also possibilities to make things happen and a lot of experience in different fields.” – Adinda de Vries, ICA Netherlands

“Such kind of conference, meeting are important for us, because we learn at anytime – we share ideas, strategies. So a report in French might be appreciated.” – Koffi Nestor Amoin, ICA Côte d’Ivoire

“This is the first Global assembly of the ICA I have been privileged to attend. We used to say we were global when we saw westerners all over the world. Now we are global!” – Julie Miesen, ICA Australia

“I felt power in the room and lots of commitment. In a way I felt that all this globally/widely spread force can make a difference in world development & become more transparent in world development & recognised by other people. Global advocacy campaign?” – Slavica Bradvic, ICA:BiH

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!

Join me for ToP Group Facilitation Methods and Action Plannning training in Brussels!

MG ToPEventbrite - ToP Group Facilitation MethodsEventbrite - ToP Action PlanningI am excited to announce these two new public courses in Brussels in November. Please join me if you can, and share these details with friends, colleagues and networks who might be interested.

These courses are scheduled in partnership with Social Platform, the largest platform of European rights and value-based NGOs working in the social sector; and provided under license with ICA:UK, the participation & development charity.  It was following an earlier course with Social Platform in Brussels last December that I blogged Three dimensions of the facilitator role – a focused conversation with video.

“I would recommend the course to others as something that can easily be used in practise for leaders, facilitators and participants of group meetings” – Pierre Baussand, Director, Social Platform, Brussels.

Group Facilitation Methods

Introducing the foundations of the Technology of Participation (ToP) approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus – 2 days, November 25-26

How can I have more purposeful & productive conversations, bring out the wisdom of a group, encourage feedback between people, and reach shared awareness in meetings? How can I generate and weave together a diverse range of ideas, develop creative solutions and build a group consensus?

This course provides a structured introduction to the ToP Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods, which form the foundations of the ToP Action Planning method, Participatory Strategic Planning and other applications.

Action Plannning

Participatory planning for short-term projects and events – 1 day, November 27

How can I get all members of a group to participate in planning a project or event together, and build their commitment and responsibility so that they can successfully implement their plan?

This course introduces a structured, participatory process to enable the successful implementation of a group project or event.  The ToP Action Planning method uses the ToP Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods to engage all members of a group effectively, and so it builds commitment and ownership at all stages. The method is suitable for planning short to medium-term projects, or completing projects that have stalled.

BOOK NOW for Group Facilitation Methods, November 25-26 and Action Planning, November 27 – or please contact me with any questions or for further details.

Facilitation case study: Building a future together – broadening ownership in corporate planning

This piece ‘from the archive‘ is the story of a 12 month programme of facilitation training and capacity building support with a cadre of 80 managers, engaging over 1,000 stakeholders in developing a new 5-year corporate plan for Bron Afon Community Housing in South Wales. I led the contracting and co-design process and managed the project for ICA:UK as Chief Executive, and I supported ICA:UK colleagues Jonathan Dudding and Ann Lukens in delivering the programme.

The article was authored by Jonathan and Ann, and is posted here with their permission. It was first published by AMED in a special edition of its journal e-O&P, in a partnership I brokered for IAF to mark the 2011 IAF Europe conference in Istanbul. Extracts are reprinted below, and to read the full article please click on the image or go to Building a future together – broadening ownership in corporate planning.

A Visioning workshop, with over 80 people working individually, together and at tables, supported by Bron Afon facilitators

How do you develop a new plan for organisational growth and success and, at the same time, design a process which provides the opportunity for full involvement of the organisation’s members, staff, and partners? This article describes how we worked with a housing organisation on their year-long journey as they sought to develop a new corporate plan, build up an internal team of facilitators, and strengthen the members’ ownership of their future direction.

Involving all staff and client members in full corporate planning processes may seem to stretch the ‘need for consultation’ to its limits. However, in 2010, a community based housing organisation in Wales that is widely recognised for its community engagement strategy did exactly that. Bron Afon Community Housing wanted a corporate plan that was developed with maximum community, member and staff involvement; that enhanced the organisation’s capacity continually to design and facilitate participatory events; and that broke down the barriers between departments to provide more cohesive and integrated services to tenants. This is the story of how we co-designed and facilitated that project.

Penny Jeffreys, Bron Afon Learning and Development Manager, wrote:

“One of our aims in undertaking the project was to build capacity which we could use in the future and this has already been a proven positive outcome: the facilitation skills and techniques learnt and developed during the project have already been used in a number of other areas in the organisation. For example a workshop was held to identify and prioritise the support needs of our tenants to inform the future direction of this service using the trained facilitators and the process learnt which yielded really useful and comprehensive results.”

Shelley Hier, one of the Community support team facilitators,
said:

“The process came at just the right time – we had a year’s worth of data and using what we had learned, we were able to make sense of it all with our members group – coming up with an outcome that was clear, concise and (in the end) easy. The members really felt they owned it and in fact they said  it was the best thing we‘ve ever done at Bron Afon. They could see actions and ways forward – the result of us having better processes and understanding how to apply them in different situations.”

Jonathan Dudding is Director of International Programmes at ICA:UK. Jonathan has an MSc in Social Development Planning and Management from the University of Wales (Swansea) and a background in international development work in India, Zambia and Kenya. Jonathan specialises in the Technology of Participation, facilitating and training both in the UK and internationally; working with local partners to bring about change in Africa; and researching and developing new approaches to participation and partnership.

Ann Lukens, GroupWorks, is a facilitator, mediator, conflict practitioner and trainer. She has an MSc in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from Birkbeck (London), and has worked with and facilitated groups of all shapes and sizes to find ways to meet their needs and move forward in both exciting and difficult times. She has experience in Solutions Focus coaching and training, trains Mediators, Conflict Practitioners, and Facilitators and uses ICA ToP methods as a cornerstone of that work.

Evidencing facilitation competencies – reflecting on lessons learned

Building a future together: Broadening ownership in corporate planningThis ‘from the archive’ post is the essay I wrote for my IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) re-certification in 2012. I was reminded of it as I am now preparing a portfolio for my ICA Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF) assessment. This requires up-to-date evidence of all the IAF core competencies (broadly speaking), as well as of mastery in applying the core facilitation methods of ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP). 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”.


I shall use the IAF competencies as a framework by which to reflect on and illustrate some of my professional experience and development since my CPF assessment in 2008.

A. Create Collaborative Client Relationships
Since my 2008 CPF assessment I have had the opportunity to lead the contracting and design of my largest client project to date, a 12 month process of facilitation capacity building and facilitated strategic planning delivered by myself and two colleagues [Jonathan Dudding and Ann Lukens] over 60 person days.  The project involved 90 manager trainees and around 400 staff and 1,000 members and other stakeholders of a community-based housing association in South Wales. It was later written up in an article Building a future together: Broadening ownership in corporate planning for the joint AMED & IAF Europe issue of the AMED Journal last year, and presented at the joint AMED & IAF Europe workshop in London in March 2012.

The contracting & design process itself comprised multiple meetings and project drafts over several months, but the investment in developing clarity and trust in advance proved invaluable to later success.  This whole process served to stretch and develop greatly my capacity for creating collaborative relationships with clients, and also with co-facilitators and partners. One key insight was the importance of frequent, regular face-to-face meetings between ICA:UK’s local Associate and the client’s internal project team as well as between myself and the client’s leadership.  Another related insight was to recognize that our intervention was but a small component of a much larger transformation process for the client, to which we could and did make a significant contribution but which we could not and need not fully understand or influence.

B. Plan Appropriate Group Processes
Since 2008 I have facilitated a second ‘Big Meeting’ for a user-led organisation of people with learning difficulties, the first of which served as the focus of my essay for my CPF assessment then (Evidencing facilitation competencies: planning with people with learning difficulties). This second event was conceived by the client as a ‘planning party’, in order to better engage participants than would a straightforward facilitated planning session, so atmosphere and drama were key to success.  This was achieved with the aid of plenty of games, balloons, cakes and craft materials, through a process designed collaboratively with the client.

In working with 60 academic researchers more recently in May of this year, the key was to allow plenty of time and space for participants to engage in lengthy, free-ranging and in-depth discussion in small groups. I was able to achieve this by giving them free reign of the beautiful and sunny botanical gardens adjacent to the venue for their small group sessions.  In spite of some resistance to what some perceived as over-simplification and dumbing down of complex issues, I was also able finally to bring the group to a collective conclusion in order to meet the needs of the client.

C. Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
I made a point of developing experience and skills in virtual facilitation since my CPF in 2008, by selecting relevant sessions at each IAF conference attended and also by attending an 8-week virtual training course in ToP facilitation (Virtual Facilitation Online).  I have also had plenty of opportunity to practice virtual collaboration through my roles with the global IAF Board, and through participating in increasingly regular and sophisticated online global gatherings of members of ICA International (eg: ICAI online regional gatherings facilitate peer to peer support and collaboration). As a result I am increasingly proficient in the use of a variety of virtual tools myself, and my raised awareness of what is now possible encouraged me to lead the Board in scheduling IAF’s first online Annual Members Meeting later this year and procuring technical support through an open and competitive tendering process.

I have also made a point since 2008 of further exploring approaches to conflict, including by selecting conference sessions accordingly, by reading on conflict resolution and by some involvement in ICA:UK’s partnership work developing the Kumi method for social transformation in conflict situations on which I presented at the IAF Istanbul conference.  I am not aware that my facilitation practice has changed significantly as a result, but I certainly feel more confident in relation to conflict.

D. Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
I have experimented with a number of new tools and techniques since 2008.  In addition to virtual approaches mentioned above, these have included the suite tools of ICA’s Organisational Transformation course, which was new to me when I supported Bill Staples of ICA Associates to deliver it as a pre-conference course at the IAF Oxford conference in 2009. I have subsequently been able to apply some of these with success within ICA:UK and with ICA:UK clients as well.

I have adapted and applied multiple approaches in combination, including for example ToP, Open Space and Solutions Focus with the South Wales Housing Association mentioned above; and ToP and world café with a number or clients. I adapted a well-known ice-breaker to create on the hoof “Just one lie” for use at the IAF Board meeting in London in 2011, and subsequently wrote it up and contributed it to the IAF Methods Database and Global Flipchart Method of the Month [see Creativity in facilitation, and Just One Lie].

E. Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
Since applying to join the IAF Board and take my CPF assessment in 2008 I have read through all the back issues of the IAF Journal and the IAF Handbooks and a number of other facilitation titles as well.  I have attended two IAF conferences each year.

My IAF Board roles have helped me to expand my professional network and relationships greatly, which has been enormously valuable for my learning and professional development.  This has also been aided by my increased use of social media in the last few years, particularly LinkedIn and twitter, which I find invaluable sources of new material of interest as well as new personal and professional connections.

In drafting this essay 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!  I have plans to start blogging regularly so I hope that will help greatly [Welcome to my new website and blog!].

In my forthcoming freelance career I am looking forward to focusing my professional practice more on the international development and humanitarian sector, and to the opportunities for learning and development that that will afford me.

F. Model Positive Professional Attitude
Since I have begun inviting professional recommendations via LinkedIn, I am proud that values professionalism and integrity have been referred to repeatedly.

I am excited as well as somewhat apprehensive to have given notice to step down from my role as Chief Executive from the end of September, after 16 years with ICA:UK [A new transition for ICA:UK – and for me], with a view to working freelance as a professional facilitator and facilitation trainer for at least some time.  With my IAF Chair role ending soon as well, in December [Reflections on a term as IAF Chair], I am relishing the prospect that my reduced responsibilities might allow more time for reflection and learning, and exploration of new opportunities and new avenues for professional development and service.

Facilitation case study: Compact Awareness Workshops with Manchester City Council

This ToP facilitation case study from the archive was first written for and published in 2008 by ICA:UK.

Context

Manchester CompactThe Compact is an agreement between public bodies and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) setting out how they relate to each other. It is the framework for working together in a spirit of trust and respect and provides the basis to address many important issues. The government is encouraging all councils and voluntary and community sectors to form a Compact together.” – Manchester City Council.

The Manchester Compact was launched in September 2003, but it was felt that more could be done to raise awareness and understanding of it and promote its use.  A summary booklet was being prepared, intended to help to raise awareness and refer readers to the Compact itself.  However, experience of discussing the Compact with local voluntary groups and Council officers directly had suggested that a more effective means might be to work with VCS infrastructure workers and other intermediaries to support and encourage them to raise awareness and promote the use of the Compact through their work.

The Compact Task Group, including representatives of Manchester City Council and the voluntary and community sector in the city, proposed the development of a tailored half-day facilitated workshop for council officers and VCS staff, based around the use of scenarios, to be repeated around the city.

As a result, ICA:UK was approached by Manchester City Council in August 2006 to design and facilitate a series of such workshops.  We had previously worked with the council on a number of facilitated processes, including Participatory Strategic Planning events with the Voluntary Sector Policy & Grants Team and with the Area Co-ordination team.

The aims of the workshops were agreed to be as follows:

  1. for participants from support services of both the VCS and the council to increase their awareness and understanding of how the Compact can valuably be used, and their confidence and commitment to help to raise the awareness and understanding of others
  2. to begin to develop a documentary resource on how the Compact can be used
  3. for participants from the VCS and the council to better appreciate each others’ perspectives on the issues raised, and to promote a sense of collaboration among all towards the shared objective of improving services for Manchester residents.

Process

A half-day session was designed to meet the aims above, building on a number of scenarios drafted by the Compact Task Group to prompt discussion and learning on possible uses of the Compact. The process was highly participatory, and involved a combination of working in small groups and with the whole group together.

The key elements of the sessions were:

  • Opening, introductions and overview
  • Discussion – our experience of the Compact, its relevance and its use
  • Scenario exercise – creative small group work  and brief plenary reports
  • Reflection, next steps, evaluation and close
  • Lunch and informal networking

Following an initial series of three workshops from October-December 2006, a further series of three workshops were delivered in May and June 2007. Each workshop was attended by mixed groups of up to 20 participants from across the council and the VCS, usually no more than 2 or 3 from each team or organisation.

Outputs & feedback

Each workshop was documented thoroughly, including participants’ responses to the scenarios, to begin to develop a resource for others on how to use the Compact.

Also documented were participants’ names and roles, their initial questions or concerns about the Compact, common themes drawn from their reflection on the exercise, and their detailed feedback on the workshop from their closing evaluation forms.

The workshops were well received, with average participant satisfaction ratings of up to 7.8 out of 10. Participants’ feedback included:

  • [a highlight was] the mix of people from both council and voluntary sector, and… hearing all the represented groups agreeing and showing similar concerns
  • going through scenarios was really useful for putting the Compact into practice
  • my better understanding of the document and its application has increased my confidence
  • I now feel I can promote Compact as a positive tool to be used

Outcomes

Madeleine Rose, Programme Officer with the Voluntary Sector Policy and Grants Team of Manchester City Council, and the client for the workshops, wrote in February 2008:

“Manchester received a Compact Commendation for ‘Excellence in Communications’ from the Compact Commission at their annual meeting in December .  This was very much down to the success of the workshops.”

Following an enquiry to Manchester from the Rochdale Borough Compact Steering Group, the process was adapted and delivered for a series of four workshops in Rochdale in March and April 2008. Karen Salisbury of the group, which includes the Borough’s CVS, the PCT, the Centre of Diversity and the GM Fire and Rescue Service, as well as the council, wrote in May 2008:

“The Steering Group found the workshops a useful way of introducing and raising awareness of the Compact, and a good opportunity for people from different agencies and sectors to discuss the needs and views of each. We would certainly recommend the workshops to other local Compacts”.

On the Road

This article was first written for and published in the IAF Europe MENA newsletter, May 2014.

Moscow facilitators planning ‘What can we do over the next 3 years to promote a culture of participation in our organisations?’Moscow facilitators learned the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process last month by planning ‘What can we do over the next 3 years to promote a culture of participation in our organisations?’

When Julia Goga-Cooke invited me to contribute to this new ‘On The Road’ section of the newsletter, I think she may have known what sort of month I have been having. As well as visiting some interesting places, I have been able to meet and work with some wonderful IAF colleagues.

I began writing this from Marrakech, where I was facilitating last week for the first Arab Regional Forum on Youth Volunteering. This was convened by UN Volunteers, and brought together over 100 stakeholders from across the region and beyond to share, learn and plan together. On exchanging business cards with one delegate from Jordan, he told me that he had just emailed with IAF about joining or setting up a local chapter. So I was happy to share what I knew about the IAF membership in the region, and IAF’s chapter approach, and to learn from his experience of facilitation and facilitators in Jordan.

Prior to this I was in Turin with IAF member Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg , in preparation for facilitating an event there together this week with the 120 staff of the European Training Foundation to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. It was in designing this event, including a ToP ‘Wall of Wonder’ historical scanning process, that I had the idea for the rather more elaborate process to contribute to IAF’s 20th anniversary year celebration that became ‘Celebrating the development of facilitation – world-wide and history long’. This was launched in April, online and at the IAF North America conference in Orlando. Please do join in, online and at future conferences and chapter events between now and International Facilitation Week in October.

Prior to that, I was in Moscow at the start of April for the 5th annual Moscow Facilitators’ conference. It was great to be back, having attended for my first time last year and contributing a keynote and pre-conference ToP Group Facilitation Methods training. This year I presented a case study of the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process with an international humanitarian agency in Geneva, ‘Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’’, and post-conference ToP Participatory Strategic Planning training (see photo above). The 100 or so participants came from the regions of Russia and Ukraine and Finland as well as from Moscow and the UK.

I have been privileged these last few weeks as well to serve as a mentor to one of ICA Ukraine’s ToP facilitation trainers, and to learn something of how she and ICA are working to network diverse actors in Ukraine and to re-envisage and rebuild their country’s future together. It was a privilege also (and fun!) to help to network ICA Ukraine’s facilitators with Russian facilitators attending the Moscow Facilitators conference by exchanging real-time Facebook updates between my post-conference ToP strategic planning course in Moscow and Natasha’s simultaneous ToP strategic planning course in Lviv.

It is a great disappointment to me to learn that this year’s IAF Europe MENA conference Facilitation Reloaded will no longer be held in Moscow, although recent events have made it increasingly self-evident that it would not be able to go ahead as planned. It seems to me that there is a need, now more than ever, for facilitation to grow and make a valuable impact in the region. I am delighted to know that the conference will be relocated rather than cancelled, and that the Moscow team will remain involved, and I shall be delighted for the opportunity to visit Copenhagen instead in October. I hope to see you there, and I hope that colleagues from Russia and Ukraine will be able to attend.

In the midst of all this I was also able to squeeze in a day of facilitation training with ICA:UK, for an international firm of sustainability consultants in London – happily, and rather appropriately, I was able to travel to that on foot!