How to Facilitate LEGO Serious Play Online – #FacWeek Foreword

How to Facilitate LEGO® Serious Play® Online

Welcome to International Facilitation Week 2020, starting today! #FacWeek

This year I am pleased to join with Sean Blair CPF in launching his new book, for which I am pleased to have contributed the Foreword, below.

Join Sean and me if you can at this year’s online IAF England & Wales Annual Conference, in which he will be leading a session The story of how LEGO® Serious Play®, a face-to-face method went #Online and I shall be co-hosting this month’s UK & Ireland facilitators virtual coffee meetup #IAFmeetup – all welcome!

Also this week, on Thursday I shall be leading Facilitation Competencies for Agilists with fellow ICA:UK ToP trainer Megan Evans part of Agile Tour London 2020.  And of course I shall be tweeting @FacWeek!

How will you celebrate and promote the power of facilitation this year? Check out the global schedule of events at www.facweek.org, and you will not be left short of ideas!


I started out as a facilitator in 1986, with my first training in the ICA ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) methodology that has been my facilitation speciality ever since.

I have been providing facilitation and facilitation training professionally to a wide range of clients since 1997, became a Certified™ Professional Facilitator (CPF) of the International Association of Facilitators in 2008 and was inducted into the IAF Hall of Fame in 2014, then became CPF | Master this year in 2020.

All of this time I have worked remotely, in and with geographically distributed groups, as well as face-to-face. I have been using online technology in this work for as long as it has been available.

I have never sought to make online facilitation a particular speciality, however – until now, of course. I have not made LEGO® Serious Play® a speciality either, in spite of having enjoyed a long and distinguished early childhood career in LEGO®!

I believe that a facilitator is first a facilitator, and only second an online facilitator or a LEGO Serious Play facilitator. I believe that the keys to mastering facilitation lie in the values and the stance of the facilitator, the competencies and the disciplines, rather than the space or the platform, the methods or the tools.

Nevertheless, I am excited to commend to you this book ‘How To Facilitate Meetings & Workshops Using The LEGO® Serious Play® Method Online’. Here are three reasons why.

I know Sean, and that he is a competent, experienced and accomplished facilitator. Questions are the primary tool of every facilitator, and I know that he asks good questions and that he asks them well. In an early meetup of IAF England & Wales, in London in perhaps 2013, he posed the question: “Is there such a thing as a universal principle of facilitation?”

It didn’t take me long to think and respond that, in my own facilitation at least, there is certainly something approaching that – the ‘ORID’ model underlies of the ToP Focused Conversation method and the ToP methodology as a whole.

I know that Sean has since integrated this approach in his practice, and in his previous book ‘Mastering The LEGO Serious Play Method’. I was sufficiently inspired by the metaphor of ORID as a universal principle that I blogged about it then and have used it in my training ever since.

Many facilitators have rapidly developed a speciality in working online this year, as Sean and I have as well. Some have done so more quickly and easily than others, and some with greater enthusiasm. Most, in my experience, have had reservations about some of the very real limitations of online facilitation. Only recently I think more of us are becoming belatedly more aware of some equally real limitations of face-to-face, and some real advantages of working online.

So, it is not only LEGO Serious Play practitioners that might take heart and find inspiration in the many innovations that Sean shares in this book. There is much here for all of us to learn from – not least, the rigour and creativity with which he has designed ‘a digital process that uses bricks’ [substitute your preferred tool or method here] ‘rather than an analogue process poorly rendered online’.

I’ve heard it said that, in online facilitation, every participant brings their share of the meeting room with them. This is a challenge for LEGO Serious Play practitioners perhaps more than most, and one to which this book rises admirably.

As Sean makes clear in his Guiding Principles, success in achieving outcomes rather than just engagement through facilitation comes largely from the planning and preparation, and from the capacity to divert nimbly from the plan when the moment requires improvisation.

All of this can be considerably more complex and difficult online than face-to-face. So, if this is what can be done with LEGO Serious Play, think what else can be possible online!

Finally, we are in the midst of a climate emergency, as well as a public health emergency. I believe that the two are not unrelated, and that they demand new ways of connecting, communicating and collaborating that are less carbon intensive as well as more COVID-19 secure, and that are more creative, compassionate and empowering as well. I believe that facilitation has a central role to play on the latter, with bricks as well as without, and that designing and delivering facilitation well online must play a part on the former.

I have witnessed an extraordinary flourishing of creativity and innovation among facilitators in response to the pandemic and lockdown of recent months, and an extraordinary generosity of sharing of it as well – largely, of course, online.

I am delighted to see this valuable and timely new book enter the fray, and just in time for International Facilitation Week! I am proud to be able to welcome you to it, and grateful to Sean for sharing it.

Buy the book, online of course, from Serious Work.


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.

The importance of values in facilitation – #IAFpodcast FS7

#iafpodcast

Welcome to Facilitation Stories, where we discover how facilitators ended up in the profession, and how facilitation methods, principles and techniques are used more widely.

One of the most exciting developments for IAF England & Wales in 2019, in my view, has been the launch of the new IAF E&W podcast Facilitation Stories during International Facilitation Week in October – not only for the insightful stories that are shared, and the personal connections that are made and strengthened, but also as an early indication of what a small, self-organising team of ‘IAF facilitators & friends’ can achieve by collaborating together to pursue a shared interest. I hope we will see more many more such initiatives in 2020, and a wide variety of practical projects.

I am grateful to podcast co-hosts @PilarOrti and @HeleneJewell for the opportunity to join them as a guest for today’s new 30-minute episode, and share a few stories and examples of my own – on the importance of values in facilitation.

Listen now, or see the show notes below first for what to expect – and do check out the previous six episodes and subscribe for the next at Facilitation Stories – or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!


Helene Jewell writes in the FS7 show notes…

Martin Gilbraith is a facilitator, trainer and consultant, and Chair of the IAF England & Wales Board. He started hosting IAF meetups about 5 years ago, and has been facilitating since 1986.

He is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF),  an ICA Certified ToP Facilitator (CTF) and an experienced lead trainer and licensed provider of ICA’s ‘ToP’ facilitation training and a Certified Scrum Master (CSM).

Martin talks about the importance of values – both personal and IAF values, which talk about the collective wisdom of the group.

He says that what you believe has an enormous impact on the group.

Martin talks about defining values, how the IAF values resonate with him and his involvement with developing the ICA:UK values.

Values are what is important to people and what drives them, and are important to be able to define what is meaningful and important to them.

He told us about the ethics of taking decisions not to do work that conflicted with his values, mostly around contracting with the client.

We discussed the set up for sessions and how to deal with it if it is not what you want, particularly thinking about hybrid (online & face-to-face) meetings. Sometimes even if the result is not perfect there are reasons why you might want to take a piece of work; in this example where the team was used to working in a distributed way on line and the group is used to the constraints and the client is known to the facilitator.

Client contracts always come with constraints and it is the facilitators responsibility to work within these constraints. Sometimes the parameters are really complex and you just have to do the best you can.

Sometimes things that’s people do unconsciously turn out to be core values.

Martin talked about his involvement in the ICA:UK and how the values were developed. One of the ways this was done was through using the ORID methodology to ask questions to members and stakeholders followed by a consensus building process at a workshop.

Facilitators often facilitate sessions to help organisations come up with their own values.

It’s important to start with real life experiences and something that is important and meaningful to people to help them define their values.

Martin started working with ICA as a volunteer and his first workshop involved creating a personal timeline as a personal reflection tool.

He talked about a book by John and Maureen Jenkins (founder members of IAF) – 9 disciplines of a facilitator – leading groups by transforming yourself. All about understanding your own values. A phrase from Maureen that resonated with Martin “however good a facilitator you are […] your most powerful tool as a facilitator is your own interior condition

Martin explains a bit further what ORID is and how it is his universal principle of facilitator.

He finally shared a quote from Groucho Marx: “These are my principles, and if you don’t like them….well, I have others!

Please let us know your thoughts – email us at podcast@iaf-englandwales.org and go mad on Twitter! @IAFenglandwales, @Fac_stories, #IAFPodcast, #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.

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.

 

The power facilitation and communications in partnership

#ETF20 - celebrating 20 years with the European Training FoundationI am working with Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg on a book project, as part of a wider team of 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.

In our chapter we’ll be focusing on the intersect between communication and facilitation, and exploring the power of applying facilitation and communications in partnership. We will be sharing stories of how we’ve used some of their complementing (and contrasting) professional competencies, and the professional frameworks available.

To help organise this we’ll use a framework from the field of communications: The Global Standard of the Communications Profession. It covers:

  • Ethics
  • Consistency
  • Context
  • Analysis
  • Strategy
  • Engagement

We want to bring these to life – and we’ll be asking the global facilitation and comms communities to add ideas, and share their own stories.

Ultimately the aim is to help you deliver award-winning work. Work with an impact that stands the test of time. Work that matters.

Here’s just one such example we’ll be drawing on (which won awards from both IABC and IAF) – #ETF20.  Please go ahead and share your own ideas, stories and links in a comment below, or online with the hashtag #FacPower!

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 us in Birmingham for International Facilitation Week, and where you are! #FacWeek

We are excited to announce the draft programme for our annual all-day networking & learning Meetup of all four of our regional facilitation meetup groups, for International Facilitation Week #FacWeek – join us on Saturday 20 October in Birmingham!

This will be a participant-led, peer sharing event – an opportunity for you to network, share and learn with up to 50 or more other facilitators and those who share an interest in facilitation. It will be one of dozens of such face-to-face and online events worldwide, promoting and celebrating the power of facilitation for International Facilitation Week.

Sessions already included in our draft Programme are:

We will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the CPF programme, since the first CPFs gained their accreditation in Edinburgh in 1998, with a birthday cake; and we will celebrate the newest CPFs who gained their accreditation at the previous day’s CPF Assessment event in Birmingham. We will introduce members of the IAF E&W Leadership Team and candidates for the upcoming chapter Board election.

We invite you to bring a few of your favourite facilitation books and others resources to share with each other – for viewing only and/or for sale.

Prior to the meetup, on Oct 18-19 at BVSC, Martin Gilbraith CPF and Bill Staples CPF will be sharing practical tools to design facilitation approaches with your client in ‘ToP Facilitating Client Collaboration‘, one of three 2-day modules of the IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ training programme.

Those arriving on Friday, or staying over from the preceding training and CPF assessment, are invited to gather to start their networking over dinner and drinks from 7pm at a bar & restaurant near the venue in central Birmingham – details to follow. Please RSVP now separately for Friday evening.

Download the draft Programme (pdf).

RSVPs, costs & cancellations

All are welcome, members and non-members of IAF alike. This is a non-commercial, peer networking & learning event. We are charging a fee of just £35 to help to cover venue costs. Lunch is also included. Cancellations received by 30 September may be refunded in full. No refunds will be issued after that date.

To book and pay to reserve your place, please RSVP now.

If you can’t join us then, join us at a local meetup near you soon – including coming up in Oxfordshire, Leeds, Warwick, London, Bristol, Exeter, Birmingham & Newcastle – follow the link to your regional meetup group at IAF England & Wales.


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 IAF facilitators & friends – 20 October in Birmingham for International Facilitation Week, and more!

It’s the middle of summer holiday season in England & Wales so, if you’re not on holiday, what better time to be making plans for the autumn?

Our annual all-day Networking & Learning Meetup of all four of our regional facilitation meetup groups is now open for bookings – RSVP now, all welcome!

This will be a participant-led, peer sharing event – an opportunity for you to network, share and learn with up to 60 or more other facilitators and those who share an interest in facilitation. It will be one of dozens of such face-to-face and online events worldwide, promoting and celebrating the power of facilitation for International Facilitation Week. Sessions already confirmed include:

You are invited to share your own offers and requests for further sessions as well, and to bring a few of your favourite facilitation books and other resources to share with each other – for viewing only and/or for sale. We will provide free bookmarks! Also during the day we will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the CPF programme, since the first CPFs worldwide gained their accreditation in Edinburgh in 1998, and we will celebrate the newest CPFs who gained their accreditation at the previous day’s CPF Assessment event in Birmingham on October 19.

You are also invited to learn practical tools to design facilitation approaches with your client in ‘ToP Facilitating Client Collaboration‘, one of three 2-day modules of the IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ training programme, October 18-19 with me and Bill Staples CPF at the same venue. Those arriving on Friday, or staying over from the preceding training and CPF assessment, are invited to gather to start their networking over dinner and drinks from 7pm.


It has never been easier to find a regular facilitation meetup near you in England & Wales. Ongoing monthly coffee meetups in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and London will be joined in the autumn by Warwick, in addition to our bi-monthly or quarterly afternoon learning meetups in each of the four regions. We are keen to support emerging local groups elsewhere as well, and are seeing interest particularly in Cambridge, Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton already – so please contact me if you are interested to connect with others in these cities, or wherever you are.

For upcoming dates, and other opportunities for facilitation networking & learning, join our regional groups for London & SE, South WestMidlands & East & North, and connect with us online also on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Finally, IAF members in England & Wales are invited to nominate themselves or another member to stand for election to the chapter Board in 2018. Please contact me if you are interested to step up further to help to drive the growth and development of IAF E&W, to connect and support facilitators and to promote facilitation!


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.