Facilitation Week is a participatory experience that inspires synergy and celebrates the act of group facilitation. Held in the third week of October each year, it’s purpose is to showcase the power of facilitation to both new and existing audiences, and to create a sense of community among facilitators and their groups worldwide. To join in as a participant, facilitator or sponsor, see facilitationweek.org.
The mission of our #FacPower book project too is to promote the power of facilitation worldwide. So, what better opportunity could there be for us to share a brief update on how we have been working to do just that, and how you can get involved?
The #FacPower story so far…
our journey began in 2018, when a global team of IAF Certified Professional Facilitators (CPFs), members and others first came together with a vision to contribute chapters and visuals to a book illustrating specific aspects of ‘the power of facilitation’
the book has been downloaded more than 6,000 times by more than 9,000 website visitors in more than 100 countries, and more than US$1,250 has been donated to the IAF Bursary Fund – we are especially grateful to our generous donors
we are excited to have had expressions of interest from colleagues keen to work on translation of the book into languages including Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Turkish, and to develop new editions including print-on-demand, an audio-book and a podcast series.
rate the book on Goodreads, and add a brief review there – that will help many other readers to find it
share your reflections and questions on your own website, blog or social media with the #FacPower hashtag and a link to facpower.org, and mention or tag the relevant contributors – let’s deepen and broaden the conversation together
if you have your own blog, podcast or other publication, contact us to arrange an interview or online session with one or more of our contributors
contact us if you are interested to translate of all or some of the book into your own language – see our translation page for what support we are ready to offer and what we will expect from you
contact us if you are interested to share your skills to help us to develop new editions including print-on-demand, an audio-book and a podcast series
Hosting the 2020 online Annual Meeting of IAF England & Wales last month was one of my last acts as chapter Chair before completing my 2 year term at the end of December. I am sharing here the zoom recording of the meeting, and also the 2020 Board report (pdf) that we presented as a Board and Leadership Team.
It is also now just over 5 years since I took over as organiser of the IAF London meetup group, and it will very soon be time this month for the new England & Wales Board (and separately also this month the IAF global Board) to meet again to make plans for the year ahead.
So I thought I would share a little of the story of these 5 years, and a few reflections from my own experience of what I think has worked for us.
In a small way I had supported Julia Goga-Cooke and Martin Farrell in their hosting of the first meetups of IAF England & Wales, in London from November 2013. We met monthly on Thursday evenings in a meeting room near Charing Cross for 2 hours of informal networking and learning exchange. We had groups of up to around 8 or 10, sometimes only one or two (even none!). Nevertheless we attracted a small but loyal band of regular attenders, who came to appreciate our little community greatly.
When I took over as host in November 2015, I sought to grow the community at first by diversifying the meetups. I continued the London networking and learning meetups in a meeting room every other month, as afternoon sessions of 3-4 hours to encourage and enable people to travel further to attend. I alternated those with bi-monthly evening social meetups in a pub, and added monthly morning networking meetups in a coffee shop.
I found that my meetup.com organiser fee entitled me to 3 meetup groups for the price of one. So I launched new regional groups for the North of England and South West, and invited others to host monthly local coffee meetups near them and to share in hosting of regional networking & learning meetups on a quarterly basis.
We asked some of our regulars what they have appreciated most about IAF E&W Meetups and why should others be interested, and listed some of their replies on our web page.
#IAFMeetups offer a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other, to share experiences and to practice new ways of facilitation in a friendly and fun environment. I look forward to each meet up and enjoy being with fellow facilitators from different nationalities ❤️
Setting out as a facilitator on my own was a scary decision but I have met so many great people through the @IAFEnglandWales meet ups, wheather thats someone to run an idea past or even to try out something new with. Its a really wonderful community to be a part of!
In 2019 we invited all of our growing community of meetup hosts around the country to form an expanded Leadership Team of around 30, with an online home in Basecamp. In that year’s election we expanded the Board from six to nine. We also launched the Wales meetup group, supported sister groups to launch in Scotland and Ireland, and launched the monthly UK & Ireland online coffee meetup.
For International Facilitation Week in 2019 our national event in Birmingham became a two-day Annual Conference, attended by around 100. We also launched the #IAFpodcast Facilitation Stories that week – an initiative sparked by a conversation at a London meetup earlier that year.
Early 2020 saw a dozen or so attend our first overnight Leadership Team meeting in Birmingham in January, and the launch of IAF England & Wales Hubs to support IAF facilitators and friends to pursue a shared interest together – the first being the Climate Hub. Then of course we took all of our meetups online, and then our October 2020 Annual Conference as well…
The 2020 Board report shared here illustrates something of the experience and outcomes of IAF England & Wales this past year in text and images, and the Annual Meeting recording illustrates the experience and outcomes of many of those involved in their own stories and from their perspectives.
I am enormously proud of what we have become as a community – and not least how that community has innovated and transformed itself, and enabled those involved to innovate and transform their own facilitation practice and businesses, this past year.
I am enormously gratified, also, to be able to step down from my own leadership role with great confidence in the strong, distributed and very facilitative leadership that remains in place. I mean my successor as Chair Helene Jewell, and the newly (re-)elected chapter Board of nine and wider Leadership Team, and also the IAF England & Wales community as a whole as well.
Our IAF England & Wales 2020 plan, like those of previous years, includes a few simple principles that we have developed over the years to capture how we have sought to work together as chapter. For me these reflect much of what has worked for us in terms of chapter leadership over the past 5 years.
IAF England & Wales is a not-for-profit unincorporated association, constituted as a Chapter of IAF according to Chapter Bylaws approved by the IAF Board in 2011 and governed by an elected Board of local IAF members
As a chapter of IAF we are guided by the Vision, Mission and Values of IAF and we engage actively with other chapters, and with the Association as a whole, both to learn and to contribute. Our Bylaws are adapted from those of IAF as a whole and our Board structure and roles are adapted from those of the global IAF Board. This has helped us to build alignment.
IAF facilitators & friends, our wider network, welcomes everyone with an interest in facilitation in E&W, IAF members and non-members alike. Non-IAF members from among the wider network may be appointed by the E&W Board to the wider IAF E&W Leadership Team.
The greatest value that an Association like IAF can offer its members, in my experience, is the opportunity to exercise leadership in service to others and to the world at large. Thus we have not sought to provide a service to members so much as to build an open community to support members and others to serve each other and the wider world. We have used social media and online platforms as well as face-to-face and virtual meetups to broaden and deepen our connections. This has enabled us to build engagement.
We are a community of facilitators, after all, with a mission to promote and advance the highest professional standards among all those with an interest in facilitation. This has helped us to build credibility.
We seek to reflect and also broaden the diversity of the facilitation community
This is perhaps the principle that we have had least success in living up to, as yet, and so perhaps it is the one that is most deserving of greater attention. I believe that such attention is demanded by our Values and Ethics as facilitators and by our Values as an Association, so I am encouraged by the Board’s ongoing committed to this. This will increasingly help us to build our impact.
We follow our passion & energy, and those of our community. We lead to inspire more leadership, rather than to gain followers – so we encourage, challenge & support others to lead sessions, to host meetups and to lead in other ways
As facilitators we make it easy for groups to achieve amazing results, so in other leadership roles we make it easy for ourselves and each other to do so as well. Perhaps my greatest source of pride in my leadership of IAF England & Wales is to have had my name taken as short-hand for the experience of finding oneself to have volunteered for a leadership role – in other words, to have been ‘Gilbraithed’! I am prouder still to hear talk among my fellow chapter leaders of doing the same to each other and to others in future, taking their own and each others’ names as short-hand. This has helped us to build our leadership.
We manage our finances on a low-cost, low-risk, break-even basis.
In order to make it easy on ourselves and each other as leaders, and to make our community as widely accessible as possible. This has helped us to build our resilience.
This story of IAF England & Wales is a story of IAF as a whole as much as it is a story of the chapter. I believe that the chapter has had some influence on the story of IAF as a whole over these 5 years, but I am quite certain that the reverse is true.
I am proud and gratified also that IAF and its global and regional leadership has provided such an enabling and empowering environment for such a story to unfold in England & Wales, and in a rapidly growing number of other IAF chapters and groups around the world. I think it was well deserved that IAF won the AAE Award for Best Membership Engagement in 2019.
I am excited that the IAF global Board this month will be reviewing a new ‘IAF Scale of Participation’, developed by Marketing Director Jeffer London with inspiration from New Power. This could help to build a global journey of leadership development, in conjunction with the IAF Professional Development Pathway.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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/.