Reflections on 5 years of chapter leadership with IAF England & Wales

IAF England & Wales 2020 Annual Meeting

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.

Join IAF facilitators & friends for regular facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere

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.

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

We held our first all-day, all-England & Wales meetup for International Facilitation Week in Birmingham in October 2016, with I think 16 participants.

We made extensive use of twitter and other social media to reach out to others, using the hashtag #IAFmeetup and sharing selfies of every meetup – at least when joined by others!

IAF England & Wales Leadership Team plans the year ahead

As the network grew, I invited meetup hosts and attendees to join me in forming a Leadership Team, and six of us first met for an afternoon of action planning in London in May 2017.

In 2018 we launched the Midlands & East of England group, and six of us stood for election by the chapter membership to form a new chapter Board.

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.

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

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.

The Power and Practice of Facilitation – annual conference programme

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.

IAF Worldwide

Join us in promoting the power of facilitation worldwide!

Everyone with an interest in facilitation is welcome and, while our meetups are largely all online, there will always be an #IAFmeetup near you!


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

Register now on Eventbrite also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training sessions, now all online.

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.

 

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.

ToP facilitation courses, taster sessions & webinars – what difference do they make?

While enjoying a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer, I have taken (quite) some time to review what ToP facilitation training courses, taster sessions and webinars I have delivered in recent years, and what I can learn from feedback shared by participants at the time.

Full results are shared in the slides above. This draws on the experience of 47 training courses, 13 conference & meetup taster sessions and 7 webinars in the past 5 years, reaching a total of 1,089 participants. This is in addition to tailored facilitation processes that I have delivered – 24 in the past year and 52 in my first four years of freelance practice.  See also ToP facilitation training – what’s it like, and is it worthwhile?

Feedback for ToP training courses in particular is largely very high, as it has been for the 20 years I have been delivering them – the average of participant ratings for design & delivery, of all the 37 courses over the past 5 years for which data is available, is 9.1 out of 10. Included in the slides are some conclusions of my own on what is most appreciated and what suggestions for improvement I should consider, and how I have already begun to act on some suggestions.

But… what difference do they make?  

What do participants remember and apply of what they have learned, months and years later? With whom do they apply what they have learned, and what (greater) difference are they now able to make with them? What supports or hinders them from applying what they have learned? What additional recommendations can they make for the courses, sessions & webinars, with the benefit of hindsight? What additional training or support might they find helpful – from me or from others?

If you have participated with me in courses, taster sessions or webinars within the past 5 years, or within the past 20 years, please respond now to a short survey to help me to assess and improve what difference they make – at surveymonkey. This survey is in partnership with ICA:UK, with whom I have been delivering ToP facilitation training since 1996 – for the past 5 years as a licensed Associate, and before that as employed staff. If you have received a link by email, please follow the link in the email to respond.

I plan to analyse and share the results in the autumn, based on what responses I have received by mid-September.  After that I plan to leave the survey open indefinitely for further responses, and systematically request responses of future participants by email 6-12 months after each event.

As a token of appreciation for your feedback, three of those responding before the mid-September deadline (tbc) will be randomly selected to receive a free gift of an ICA:UK sticky wall or book of their choice (subject to availability).

Finally, if you have participated or not, join me!


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

Join a free facilitation meetup near you!

Are you interested in connecting, networking & learning with other facilitators and with others with an interest in facilitation in England & Wales?

Join us online, and at one of our free facilitation meetups near you!

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) is a participatory organisation with around 1,600 members in over 65 countries, and 40 local groups including IAF England & Wales (IAF E&W). As a professional association we set internationally accepted industry standards, provide accreditation, support a community of practice, advocate and educate on the power of facilitation and embrace the diversity of those who facilitate. To connect with others elsewhere in the world see IAF worldwide.

We are now over 400 ‘IAF facilitators & friends’ in three regional meetup groups, including over 65 members of IAF and 15 IAF Certified Professional Facilitators (CPFs), spread throughout England.

Everyone with an interest in group process facilitation is welcome, including facilitators and others who use or commission facilitation, and IAF members and non-members alike.

Please RSVP now for one of our regular free facilitation meetups near you:

RSVP now also for a special one-off meetup on June 15 in London with Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge introducing Cynefin and implications for ‘complex’­ facilitation.

All three regional groups will join together again for an all-day, all-England & Wales meetup for International Facilitation Week, in Birmingham on Saturday 21 October.  Join & RSVP in whichever group is more convenient to you – London & SE, North or South West.

We are working with IAF to schedule an additional Certified Professional Facilitator assessment event in the UK in November or December – for more information and to express an interest with IAF, please follow the link.

Please take a few minutes to complete our online survey, if you haven’t already, to help to make IAF England & Wales and our free facilitation meetups more valuable to you in the future. A new IAF E&W leadership team of nine will meet face-to-face in late May, to review your responses and to plan ahead to grow and develop our network and activities further, so please let us know your feedback and ideas now.

Please connect with us online also, by joining over 140 IAF England & Wales facilitators & friends in our facebook group, and by following and tweeting with IAF England & Wales on twitter. Join us also in the UK Facilitation Network group on LinkedIn.

For further information or with any questions, please contact me.