Introducing ICA’s Technology of Participation

iaf-geneva-bannerThank you to all who attended my workshop in Geneva last Friday Introducing ICA’s Technology of Participation, including Nadene Canning who tweeted the photo of some of us, above. Special thanks also to Pamela Lupton-Bowers and all at IAF Geneva for hosting me and for arranging the workshop.

The one-day tailored master-class (pdf) introduced four core methods of ICA’s ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) methodology. Below are links to some of the case studies and other resources I shared on the day, and some that I didn’t.

ToP Focused Conversation

A structured, four-level process for effective communication which ensures that everyone in a group has the opportunity to participate:

  • ToP Focused Conversation method overview – pdf
  • Three dimensions of the facilitator role – a focused conversation with video – blog post
  • Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning – blog post
  • Is there a single, universal principle of facilitation? – slides & webinar recording featuring 6 case studies
  • The Art of Focused Conversation – book

ToP Consensus Workshop

A five stage process that enables a facilitator to draw out and weave together everybody’s wisdom into a clear and practical consensus:

  • ToP Consensus Workshop method overview – pdf
  • Evidencing facilitation competencies: planning with people with learning difficulties – case study
  • Clinical Leadership Evaluation and Development with Manchester Primary Care Trust – case study
  • Getting Ready for Wigan LINK with Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council – case study
  • The Workshop Book – book

ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’)

A powerful tool to enable a group to share and learn from their varied perspectives of a journey through history, and in context, to review the past in order to prepare for the future:

  • ToP Historical Scan (‘Wall of Wonder’) overview – pdf
  • Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: #FacHistory in Copenhagen – blog post
  • Facilitation case study: Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20 – case study
  • Staff Away Day with George House Trust – case study

ToP Participatory Strategic Planning

A structured long-range planning process which incorporates ToP Consensus Workshop for building consensus, ToP Focused Conversation for effective group communication, and an implementation process for turning ideas into productive action and concrete accomplishments:

  • ToP Participatory Strategic Planning overview – pdf
  • Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’ – case study slides & webinar recording
  • Facilitating change in complexity – the Oxfam Lebanon ‘One Country Strategy’ process – case study
  • Building a future together – broadening ownership in corporate planning – case study
  • Transformational Strategy – book review & book

The workshop was adapted from elements of ICA:UK’s 2-day Group Facilitation Methods, Participatory Strategic Planning and Organisational Transformation courses, and IAF conference sessions presented in Moscow and Copenhagen in 2014 and in Stockholm in 2015.

Public courses are available monthly in the UK with ICA:UK and 2 or 3 times per year in Geneva with Initiatives of Change. Watch this space for details of my own schedule of public courses in Brussels for 2017, and see also ToP facilitation training – what’s it like, and is it worthwhile? and ToP facilitation training at your place – and free places for you!

Regularly scheduled public ToP training courses are also provided by ICAs elsewhere including in AustraliaCanada, TaiwanUkraine & the USA.  Other ICAs also offer public courses, and in-house courses on request – see ICA Worldwide.

The famous sticky walls are available from ICA:UK.


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.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

ICA International Board update, June 2015

ICAI Global Buzz, June 2015
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, June 2015. This month’s issue includes updates from ICAs in Cote D’Ivoire, India, Japan, Nepal, Spain, Taiwan & USA.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The ICAI network comprises member organisations and related groups in over 40 countries.  The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network, for greater and deeper impact. ICA International maintains consultative status with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.


Raising our ambition – a face-to-face meeting of the virtual ICAI BoardLast month provided a rare and invaluable opportunity for the largely virtual Board of ICA International to meet face-to-face, in conjunction with the East & Southern Africa ICA regional gathering held near Arusha in Tanzania – see my review of the Board meeting Raising our ambition – a face-to-face meeting of the virtual ICAI Board, and please SAVE THE DATE for the 21 July ICAI General Assembly (online sessions 10am & 2pm London time).

Four Board members stayed on for the regional gathering, which will be reported separately.  A WhatsApp group has since been established for the region, to enable participants and others to share reflections and photos and to stay in touch and to facilitate peer-to-peer support and collaboration.

The following week I travelled to Moscow to deliver ToP Group Facilitation Methods and Action Planning training with Victoria & Segey Bekhtereva of Rules Play, who are working to promote ToP facilitation and ICA in Russia.  I was pleased to be able to meet also one evening with them and another 8 or so Russian ToP facilitators, to hear more of their interests and aspirations for ToP and ICA in Russia, including making ToP training and Certified ToP Facilitator certification available in Russia.  We also spoke of how they might make best advantage of Bill Staples’ planned trip to Moscow from Canada in October.

While in Moscow I spoke with Sabah Khalifa of ICA MENA in Egypt, and confirmed plans to visit them from June 13-17, after my next client trip to Beirut.  ICA MENA is now delivering a programme of community and youth development in four governorates of Upper Egypt, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs, and curently has around a dozen staff plus volunteers in offices in Bayad El Arab (Beni Suef), Fayoum and Cairo – many of whom were already on the staff when I myself worked with ICA MENA from 1989-95.  So I am looking forward to revisiting Bayad and Beni Suef and meeting old friends and colleagues, as well as catching up with recent developments – I last visited over 10 years ago. I am also looking forward to supporting ICA MENA however I can in its current 5-year strategic planning, and in taking advantage of possibilities for peer-to-peer collaboration and support with other ICAs.

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!

ICAI Winds and Waves – Networking

ICAI Winds and Waves, April 2014 - coverThis article was written for ICAI Winds and Waves, April 2014.

Welcome to this latest issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International.

While many international NGOs have shifted from a more centralised to a more networked approach to their operations in recent years, ICA has operated globally as a network of autonomous and independent national NGOs for over half of its 50 years. Many member ICAs themselves operate as networks, both nationally and internationally, and many individuals around the world remain connected and involved with ICA in various ways long after they have moved on from a formal role within an ICA organisation. Such loose and diverse structures with such ‘leaky boundaries’ can be challenging in some respects, not least in terms of governance. However, they can also enable greater local relevance, responsiveness and self-reliance in conjunction with greater global connectedness, learning and mutual support. Networking is one of the ways by which these advantages can be realised, and so supporting networking among ICAs and ICA colleagues is central to the role of ICA International and networking makes a fitting theme for this issue.

Within these pages you will find stories and reports from individual ICA colleagues and from national ICAs, on their work of research, training and demonstration to advance human development worldwide. Networking and a networked approach feature strongly in many of them.

Terry Bergdall in Chicago reports on the Sustainability Leaders Network of ICA USA’s Accelerate 77 programme, empowering community leaders from across the city by supporting them to ‘connect, align and produce’ together. Lorraine Margherita in Paris reflects on the role that networking has played for her as she has established herself as a professional facilitator within the emerging ICA network there. Larry Philbrook in Taipei reveals the findings of a recent research initiative conducted through ICA networks, online and face to face. Gerald Gomani in Harare reports on ICA Zimbabwe’s work helping communities fight HIV/AIDS – this work has been supported over many years by ICAI network partners in the USA, Canada and the UK among others, and networks people living with HIV with each other and with local health and social service resources. Charles Jago in Australia writes of an online networked approach to holding government and politicians accountable by ‘asking real questions’. Ishu Subha in Kathmandu writes of the network power of a local women’s group that grew to a leading financial institution. Teresa Sosa in Caracas writes of how principles and values she has learned from ICA have enabled her to gain strength from networks to strive re-create a country in times in chaos.

The global network of ICA International now comprises member ICAs and related groups and organisations in 40 countries worldwide. We welcomed ICA Ukraine as our newest statutory member at our ICAI online General Assembly in December. I have been privileged these last few weeks to serve as a mentor to one of ICA Ukraine’s ToP facilitation trainers, Natasha Karpova, and to learn something of how she and ICA are working to network diverse actors in Ukraine, another country in a time of some chaos, 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 this month, 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.

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

Meanwhile ICA Ukraine’s initiative connecting mentor ToP facilitators from ICA’s global network with mentees in Ukraine prompted Larry Philbrook of ICA Taiwan to adapt and apply the model globally, attracting so far 25 mentors and 36 mentees – just the sort of peer-to-peer initiative within the ICA network that ICAI seeks to support.

The ICAI Board updated its Business Plan for 2014 in the last month, in light of the experience of 2013 and discussions and decisions at the December General Assembly, and supporting peer-to-peer networking for mutual support and collaboration remains at the heart of our approach. Whatever the extent and nature of your relationship to ICA or ICAI, if you share our collective concern with ‘the human factor in world development’ then please join in networking with us.

Please share this issue of Winds & Waves and consider contributing to the next, please connect and share with us online via ICAI on Facebook and @ICAI on twitter, and please connect directly with whichever national ICA of the ICAI global network is closest to you in your geography or in your passion.

Enjoy this issue!

Celebrating the development of facilitation – world-wide and history long

IAF 20 year logo 500facweek logoAs the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, join us in celebrating the power of facilitation by exploring, sharing and reflecting together on its history worldwide – past, present and future. 

We are inviting facilitators everywhere – and everyone with an interest in facilitation, professional and otherwise – to join together in a six-month collaborative process to develop our collective story of facilitation, culminating during International Facilitation Week 20-26 October 2014.  Our aim is to strike a balance between honouring the past, celebrating the present, and envisioning the future – and to learn and have some fun together in the process!

We invite you to share key events & milestones in the history of facilitation, from your perspective and in your experience, and links and resources on how facilitation has developed and where it might be heading – share and discuss online at Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (hashtag #FacHistory), and participate face-to-face as well!  Facilitated workshop sessions and other opportunities to share and reflect together will be held at each of IAF’s global conferences this year (April 9-12 in Orlando, 14-16 August in Singapore and 3-5 October in Moscow), and we encourage IAF chapters and other local groups to hold their own events as well – in the run up to International Facilitation Week and/or during the week itself.  Follow @FacWeek and #FacHistory on twitter for the latest.

The six-month process will be modelled on the Technology of Participation (ToP) Historical Scan method (or ‘Wall of Wonder) – a powerful tool to enable a group to share and learn from their varied perspectives of a journey through history, to review the past in order to prepare for the future.  We will build on ideas shared during such a session at the 2007 IAF Europe conference in Edinburgh “Reviewing the past to prepare for the future: demonstrating the ToP Historical Scan method to discern a shared image of the past & future journey of the facilitation profession”, and a subsequent article Reflections on the history of professional process facilitation by Richard Chapman published by IAF Europe & AMED in 2011 – and of course the history of IAF.

Questions we might use to reflect and learn together on the story emerging from the shared events, milestones, links and resources could include:

* Which are/were most exciting or encouraging for you (and which less so)?
* Which are/were most influential for you, in your experience or from your perspective? How?
* Which indicate the power of faciliation to impact positively – on people, on communities, on organisations, on societies?
* What trends can you discern over time, or across geography?
* Where can you discern turning points, as between chapters in history?
* How would you name the chapters? How would you name the history as a whole?

During International Facilitation Week itself, as well as any other local or online events, there will be a couple of #FacWeekChat twitter chats to reflect together on what has been shared and a the results will be published all together online as a storify.

Please join us now by following and sharing your events & milestones, and links & resources, at Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (hashtag #FacHistory)!

Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’

I am pleased to share here [pусская версия ниже] a case study I presented at today’s 5th annual Moscow Facilitators conference, on ToP Participatory Strategic Planning with an international humanitarian agency in Geneva. Click on the hyperlinked images to go to other pages and sites with further information.

I am grateful to all at IDMC for allowing me to share the example of my work with them in Geneva, and to Edventure:Frome whose smaller-scale strategic planning exercise in Somerset I mention as well for contrast.

Many thanks also to Liudmila Dudorov and Mikhail Rossus, and all at GoTraining & IAF Russia, for hosting me so well again for my second year in Moscow (for a review of my first, see the Jazz of faclitation is magnificent in Moscow); and to all who attended the conference presentation and my post-conference course, ToP Participatory Strategic Planning.

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The jazz of facilitation is magnificent in Moscow

This article was first written for the IAF Europe newsletter, April 2013

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The first week of April was Facilitation Week in Moscow.  The centrepiece of the week was the 4th annual Moscow Facilitators Conference, held on April 5th. This was accompanied by two days of facilitation training before the conference and another two days afterwards.  The conference week was convened by Liudmila Dudorova, chair of the IAF Russia chapter, and her facilitation company Personal Image.  The annual conference under Liudmila’s leadership has clearly played a significant role in promoting facilitation in Russia and attracting increasing numbers of Russian facilitators to IAF, as evidenced by the ever growing numbers of Russian delegates at the annual IAF Europe conference.

The conference itself attracted around 65 delegates at the four star Vega conference hotel, for a full day programme from 10am-7pm.  Most came from Moscow, but some also from other regions of Russia and from neighbouring countries.  Most were leaders, managers and practitioners within large Russian companies, or independent professional facilitators and other professional contractors who offer facilitation alongside other services.

St Basils Cathedral MoscowThe conference theme of idea generation, innovation and the exchange of experience was explored through eight sessions, in plenary and in two parallel groups.  I was delighted to be invited to join as an international guest presenter, along with Bruce Rowling of Pinpoint Facilitation.  Bruce has worked with Liudmila and her company in Russia over several years, but for me it was my first visit so I was delighted to be able to see something of Moscow while I was there.

I provided two days of pre-conference training to a group of 28, introducing three of ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitation methods, namely Focused Conversation, Consensus Workshop and Action Planning.  I also provided a keynote presentation to the conference, sharing some experience of how these methods have been applied by ICA:UK in partnership with the Royal Society of Arts – in engaging and mobilising the RSA’s 27,000 Fellows to contribute to social impact through civic innovation, toward achieving the RSA’s ambition to be ‘the best place to have an idea’. My presentation can be viewed in my recent post. Bruce provided a conference session and post-conference training drawing on the Pinpoint approach and graphic facilitation.  Neither of us would have been of much use to anyone without the expert and tireless interpretation of Mikhail Rossus, although Bruce was at least adept at Russian small talk involving hello, vodka, thank you and goodbye! I am grateful to ICA Ukraine for providing ToP training materials in Russian for me.

Further conference sessions included Liudmila’s own masterclass on facilitating creativity and innovation in companies, Tim Nestik on knowledge management, Alexander Dudurov on graphic facilitation, Alexandra Kosulina & Mariya Pronina on idea generation, Victoria Bekhtereva on innovation projects and Julia Linkin with a case study of Open Space facilitation in a bank.  Creativity was emphasised throughout the day, starting with a jazz duo accompanying our opening exercise to depict how we generate ideas, by collage in the style of Matisse!

ToP facilitation training in MoscowI experienced a great spirit of sharing and learning at the conference, just as at all the IAF conferences I have attended, and clearly a great passion for facilitation. I also experienced a great hunger for tools and methods, and a particular sense of urgency in learning and applying them.  When I asked what participants hoped to gain from my conference session, the majority of responses were to do with tools and methods to apply. In tailoring my pre-conference training in advance, I was advised that participants would appreciate more methods and want little time on practice and planning to apply what they had learned, and this was certainly borne out in my experience.  In another conversation a conference delegate suggested to me that Russians like to learn and apply quickly because they feel they have some catching up to do – and they intend to catch up and overtake.  Certainly few UK courses I have delivered have attracted such close (and very welcome) attention as this one. Every moment’s break was taken as an opportunity to photograph the latest graphics, flipcharts or cards on the sticky wall for later reference, and several audio devices were recording the whole course for later playback.  I left in no doubt that ToP methods will find a valuable and active place in the toolkits of many Russian facilitators, and that facilitation itself has an important role to play in Russia.

I gained many new Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections from my visit, so I invited them to share some of their own reflections on the conference. This is what they wrote:

“This year’s conference was dynamic and really energy-intensive. It was nice to see a lot of new members and enthusiastic people who are so involved in facilitation. During our work-shop we were happy to feel the engagement of the group, their enthusiasm, genuine interest and active position. And it is very important that our European colleagues have time to visit our conference, thank you Martin for coming!” – Alexandra Kosulina, Moscow

“What I can say about this conference? There were a lot of people who know what is facilitation and who use facilitation at work, and if compared with last year’s conference the number of such people has increased considerably. This is really good, and says that the facilitation in Russia goes forward at a steady gait. The conference was very instrumental and practical – speakers, case studies, master classes – everything was very useful.” – Mariya Pronina, Moscow

“I really enjoyed it. I especially liked your examples and case studies. Thank you” – Alex Kuznetsov, Moscow

“The conference was full of new knowledge and techniques, but the most important discovery for me was the ToP method of Focused Conversation (ORID) which you set out in the training before. Last week I used it in a discussion on our annual report with the employees of our company, and I was impressed by the results – it really involved them in the discussion, and most importantly in the process of developing specific solutions for the future in a meaningful and constructive way.” – Sergey Shupletsov, Moscow

“The training was very useful to me. It broadened my knowledge of effective methods of facilitation: the ToP methods of Focused Conversation, Consensus Workshop etc. The method of Action Planning was especially interesting to me. I already practiced this method when carrying out a session on implementation of organizational decisions. It helped the group while being focused on the purposes to draw up effectively the plan of action. In addition, I also applied this method to accomplish my personal decisions. The model of behaviour shown by Martin during his facilitation has also been very inspiring to me. It is a striking example of the possibility to operate the group progressing towards making the decision, showing respect and trust for the ability of a group to create the decision by itself” – Leonid Bogdanov, Kiev

“It was interesting for me to see your style, new methods and especially new materials. Your training was just really important to me. The conference was rich in new contacts, insights and ideas. For example, just tomorrow I’ll use some new methods from that day. The Jazz of facilitation in the beginning was so magnificent!” – Victoria Bekhtereva, Moscow

 “For me it was great to discover the way to plan a project with ToP Action Planning. Especially the idea of grouping actions by teams that allows the project teams to form and work afterwards in those teams. The idea of using the Focused Conversation method in personal life is also very interesting. I certainly will try to do it. And of course the networking process during the session was valuable. My next step is to go deeply into the ICA books for more information and cases.” – Ariadna Denisova, Moscow

I am very grateful top Liudmila and Mikhail for hosting me so generously, and to everyone involved for making my first trip to Moscow such a memorable and enjoyable one.  I look forward to following the further growth and development of facilitation and IAF in Russia through the many new connections I made in Moscow.  Also I hope that other chapters of IAF in Europe and elsewhere (my own England & Wales chapter included) might emulate the Moscow Facilitators Conference in its approach!