Another year in freelance facilitation, now both online and in-person again

Wallace Space Euston

Scaling up engagement and dialogue the power of facilitation and communications in partnership #FacPower

Last summer as I reviewed the year to June 2021, I wondered when I might finally be tempted to accept any face-to-face work again. As it turned out, after 2 years of the COVID19 pandemic spent working exclusively online, the last quarter of this year to June (and July too) were all about in-person events.

As in previous years, I shall share here in this longer read some data and reflections on the last year of my professional practice, and some insights and implications for my future practice and professional development. It is broadly a four-level ORID reflection again, of course.

In this past year to June 2022 I delivered 19 contracts for 15 clients. That compares with 32 contracts for 22 clients the year before, and 25 for 19 the year before that. I had been so busy in 2020-21 that I had resolved to be more selective this year in my client commitments. Whether that is what resulted in the reduced workload or whether fewer opportunities came my way, the outcome was welcome and I was very pleased to have had the contracts that I did.

This past year’s contracts involved a total 76 individual online sessions and 2 in-person events in Belfast and London. That compares with more than 100 online sessions and none in-person the year before; and before that 14 in-person, one ‘hybrid’ and 16 wholly virtual events (of one or more sessions).

I Declare A Climate Emergency

I resolved in January 2020 to restrict my travel mostly to places accessible to London without flying, and of course to try to travel less and work more online (that worked out well). So it suited me well that my international clients continued largely to request online work and my first two contracts for in-person events were both in the UK and one within walking distance in London. I have been happy to return to working in-person only in the last quarter and to return to hybrid working not at all (yet), and I have been happy to better acquaint myself with rail & ferry routes to Northern Ireland.

For one contract this year I was sub-contracted to a colleague and for nine I sub-contracted to one or more colleagues myself (or in one case licensed a colleague to deliver a training session independently). That compares to 10 & 19 last year and 7 & 4 the year before. So I have returned to working more on my own client contracts, compared to last year. Compared to before the pandemic, however, my work has continued to be more collaborative and involve much more co-facilitation. My contracts have often been larger as well.

Partners that I have contracted with this past year include again ICA:UK colleagues Megan Evans and Orla Cronin, and this year IAF colleagues Marie Dubost, Charo Lanao and Hector Villarreal Lozoya. I have otherwise collaborated also with others of the ICA:UK team and that of Orla Cronin, and with many IAF colleagues – some mentioned below.

Clients I have worked with have again included largely UK charities and international NGOs, although this year also UK devolved government and no European agencies, contractors, associations or NGO networks.

Of this past year’s contracts, 7 involved facilitation while 7 involved training and 6 involved coaching and consulting. That compares to 11 facilitation, 18 training and 7 coaching & consulting the year before, and 7 facilitation & 16 training the year before that. So my facilitation and training work have returned to their previous more or less equal balance, and the proportion of contracts involving coaching and consulting has continued to rise – that too has been welcome.

Facilitation contracts this past year have ranged in scale from a single session of 60-90 minutes at relatively short notice to as many as 17 sessions collaboratively designed and prepared over several months:

  • with Amnesty International, design and lead facilitation of a series of 17 sessions of the online 2021 Global Assembly, involving a multilingual team of 5 facilitators and 3-4 delegates of each of almost 70 member entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish
  • with Oxford Properties on behalf of Traction Strategy, breakout session facilitation for an online Global Leadership Conference of around 300 delegates
  • with the Portuguese Refugee Council and Amnesty International Ireland, design and facilitation of a second online Best Practice Convening session of around 50 key actors in Community Sponsorship of Refugees across Europe
  • with Amnesty International, design and facilitation of an online team-building session for the International Board, Coalition Leadership Team and Governance Programme staff of the International Secretariat
  • with the Natural History Consortium, design and facilitation of a series of six online conversations bringing together 90 diverse stakeholders at ‘Communicate’, the UK’s conference for environmental communicators
  • with Amnesty International, Europe & Central Asia region, lead design and facilitation of a 5-session online Regional Forum involving over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations
  • with Global Fishing Watch, design and facilitation of a 3-day retreat of the global Executive Team of 14 in London

Ann Burroughs

Ann Burroughs, Chair of the 2021 Global Assembly and Preparatory Committee, Amnesty International, wrote in a recommendation:

“Martin and his team provided outstanding support during Amnesty International’s 2021 Global Assembly which for the first time was held entirely online. They were integral in the planning of the model which helped to ensure broad participation and access for delegates of almost 70 member entities. Their experience and familiarity with facilitating online spaces were game changing and were critical in helping to build trust in the process and in a new model of digital governance.”

Savita Wilmott

Savita Willmott, CEO, The Natural History Consortium, wrote:

“Martin supported our charity in January 2022 to bring together 90 diverse stakeholders into a series of six online conversations in a single day. We were looking to tackle complex environmental topics, and have strong outputs. His advice and support was invaluable to design an effective programme for the day as well as to expertly facilitate the session alongside another facilitator. We achieved our aim of avoiding a “talking shop” – the outputs of the session are informing our strategic work six months later, and the connections made between organisations are thriving. Martin strikes a brilliant balance between flexibility and attention to detail, and we’d recommend him without hesitation.”

Training contracts this past year have ranged in scale from a single introductory session for one group to a series of multi-session courses for multiple groups:

For the first year since 2014, I offered no scheduled public ToP facilitation training myself this past year. Instead, I have invited participants to register with ICA:UK or another ICA worldwide. I have welcomed the reduced workload and risk that has resulted, and I have no plans at present to resume a paid public training offering.

I have expanded and clarified my offering of in-house facilitation training to include tailored courses that were not previously offered on a public schedule, and to make clearer which courses are now available online or in-person or both.

Coaching and consulting contracts this past year have again ranged in scale from one or two one-hour sessions with a single coachee to providing coaching and consulting support for multiple teams to design and lead a multi-session international event:

  • with Lindsey Green of Frankly Green +Webb, facilitation coaching in support of strategic planning with clients in the museum and arts sector
  • with Nicole Moran of Advisory & Facilitation Services, facilitation coaching in support of online strategic planning and focus group sessions
  • with Action Aid International, facilitation coaching and support for the Convener, Organising Committee and Governance staff of the Global Secretariat in preparation for sessions of the online Annual General Meeting

Nicole Moran, Global Development Advisory & Facilitation Services, wrote in a recommendation:

“Martin is the perfect coach, blending expertise and experience in the finest manner to provide excellent coaching and training support to me. His professional, encouraging and non-judgmental approach helped me venture to use a range of approaches, online platforms and tools – whether for training, review meetings, presenting the results of an evaluation. Since 2020 when Covid redefined our ways of working and relating, my work has shifted almost entirely to the virtual platform. I felt it important to get some expert guidance to ensure that I select the right tools and approaches for online working and continue to remain as efficient and effective as possible with my clients, my team and others. I am grateful for the professional support and guidance of Martin and looking forward to Martin’s continued guidance.”

In my volunteering, I have not (yet) been tempted to take up any new leadership role and have instead enjoyed contributing on a more ad hoc basis to a number of projects, more and less facilitation-related.

I continued my social media support by tweeting for Facilitation Week, as I have since the first #FacWeek in 2013, and by managing the website and social media for the Power of Facilitation book project. Having managed the website and social media for ICA International since I stood down as President in 2016, I was pleased to be able to support the new ICAI Board this year to appoint a new website and social media manager to succeed me (the fabulous Rena Koç) and to see a welcome refresh of the ICAI website.

IAF Facilitation Summit 2021

For Facilitation Week I also co-hosted two sessions of the IAF Facilitation Summit in October – ‘Facilitating Breakthrough: How to Remove Obstacles, Bridge Differences, and Move Forward Together’ with Adam Kahane and ‘Scaling Up Engagement & Dialogue’ with Michael Ambjorn, both drawing on recently released publications.

For the Power of Facilitation I also continued to work with fellow contributors to promote the book, during Facilitation Week and otherwise, and so to use the book to promote the power of facilitation worldwide. As well as supporting and promoting online ‘meet the author’ sessions and articles, book reviews etc, I supported more than 80 IAF colleagues around the world to convene and start to work to translate the book into more than a dozen languages.

For ICA:UK and ICA International, I also continued to participate in the UK ToP Associates network and the ICAI Global ToP Advisory Group, and latterly in the new ICAI Global ToP Community of Practice.

For IAF, I continued to serve as a mentor in the IAF mentoring programme, working again with two mentees in parallel this past year.

Manal Sayid, Facilitator, Consultant and Trainer, wrote:

“Martin has provided everything I could hope for in a mentorship relationship! He was super helpful in his sharing of relevant resources, his guidance in terms of all the questions I had, and I felt like we built great rapport and therefore could share some challenges and vulnerabilities candidly!”

I began to offer free facilitation coaching in November, which enabled me to support six young people during the year in their work for climate justice, gender equity or anti-racism.

Jacob Warn, Activist, Teacher & Consultant, Europe Must Act, wrote:

“What a fabulous [free facilitation coaching] session! Can I just say on behalf of us all how thankful we are – what an ‘espresso-shot’ of insight and wisdom, it’s really so generous of you to support in this open way and just so appreciated. I can’t wait to explore the various links you’ve shared and reflect more on the questions you’ve prompted, and we would really gladly take up your offer to have another session to workshop our upcoming strategy session in 2022!”

Ukraine anti-war protest, 6 March 2022 in London

I have been glad to be able to support Ukrainian colleagues in Ukraine and elsewhere since the Russian invasion in February, not least as part of a loose network of facilitators, trainers and consultants in Ukraine and around the world that has met weekly online led by ICA USA ToP colleagues of the Global Synergy Group.

I have been awed and inspired by much of the resolve, resistance, solidarity and leadership that I have seen in response to the war, and grateful to those colleagues in Kyiv who have challenged me to realise that every show of support is valued, and that support that is unseen and unheard is no support at all – see Facilitator neutrality in the context of war and oppression #StandWithUkraine.

Join our new Online group, Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events!

For the Gay Outdoor Club I stepped up from my social media support role to launch and co-ordinate a new Online group as well, and to host regular online socials – inspired in no small part by my 5 years of hosting free facilitation meetups of IAF England & Wales. Of course I didn’t join GOC to attend online meetings, least of all to lead them! It has turned out, however, that there is a real interest in connecting, meeting and socialising online, even among members of an outdoor club like GOC, as evidenced by responses to a feedback survey in May. I have been glad to be able to apply my professional skills to support the club and fellow members in this way.

Exploring feminist facilitation

My professional development has been focused largely on Exploring feminist facilitation and, more broadly, how I can ensure that my own practice as a professional facilitator is more effectively and explicitly feminist, anti-racist and anti-oppressive.

What was most helpful for me in this was participating this year in the 12-week online feminist leadership development programme of We Are Feminist Leaders. This provided me with a comprehensive framework by which to understand what feminism brings to leadership, and thus to facilitation, and also a powerful demonstration of what feminist, anti-racist and anti-oppressive facilitation can look like in practice.

I have continued to value the professional community and facilitation meetups of IAF England & Wales as a participant, and particularly this year’s hybrid Re-Facilitation Conference which I attended online. I found that an inspiring demonstration of how effective hybrid facilitation can be, even with a minimal budget but at least a collaborative team of experienced facilitators and a lot of good will. It inspired a number of valuable articles and blog posts too, not least from SessionLab the very thorough An honest* guide to planning and facilitating successful hybrid events.

My recent return to in-person working has led me to reflect and draw some initial conclusions on Mitigating COVID risks for in person and hybrid events to inform contracting discussions with future clients and groups.

While for many in the UK the COVID pandemic is effectively over, for others here and elsewhere it clearly isn’t. There are risks to my own work and health to consider as well as those of my clients and groups, and some potential for ethical dilemmas to arise. With a more or less equal mix of online and in-person events in the pipeline for the coming months, I do now feel better prepared to navigate the risks.

I shall certainly take advantage of the autumn booster vaccination promised for over-50s in the UK as soon as that is available. I shall continue to approach opportunities for prospective hybrid events with even greater caution than I did before the pandemic, careful to try to ensure that expectation and ambition are aligned with resources (or vice versa) and that valuable opportunities for asynchronous collaboration are not overlooked in a rush to synchronous hybrid working.

Another rail route that I have been happy to acquaint myself with has been the high-speed line from Paris to Barcelona, after I resolved during something of a sabbatical in Sitges two years ago to try to spend more time there more often. It is a real privilege to be able to work in such a way as to be able to do that, and I am thankful that COVID-related travel disruptions affected our last trip barely at all for the first time since we went back.

Such disruptions did prevent me from taking more than one week of intensive Spanish class while I was there, but I have taken to attending Spanish conversation meetups in London now as well. It was a wet and windy week in the Outer Hebrides this month that distracted me from my daily Duolingo Spanish practice sufficiently to bring and end to more than a year-long streak in the Diamond League – if you are familiar with that little green owl, you may feel my disappointment!

Thank you for following…


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.

Are you planning an online conference, Forum or General Assembly?

Free facilitation webinar: Taking your event online: what could possibly go wrong?


Below is a ‘menu of services’ that I have been able to provide to a number of clients planning such online events in recent years. Please contact me as early as you can if you could benefit from such support as you plan, prepare and deliver your own event.

The scope and scale of service delivered for these recent projects has ranged from just a few days of consulting and coaching from myself alone over a week or two, to a larger package of consultation, coaching and Introduction to Facilitation Online training with multiple teams from myself and a co-facilitator over several weeks, to anything from 10 to 50 days or more of comprehensive support over several months from myself and a larger team with diverse skills able to provide many if not all of the menu of services.

Colleagues that I have collaborated with on such projects recently have included Orla Cronin, Marie Dubost, Charo Lanao, Judy Rees, Hector Villarreal Lozoya and Bruno Selun – I am thankful to them for the teamwork that has made many of these projects possible.

Recent such client contracts have included:

  • with Action Aid International, facilitation coaching and support for the Convener, Organising Committee and Governance staff of the Global Secretariat in preparation for sessions of the online 2021 Annual General Meeting
  • with Amnesty International, design and lead facilitation of a series of 17 sessions of the online 2021 Global Assembly, involving a multilingual team of 5 facilitators and 3-4 delegates of each of almost 70 member entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish
  • with Amnesty International, Europe & Central Asia region, lead design and facilitation of a 4-week online 2021 Regional Forum involving over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations in over 20 sessions
  • with OMCT, design consulting and facilitation training over 3 months in support of the first online Global Week Against Torture in 2021
  • with Oxfam Ireland, online facilitation training and coaching with staff in Ireland and of six African programme partners, in support of their first online Annual Partnership Meeting together in 2020
  • with the ISEAL Alliance, online facilitation training and coaching in support of their first online ‘Members’ Month’ in 2020
  • with ILGA Europe on behalf of Kumquat Consult, design consulting and facilitation training in support of the first online ILGA Europe 2020 Annual Conference
  • with Amnesty International, design and facilitation of a series of six online Global Strategy Labs involving around 150 delegates representing 70 national entities worldwide working in English, French and Spanish in 2020
  • with the Amnesty International Europe & Central Asia region, lead design and facilitation of a 3-day online 2020 Regional Forum involving over 100 delegates from around 25 member organisations – blog post
  • with FAO, design and facilitation of the 2015 online conference “Economics of Climate Change Mitigation Options in the Forest Sector” engaging over 900 international experts – case study

“Martin and his team provided outstanding support during Amnesty International’s 2021 Global Assembly which for the first time was held entirely online. They were integral in the planning of the model which helped to ensure broad participation and access for delegates of almost 70 member entities. Their experience and familiarity with facilitating online spaces were game changing and were critical in helping to build trust in the process and in a new model of digital governance.” – Ann Burroughs, Chair of the 2021 Global Assembly and Preparatory Committee, Amnesty International – Sep 16, 2021

“Together with other folks at the Kumquat team Martin helped us to organize the ILGA-Europe Gathering Online 2020. Organizing a large event online for the first time came with many questions and challenges. Martin particularly helped us with providing training and assistance to put together the flow of the programme and to ensure that we were ready to facilitate the many spaces that our event was made up with. It was a pleasure working with Martin!” – Björn van Roozendaal, Programmes Director at ILGA-Europe – Feb 25, 2021

“In November 2020, Martin provided invaluable support to Oxfam Ireland in the build-up to a series of multi-stakeholder online workshops. He provided tailored ‘coaching sessions’ to our team, which helped us to prepare and deliver several engaging virtual sessions. These sessions directly catered to our needs, building our ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ virtual facilitation skills and knowledge. Furthermore, he also co-facilitated an in-house “Introduction to Facilitation Online” workshop with colleagues across Southern and Eastern Africa. This excellent workshop was well received by all participants. Thanks, Martin!” – Rosa Brandon, Programme Quality Officer at Oxfam Ireland – Feb 22, 2021

“WOW! Awesome contributions from 200+ participants at the #ECCMOFS REDD+ online conference session. Feeling inspired @FAOForestry”  – Ruth Mallett, Consultant at UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – February 13, 2013


Menu of services

Before

Project management: We can work with you to clearly define the project and its boundaries, starting from a clear purpose statement (including outputs and outcomes) that will help align your various stakeholders’ expectations of the event. We can help you make it operational by translating it into a clear project plan and division of responsibilities, and we can accompany you in delivery.

We will recommend using an online project management tool across the entire team (internal and external) to achieve and maintain this throughout – we can provide and support you to use Basecamp or Asana, or join an existing platform you’re already using internally, or we can support you to acquire and use your own platform. Such a platform will be crucial to deliver such a complex project on schedule.

Conceptualisation: Support for the overall design and conceptualisation of a coherent event, including flow, timing, duration and format to maximise engagement and participation to best meet your aims and ambitions within your constraints, including budget and capacity. We can help you to identify what types of sessions should be offered (including format, degree of participation, types of outcomes, etc.), allowing you to then populate the programme using those session types.

Participation design: We can work with you to identify what sort of participation (how much, how broad, how deep) each session type will require, and the number of participants expected or desired. These will make up the event’s participation requirements, which with security & accessibility requirements will allow us to advise which service(s), platform(s) and/or tool(s) you should consider.

Session call & selection: We can support you in the setup and running of a session call, proposal and selection system for submitters, reviewers and decision-makers – including technical support, training and assistance

Communication: We can advise you on how and when to communicate with prospective and confirmed participants, session leaders, speakers and other stakeholders in order to manage their expectations and preparations in alignment with those of the event as a whole.

Platform selection & setup: We can help you in researching and reviewing available options and selecting an online event platform to meet your specific requirements, including in relation to security, pricing, functionality and much more. We can help you with setup and troubleshooting of your selected platform, including the pre-registration, registration, event and post-event phases

Additional tools: Depending on your requirements and choice of platform, we can support you to select, configure and use additional tools for participant inclusion and engagement, e.g. for interpretation, voting, Q&A, brainstorming, visualisation, networking etc.

Facilitation training & coaching: We can help you determine how to best recruit additional facilitators if needed, whether volunteers or professionals. We can design and deliver bespoke facilitation training, drawing on a range of existing and well-established training modules (see above). We can offer tailored coaching & troubleshooting sessions for session facilitators and producers, individually or in pairs or small teams, to support them in their session design and preparation.

Technical preparation: We can help you with the technical preparation of your team, speakers and moderators to run their sessions through the event platform – technical checks, testing all platforms & tools used to ensure they’re familiar with them on the day

During

Technical support (a.k.a. production): On-call technical support for the full duration of the event, both inside and between sessions, to ensure everything goes according to plan, and to deliver backup solutions in the event of a failure (e.g. if a speaker or session leader can’t connect)

Facilitation support: We can help by facilitating or producing particular sessions or parts of sessions for you, or the whole event, or by co-facilitating or co-producing to support your own session teams to do so

After

Evaluation: Design, delivery and analysis of a bespoke evaluation survey to collect actionable feedback from your participants regarding what went well, what didn’t, and how to improve future events


See also free facilitation webinars including:

See also about mehow I work and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together.

Are you interested to meet or socialise with other GOC members online, from the comfort of your home?

Join our new Online group, Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events!

Probably like most members, I didn’t join the Gay Outdoors Club to attend online meetings – least of all to lead them. It turns out, however, that there is now an interest in connecting, meeting and socialising online, even among members of an outdoor club like GOC.

So, after managing GOC’s Twitter and Facebook feeds for a year or more, I have stepped up to launch and co-ordinate a new Online group as well. Initially at least, I am offering to support GOC’s 1,400+ members (assuming that not all will be interested!) to use Wonder and Zoom, in conjunction with Calendly, to connect and socialize informally and to schedule and host their own online meetings and events.

What follows is todays’ news post launching the new Online group, and the member-only page How to use Zoom and Wonder with member-only links and passwords omitted.


Join our new Online group, Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events!

Are you interested to meet or socialise with other GOC members online, from the comfort of your home?

Perhaps you don’t find it easy to join many of our outdoor events for one reason our another, or you’re interested to connect with members beyond those that you usually meet in person? Perhaps you are a co-ordinator of one of our other local or specialist groups and you are interested to host events online as well as outdoors, or to meet online to co-ordinate and plan your group and its outdoor events?

Since we first announced our new online meeting tools in a news post just before Christmas, members have taken the opportunity to mingle and socialize informally online with others from around the country and even to schedule and host their own online events for their own groups. There has been sufficient interest that we are now launching a new specialist Online group to co-ordinate and promote the new Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events.

Whatever your interest, and whatever your level of technical experience or expertise, please join us – you are welcome!

  • For further details of the group, the weekly Tuesday night social and other events, and how to join, please check out our new Online group page.
  • For further details of our new online meeting tools, available to all members and groups, check out our new member-only page How to use Zoom and Wonder.

I hope to see you online soon, if not also outdoors!

Martin Gilbraith, Online group co-ordinator.


Join our new Online group, Weekly Online Social and scheduled online events!

How to use Zoom and Wonder

Are you interested to network or meet with other GOC members, online from the comfort of your home?

Please join our new Online group to receive group updates of news and online events, however you don’t need to join the group to use new our online meeting tools – they are available for all membership:

  • Our Zoom meeting room is suitable for the kind of private online meeting that you might otherwise hold in a physical meeting room. It is accessible on a computer, tablet or smartphone via an app, or with more limited functionality via your browser or you can even dial-in by telephone. Scroll down for how to schedule a meeting in Zoom and invite other members, whether for GOC social or ‘business’ purposes.
  • Our Wonder networking space is suitable for the more fluid kind of online socialising that you might otherwise do at a GOC event outdoors, or in the pub or tea room afterwards. It is accessible on a computer via Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge – sorry, not yet on a tablet or smartphone or via Safari or other browsers. Read on for how to meet, mingle and network freely with other members in Wonder.

Meet and mingle in Wonder – from 8pm every Tuesday, or whenever you please

Our Wonder space is open 24/7, and it is entirely free to GOC. You can meet others there by arrangement, or you can drop by to see if anyone is there – for our Weekly Online Social from 8pm every Tuesday, or whenever you please. You are welcome to use it any time, and for as long as you like.

Wonder can accommodate up to 1,500 at a time in self-organising ‘circles’ of up to 15 – like zoom breakout groups, but more fluid and more fun. You can lock your circle for a private meeting, or you can leave it open to allow others to join you. If you are curious to know more about Wonder, see this report from Tech Crunch.

To use Wonder for the first time, take a few minutes in advance to view the short video (here and below) and follow the steps access the space. There’s no need to create a new account or log-in, or to download or install new software. Your browser will remember your settings for your future visits, so you will only have to go through these steps once. You can view the same steps also in writing here, and you can find additional support at Wonder Help and Troubleshooting Guide.

To add an event in Wonder to the GOC events calendar for other members to join, just submit an event in the usual way. You don’t need to worry about whether anyone else will be using the space at the same time, because there is plenty of room for everyone. In the member-only information under ‘meeting point’, include a link to this page How to use Zoom and Wonder and the following link and password for direct access to our Wonder space:

  • To access our Wonder space click here – the password is XXX.
To use Wonder for the first time, take a few minutes in advance to view the short video

Schedule a Zoom meeting and invite other members

Our Zoom meeting room can accommodate just one meeting at a time, so you will need to schedule your meeting in advance at a time that is not already booked. Use the Zoom calendar (below) to schedule a one-off meeting in the next 30 days, or email Online group co-ordinator Martin Gilbraith to request a recurring meeting or a meeting more than 30 days ahead.

When scheduling your meeting in the calendar, allow an additional 15 minutes before and after if you need it as another meeting may be scheduled directly before or after yours. Please do not schedule more time than you need, however, so as to leave time available for others. If you find the date and time that you want is not available in the calendar for a longer meeting, you might find that it is available for a shorter one. After scheduling your meeting you will receive login details by email that you can share with your guests, and a ‘host key’ that you can use to ‘claim host’ and access host features.

A small group can meet quite successfully for a short conversation in Zoom with minimal technical expertise or experience of Zoom, and with minimal hosting by the meeting leader. For a more complex meeting or with a group of more than around 10 or 15, you will probably need enough familiarity with Zoom to manage breakout groups and other host features such as screen-sharing, recording and security settings, and you will need one or two people to be prepared to lead the meeting and manage the technology. Our Zoom meeting room can accommodate up to 100, and it has a wide variety of features and functions available. For support or with questions about Zoom see Zoom Help, and for a guide to remote facilitation and online meetings see SessionLab.

To add an event in Zoom to the GOC events calendar for other members to join, just submit an event in the usual way. In the member-only information under ‘meeting point’, include the login details that you received by email. Share the host key only with anyone that will need and be able to use the additional host features to host the meeting.

  • To schedule a Zoom meeting and receive login details to share, use the Zoom calendar (below):

Use this Zoom calendar to schedule a one-off meeting in the next 30 days.

If you have any other questions or requests for networking and meeting online with GOC, please email Online group co-ordinator Martin Gilbraith.

Our Code of Conduct and other GOC polices and guidelines apply to online events as they do to others.


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.

Facilitating collaboration, breakthrough and transformation – three new publications for 2021

I have been pleased to have the opportunity to contribute endorsements to three forthcoming books recently, and to be able to recommend them all wholeheartedly – see below.

I have been a fan of Adam Kahane’s writing since his 2004 book “Solving Tough Problems: an open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities”, so I was delighted to learn that his latest (forthcoming in August) would focus in particular on his facilitation practice.  For an in-depth preview, I recommend also the series of conversations he recorded with Carol Sherriff CPF|M in her Facilitation Diversely series for International Facilitation Week last year.

I have known Penny Pullan personally for I think at least as long as that, as a fellow IAF member and Certified Professional Facilitator, now also a CPF|Master.  I have widely recommended her 2016 book Virtual Leadership. I particularly appreciate that this next book (forthcoming in July), of our present time, addresses what it takes to ‘make workshops work’ irrespective of whether they are online or face-to-face or both.

I have met Gwen Stirling Wilkie only this past year, through the online meetups of IAF England & Wales. Her new book (published this month) captures beautifully for me something of the journey that so many of us have traveled this past year, as we and are clients have had to take all of our work online.

See Publications for more books and articles for which I have contributed an endorsement, foreword or editorial support, others that I have reviewed in a blog post or on which I have hosted a free facilitation webinar with the author, and some which I have authored or co-authored myself.


From Physical Place to Virtual Space, Gwen Stirling WilkieFrom Physical Place to Virtual Space: How to design and host transformative spaces online

by Gwen Stirling Wilkie (Feb 2021)

This book provides a fascinating insight into the theory and practice of Dialogic OD, and the heartening story of how an initially skeptical facilitator and her client found that they could apply this approach online via Zoom, during the 2020 pandemic, and be delighted with the results as well! Many of the practical tips that Gwen shares here have broader application to other facilitation approaches and platforms as well – a valuable resource.


Making Workshops Work, Penny PullanMaking Workshops Work: Creative Collaboration for Our Time

by Penny Pullan (Jul 2021 forthcoming)

This is a wide-ranging introduction and an invaluable resource for anyone leading any sort of workshop, whether in-person or online or both – it is packed with tips and tools and rich with insightful stories… highly recommended!


Facilitating Breakthrough, Adam KahaneFacilitating Breakthrough: How to Remove Obstacles, Bridge Differences, and Move Forward Together

by Adam Kahane (Aug 2021 forthcoming)

Facilitating Breakthrough is thoughtful, reflective, and inspiring. To achieve breakthrough results on high-stakes challenges, facilitators need to raise their game. This book explains how.


See also about mehow I work and who I work with, 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 and now online too.

Facilitation Competencies for Agilists – session recording & outputs

Facilitation Competencies for Agilists - Agile Tour LondonWhat skills, knowledge, and behaviours must facilitators have in order to be successful facilitating in a wide variety of environments? To what extent do these vary, if at all, when working online rather than face-to-face? What can we do, individually and together as Agilists and as peers, to develop our own facilitation competence?

Thank you again to all those that attended this session last week during Facilitation Week, and especially to Agile Tour London for the invitation and to Megan Evans for co-hosting with me.

This session adapted the format of the ICA:UK Online Focused Conversation Series: Taking time to connect, learn and reflect. This was a series of taster sessions around different topics – both to examine and explore the topic, and to demonstrate the use of ICA’s ToP Focused Conversation Method.

In this session participants acquainted themselves in breakout groups with the IAF Core Facilitation Competencies and shared experience of their application, both online and face-to-face. In plenary we reflected on the extent to which these competencies vary when working online rather than face-to-face, if at all. Participants also reflected on what they could do, individually and together as peers and Agilists, to develop their own facilitation competence.

For more on ICA’s Technology of Participation and facilitation online, register now for Introduction to Facilitation OnlineIntroducing the role of the facilitator and the ToP approach, plus some key tips & tools, 2.5 hours, next on 11 November.


The recording and other outputs follow:

  • the slides and mentimeter outputs shared on SlideShare
  • the Zoom recording in Youtube

This session was previously held also in September, in partnership with the Agile Coaching Retreat and co-hosted by Dawn Williams with over 100 participants – see:


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 also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels, and now also online.

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.

Taking your event online: what could possibly go wrong?

Taking your event online

Tuesday, 5 May 2020, 11:00-12:00 UK time

Your long-planned meeting, workshop or event, or that of your client, can no longer be held face-to-face. So it is decided to hold it online instead. What could possibly go wrong? What are some tips & tools that can help you – not to just make the best of it, but to make it the best?  More inclusive, engaging and productive than ever before?

Join us to connect, share & learn – register now on Eventbrite.


How engaging can your online session be?

How engaging can your online event be

Wednesday, 10 June 2020, 12:00-13:00 UK time

Our meetings, workshops and events, our world, are increasingly moving online – now more than ever! So as leaders and facilitators we must be prepared to move with them. Virtual sessions can have advantages over face-to-face, but disadvantages too – not least, shorter attention spans and greater potential for distractions. How can we keep people engaged and focused when meeting online?

Join us to connect, share & learn – register now on Eventbrite.


These two sessions are scheduled in partnership with ICA:UK as part of its new Online Focused Conversation Series: Taking time to connect, learn and reflect.

ICA:UK, in collaboration with lead trainers of it’s ToP facilitation training, is pleased to offer this series of taster sessions around different topics – both to examine and explore the topic, and to demonstrate the use of the ToP Focused Conversation Method.

All the sessions will be online, for 60 minutes, and will consist of a facilitated conversation followed by a brief run through of the method used. The sessions will be run by different trainers in their own style, around topics they have chosen.  In these sessions, the method will be adapted to accommodate whatever number attend.

In addition to participants learning more about the topic, the sessions will serve as an introduction to the method for those new to ToP facilitation and will be a useful reminder of the method for those who have already attended our popular Group Facilitation Methods course. Participants may opt to go on and take further training (either online or face to face) and/or to learn and share as part of a community of people using facilitation.

All the sessions will be recorded, with the recording being publicly available after the session is over. Participants will also be “signposted” after the session to opportunities on how they can build on their experience. You may opt out of receiving further communications at any time after the session.

For details of sessions with other ICA:UK lead ToP trainers, and to register for those, please see the ICA:UK Online Focused Conversation Series

For more on my occasional series of free facilitation webinars, including recordings and other outputs of previous sessions, please visit free facilitation webinars.


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 also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels, now also online.