Reflecting on another year of freelance facilitation

ORID the kitten at Group Facilitation Methods training in Brussels

October 1 will be exactly seven years since I went freelance as a facilitator, and on June 30 Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd completed its sixth full financial year. So, a relatively quiet week in the August holiday season offers a good opportunity again to pause and review the last year, and look ahead to the next. It is timely too, after 6-7 years, that the coming year offers an opportunity for something of a sabbatical (again)!

In the year to June 2019 I delivered 25 contracts for 14 clients in 7 countries. These involved 31 face-to-face events and one virtual, 14 facilitated processes and 14 facilitation training courses. I spent 47 nights away from home – 14 in the UK and 33 abroad. That all compares to 20 contracts for 16 clients involving 21 events in the previous year – and over the previous five complete years a total of 90 contracts to 53 clients involving 121 events. I also declined 25 prospective client projects during the past year, compared to 11 the year before, mostly because I was not available. I failed to win 11 that had I quoted for, compared to 9 the year before.

So, slightly fewer clients and nights away, but considerably more contracts and events – those declined and lost, as well as those delivered. Again, about half-and-half facilitation and training, and all but one face-to-face.

Returning clients in the past year have included Amnesty International, Oxfam, Water Harvest (formerly Wells for India), Xpedio and of course ICA:UK. New clients have included ABBYY (with CircleIndigo), BeLiminal, Greater Cambridge Partnership, EASL, Heinrich Boell Foundation Turkey, Malaria Consortium, Octopus Network, St. Luke’s Community Centre and Virtual Not Distant. I joined Nordic Consulting Group as an Associate on a new framework contract with SIDA.

So I have continued to work with international NGOs, foundations, associations, networks and alliances, and a few others, largely in Europe and the Middle East and particularly in London and Brussels. However, this year has seen the return of UK local authorities and multi-sector partnerships, after many years working with such clients on behalf of ICA:UK in the 2000s. New fields for me this year include agile coaching, software development, Results Based Management and remote team working.

I have extended my partnerships with ICA:UK and ICA Associates in the past year to offer more scheduled public facilitation training than ever before. These include courses of the IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ series and, in new partnerships with local IAF colleagues, public course dates in Edinburgh, Lisbon and Pisa as well as London and Brussels. Two courses in Brussels also included a kitten (pictured above), affectionately named ORID by the group!

My leadership role with IAF England & Wales again accounted for most of my volunteer time. My role was formalised this year by election to a new chapter Board, and appointment as Chair. Our programme of peer networking and learning meetups has grown to reach our growing E&W chapter membership of now 90, plus over 1,000 members of five regional meetup groups. Monthly tea and coffee networking meetups are held in 12 cities in most major population centres of England & Wales, and online, and longer networking and learning meetups are held bi-monthly in London and three times per year in other regions.

Our all E&W meetup for International Facilitation Week has been extended to a 2-day Annual Conference for 2019 – the Power and Practice of Facilitation, 18-19 October, with 55 already registered. Meetup hosts across the country have joined an expanded Leadership Team of now 24 members. We are supporting new sister meetup groups in Scotland and Ireland, and a new IAF E&W podcast team has begun to create a series of 10 episodes to support the programme, inspired by a session at a meetup.

I also joined the new IAF Global Mentorship Programme as a mentor, and began to meet regularly online with my mentee in Jordan. I attended the IAF Europe conference Agile Facilitation in Milan and participated in monthly online meetings of Europe MENA chapter leadership. I continued to participate in events of IABC UK, but not the IABC EuroComm conference this year in Bahrain. I continued to participate in the ICA:UK ToP trainers’ network and to serve as volunteer webmaster for ICA International, but I did not attend this year’s conference of the US ToP Network. Regrettably also I missed my first ICA Europe regional gathering for about 20 years, in Kiev.

After collaborating for some years with Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg to explore the intersect between communication and facilitation, and the power of applying facilitation and communications in partnership, we have co-authored a chapter on that topic for a forthcoming book on the Power of facilitation. We are part of a wider team of authors involving expert facilitators from around the world. The shorthand for the project is #FacPower and each chapter of the book will have a different focus. In combination the aim is to show the power of facilitation in various fields and contexts.

I have hosted four free facilitation webinars during the year, including one on that book project and two with the authors of two new books published during the year that I have been pleased to endorse – Rebecca Sutherns on Nimble facilitation and Jim Campbell on Facilitating Authentic Participation and the facilitation cycle.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have not found so much time this year for blogging. I published just 15 posts during the past year, of the 180 published in the seven full years since my first welcome post – but of course I have been no less active micro-blogging on twitter.

So, what of a sabbatical? October to March in Sitges in Spain will be mostly for my husband, following his recent retirement from career-long, full-time employment. I shall continue to work and travel as necessary, not least for existing client commitments in London and elsewhere, for scheduled public ToP facilitation training most months in London or Brussels, and for events including the IAF England & Wales annual conference in Birmingham and the ICA Europe regional gathering in Vienna.

However, I shall welcome opportunities to work virtually and locally in Spain during that time, including perhaps with ICA Spain and with the forthcoming IAF Spain chapter – starting with its timely launch event in Barcelona during International Facilitation Week in October.

I do intend to take time for myself also to reflect, write and learn, to look ahead to my next seven years of freelance facilitation – and to enjoy a little less busyness and a little more sunshine! I hope that regular readers may notice the difference on this blog, and that Spanish speakers may notice the difference next time they greet me with “Hola”!

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. 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.

Facilitating participation in our organisations – introducing ToP with IAF Turkey

IAF Turkey #Facilitation Training Camp

Thank you to everyone who participated in my sessions in Istanbul today as part of the IAF Turkey Facilitation Training Camp, 17-19 July 2019 – and of course to IAF Turkey for the invitation.

In these three sessions, I demonstrated two of the core methods of ICA’s Technology of Participation and introduced something of the theory of those methods and the wider ToP methodology with examples of practical application:

  • Reviewing the past to prepare for the future – demonstrating a participatory approach for a group to review the past to prepare for the future, by applying the ToP Historical Scan method to reflect & learn together on the development of participation in our organisations – over time and in context.
  • Building our shared vision – demonstrating the ToP Consensus Workshop method, a five stage process that enables a facilitator to draw out and weave together everybody’s wisdom into a clear and practical consensus – in this case a Practical Vision for the future of participation in our organisations
  • Introducing ICA’s Technology of Participation – introducing the theory behind ICA’s ToP facilitation approach, including the ORID model, and how it can be applied to engaging people more effectively to build shared understanding and consensus, strategy and action. I shared examples from my own experience, and invite delegates to consider applications to their own context.

Introducing ICA's Technology of Participation with IAF TurkeyHere I am sharing the slides (pdf) that I shared in the session, with embedded hyperlinks to case studies and further resources, and a video of the Historical Scan method in action at #ETF20.


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 for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels – and now Pisa!

Join me for IAF-endorsed ToP facilitation training in Pisa, 2-3 September!

I am excited to announce another new addition to my regular schedule of open ToP facilitation training, this time in partnership with IAF Italy.

Register now on Eventbrite – many of the limited places are pre-booked by members of IAF Italy, so do not delay to book the few places remaining!  Please ask for the promotional code to enter in order to enjoy a special discounted rate for IAF members, and please share with others who may be interested.


Group Facilitation Methods


Introducing the foundations of the ToP approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus (2 days)

“Meetings are a key part of what we do. As a diverse, transnational, multilingual membership network, successful meetings are key to our internal and external successes. Many of our staff mentioned Martin’s training as a highlight in their end of year reviews – several said it was the most useful training they had ever attended, and there was a clear consensus that we should work with him again.”

Eve Geddie, Deputy Director at Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)

Who this course is for

The course is for all those who want to be able to engage people more effectively to build shared understanding and consensus, including team leaders and managers within organisations, those working with Boards, management teams, partnerships and external stakeholders, youth and community workers and independent facilitators. This course has no pre-requisite, but is the pre-requisite for Participatory Strategic Planning. It is recommended both to newcomers to facilitation, and to experienced facilitators who are new to our approach.

IAF endorsed trainingPreparing for CPF certification? Meetings That Work, Group Facilitation Methods and Facilitating Client Collaboration together comprise the new ICA Associates ToP Facilitation Essentials Program that has been endorsed by the International Association of Facilitators for those preparing to become an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF).

Questions this course answers

“How can I have more purposeful & productive conversations, bring out the wisdom of a group, encourage feedback between people, and reach shared awareness in meetings? How can I generate and weave together a diverse range of ideas, develop creative solutions and build a group consensus?”

This course provides a structured introduction to the ToP Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods, which form the foundations of the ToP Action Planning method, Participatory Strategic Planning and other applications.

What you will gain

By the end of the course, you will

  • be able to identify when and how to use the Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods
  • have gained confidence in the use of these methods
  • have recognised and explored elements of participation, creativity, teamwork and action
  • have built links with others to promote future collaboration and support in the use of the methods

The Focused Conversation method provides a structured, four-level process for effective communication which ensures that everyone in a group has the opportunity to participate.

The Consensus Workshop method is a five stage process that enables a facilitator to draw out and weave together everybody’s wisdom into a clear and practical consensus.

These methods have been featured in publications including:

See also my own blog posts Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning and Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop.

Learning style

The course presents the two methods in a practical and participatory way. Each method is first demonstrated, then analysed and discussed, and then practiced in supportive small groups with guided reflection & feedback. Finally, participants plan how they will apply each method in their own situations.

What do participants say about this course?

93% of GFM participants rated the course 8/10 or higher. Comments from participants’ end-of-course evaluations included:

  • brilliant – a must-do if you want better, more effective meetings
  • provides two practical, easy-to-use methods to discover deep insights from diverse groups – useful tools for any group, organisation or community
  • benefits for experienced facilitator and novice alike
  • worth every penny – excellent content & great presentation

Register now on Eventbrite.


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.

Facilitating Authentic Participation – free facilitation webinar recording & resources

Thank you again to everyone who participated in yesterday’s free facilitation webinar Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative Steps to Empower Groups, and especially to our guest presenter Jim Campbell. Here below you will find the session recording, presentation slides and other resources shared.

Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative Steps to Empower Groups

Tuesday 18 June 2019, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we go behind the scenes of the usually hidden planning and diagnostic process that leads to the “magic” of guiding a group process that allows the group’s deepest wisdom to be shared in a feasible action plan that everyone is motivated to accomplish.

I was joined for this session by Jim Campbell, former ICA Belguim and IAF Europe Director and author of Facilitating Authentic Participation: Transformative Steps to Empower Groups; and again by Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

What may look simple, effortless, and easy to accomplish is the culmination of an intensive series of consultative stages of preparation requiring the listening, analytical, and collaborative skills of a master facilitator. This new book shares the process that Jim taught in university-level courses in Ireland, after a lifetime of innovative process work with groups on four continents.

Jim has written elsewhere:

“…people know that participating in creating their destiny is an essential part of their humanity… The process whereby people are enabled to experience this combination of the freeing of their humanity and the ownership which generates commitment and motivation is truly transformative. By the force of their own experience people realise that they can participate in creating their future and the future of their organisation or community.

Thus people experience themselves as responsible for their destiny, and so resignation and despair are transformed into hope and belief-in-self. People’s anger and frustration at their disenfranchisement is transformed into energy invested in creating their destiny.”

This conviction—that authentic participation is transformative—has been the foundation of Jim’s work as a facilitator.

Jim shares insights and stories from the book, and from his own wealth of experience of the facilitation cycle and the transformative power of facilitation. We invite you to share your own reflections, insights and stories as well.

The book is available from Amazon and from reputable booksellers – we do encourage you to read it before the session if you can! Read more about the book at ICA International, and join the conversation with Jim on Facebook.

Session materials & additional resources shared include:


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 me for IAF-endorsed ToP facilitation training in Lisbon, 11-12 July!

I am excited to announce this new addition to my regular schedule of open ToP facilitation training, in partnership with IAF Portugal.

Register now on Eventbrite, and please share with others who may be interested.  Please ask for the promotional code to enter in order to enjoy a special discounted rate for IAF members.


Group Facilitation Methods


Introducing the foundations of the ToP approach, two powerful techniques for structuring effective conversations and building group consensus (2 days)

“Meetings are a key part of what we do. As a diverse, transnational, multilingual membership network, successful meetings are key to our internal and external successes. Many of our staff mentioned Martin’s training as a highlight in their end of year reviews – several said it was the most useful training they had ever attended, and there was a clear consensus that we should work with him again.”

Eve Geddie, Deputy Director at Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)

Who this course is for

The course is for all those who want to be able to engage people more effectively to build shared understanding and consensus, including team leaders and managers within organisations, those working with Boards, management teams, partnerships and external stakeholders, youth and community workers and independent facilitators. This course has no pre-requisite, but is the pre-requisite for Participatory Strategic Planning. It is recommended both to newcomers to facilitation, and to experienced facilitators who are new to our approach.

IAF endorsed trainingPreparing for CPF certification? Meetings That Work, Group Facilitation Methods and Facilitating Client Collaboration together comprise the new ICA Associates ToP Facilitation Essentials Program that has been endorsed by the International Association of Facilitators for those preparing to become an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF).

Questions this course answers

“How can I have more purposeful & productive conversations, bring out the wisdom of a group, encourage feedback between people, and reach shared awareness in meetings? How can I generate and weave together a diverse range of ideas, develop creative solutions and build a group consensus?”

This course provides a structured introduction to the ToP Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods, which form the foundations of the ToP Action Planning method, Participatory Strategic Planning and other applications.

What you will gain

By the end of the course, you will

  • be able to identify when and how to use the Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods
  • have gained confidence in the use of these methods
  • have recognised and explored elements of participation, creativity, teamwork and action
  • have built links with others to promote future collaboration and support in the use of the methods

The Focused Conversation methodprovides a structured, four-level process for effective communication which ensures that everyone in a group has the opportunity to participate.

The Consensus Workshop method is a five stage process thatenables a facilitator to draw out and weave together everybody’s wisdom into a clear and practical consensus.

These methods have been featured in publications including:

See also my own blog posts Four steps to a universal principle of facilitation and learning and Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop.

Learning style

The course presents the two methods in a practical and participatory way. Each method is first demonstrated, then analysed and discussed, and then practiced in supportive small groups with guided reflection & feedback. Finally, participants plan how they will apply each method in their own situations.

What do participants say about this course?

93% of GFM participants rated the course 8/10 or higher. Comments from participants’ end-of-course evaluations included:

  • brilliant – a must-do if you want better, more effective meetings
  • provides two practical, easy-to-use methods to discover deep insights from diverse groups – useful tools for any group, organisation or community
  • benefits for experienced facilitator and novice alike
  • worth every penny – excellent content & great presentation

Register now on Eventbrite.


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.

Free facilitation webinar – the Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership

Free facilitation webinar - the Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership #FacPower #ETF20

Are you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well? Register now on Eventbrite for this latest addition to my series of free facilitation webinars.


The Power of Facilitation and Communication in partnership

Tuesday 26 February 2019, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we will explore the intersect between communication and facilitation, and the power of applying the professional skills and tools of facilitation and communication in partnership with each other.

I shall be joined for this session by Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg; and again by Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

Michael and I are currently working on this theme to draft a chapter for a forthcoming book that aims to showcase the power of facilitation in various fields and contexts. The shorthand for the book project is #FacPower, and chapters are being authored and illustrated by a global team of expert facilitators and visual practitioners from all around the world.

We have been exploring this intersect between facilitation and communication, and working to build bridges and promote learning & collaboration between the two professions and their professional associations, since around 2013 – when I had just completed a term as Chair of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and Michael was just embarking on a term as Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). We encourage members of both associations and and both professions, and others, to join us – all welcome!

We will share insights and stories from our own experience and others, from both professions, on how facilitation and communications competencies (and facilitators and communicators themselves) can support and add value to each each other. Just one such example that we’ll be drawing on (which won awards from both IABC and IAF) is #ETF20.

We will invite you to share your own reflections, insights and stories as well – for you to learn from each other during the session, and perhaps also (with permission and attribution) to contribute to the chapter and help to bring it to life.

We will also seek to demonstrate what we are talking about, through co-creating with you a highly engaging and interactive online session – the power of facilitation and communication in partnership!

The session, like the chapter, will draw on IABC’s Global Standard of the Communications Profession and IAF’s Core Facilitation Competencies.


Each session in this series is hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience. Each topic is addressed by a short case study or other presentation, with links to further online material for later reference. In the sessions we apply tools and techniques of virtual facilitation to help participants to engage with the material and the presenter, and with their own and each other’s experience on the topic. A short technical orientation directly before the session introduces the features of the virtual meeting room, and the tools to be used. A brief closing reflection at the end of the session invites reflection and learning on the facilitation process and virtual tools, as well as on the content of the session

Register now on Eventbrite.


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.

Getting to the Bottom of ToP – exploring the foundations of ICA’s Technology of Participation

Free facilitation webinar - Getting to the Bottom of ToPAre you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well? Register now on Eventbrite for this next in my series of free facilitation webinars.


Getting to the Bottom of ToP – exploring the foundations of ICA’s Technology of Participation

Wednesday 4 April 2018, 15.00 UK time 

In this session we will explore the foundations of ICA’s Technology of Participation facilitation methodology.

I shall be joined for this session by Jo Nelson of ICA Associates Inc., co-author with her late husband Wayne Nelson of the new book Getting to the Bottom of ToP, now available from iUniverse; and again by Sunny Walker CPF CTF of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative.

People demand authentic participation in decisions that affect their lives.  ToP™ methods answer that call because they reflect how humans think, growing out of reflective inquiry into what works in real life, and the study of phenomenology and existentialism. This book explores the foundational understandings of this body of knowledge and its practice.

Getting to the Bottom of ToP works at two levels: as a guide to processes that elicit participation to bring insights to the surface and ensure participants collaborate to bring the resulting plans to fruition; and as a theoretical basis drawn from the field of phenomenology—an answer to any of us who have pondered what principles or theory about personal and group change underlie those processes.

We will invite you to share some of your own experience of ICA’s Technology of Participation, and to respond with us to questions that are raised.

Each session in this series is hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience. Each topic is addressed by a short case study or other presentation, with links to further online material for later reference. In the sessions we apply tools and techniques of virtual facilitation to help participants to engage with the material and the presenter, and with their own and each other’s experience on the topic. A short technical orientation directly before the session introduces the features of the virtual meeting room, and the tools to be used. A brief closing reflection at the end of the session invites reflection and learning on the facilitation process and virtual tools, as well as on the content of the session.

ICA Associates Canada publishes ‘Getting to the Bottom of ToP’Register now on Eventbrite.

To whet your appetite, see the Foreword and Introduction from the book at ICA International and these two recent interviews with Jo, with David Buwalda of ICA Canada and with Reine Kassulker of Facilitation Nation:


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.