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

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

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

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

But… what difference do they make?  

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

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

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

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

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


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

Join me for ToP facilitation training in Brussels & London in 2017!

New! (May 2017) – Meetings That Work in Brussels and London in September – scroll down for details…


I am pleased to announce three pairs of public courses in Brussels again for 2017, plus a new Meetings That Work course in Brussels and London in September. Please join me if you can, and share these details with friends, colleagues and networks who might be interested.

Now in their 4th year in Brussels, these courses are scheduled in partnership with Social Platform, the largest platform of European rights and value-based NGOs working in the social sector, and provided under license with ICA:UK, the participation & development charity.  Most are again scheduled in pairs to allow 1, 2, 3 or 4 days of training at once, in March, June, September & November – read on for courses and dates. For full details of each course, and to book, just follow the links from the course dates below.

I am pleased to offer discounted rates again to voluntary organisations and independent professionals, and in particular to ICA colleagues, to staff and members of Social Platform and other European NGO platforms, and to members of IAF & IABC. Please ask for details if you do not receive them through those channels.

Please contact me with any questions or for further details – including how to commission a tailored course for your group, and availability of scheduled public courses in the UK and worldwide.

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!


“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)


Meetings That Work (New for 2017)

Practical tools to design and lead effective meetings – 2 days

How can I turn meetings into “events” that people want to attend? How can I increase participation, and get the best input and results from everyone? How can I increase commitment to action, and handle difficult or controversial items?

This course will provide you with tips, templates and practical tools from professional facilitators that will enable you to get more from meetings than you ever thought possible. For this new course I shall be joined by Bill Staples of ICA Associates Inc of Canada as guest trainer.

Bill Staples is one of the founders of ICA’s Technology of Participation, a principal partner of ICA Associates Inc. of Canada, and one of the designers of Meetings That Work. Bill is happy to bring Meetings That Work to Europe for the first time in 2017, and will make the course come alive will illustrations from many fields. Bill has worked around the world with many organization and is well known in the field of facilitation. He is the author of Transformational Strategy: Facilitating ToP Participatory Planning, and is the publishing editor of the IAF Journal Group Facilitation. Bill is also a founding member of IAF, and was among the first facilitators to be inducted into the IAF Hall of Fame.


Group Facilitation Methods

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

  • 21-22 March in Brussels
  • 20-21 June in Brussels
  • 7-8 November in Brussels – BOOK NOW!

FC&CW method imagesHow 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.


Action Planning

Participatory planning for short-term projects and events – 1 day

  • 23 March in Brussels
  • 22 June  in Brussels

Action PlanningHow can I get all members of a group to participate in planning a project or event together, and build their commitment and responsibility so that they can successfully implement their plan?

This course introduces a structured, participatory process to enable the successful implementation of a group project or event.  The ToP Action Planning method uses the ToP Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods to engage all members of a group effectively, and so it builds commitment and ownership at all stages. The method is suitable for planning short to medium-term projects, or completing projects that have stalled.


Participatory Strategic Planning

Bringing people together to create strategies for action – 2 days

ToP Participatory Strategic Planning“How can I enable my group to come to a common vision for their future? How can I help them make their vision happen by creatively addressing the root causes of the challenges that are blocking them, rather than focus simply on fire-fighting and problem-solving? How can I ensure a real sense of ownership, so that for once their plan actually happens?”

The course presents a structured long-range planning process which incorporates the ToP Consensus Workshop method for building consensus, the ToP Focused Conversation method for effective group communication, and an implementation process for turning ideas into productive action and concrete accomplishments. Those with more experience of facilitation, strategic planning or ToP facilitation may need no further support to apply the process effectively in their own situations, and for others the course serves as a powerful, experiential introduction to the process.


Please contact me with any questions or for further details.

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.

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.

A glimpse of ToP Group Facilitation Methods training

“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?”

The ToP Group Facilitation Methods course provides a structured introduction to the ‘Technology of Participation‘ Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods, which form the foundations of ToP Action Planning, ToP Participatory Strategic Planning and other applications

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.

This short timelapse video, from last September’s ICA:UK Group Facilitation Methods training at NCVO in London, shows the interactive walk-through, analysis and discussion of the Consensus Workshop method.

I am grateful to those attending the training for featuring in it, and to Michael Ambjorn for making it for us. As well as being an accomplished photographer and timelapse enthusiast, Michael is himself an experienced facilitator, a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and Chair of the International Association of Business of Communicators (IABC), and founder Director of AlignyourOrg. You can follow Michael on Flickr and on Twitter.


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.

Register now for ToP facilitation training in Brussels in 2016.