Facilitation case study: Celebrating 20 years with the European Training Foundation in Turin – #ETF20

“How might you creatively engage a diverse, international group of around 120, both face-to-face and online, to reflect, learn and bond together in celebrating 20 years of collective achievement?”

This was the question facing Michael Ambjorn and I as we prepared to work with the European Training Foundation (ETF) in Turin earlier this month. Part of the answer lay in the ‘Wall of Wonder’ method of ICA’s Technology of Participation, captured by Michael in a timelapse (below – the #FacHistory hashtag at the end refers to another 20-year anniversary project currently underway and using the method, Celebrating the development of facilitation – world-wide and history long.)

ETF is a decentralised agency of the European Union that supports transitional and developing countries “to harness the potential of their human capital through the reform of education, training and labour market systems”, within the context of the EU’s external relations policy.  Michael and I were engaged on behalf of AlignYourOrg to design and facilitate a one day celebration and team-building event for current and former staff, with an element of online digital engagement as well. We had some fun with that, as you can see here!

The ETF team had arranged for professors and students of Turin’s Albertina Academy of Fine Arts to lead creative arts workshops on the day, so we were to integrate that into the programme. A launch event in early April enabled us and the artists to meet many of the staff, and to begin to prepare together for the main event. Art teams were formed and team badges distributed, team ‘historians’ and ‘archaelogists’ were appointed to unearth and collect artefacts and mementoes to share, and the all-important #ETF20 hashtag was announced to curate online contributions.

The day itself was held at a fabulous venue, the former munitions factory Arsenale of Peace, which allowed us the use of multiple large indoor spaces and a beautiful sunny courtyard as well. In our opening session in the theatre space we presented the aims and agenda of the day, below (click the image to enlarge).

#ETF20 aims & agenda

We then moved to the courtyard for a ‘constellations’ energiser, captured by Michael in another timelapse. First participants formed ‘human’ maps’ depicting where they were born, and then the location of a memorable event with ETF. Then they lined up in order of day & month of birth, and then in order of their first involvement with ETF. This warmed people up literally, as well as in terms of sharing something of themselves and their stories of involvement with ETF. We then distributed playing cards in order of participants’ first involvement, to assign them to 12 groups of 10 (by card number, excluding aces) such that each group had an equal mix of ‘old-timers’ and ‘new comers’.

The ToP Wall of Wonder (or Historical Scan) method is a powerful tool to enable a group to share and learn from their varied perspectives of a journey through history, to review the past in order to prepare for the future. In the first stage of this Wall of Wonder session, the 12 groups were invited to brainstorm and share memorable events and milestones in the 20 years history of ETF from 1994 to 2014, and anticipate future events to 2020 and beyond as well. Events were brainstormed and stories were shared at the personal and world level, as well as at the level of ETF itself, and written on cards and plotted on a timeline on the ‘sticky wall‘ at the front of the room. Participants drew on their collected artefacts and mementoes for inspiration, and plotted photographs alongside their cards – including polaroids of each of them, taken by Michael on the day, and plotted to indicate their date of first involvement with ETF.  You can see all their movement in the timelapse above, as the timeline takes shape as the front of the room.

For the second stage of the session, we introduced an element of the World Cafe conversation method by inviting participants to move tables to form 12 new groups – this time according to the suit of the playing card they had each been given (3 groups for each of the four suits). In these new groups they shared some of the stories they had told and heard, and some more, and began to discern impacts between world, ETF and personal levels, and trends over time. After each stage of the session the 12 tables shared stories and insights with each other in plenary, culminating in suggestions for what name to give to their shared journey of 20+ years.

Below are just a few of the day’s tweets, to indicate how it was received, and a handsome recommendation received from Bent Sorensen, ETF Director of Communications, on LinkedIn. For more on the day as a whole (in tweets, images and more timelapses!) click on the final image below for #ETF20 on storify, and see the beautiful ETF video of the day.

If you find yourself struggling with a similar question, or if you could use any help with engaging and aligning your stakeholders, please contact me or Michael. Otherwise do anyway join us on twitter! @martingilbraith @michaelambjorn

Bent Sorensen ETF recommendation

#ETF20 storify

On the Road

This article was first written for and published in the IAF Europe MENA newsletter, May 2014.

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

When Julia Goga-Cooke invited me to contribute to this new ‘On The Road’ section of the newsletter, I think she may have known what sort of month I have been having. As well as visiting some interesting places, I have been able to meet and work with some wonderful IAF colleagues.

I began writing this from Marrakech, where I was facilitating last week for the first Arab Regional Forum on Youth Volunteering. This was convened by UN Volunteers, and brought together over 100 stakeholders from across the region and beyond to share, learn and plan together. On exchanging business cards with one delegate from Jordan, he told me that he had just emailed with IAF about joining or setting up a local chapter. So I was happy to share what I knew about the IAF membership in the region, and IAF’s chapter approach, and to learn from his experience of facilitation and facilitators in Jordan.

Prior to this I was in Turin with IAF member Michael Ambjorn of AlignYourOrg , in preparation for facilitating an event there together this week with the 120 staff of the European Training Foundation to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. It was in designing this event, including a ToP ‘Wall of Wonder’ historical scanning process, that I had the idea for the rather more elaborate process to contribute to IAF’s 20th anniversary year celebration that became ‘Celebrating the development of facilitation – world-wide and history long’. This was launched in April, online and at the IAF North America conference in Orlando. Please do join in, online and at future conferences and chapter events between now and International Facilitation Week in October.

Prior to that, I was in Moscow at the start of April for the 5th annual Moscow Facilitators’ conference. It was great to be back, having attended for my first time last year and contributing a keynote and pre-conference ToP Group Facilitation Methods training. This year I presented a case study of the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process with an international humanitarian agency in Geneva, ‘Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’’, and post-conference ToP Participatory Strategic Planning training (see photo above). The 100 or so participants came from the regions of Russia and Ukraine and Finland as well as from Moscow and the UK.

I have been privileged these last few weeks as well to serve as a mentor to one of ICA Ukraine’s ToP facilitation trainers, and to learn something of how she and ICA are working to network diverse actors in Ukraine and to re-envisage and rebuild their country’s future together. It was a privilege also (and fun!) to help to network ICA Ukraine’s facilitators with Russian facilitators attending the Moscow Facilitators conference by exchanging real-time Facebook updates between my post-conference ToP strategic planning course in Moscow and Natasha’s simultaneous ToP strategic planning course in Lviv.

It is a great disappointment to me to learn that this year’s IAF Europe MENA conference Facilitation Reloaded will no longer be held in Moscow, although recent events have made it increasingly self-evident that it would not be able to go ahead as planned. It seems to me that there is a need, now more than ever, for facilitation to grow and make a valuable impact in the region. I am delighted to know that the conference will be relocated rather than cancelled, and that the Moscow team will remain involved, and I shall be delighted for the opportunity to visit Copenhagen instead in October. I hope to see you there, and I hope that colleagues from Russia and Ukraine will be able to attend.

In the midst of all this I was also able to squeeze in a day of facilitation training with ICA:UK, for an international firm of sustainability consultants in London – happily, and rather appropriately, I was able to travel to that on foot!