Another summer, another year of freelance facilitation

IAF India Conference, 2017 in Chennai - photo IAF India, facilitation Martin Gilbraith #ToPfacilitation #IAFIndia17 1

Another summer means another opportunity to pause and reflect, as in June I completed my fifth year in business as Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd.  The image from last year’s IAF India conference in Chennai is of my plenary session subtitled “Reviewing the past to prepare for the future“. Like every good ORID process, a reflection or review must start with Objective level data.

The data tell me that in 2017-18 I have delivered 20 contracts for 16 clients in 6 countries, involving 20 face-to-face events and one virtual event and 10 facilitated processes and 11 facilitation training courses. Also that I spent 56 nights away from home, 3 in the UK and 53 abroad. That compares to 26 contracts involving 35 events in the previous year, and over the 5 complete years a total of 90 contracts to 53 clients in 18 countries involving 121 events – 109 face-to-face and 12 virtual, 69 facilitation and 52 training.  So it has been another busy year, albeit not quite such a bumper year as the previous, and a marked increase in the proportion of training to facilitation contracts.

Returning clients in the past year have included Amnesty InternationalGirls Not BridesLorensbergsOxfamWells for India and of course ICA:UK, and new clients have included the AlternativeArticle19CCLEdringtonEFFAEPIMGCFJMIC and NNC. So I have continued to work largely with international NGOs, foundations, associations, networks and alliances, largely in Europe and the Middle East and particularly in London and Brussels. However, the NGOs continue to include more campaigning as well as international development and humanitarian, the Associations continue to include industries as well as NGO networks, and new fields for me this year include Scotch whiskey, Danish politics and global catastrophic risks!

Somewhat fewer contracts this year has allowed somewhat more time for business and professional development.

In new partnerships with ICA:UK and ICA Associates I have extended my schedule of public facilitation training to include dates in London and Birmingham as well as Brussels and new courses of the new IAF-endorsed ‘ToP Facilitation Essentials’ programme, Meetings That Work and Facilitating Client Collaboration.

My networking and volunteering has been focused primarily on IAF England & Wales, where four regional groups totaling around 750 members are now hosting 5 or 6 meetups every month around the country, led by a virtual leadership team that meets monthly online. I finally joined IABC as a member this year, and became more active with IABC UK as well as presenting at EuroComm18 in Copenhagen, after collaborating for some years to build an informal partnership between IABC and IAF that resulted this year in a more formal MoU at the EMENA level.

I have also enjoyed opportunities to participate in and lead sessions at IAF conferences and events  during the year in Australia, Canada, France, India & Jordan, and at ICA regional gatherings in Nepal and Poland as well as in the UK.  I have been pleased to have been able to host five free facilitation webinars during the year, with colleagues of all of these networks that I respect very much. I am very excited to have begun collaborating with IABC past-President Michael Ambjorn and more than a dozen other IAF colleagues to co-author a book on the Power of Facilitation – for more as the project develops, follow us at @FacPower.

Since last summer’s 5-year review of participant feedback on my ToP facilitation courses, taster sessions & webinars I have been requesting post-course feedback 3-4 months after every training, so I hope to share some insights from that as well before long. Other substantial additions to this site during the year have included a series of cases studies on Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop, a new image gallery and (of course!) a Privacy policy.

With five public courses and half a dozen client contracts already in the pipeline for the autumn, another webinar and another IAF India conference and of course International Facilitation Week in Birmingham, it looks like there will continue to be plenty to blog about when I can find the time. Thank you for following!


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.

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.

A welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer

This June completed my fourth year in business as Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd, and in October it will be 5 years since I went freelance from ICA:UK. Following what has been a bumper year for client work, for the first time in probably 15 months I am looking forward to several consecutive weeks of desk time, free of delivering client contracts – and a holiday in August after that!

In the last 12 months, it turns out, I have delivered 26 contracts for 18 clients in 9 countries, involving 32 face-to-face and 3 virtual events and 24 facilitated processes and 11 facilitation training courses. That has involved 73 nights away from home, 18 in the UK and 55 abroad. No wonder it felt like a bumper year – that represents an increase of around 70% in client work compared to my first four years of freelance practice, and the contracts on average were larger too.

I have been fortunate and grateful to enjoy a diverse and stimulating, often inspiring, range of groups and contexts to work with this past year. Recent client contracts for facilitation have included large and multi-event, multi-stakeholder strategic planning processes with international NGO networks such as ICUU, Girls Not Brides and Eurochild (above), and smaller, relatively simpler strategy and planning retreats such as with CENTR, Wells For India, Lorensbergs and the Peel Institute. Also large and relatively complex and challenging international team meetings such as with Amnesty International and Oxfam OPTI, and a small but complex and challenging closed Ministerial Forum with the International Union on Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Also a conference of activists on refugee and migration issues with Amnesty UK, and facilitated leadership development labs, face-to-face & virtual, for managers of Astra Zeneca. Facilitation training has included courses with civil servants of Ofgem and the Care Quality Commission, for agile finance software project managers of Santander and bereavement counselors of the Dove Service, and for diverse groups on public courses in London, Brussels, Geneva and Moscow. I lost some bids for work, and had to turn down some opportunities as well, but I wouldn’t have wished for any other workload.

It is no wonder then that I have spent less time on other things. My volunteer time has reduced since I completed my four year term as ICAI President in December, although since then I have somewhat increased my time growing IAF England & Wales‘ activity and leadership team and partnership with IABC.

Readers may have noticed that I have managed fewer blog posts (only 20 this past year from an average of 32 the past four), and only one of my “bi-monthly” free facilitation webinars – plus in May What does it take for people to align behind change? with Michael Ambjorn, published today by MILE Madinah on YouTube.

So, what do I hope to make of this opportunity to pause and reflect?

Mostly, I hope to take the opportunity to reflect and learn from this recent experience, and share some insights here on my blog – so watch this space!

I hope to review my recent years’ ToP facilitation training end-of-course participant evaluations, and launch an online survey to invite past participants to share something of what they have applied of their learning and how, and what difference their training has made to them and the groups they work with. I hope to draft and begin to post some more facilitation case studies from my facilitation work of this last year, and request further client feedback.

I hope to schedule one or two more free facilitation webinars for the autumn, and share a recording of one already scheduled for this month with IAF India – with Martin Farrell of IAF England & Wales, on the topic of co-facilitation (below).

I hope to catch upon some reading – next up after Penny Pullan CPF’s Virtual Leadership, Responsible Facilitation by Jim Campbell formerly of ICA Belgium.

Also, I have some advance preparation to do for delivery work in the autumn, including for my new IAF-endorsed Meetings That Work courses in London & Brussels in September, with Bill Staples of ICA Associates (book here). And I hope that my calendar for the autumn will continue to fill itself – so do feel free to contact me if you’d like to help with that!

In the meantime, I am hoping also to enjoy some more summery good weather, and all that goes with it – at home in London, at the WOMAD music festival later this month and in Sitges in August.

Wishing you an opportunity to pause and reflect as well when you can…


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.

Free facilitation webinar – How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?

blog-imageAre you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) methodology in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well? Please join me for my new series of free facilitation webinars.

Register now on Eventbrite for the next scheduled session on April 18, and register your interest on Surveymonkey for future dates & times and topics to be scheduled. To review past session topics and to view recordings and materials, and for provisional future dates & times and suggested topics, see free facilitation webinars.


blog-image 500x250How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?

Monday 18 April, 13.00 BST

In this session I shall share some learnings from the design and facilitation of an online conference of the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), that involved more than 900 participants over six 2-hour sessions. I shall be joined for the session by my client for the conference, Illias Animon of the FAO Forestry Economics department.

For more information on the FAO online conference, and links to the conference website and session recordings, see my February 2015 blog post How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?

Read further details and register now on Eventbrite.


Each session in this series of free facilitation webinars will be hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience.

Each topic will be addressed by a short case study or other presentation, supplemented by links to further online material for later reference. Sessions will 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 will introduce the features of the virtual meeting room and the tools to be used. A brief closing reflection at the end of the session will invite reflection and learning on the facilitation process and virtual tools as well as on the content of the session.

For full voice participation in the session for a more conversational experience, microphone rights will be available to up to 15 participants who are first to login and set up their audio. Others will be able to listen and interact via their keyboard alone.


Register now on Eventbrite, and register your interests on Surveymonkey.

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 IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Join me for my new series of free facilitation webinars in 2016!

Are you interested to learn more about facilitation, and ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP) methodology in particular – in a free, one-hour, interactive online session that offers an experience of virtual facilitation as well?

Please join me for my new series of free facilitation webinars!

Register now on Eventbrite for the first scheduled session (below), and register your interest on Surveymonkey for future dates & times and topics to be scheduled – scroll down for provisional dates & times and suggested topics.


ORID as a universal principle of facilitation 950x475Is there a single, universal principle of facilitation?

Monday 15 February, 13.00 GMT

This session will introduce a simple but powerful and versatile model, that can be applied as a tool and even as a guiding principle. It can help facilitators to engage and empower their groups with greater confidence and versatility, to better enable them to make the change that they are seeking in the world.  The session will be equally suitable for newcomers to facilitation and for experienced facilitators who are new to ToP, and those who would like to deepen their understanding of ORID as a design tool.

This session is adapted from a face-to-face session delivered at the October 2015 IAF Europe MENA conference in Stockholm, Making Waves.

Read further details and register now on Eventbrite.


Provisional future dates and suggested topics

I plan to schedule monthly or bi-monthly sessions, on weekdays at 13.00 GMT for convenience of multiple time zones. Provisional future dates for 2016 are: Wednesday 2 March, Monday 18 April, Wednesday 4 May, Monday 20 June, Wednesday 6 July, Monday 15 August, Wednesday 7 September, Monday 17 October, Wednesday 2 November, Monday 19 December. Please register your interest in these or other dates and times via Surveymonkey.

I shall invite clients and colleagues where possible to join me to share their own perspective on topics drawn from my experience, and I may also invite IAF and ICA colleagues to join me as guest presenters on additional topics drawn from their experience.

Please share your feedback and suggestions for additional topics and guest presenters via Surveymonkey, in response to these suggested topics drawn from posts to my blog:


Each session will be hosted in Adobe Connect for a highly interactive learning experience.

Each topic will be addressed by a short case study or other presentation, supplemented by links to further online material for later reference. Sessions will 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. Participants will be invited to share contact details privately in order to reconnect with each other after the session should they wish. Sessions will be recorded, and recordings also made available.

Participants should be ready to login to the meeting room from 45 minutes in advance for any technical support that may be required to enable their participation, then they may ‘step away’ until it is time to begin. Login details will be circulated to registered participants within 7 days of the session.


Register now on Eventbrite, and register your interests on Surveymonkey.

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 IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.