Technology of Participation (ToP) Facilitator Research

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Global ToP Dialogue meeting, Bangkok, July 2010

See the live results of this August 9th survey.

July 3-5, 2010,  Bangkok, Thailand

Convenors: Kevin Balm, Bangkok; Larry Philbrook, Taipei; Bill Staples, Toronto

Present: Punitha and S. Krishnan, Malaysia; Puthri Moonesinghe, Sri Lanka; Mohan and Daya Bhagwandas, Australia; David Buwalda, Singapore; Mark Pixley, China; Evelyn Philbrook, Taipei; Karen Newkirk, Australia; Tatwa Timsina, Nepal; Babu Joshi, Nepal; drop ins were Suree Joonputhipong, Thailand; Ruben van der Laan, Thailand; Alisa Oyler, USA; with online input from several colleagues.

A.        History and Process of Global ToP Dialogue

The ICA General Assembly in Toronto in 2006 expressed a desire for networking, innovation and cooperation within the ToP network around the world. This led to sharing and innovations in several countries and among many ICA and ToP networks. Throughout 2007-08 the size and scope of the network was explored and ideas and opinions were collected from ToP facilitators and trainers.

Discussions at the 2008 ICA General Assembly in Japan affirmed the Technology of Participation as a priority for research and development and resolved that “National Reps Formulate a strategy for the further development of the ToP network. - Unanimous”

In 2009 a Global ToP Dialogue session convened in Taipei created some basic research foci for dialogue across the ToP network along with follow-up ideas. The results of this Taiwan Global ToP Dialogue were discussed throughout 2010 in ToP network and ICA network sessions in Canada, USA, Spain and Australia.

The Global ToP Dialogue session was continued in Bangkok, Thailand July 3-5, 2010 to consider if recommendations could be prepared for the ICA General Assembly to be held in Pune, India in October 2010. This document is the practical result of the Global ToP Dialogue.

B.        Recommendation to the ICA General Assembly

The ICA global network is the global custodian/owner of ToP intellectual property. The ToP global dialogue in Bangkok recommends that the ICA global network allow non-exclusive operation of ToP training by a global-regional-local network of ToP trainers.

ICA remains the legal owner of ToP intellectual property, ToP methods, the ToP trademark, etc. and is the custodian of the history, spirit, and depth of ToP.

To support this the ToP global dialogue in Bangkok proposes the establishment of

1)    ToP Global which is comprised of ICA and ToP Trainers from each region, moving toward a legally constituted global entity (when needed) which will

*    Identify where to expand access to ToP training

*    Sustain and improve quality

*    Develop an effective governance function of training

*    Connecting the local and regional at the global level

2) Regional Coordination Mechanisms which is comprised of ToP Trainers which will:

*    Serve a governance function at the regional level (we envision three regions developing organically) to support national/ cross-national ToP trainers and networks

*    Coordination of interchange between trainers, across the region and with the global level

*    Promote quality in material, process and delivery

*    Develop program and training in new geographic or program areas

These will continue to support and develop Local Top Networks involved in ToP such as national ICA’s and other local players driving quality, implementation and creativity.


C.        Implementation models

Program of ToP Global

The Technology of Participation (ToP) is a constellation of life understandings and group facilitation methods for transformation at personal, leadership, organizational and community levels. It is based on natural thinking processes and has been evolving since the late 1950s, extensively tested and refined in community and organizational settings around the world. Originally known as ‘ICA Methods’ it has been honed since the mid 1980’s into an effective group of tools and processes for working with organizations and communities known as the ToP.

·      ToP is a symbol of participation. Commitment to ToP includes living certain principles, values and life understandings and imparting those principals by demonstration.

·      ToP is about individual and group existential exploration and is an integral perspective into living and learning. It is a key to facilitative leadership.

·      ToP has practical uses immediately after training and demonstrates effective, people-centred, quality results and other valuable final products. It can also be used to delve into long term, profound personal and organizational transformation.

·      ToP is constantly being expanded with experiences and learning available in books, publications and online.


Global Foundational Principles, Values and Understandings

ToP Global Program Areas

Global Core ToP Methods

Current ToP Community Interaction at a Global Level

Global Innovation Opportunities

Global Target Groups

·  Being collaborative

·  Being comprehensive

·  Being affirmative

·  Being responsible

·  Being at the edge



·  Facilitation practice and innovation

·  Training in GFM, PSP, Imaginal Learning and other core curriculum

·  Competency-based assessment and certification.

·  Focused Conversation

·  Consensus Workshop

·  Participatory Strategic Planning

·  Wall of Wonder, Historical Scan

·  Action Planning

·  Contentless Methods/ Underlying Dynamics (like ORID and the Workshop Method steps)


·  Interchange

·  National and community networking

·  Innovation development

·  Online Technology

·  Organizational assessment models

·  Facilitator Competencies for global target groups

·  Opportunities for practicing the competencies

·  Developing ToP training competencies

·  Youth as facilitative leaders

·  IAF facilitators

·  ToP practitioners

·  Facilitative leaders

·  Facilitative community development practitioners

·  Facilitative public consultation practitioners

·  Learning facilitators (trainers/educators)

·  Project/tqm managers / reengineering

·  Team leaders



The paragraphs below expand upon the bullet points.

Global Foundational Principals, Values and Life Understandings

ICA has always operated from a set of life understandings which have been set out in the early RS1 course, and were imbedded in the LENS and Community Forum programs, in Sharing Approaches That Work campaigns. They have been imbedded implicitly in most ToP programs since their inception in 1987. They have been more recently illuminated in The Courage to Lead book in Canada, in the Profound Journey Lab in the US, in the Facilitative Leadership program in Australia, and in the Participation Paradigm course in several countries. While the language of these principles may undergo changes in response to the times, the underlying principles remain the same. ToP Global will protect and promote these life understandings and the principles and values which emanate from them to all ToP practitioners, trainers, facilitators and facilitative leaders.

ToP Global Program Arenas

New people exposed to ToP grow through continued practice and there is an almost unlimited need for quality ToP facilitation in many fields and disciplines. Consequently there is constant innovation by ToP facilitators as they apply ToP to new and challenging situations. Existing ToP training is regularly adapted or enhanced and new courses are occasionally developed for special groups. ToP trainers, in particular, and many ToP facilitators recognize the deeper transformational qualities of ToP and as a consequence look for assessment and certification to ensure they are transferring the understanding and values along with the methods. The ToP core curriculum has not yet been determined, but will include at least GFM, PSP and some elements of imaginal education, contentless method and facilitative leadership.

Global ToP Core Methods

There has been considerable agreement since 2003 among several ICA’s and some ToP practitioners that core ToP methods include at least the list above. Contentless Method has been added to this list by the ToP Global Dialogue to ensure that ToP practitioners do not fall into a prescriptive execution of procedures without a deeper understanding of the foundations all the methods and an ability to adapt them. Contentless Method, as this point, refers to two separate foundations in ORID and in the steps of the Workshop Method and more dialogue is likely needed.

Current ToP Community Interaction at the Global Level

While interaction within the ToP community can expand almost without limit, currently it consists of sparse and occasional country-to-country interchange of ToP facilitators, trainers and curriculum. There is some networking among trainers at a national level and less frequently at a continental level, convened by either ICA or ToP trainers, and sometimes jointly. There is interaction convened online a) for deliberative reasons, b) to test out the online efficacy of ToP, and c) to create new online ToP tools. There is a great desire for interaction to share and develop innovations both in facilitation and in training.

Global Innovation Opportunities

While competencies have been developed to enable general certification of a Certified ToP Facilitator, target groups were identified in 2009 for which specialized ToP competencies could be determined and perhaps curriculum developed. Many new ToP trainees look for opportunities to practice ToP beyond their current client or organizational need, but there are few, if any, mechanisms to enable this. ToP has been deeply imbedded in entire organizations through external and internal training and through high quality external facilitation, but there are no ToP organizational assessment models for recognizing this. There is no way to become a ToP trainer except through country-specific assessments, and no way for one country to recognize another country’s ToP trainers.

Global Target Groups

Target groups were determined in 2009 at the ToP Global Dialogue in Taiwan. The 2010 list differentiates IAF facilitators from ToP facilitators. ToP practitioners are an obvious target audience because they have taken some ToP training and consider themselves ToP practitioners, perhaps animateur, trainer, facilitator, coach, mentor, consultant who uses ToP, but do call themselves a ToP Trainer or a Certified ToP Facilitator. IAF facilitators could be those people who want to be facilitators for reasons quite apart from the understanding and principles espoused by ToP, perhaps purely practical reasons such as leading better meetings. Such people are part of a large group of potential facilitators represented by IAF and are an obvious target audience for ToP. It must be pointed out that some IAF facilitators do espouse similar values and understandings as ToP, but choose not to be ToP practitioners, facilitators, or trainers. These people have arrived at their life understandings and principles on their own and perhaps see no need to align themselves with ToP. We welcome them as colleagues at a deeper level than methodology.

Networking of ToP Global to Develop Program

Anyone who is training ToP courses or ToP methods can participate in the networking to help develop the program. This includes:

·    People who are ToP trainers and have been qualified by a national ICA.

·    People who train others in ToP but have not been qualified by a national ICA.

·    People who transfer ToP methods to others but not in a specific course setting. Anyone who has taken a ToP course, or who has been a ToP practitioner for a long time, or who has purchased a ToP book, may be involved in transferring the methods to others.

All of these people have skills and abilities to bring to the larger task. They will be invited to be involved in a network to:

  • Expand the common core of the training.
  • Ensure commonness in the certification of practitioners.
  • Develop readiness for accreditation and for endorsement of trainers.
  • Create a structure of progression that moves toward accreditation and endorsement of trainers.
  • Bring innovation to the curriculum and training processes.

Actions to Assist in Program Development at a Regional Level.

ToP Global would have three regions. People in a region will be invited to develop program together. This will speed up the development of program because regions can more easily communicate and gather, but will require dialogue and comparison and merging of models at a global level. As an example of regional actions here are some recommended AsiaPacific actions that will accelerate the development of program:

1.     Identify ToP Trainers in locations and inclusion on a database. The countries with an asterisk have a current operating ToP structure.

Australia*                               New Zealand*                         Timor Leste

China*                                    Taiwan*                                  Malaysia*

Singapore*                              India                                      Bangladesh

Nepal*                                    Thailand*                                Japan*

Philippines                              Hong Kong                              Korea

Vietnam                                 Sri Lanka


2.     Draft the core curriculum elements of ToP training.

3.     Create a classification of designations for trainers. This will help define a progression for trainer readiness.

4.     Publish a training calendar to promote interchange.

5.     Schedule events to invite others to be part of the conversation about regional functions. Invite others and expand the list. Current events scheduled in the AsiaPacific region include a two-day Relating, Influencing &Negotiation course in January 2011 as part of the ToP/ICA Australia annual program of meetings. Should there be enough interest we could also consider scheduling a ToP practitioner certification (CToPF) event.

6.     Name core interim leadership. The first gathering would name the team.

 Structure of ToP Global

The intention of a ToP Global structure is to support ToP growth globally, supporting people who deliver ToP with a level playing field and moving toward consistency in training. The intention is not to limit involvement, but to move toward inclusive connections within a beckoning environment. There is an intention that ToP Global could operate in situations where individuals might intentionally or unintentionally be blocking ToP from growing or expanding.


There are three primary considerations in structuring ToP Global:

  1. ToP is a means of economically sustaining ICAs.
  2. The global desire to encourage and expand the number of individuals who are ToP practitioners and the quality of their practice.
  3. The expansion of access to ToP globally.

Values to be held in a global structure:

  • Creating a bridge between ICA’s legal and symbolic interest and every top practitioner’s passion and experience.
  • Honoring the past and all that is in existence today while moving forward.
  • Enabling grassroots creativity and innovation to flourish.
  • Enabling regional and global connectivity.
  • Ensuring operational and quality assurance.
  • An open system (network) not a closed club balanced by protocols
  • Enabling expansion of the ToP.

There are four recommended elements of the ToP Global structure:

1.     ICA globally is owner of the intellectual property rights and is the custodian of ToP. The responsibilities of ICA globally include legal (trademark etc.), symbolic (historical, spirit, and depth etc). ICA globally and historically supports individuals and networks to promote, operate and expand access to ToP.

 2.     ToP Global is comprised of ICA trainers and ToP trainers from each region, moving toward a legally constituted global entity (when needed). ToP Global must evolve from local and regional efforts. The responsibilities of ToP Global include:

·      Expand access to ToP

·      Sustain and improve quality of training.

·      Governance to support the regional dynamics below.

·      Connecting the local and regional

 3.     A Regional Structure is found in three regions: The Americas; Europe, Africa and the Middle East; Asia Pacific. The responsibilities of each region include:

·    Governance (Supports national or multi-national structures. It might be the ICA or faculty that currently exists).

·    Coordination.

·    Quality promotion.

·    Developing program and people in new areas.

 4.     Local ToP trainers and National ICAs are driving quality, implementation and creativity.

Purpose of ToP Global

 Each ToP facilitator, trainer and practitioner is on a constant journey into profound dimensions of collaboration, comprehensivity, affirmation, responsibility and leading edge action. ToP Global intends to increase the opportunities for that exploration. Here are factors that aid in that journey.


ToP journey into profound human dimensions



Availability of materials translated into useful language.

Practitioners can read and understand the manuals.

Being trained by someone who is also an experienced facilitator

Trainer can illustrate questions with answers that are based on actual experience.

The ToP trainee is ready.

Trainee has a reason to be there, wants to be there and is ready to learn. Is not coerced to be there.

ToP trainee or practitioner has a place to practice after the training.

Trainee has the opportunity to see the change that ToP produces in people when ToP is used for real.

Availability of reference materials after the training.

Trainee has something to refer to later to modify use of the method for specific situation.

Co-facilitates with someone with experience.

Gets to see modeling of the method and how it creates change, and causes interior reflection.

ToP practitioner gets to co-teach with someone else.

Co-teaching practitioner has to wrestle with questions to be able to answer questions on why things are done certain ways.

ToP practitioner learns about imaginal education.

Practitioner get to understand the link between image, message, behaviour in self and in participants.

Practitioner learns about master images, values, philosophy, etc.

Practitioner can make the linkage between ToP methods and ToP deeper understanding.

Trainee or practitioner gets training from a team.

Practitioner has an opportunity to see various styles and not get caught in charisma of single trainer. Gets more feedback.

Trainee practices self reflection

Practitioner is given opportunity to reflect on the personal change that occurs when using the methods well.

Practitioner teaches someone else or transfers methods.

Has the responsibility for helping someone else understand the methods and the deeper meaning, and has to explain and model.

Gets coaching and mentoring

Has someone to rely on to give advice on most useful approaches or build confidence in difficult situations.

Coaches and mentors someone else.

Mentoring someone else requires deeper reflection on that person and their clients needs.

Be part of a continuous improvement learning network

Allows the practitioner to regularly converse with others and understand client needs and innovate.

Certification of competence

Allows peer to peer acknowledgment of capacity. Measures indicators that people have the ability to bring about this profundity.


There are several models of the learning journey participants go through. One such model is

·    The first level of learning ToP occurs at a procedural level, practicing what to do and how you do it. This level is focused on delivering output through the facilitation.

·    A second level of ToP learning in participants occurs when ToP is practiced many times close together. The practitioner begins to see the impact that the facilitation methods have on the participants’ thinking processes. This level focuses on being conscious of the thought processes of the facilitator and the participants.

·    A third level of ToP learning takes places when the practitioner becomes aware of the story that participants have on entering into a ToP session, and the change in story that occurs during the session. This level focuses on the paradigm shift of participants.

A Model for Dramatic Expansion of ToP

There are several ways to dramatically expand ToP. One image is to dramatically saturate a country with facilitation training, to establish a quality facilitation training structure. The country of Nepal is ready for such a campaign to match their vision to have 5,000 facilitators in Nepal within 2 years, before the ICA Global Conference in Nepal.

The campaign below makes use of the existing training and the above shows the delivery of deliver training to 100 participants with 5-8 trainers.

Month 1

Month 2-3

Month 4

Month 5-14

Month 15

Month 16-24

3 days


2 or 3 months

3 days


10 months

A facilitation network that has the strength of quality that is being/ has been established in other countries

ORID and

Workshop Method training


Set up 100 community meetings

Participatory Strategic planning


Facilitate 100 community meetings

Forum on the future of Nepal (the country)

Self organizing community programs:



The results of the facilitation training is what would happen in the villages – community development.


You may make comments about this proposal on the ToP wiki. Go there now.

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