Entries by Gillian

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Thumbwrestling Game Rules and Lessons from an Appreciative Inquiry Makeover

A while ago I wrote a blog post about how I reframed the learning from a game called Thumbwrestling using an Appreciative Inquiry approach. The blog post was called “Activity Makeover using Appreciative Inquiry: From STUPID to SMART.” This game gives insights about collaboration versus competition and bases the debriefing on what makes people naturally take a […]

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Waterfalls, Writing and Workshops: Working With Divergence and Convergence

Like feel-good movies, Jane Austen novels, and rocky waterfalls heading for their pools, workshops are often built around divergence and convergence. Everything starts well enough, our heroine and hero bump into each other, there’s a fancy dance or a lovely stream meandering through a meadow, our workshop begins with laughter and high expectations and settles […]

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How to Say “Yes” to Projects: A Policy Guide for a Small Social Enterprise

Say you run a small social enterprise that is services-based  – like a small learning and process facilitation group that works on sustainable development issues for instance. Then you really need to work to manage the throughput of projects so that you can maintain high quality, uphold your social values and work within the capacity […]

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Tips for New Facilitators: What If No One Answers My Question?

Q: What if no one answers my question?  You’re facilitating a group discussion, you throw out a zippy stimulating question and expectantly wait for an answer – but there’s no reply, nothing, only an awkward waning silence and no one making eye contact with you. One facilitator I heard recently who was confronted with this, paused and said, “I […]

Preaching to the Choir – Learning for Environmentalists

I work with many environment and development groups working together in meeting/conference settings which often match content experts as speakers for audiences of members from their own community (e.g. sustainability experts talking to other sustainability practitioners). Depending on the level of intervention, this reflection often gets labelled as “preaching to the choir”.  I’m sure this is a familiar occurrence.  […]

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Domesticating Learning: Helping Trainers Appropriate New Materials Quickly in ToT Environments

If you’re like me, you have a drawer somewhere of gadgets that just didn’t quite make it into your daily routine. Or you have some apps on your iPhone that you tried but never got into the habit of using and now you are not exactly sure what to do with them. I wrote a blog post […]

When Numbers Soar: Facilitating Large Groups

I was delighted to be invited by MAFN – the Mid-Atlantic Facilitators Network tonight to present a webinar on facilitating large groups which is one of my favorite facilitation topics. (and yes, it can be done, if you were asking!) It has been one of my missions over the years to bring more facilitation and interactivity […]

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Can Good Storytelling Help You Be a Better Learning Designer?

In the learning field, especially when the approach is learner-centred, we talk of the “learning journey” that people go on as they build their capacity/understanding/competency in a new area. We may also use the words “learning narrative” to describe this learning process to others. It’s interesting to think how a learning practitioner builds his or […]

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Learning to Use Evernote: Two Examples from a Learning Practitioner

I use Evernote (“Remember Everything”) for many things from tracking my kids’ football schedules to contacts for my favorite conference centres, but the most useful things for my learning and facilitation work include: 1. Keeping track of photos that I take at my workshops, including all the flipchart templates, job aids, handouts, game descriptions. I use these both […]

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Why We’re Using Ignites in our Conference Workshop

I’m currently working with a team on a number of 2-hour workshops that will be held at an upcoming international conservation congress in September. For one of the workshops we will feature 6 speakers sharing different approaches to working with their supply chains. We will be using the Ignite format for their presentations and every presenter I […]

TEDGlobal 2012: A Moment in Time – What’s Going On Right Now?

TEDGlobal 2012 started yesterday in Edinburgh for 700 people from 71 countries. With the theme “Radical Openness”, we have been treated to the first 23 short presentations from TEDUniversity, which are given by audience members who apply and are informed 3 weeks before the event that they have been selected to speak.  These talks give […]


All Disasters Are Preventable: Muralee Thummarukudy at TEDxGeneva Change

The Chief of Disaster Risk Reduction at the United Nations Environment Programme, Muralee Thummarukudy has over 20 years experience in Environment and Disaster Management around the world, including as Corporate Adviser to Shell-operated oil companies in the Middle East and with Post Conflict and Disaster Management Branch of UNEP, involved in responses to major natural […]


TEDxGenevaChange – Katharina Samara Wickrama on “Accountable Aid”

Watch Katharina Samara Wickrama’s talk on “Accountable Aid” recorded at the TEDxGenevaChange event. Is humanitarian aid repeatedly failing to be accountable? To what extent should communities be involved in designing their own humanitarian aid programmes and measuring success? Should humanitarian responders hold themselves accountable for ensuring the delivery of quality assistance? How much money could be […]

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Anatomy of a TEDxChange Event: The Intense Hours Before (in Pictures!)

We held the TEDxGVAChange event in Geneva last Thursday; it was one of the 200 live events around the world that connected to the central TEDxChange event in Berlin. The Berlin event was co-organized by the Gates Foundation and, as all the others including ours, focused on issues surrounding global health and development. (above is the wordle we made from the […]

TEDxGenevaChange Event Today – Watch the Live Stream

Today, 5 April 2012, Lizzie and I are hosting one of the 200 global TEDxChange events at UNAIDS premises in Geneva. On the live stage, we have 5 speakers who will be exploring, in some surprising and provocative ways, different angles on health and development. You can read more about our speakers on our websie. We will be […]

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Building Peer Learning Into Mega-Events and Conferences

When Conferences focus on plenary speakers and traditional panel sessions these days, some of us might feel that our experience could be better if we wait until they are available on YouTube. Any ticks or flubs are edited out, and the video camera inevitably has a better seat and vantage point than we do in the audience. And you know […]


The Cost of Being Late

I have observed in an organization where I frequently give training that 25% of the people in the course are on time regularly. The rest of the people come later, and usually by 15 minutes after the start time of the course, everyone is there and we can begin. In this organization, meetings are the […]

Going Large: Tips for Running Big Conference Facilitation Teams

Last week we were facilitating at a major environmental conference in France with 16,000 people. We had been working with the Secretariat Team for 2 years throughout the preparatory process to help shape the agenda, work with the governance team, contribute ideas to the design and help facilitate stakeholder input to the overall process. All of these […]