Orla Cronin Research

Social science research and strategic consultancy

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Tag Archives: training

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Training in virtual facilitation

Avoid this, by learning how to design and facilitate engaging, inclusive and productive online workshops. The long standing online training in virtual facilitation, on which Orla has been collaborating for the past 5 years, starts again on 16th January, and there is *one* seat left. The course runs remotely, on 8 consecutive Thursdays, at 15:00 UTC/GMT. Bespoke/in house training on your preferred conferencing platform is also available: contact orla@orlacronin.com With thanks to Chris Lysy for the cartoon.

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Online training

I am embroiled in preparing for 2 online courses at the moment. One is the Intrac Online M&E course – we have 17 participants spanning 4 continents.  We’re using Moodle as the asynchronous course platform, for discussions, homework and resources, and Blackboard Collaborate as the synchronous workshop/seminar platform.

I’m also starting to train today on an in-house Virtual Facilitation Online course with the Center for Disease control in the US, alongside with my ICA:USA colleagues Ester Mae Cox, Nileen Verbeten, Brenda Schmidt and Sheila Cooke.  For this, we’re using Wiggio for the asynchronous component, and Adobe Connect for the workshops.

This is giving me a great opportunity to compare and contrast different platforms.  Part of course design, in addition to creating content, is designing for learning and fostering peer interaction: this is often sacrificed in online training, but in fact, it becomes even more important to design, as it doesn’t necessarily happen naturally when people aren’t milling around drinking coffee together and chatting when they sit beside each other.

Within our training, we’re pushing ourselves to continuously model best practice in online facilitation…. to avoid webinar-induced comas!

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Intrac Online M&E course

Orla is delighted to have become an INTRAC associate. She is lead trainer on the forthcoming online M&E course.  This marries her skills in monitoring and evaluation, and online facilitation, beautifully, and she’s really looking forward to the next course, which starts on June 12th.

This 4 week (part time) course is aimed at participants who are relatively new to M&E.  It aims to develop an understanding of the principles and practice of effective M&E, share examples of M&E approaches and tools appropriate to different types of interventions and contexts, and will help participants to tackle their own M&E challenges.  Click here for a more detailed description.

The ‘synchronous’ (real time) meetings will run on Blackboard Ultra, and the asynchronous learning forum takes place on Moodle.

Click here to register for this course

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Intrac Online M&E Course

Orla is delighted to be training one the forthcoming Intrac Online M&E Course, which is now open for registration. Further information available here.


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Learn to facilitate fantastic virtual meetings and workshops

The revolution in remote working and virtual meetings has taken hold, but our skills haven’t necessarily kept up.

Learn to run excellent virtual meetings and workshops.  ICA USA and ICA UK have been in existence for over 50 years, teaching people how to maximise engagement and participation in the voluntary and NGO sector.

Now our skills have been applied to remote facilitation.

Over 8 weeks (approximately 1.5 hours a week plus ‘homeplay’), you will:

  • Gain competency leading virtual meetings with Adobe Connect, and ToP Focused Conversation.
  • Build your confidence as a virtual facilitator.
  • Learn tools and techniques for eliciting participation, virtual meeting design, and best practices for smooth and engaging facilitation.

No special skills or equipment needed apart from a computer with an internet connection, and a headset.

Sign up here for the next course, which starts on 5th April 2016 at 4pm BST or contact Orla Cronin for further information


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Facilitation 2.0 and Virtual Workshops

Chris Lysy’s lovely cartoon used to encapsulate my excitement when I boarded yet another environmentally destructive flight in order to plan, learn, teach, facilitate and share ideas with like minded peers and clients all over the world.  However, 2013 has been a wonderful year of desk based globe trotting. It’s been challenging, stimulating, educational, productive, and I also paid the bills and kept the wolf from the door.  I managed to limit my work trips to just one intercontinental flight, and merely a couple of European flights – less than a 10th of my usual air miles and a record in almost 2 decades!

This is why:

Among the highlights of 2013 for OCR, virtual facilitation stands out as being particularly satisfying on a number of levels.  Convening a group of participants who remain scattered across the globe for a workshop is beautifully carbon neutral, and it also permits deep participation of individuals who cannot/do not wish to travel, either because they have domestic commitments, too many other work priorities to warrant dedicating several days to an activity which might be important but which does not feel urgent, or ‘merely’ excruciatingly tight budgets. Virtual workshops create a quality of interaction which is sustainable between participants far beyond the workshop itself.

The Barefoot Guide Virtual Writeshop is described in a separate blog post.  This involved eleven participants  joining an online workshop, hosted via Adobe Connect, from locations as varied as Finland, South Africa, the UK, and the US.  The group was convened and facilitated by Orla, and produced* by Martin Gilbraith. (See the very bottom of the post for more information on the ‘producer’s’ role.  Martin, in the meantime, provides a very succinct description of what on earth a facilitator, virtual or otherwise, is actually for!)

The two other substantial events were the Institute of Cultural Affairs General Assembly, and the Alliance for Cancer Prevention workshop.

ICAI General Assembly

The ICAI General Assembly was held as a series of three virtual meetings, convening members of 19 of the affiliated national chapters of the Institute of Cultural Affairs.  Participants reviewed and discussed national reports, voted on Board proposals, and deliberated on the ICAI strategy.  Orla produced these meetings, which were convened and facilitated by Martin Gilbraith.

Alliance for Cancer Prevention workshop.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention was similarly global, convening interested individuals from the US, Canada, Belgium and the UK to listen to and discuss the implications of a series of presentations from keynote speakers on environmental risks and hazards.  The meeting was convened and facilitated by Helen Lynn and co-facilitated and produced by Orla.

Across these and other ‘virtual’ events, a huge variety of techniques were employed, including audio, video and PowerPoint/Pezi presentations, small breakout groups to brainstorm, polls to determine priorities for the discussion (or, indeed, for more formal reasons, such as voting on proposals from the board of ICAI), debriefing and responding to others’ feedback, documenting discussions, and planning next steps.

Feedback from participants in all of these events was extremely positive.

“It was a great meeting!!!!, Thanks for a very professional virtual facilitation job. Wow!!! It is incredible what technology is permitting in these days”

“Great meeting – unbelievably positive experience”, said a participant from the Ukraine (who had to keep herself ‘muted’ for some of the time due to the riots outside her window)

“Thank you very much for your superb job today. You did a wonderful job engaging members”

“Thanks to you all for a very satisfying learning and sharing process. Wow! These online meeting platforms really have great potential! I imagine a global community of practitioners linking like this each month – perhaps in the form of an action learning set…Or for like-minded individuals from diverse worlds (campaigners, government, activists, NGOs, community, CSR, donors, etc), reflecting on the real work, and building circles of support, and dreaming up brave social change initiatives!”

It was apparent that familiarity and practice with the software (Adobe Connect) enhanced participants’ experience.  Being able to interact via text as well as audio both permits a fairer distribution of ‘airtime’ across individuals, but also permits ‘work-arounds’ for anyone who has technical challenges, such as malfunctioning headsets or poor bandwidth.

Other successful ‘virtual’ work in 2013 included completing, reviewing and validating a ‘theory of change’ for streetfootballworld (convened and facilitated by Orla, and produced by Esther Mae Cox).  It also involved being member of the organising committee of the fast and furious Online Facilitation Unconference 2013, which was held in parallel with International Facilitation Week 2013, in which Orla hosted a workshop and participated in others, and also provided ongoing commentary via the OFU twitter feed.

To conclude this rather long summary, after the steep learning curve over the last couple of years learning how to ensure that the offer from virtual meetings and workshops at least equals and in some case surpasses ‘live’ events, we’re now really looking forward to further embedding this in the OCR offering in 2014.  In addition to continuing facilitate and/or produce these events, we’ll also continue to offer training (Orla is an associate trainer on the 5Deep/ICAUSA “Technology of Participation Virtual Facilitation Online Training course”) and mentoring/supporting individuals and organisations who wish to become self sufficient in this area.  We’re also these services in the form of production support to facilitators.

For a conversation about or demonstration of this approach, give me a call, and keep an eye out for demo videos which I will – eventually – upload!

In the meantime, here’s Chris Lysy again:

*For high profile, high ‘risk’ meetings (risk relating to the number of people attending, the vagaries of bandwidth, individual’s comfort with technology, and the complexity of the meetings themselves  in terms of integrating audio, text and sometimes video, and managing and ‘floorwalking’ in breakout rooms, it is extremely important to have a dedicated facilitator and a dedicated producer.  This liberates the facilitator and participants from having to interrupt the flow to address the ‘can you hear me’ issues, helps to address individual technical problems (e.g. ‘are you sure your headset isn’t muted’), helps to marshal people into breakout rooms (and retrieve them afterwards) and manage the documentation of the workshop so that the facilitator can focus on the dynamics of the group and the content being produced.  The producer is also a fully trained virtual facilitator and is conversant with the detailed facilitation script for the workshop, so acts as an ‘insurance’ in case there are any technical problems at the facilitator’s end.

And a little light relief: here is the kind of virtual meeting we’re trying to avoid: a youtube video of one of the uncomfortable and frustrating kinds of meetings!  http://tinyurl.com/l4fzbng

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Laureus Global Summit workshop: Measuring and communicating impact

Delighted to be convening this session at the Laureus Global Summit in London next week. Very much looking forward to seeing some familiar faces, as well as meeting lots of new colleagues.

The handout with additional resources is here, and the presentation (or should I call that a  prezi?) is here.

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Facilitating Participatory Strategic Planning training course 28-29 September, Manchester

Places available on ICA:UK’s Participatory Strategic Planning course next Wednesday and Thursday (28th-29th September) in Manchester.  Course information and booking here

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Group facilitation training

Orla is training with ICA:UK on the Group Facilitation Methods courses in Dublin (14th & 15th June) and Limerick (16th & 17th June). There are still some heavily discounted places available on both of these courses.  Contact www.ica-uk.org.uk or call 0845 450 0305 to learn more and to reserve your place.

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Free group and teamwork training for active citizenship

FREE Open College Network accredited training for voluntary organisations involved in youth & community work in the North West.  The 1 day training is provided by ICA:UK and covers group and teamwork skills for supporting active citizenship. This funding expires in February. If you can convene a group of 10, contact amelia@ica-uk.org.uk by 5pm on Weds 2nd February 2011 to establish whether you qualify.

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