ToP Facilitation

Technology of Participation is an integrated set of facilitation methods and tools. Facilitators design and lead meetings that enable the members of the group to participate fully and focus solely on the quality and outcomes of their work. ToP was developed by ICA and is used by ICA and ToP facilitators around the world. ICA has been using ToP methods in its work with communities, organisations, companies and networks for over 40 years.

Tools for the 21st Century

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The ToP Focused Conversation method uses a four level sequence of questions that moves a group’s discussion from the objective information through their initial responses and interpretations to clear conclusions.

The ToP Consensus Workshop method uses the basic method to build consensus about a complex topic. It begins with a focus question, gets the group brainstorming responses, helps the group organize the ideas in clusters, enables the group to identify the core idea in each cluster and helps them determine next steps.

The ToP Action Planning workshop uses a series of steps that translates a project idea, strategy or task into a focused actionable timeline.

ToP Historical Scan or “Wall of Wonder” enables a group to reflect on its history and current strategic environment. It begins with events that are written on cards and place on a timeline. The group reflects on its experience and focuses on learning from experience to move into the future. It is also used as a review and reflection tool.

ToP Strategic Planning process begins with developing a shared vision, looks at the contradictions that may restrict progress, develops strategic actions and creates an action plan to implement the strategies.

These basic methods form the foundation of the ToP approach to facilitation. They are combined and modified to meet the needs of each specific situation. Each group is unique and each design is developed with that in mind.

How ToP facilitators work

Designing the Objectives – ToP facilitators begin by asking questions and listening to the needs of a group. They work with ‘client’ groups to understand the history, current situation and desired directions. They help the group move from a general topic to the specific objectives for a facilitated event.

Designing the Process – Following the initial meeting, the facilitator develops a proposed design to meet the needs of the group. It is part of the proposal submitted to the organization and includes fees for preparation, any necessary research, the facilitated event itself and documentation of the results. Contracts and agreements are developed through collaboration between the ToP facilitator and the organization involved. When a design is developed, ToP facilitators and representatives of the organization do whatever research and preparation is required to make the event itself a success.

top6Conducting the Event – On the day of the event, the facilitator arrives early to ensure the atmosphere is conducive to maximum participation. This involves careful preparation of room set-up, A/V, graphics and materials. The facilitator conducts the meeting as designed and frequently checks in with the client to determine progress. In some cases, design changes are required to achieve the desired results. Each event is concluded with a reflective conversation that enables the participants to evaluate the experience, determine its significance for them and agree on the next steps.

Follow Through – The client usually determines what happens after the event. It often includes documentation of the meeting results. In some cases, it may be a simple recording of the groups’ work and in other situations the creation of a more polished report is necessary. ToP facilitators strive to put the results of the discussions in the hands of those who will implement them as quickly as possible; often immediately following the completion of the event. Follow through may also involve deeper evaluation of the event, sessions to engage stakeholders and workshops to review action and enable teams to move their work forward.

Sample Topics

  • Rural Health Framework
  • Public Consultation on Municipal By-laws
  • Strategic Planning
  • Planning Consultation
  • Information Technology Planning
  • Organizational Reengineering Planning and Implementation
  • Teen Sexuality Community Think Tank
  • Health Information Systems
  • Joint Executive Visioning and Strategic Planning
  • Board Transition Workshop
  • Collaborative Service Delivery
  • Labour Study Conference
  • Interagency Coalition Development
  • Mission and Values Retreat
  • Succession Planning Project Work Group Facilitation
  • Interagency Service Integration
  • Departmental Planning Process Evaluation
  • Public Health Legislation Review

What Clients Say

“With company representatives and stakeholders in the same room, we needed serious expertise in designing the major planning session to launch our new organization. ICA helped us put the whole enterprise on a very solid foundation.”

“I make plans, hold meetings and conduct research using ICA’s methods of participation. They are the best methods around to involve people in groups in making sense of lots of information and making decisions about action.”

“All of our staff regularly make use of ICA methods and techniques in programs with colleagues and with the public. It makes them very effective in working together with others.”

“In only three days, we had a way for our managers to move the entire organization toward team-based operations, and an action plan to get it done.”

“As the new president of a large, complex organization, I had to quickly get our whole management team thinking along the same lines. With the help of ICA, it took only two days. “

“ICA just finished facilitating a strategic planning session with a community group, and the results were great.”

“We had ICA Associates lead our strategic planning. It was so effective that we had them look at and enhance all of our program planning and evaluation processes.


Online bookings are available for regularly scheduled public ToP training courses in countries including Australia, Canada, Taiwan, UK, Ukraine & USA.  Other ICAs also offer public courses, and in-house courses on request.

For ToP training near you see also ICA Worldwide or contact us.