Imagine Chicago has served as a facilitator for global conferences, business
meetings, community events and strategic visioning processes, often where people
want to enter into a “conversation with the future” of their community or
organization or to do strategic team or community building. Imagine Chicago has
built a reputation of facilitating reliably constructive and inspiring events
which include wide ranges of participants and which move from idea to action in
a way which is uncommonly diverse and creative. The brief of facilitation work
varies but generally includes designing agendas in advance of the event to
achieve desired outcomes, as well as presiding at the event in a way which
creates hospitable and productive space, engages participants, builds community,
encourages reflection through good questions, keeps the whole group focused and
energized, deals with challenges productively, documents discussion and results
and aligns ideas and actions.
Chicago has facilitated events for a wide range of clients in business,
government, education, health, youth development and the non-profit sector
including British Airways, Coastal Management Group, Brandtrust, Harris Bank,
DTE, Central Arizona (Water) Project, ABN-AMRO, Lawson Software, the British
Council, EPA, Park Co Community Foundation, municipal governments in Bogota
(Colombia), Calgary (Canada), Durban, Plettenberg Bay and Cape Town (South
Africa), Perth (Australia), Singapore, Vejle (Denmark) , St Helens (UK), the
Scottish Civic Forum, Safer WA (Australia), the Council of Aboriginal Elders,
the Episcopal Church, the Scottish Qualification Authority, South African Women
in Dialogue (SAWID), the Housing Authority of New South Wales, the Keiskamma
Trust (SA), the United Way, Pierce County WA, Goree Institute (Senegal),
Ministry of Social Development and Communities Southland (NZ), Kansas City Arts
Council, Americans for the Arts, the Loyola School of Nursing, the Project for
Public Spaces, the YMCA, the WK Kellogg Foundation, many American universities
and Imagine project start-ups and community forums on six continents. Global
conference facilitation has included Rethinking Development: Pathways to
Participation, the PLUS network global conferences in Vancouver and Durban, the
Shambhala Institute, UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities, the Search Institute’s
Healthy Communities Healthy Youth conference, and YPO’s Beijing Olympic Family
contact us to facilitate your event, please call Imagine Chicago’s office at
312-330-1015 or send an email.
To read more
about how Imagine Chicago does facilitation, read our Foundations for Facilitation which
What do we
keep in mind as we design and implement an Imagine event? How do we support
diversity and social inclusion? What helps build community and encourages people
to translate their aspirations into actions?
follows are some of the facilitation practices and tools which Imagine Chicago
uses to encourage each participant to bring his/her self fully to the
Value Local Context
and incorporate local language, cultural traditions, resources, practices,
• Understand what processes are already in motion for which this can serve
as a next step. Refer to and build upon these.
• Demonstrate inclusion, in thoughts, words and deeds, to overcome the
mindset and practice of division (by race, religion, age, education,
‘who’ is included and mix them up in unlikely combinations.
• Encourage the participation and leadership of multiple generations, so a
vision of the future is present and highly visible.
Create Space for Belonging and
the physical space to nurture participation. Notice the size, conditions,
flexibility and range of space, and orient it in ways that cultivate connections
life, trust people. Be fully present.
space to spirituality and meaning making as a resource for hope and
• Offer a
confident, embodied vision of human (and life) possibilities.
people want integrity-- to align their values and actions.
honest, natural, vulnerable. Allow room for risk-taking and mistake making, for
oneself and others.
nurture a safe and open climate.
good food and time to enjoy it.
with and draw from participants’ questions and experiences. Make clear that
everyone’s participation is valued, but not prescribed.
interesting, constructive questions and listen to responses with respect,
delight, interest and commitment. Positively mirror back contributions (by
smiling, repeating, recording, appreciating, summarizing).
• Structure the rhythm of interaction to create safety before gradually
stretching comfort zones. Move from individual reflection to pairs to small
groups to large groups; allow time for large group activities to be personally
appropriated. Give options with respect to assignments.
• Integrate artistic expression, to strengthen peoples’ confidence and self
creators. Create processes that are friendly to a range of learning modes and
styles. Emphasize fun!
the likelihood of dependency or control by using lateral rather than
hierarchical structures, which validate the skills, knowledge and value of each
individual and organization.
time to reflect on and share learning. Use closing circles to highlight and
summarize what people have learned and gain support for actions for moving
Re-enchant the Culture of
language in which people are subjects and co-creators of the future (not objects
in a depersonalized politics). Favor a culture of community based on commitment
over a culture of professionalism and expertise.
the language of hope and possibility, to overcome a discourse of cynicism and
problem statements are frustrated dreams. Reframe them into possibility
Build Community Identity and
storytelling. Exalt the lived experience of community members. Create ways for
them to explore and value each other’s experiences.
• Encourage group work and group learning, the sharing of gifts, hopes and
brainstorm possible action steps and ways to support and sustain the network
responsibility for action to the participants gathered. Use processes to distill
what has most energy and commitment and ask for leadership around these
feedback on what worked, had value, lessons learned and ways it will be applied.
Where practical, provide organizers that will provide a simple framework for
reflection and comment.
lessons learned with whoever might benefit from your
in opportunities for celebration!
THANK YOU Early and Often
~by Bliss W. Browne, Imagine Chicago