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What ICA Does: 3c

ICA facilitates group action

ICA facilitates group action and strengthens organizational capacities


ICA’s work is built on participatory methods that have evolved from many sources. At its heart is a commitment to the indicatives of life rather than the imperatives — beginning with what “is,” rather than what “ought to be.” It has been influenced by Paulo Freire who understood education to be a process that primarily draws upon the experiences of learners rather than regarding them as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge by authoritative teachers. It recognizes W. Edwards Deming and his emphasis on “quality” where front line workers resolve issues that managers often can’t. These forebears share a bottom-up approach, rather than top-down, and an appreciation of function preceding form. ICA’s programs are intent upon transforming people’s relationship to life. This is accomplished by playing the roles of facilitator, educator and trainer, mentor and coach.


Facilitators in general, and ICA in particular, understand that every group is composed of knowledgeable agents who are more intimately familiar with their situation than any outsider. Facilitators solicit insights and intuitive wisdom, which at times are deeply buried; they often enable greater awareness by holding up a mirror for a group to reflect upon its self. Facilitation is an area where ICA has acquired a highly visible public reputation through its “Technology of Participation (ToP)” ® program and the inspirational support it has played with the founding of the “International Association of Facilitators” (IAF). In one form or another, facilitation will remain a centerpiece of ICA programming. A major challenge for ICA, however, is to keep pushing the edge of its facilitation work rather than resting on its laurels.


Organizational capacity building occurs particularly when ICA plays the role of teacher and trainer. The development of new skills and abilities for enhancing the effectiveness of a group in doing its work often occurs through programs and workshops specifically designed to address particular issues identified during facilitated events. ICA has also created programs to address major social contradictions, like job training for the unemployed through a multi-week curriculum, i.e., “Training, Inc.” Capacity building activities of ICA address the development of practical skills WITH conscious attention paid to changing images. There is a wealth of resources in curriculum design to draw upon from past educational programs found in ICA’s Global Archives. A taste of these resources can be found on the “Golden Pathways CD.”


Finally, ICA builds capacities of others by serving as a mentor and coach. Authenticity, as well as the content of potential subject matter, comes from the integrity and first-hand experiences that one shares with others. This often means exposing one’s own internal weakness and struggles and the ways they have been overcome. Being aware of these experiences and seeking encouragement from the examples of others is an important aspect of taking care of oneself on a journey of service. “Burn out” is all too common for those with whom ICA works. Dealing forthrightly with it is a key, but often underappreciated, aspect of capacity building. The book, The 9 Disciplines of a Facilitator, has taken ICA’s past research on caring for oneself to support a life of service and presented it in a new accessible manner for a wider audience.


The roles of facilitator, educator and trainer, mentor and coach involve an empowering process and are catalytic in that they release the inherent power that people already possess.


Resources for continuing the conversation:

  • The IAF Handbook of Group Facilitation, Sandor Schuman (ed), Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2005, published in cooperation of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF),
  • The Facilitative Way: Leadership That Makes the Difference by Priscilla H. Wilson with Kathleen Harnish and Joel Wright, Books Works Publishing, 2003.
  • Golden Pathways CD,
  • The 9 Disciplines of a Facilitator: Leading Groups by Transforming Yourself, by Jon C. Jenkins and Maureen R. Jenkins, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2006.