The fabulous KM4dev community celebrated its 20th anniversary last Friday with a series of online workshops. Together with three others online practitioners, I was invited by Peter Ballantyne for a snappy five minutes input on Online Facilitation and Leadership to kick off the conversation in breakout rooms.

Before presenting my insights I invited everyone to answer the following question with paper and pen: How happy are you with your online facilitation and leadership experience in the last weeks and months? Draw your smiley! Next was a silent reflection: What is the trick to make your smiley smile? 

The most wonderful thing was the harvest after my input: The KM4dev community’s insights in three words through the chat:

Try it out
Listen, laugh, enjoy
People – creativity – engage

Don’t be afraid (to try)
Creativity co-prepare
Collaboration is about people
Fun. friends and finance
Foreground engagement
Next slide please’ 🙂
Just do it (and then get better)
Shift in mindset, making it fun, easy to follow and engage
Smile and smile and smile
Participation, shared ownership
e creative
Participation inspiring engaging
Bring your favorite offline facilitation method online! be creative!
People, not content
Dialogue – breaks – smile
Co-creation drives engagement
Co-construction in a mindful silence altogether..!
e really present, use video as much as possible, search for connections
Leadership is about conversations & quality listening
It’s about people
witch converse content
Enthusiasm, curiosity, connection
It’s about people! Engagement!
Leadership, Facilitation, Commitment, Participation, Trust & Safety

From the chat harvest it becomes obvious that we need to make some switches for bringing our community alive in the virtual realm. 


Here are the switches I propose we work on and dive into:

People interact not content. It is as simple as that, therefore we need to bring people online and plan for interaction. This is obvious or at least it should be. And if not, we seriously have to question ourselves: Do we really want to invite people to participate in a live online event for pushing information to them? This is not very efficient, there are other and better means and more appropriate channels (well crafted email, podcasts, video message, animation, ebook).

Collaboration is about people.
Riff Fullan, Helvetas

Good online Facilitation and Leadership starts with the questions Why? and What for? We need to gain clarity of purpose. There is no way around. And one more thing, let’s challenge our process muscles (as Ewen Le Borgne, my friend and partner in crime in the Liberating Structures adventures calls it)! The transition to online collaboration is not a technological nor methodological shift but a conceptual one. It’s no luxury to dive into our assumptions and beliefs and patterns on what we think is possible online and how it should look like.

You can look at your workshop or training that you want to bring online as a series of online events that are interconnected, strung together like pearls on a string.
Corinne Sprecher, begegnugsreich

With purpose and underlying concept clear, we have a good starting point to go wild in our design work: 

  • Bring a process online, combine the various happenings smartly, and use the time in between. From a learning perspective, this in-between-time is interesting. My friend and partner in crime for the Bringing Workshops Online series, calls this the pearls on a string. 
  • Structure for interaction, participation, engagement. 
  • Play with rhythm and pace – make it not too loose and not too tight. 
  • People work best in small groups. Use plenary for framing – breakouts for conversation. Mix and remix groups for cross fertilization.


Engaging the community needs more than an invitation email. Invitation is a process (as in physical f2f collaboration). This one comes from Chris Corrigan, and sticks with me as one of my guiding mantras: Engaging and  involving are the two sides of the participatory coin. 

To do so, we need to understand the community’s needs, their perspectives and contributions and we need to involve people early in the process. Thinking about how we want to involve them is definitely a question of attitude (and not merely of process only) from us as facilitators and leaders

  • What active role should be given to participants?
  • How to give and share responsibility ?
  • Whom could we invite to co-facilitate?

Here Liberating Structures come into play. They are the game changer – they strengthen self-facilitation and process thinking!

But how can we do all this online? By being imaginative and liberating ourselves! 


Let’s bring the good from the face-to-face world online, make it even better and bring the discoveries back to the face-to-face events.  As leaders and facilitators, we have to adapt our practice to the online environment with its constraints and opportunities. And this means working with and often around technology. This is a creative challenge! I often ask myself: What would I do now in a physical room, and how could I do it online with paper and pen? How can I bring movement, silence, and deep listening online. 

Let’s keep it simple. We want to see people and interaction in the centre not fancy apps absorbing us. 

There are some great opportunities, the chat is a gem and lots of shared writing

All it needs to accept the creative online challenge is some confidence, a little bit of courage and lots of practice.

Go wild! try out! Fail forward! Have fun together!


Appetite for more?

Liberating Structures ONLINE Immersion Workshop, July 6-9 on Zoom 

Bringing Your Meetings & Workshops Online: Confident, Creative & Convincing!
August 27 – September 24, Early Bird Tickets available until July 20th

Liberating Structures for Monitoring & Evaluation specialists, September (will be online)
Download the flyer &  information

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