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Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Working with City Councils

Posted on: September 29th, 2017 by admin No Comments

Partners in Participation has worked across all institutional types over the years.  We are grounded in methods conceived to promote participation in villages, neighborhoods and communities across the world. However, we have applied them throughout the public, private and civic sector in this country as well.  Practical and effective methods of participation are universally sought out.  Some recent work with City Council’s in the Valley has our attention these days and we wanted to share a recent news article highlighting one of those events.  Please click the link below to see the article mentioned.

Retreat reveals rather cohesive council


Facilitation Week in Phoenix, 2017!

Posted on: September 24th, 2017 by admin No Comments

by Marilyn Oyler

International Facilitation Week (IFW) is an event that takes place each year during the third week of October. Its purpose is to showcase the power of facilitation to both new and existing audiences and to create a sense of community among facilitators and their groups worldwide.  Since its launch in 2013, the week has become a spark that ignites activities around the world to highlight the benefits of facilitation, the gifts of facilitators and the comradeship of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and our local Community of Practice.

This year, join us for the Arizona Triple Threat Planning Bonanza to be held during International Facilitation Week, October 16th through October 19th.  This is a week you won’t want to miss!

We are offering three great facilitation classes, some of which are being offered for the first time in Phoenix:

On Monday, Oct 16th, enjoy Facilitation for Innovation: Inspiring Group Creativity, where you will learn new ways to heighten the creativity quotients of your participants. Bring your friends!  There are no pre-requisites for this class!  Register at: https://icausa.memberclicks.net/facilitation-for-innovation-inspiring-group-creativity

On Tuesday, October 17th, we are offering the one-day course called ToP Approaches to Environmental Scanning for the first time in Phoenix. In this class, you will learn The Wave and The Wall of Wonder along with eight other environmental scanning techniques so you can pick the right scan for your participants and clients. Register at: https://icausa.memberclicks.net/approaches-to-environmental-scanning

Finish your week off on Wednesday and Thursday with ToP Participatory Strategic Planning, where you will learn how to create strategic plans that never even find a shelf. Register at: https://icausa.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=72&eventId=518237&orgId=icausa

Here’s a quick preview of ToP Strategic Planning shared as a time lapse video by one of our colleagues! https://youtu.be/xsubIRLrHwM

At the end of the week, you’ll be ready to raise the curtain on your latest facilitation offering.

These classes will be taught by a guest instructor and course designer; alongside Arizona’s own Marilyn Oyler and Courtney Lonergan,  California’s Nileen Verbeten. These classes have never been offered in tandem like this. We will be reaching out to facilitators, clients and the public participation and strategic planning industry to bring a diversity of people to these events.

Early bird deadlines for registration are coming right up on Oct 2, 3 and 4, respectively.  Remember you can come to the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning or Facilitation for Innovation as a refresher for $100.  Just use the code MORefresh.  Register at www.top-training.net.

This is the time to take these course as all course prices will be changing in 2018.  Grab them now while they are here!!  We look forward to seeing you!

Practitioner Profile: Eric Brooks is building common ground in Eduction

Posted on: December 11th, 2016 by admin No Comments

Eric Brooks Eric Brooks is a Senior Consultant for educational professional learning group Learning Forward where he also serves as the President of the state affiliate Learning Forward Arizona. For the last 8 years he has served in a variety of capacities at the Arizona Department of Education, his last being the Director of professional learning. Throughout his tenure he played an integral role in the Professional Development Leadership Academy, in providing technical support to the 15 county educational service agencies, and in working with schools and districts around their work with the Standards Assessment Inventory (SAI). Prior to his departure his work directed his unit’s energy and focus around creating and facilitating an agency wide interactive learning course, expanding the agency’s work with local education agencies in sustaining instructional rounds networks, and supporting members of the Highly Effective Teachers and Leaders Division as they worked toward ensuring equitable distribution of effective educators.

In his new role as an Educational Consultant he provides technical assistance to several district level systems across the country including Riverside Unified School District in California and Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. He provides leadership training for school Principals, and strives to help school teams to carry their mission forward.

Eric took some time to talk with us briefly as part of our ongoing series of profiles on ToP practitioners.

1. How did you first become exposed to facilitation and ToP methods?
My mentor and former supervisor Donna Campbell introduced me to the ToP methods about 8 years ago. She had been a long time collaborator with Marilyn Oyler and other members of Partners in Participation and a member of the Arizona Facilitators group. She encouraged me to become a member and develop my skills with facilitation.

2. When have you seen a need for facilitation?
I utilize facilitation daily in my work, from focused conversations in staff meetings to consensus workshops and environmental scans, like the wave, as I both work with and participate with groups. These moments include but are not limited to: one on one conversations with staff, developing new collaborative programs, problem solving internal issues and working with various groups to help them navigate decisions.

3. Can you share a story of a time when facilitation or ToP methods really aided in moving a group?
I serve on the board of 9 people. The board is going through a rebranding process. 4 of the board members have more than 8 years’ history with the board. Another 4 have less than one year. The last and final member hails somewhere in between those two groups. We needed something to bring all 9 of us together and to get us on the same page. We participated in and environmental scan called “The Wave.” This really allowed us to focus more on what we have in common than those things that separate us. Those with longer tenures got rejuvenated about staying on the board, and those new members got excited about the possibilities of what we could accomplish.

4. What do you see as unique contribution or niche you have as a facilitator?
One of the things I pride myself in as a facilitator is my ability to genuinely connect with my participants. I never take myself too seriously and all our work should allow us the opportunity to celebrate and have some fun. Whether it be the ideal connector or finding the right moment to provide some levity to an intense situation, I enjoy working in and among groups so that their best results are achieved.

5. What are you most excited about when you think about what is happening with facilitation here in Arizona? What would you like others to know about?
I get excited about concepts like Ignite nights where individual groups are allowed 15 slides in 5 minutes to tell their story. I am excited the unconference ideas that are out there. Members of a shared community get together and discuss current events relevant to their field. These are great opportunities for facilitators to develop different skill sets to navigate in those arenas.

6. What would you like to see advance in the field of facilitation and / or in the Arizona ToP network locally?
We had the good fortune of hosting the 2016 annual ToP Gathering. This brought our local group closer together as we all worked hard to make sure we represented Arizona well. It was the 25th anniversary celebration. I would like to capitalize on that energy as our group continues to learn and grow together. I would also enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with some of the members of the ToP group. There is amazing talent in the group, and being able to learn and work alongside them would be phenomenal.

Reach out to Eric at brookse8888@gmail.com.

A Community Gathering in Phoenix – Join Us!

Posted on: October 21st, 2016 by admin No Comments

In Memorium for Jess Sixkiller, a pioneer, mentor, and role model in community building.

Posted on: November 11th, 2015 by admin No Comments
by  John Oyler

KNXV Jess Sixkiller 1_1443420033255_24471399_ver1.0_640_480On Sept 25th Jess Sixkiller was murdered in his home in west Phoenix at the age of 78 by an intruder.  Police have apparently not made progress investigating.

Jess was of the Cherokee community in Oklahoma and lived most of his life in AZ with his wife,Tammy, and family.  His contributions within Indian Country and beyond were immense, including with ICA.  In his early career he was the first Native American police officer and,subsequently, detective in the Chicago P.D.  I came to know him as the director of Action for AZ.  Jess first contacted by ICA via an advocate for the Cannonball Human Development Project in N.Dakota and subsequently got involved with and supported the getimage.aspxPisinemo HDP and, through Action, enlisted auxiliary staff there in Vista, thus enabling the sustenance and credibility of the project.  He was a valued colleague, advocate and adviser in AZ and nationally, for example with the IERD.  I paid many visits to his office in the old federal building downtown (and actually still remember its telephone #) and was fortunate to have co-facilitated and co-trained with him, as well as making several roadtrips to different tribal headquarters.

I cannot claim to know of even a fraction of his contributions outside of ICA, but judging by the presence of several hundred people at his burial service in the remote Blackwater district of the Gila River Community and the testimonies I heard there, he must have touched thousands of lives.  For myself, it occurred to me that Jess was a mentor to me more than any other human being, from navigating Indian Country to being a slightly less stupid white man to swinging a golf club a little better.  He once gave me a sand wedge with the remark, “It’s a Ping, but you still have to hit the ball.”   This became a guidance for me professionally–you can have the best methods in the world, but you still have to connect with the group.

Jess deserves to be remembered by all of us who knew him and knew of him.

Practitioner Profile: ACYR appoints ToP champion Sharlet Barnett as CEO

Posted on: May 25th, 2015 by admin No Comments

Sharlet BarnettSharlet Barnett is the recently appointed CEO of Arizona Call-A-Teen Youth Resources, Inc. (ACYR).  She has worked directly with young people, youth professionals, and community groups since 1996, after graduating from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1998 with a degree in Psychology.  During her time with ACYR she became trained in ToP methods and the Youth as Facilitative Leaders principles that she has used to help enact a project-based learning approach in summer programs that promote youth employment.  She has also supported a Youth Leadership Council that uses ToP methods to advise the City of Phoenix on city wide service projects.

In her new role as CEO, Sharlet leads a staff of 50 dedicated and highly qualified professionals who provide training opportunities and support to over 1,500 young people each year.  They are involved in advocacy for youth and creating and organizing youth programs. They also  engage directly with employers and local colleges in creating training options which result in job opportunities for youth.  Key partners include; Maricopa County Department of Health, Arizona Department of Education, City of Phoenix Community and Economic Development, and Maricopa Workforce Connections.  In leadership, she is committed to continuing to build a culture of participation throughout the agency and offers the ACYR space to convene the ToP Community of Practice and various ToP courses as part of the effort to promote ongoing learning and excellence in practice.

Sharlet is currently a member of the Maricopa County Streets of Success Community Advisory Board and has served as a member of the Arizona Workforce Advisory Task Force.  She took some time to talk with us briefly as part of our ongoing series of profiles on ToP practitioners.

 1. How did you first become exposed to facilitation and ToP methods?

My mentor and former supervisor Pamela Smith introduced me to the ToP methods about 13 years ago. She has been a long time collaborator with John Oyler from Partners in Participation and encouraged me to develop my skills with facilitation.

 2. When have you seen a need for facilitation?

I utilize facilitation in many different levels of my professional life. This includes; one on one conversations with staff, developing new collaborative programs, problem solving internal issues and working with the young people served by my organization to help them navigate decisions.

 3. Can you share a story of a time when facilitation or ToP methods really aided in moving a group?

Young people can have a difficulty feeling engaged with groups that include adults. They are not always sure their suggestions are valuable or wanted. Utilizing facilitation techniques for brainstorming and planning allows them to participate more comfortably and develop the trust that they do have a viable point of view that is needed and will be taken seriously.

 4. What do you see as unique contribution or niche you have as a facilitator?

I have learned to weave the techniques into my daily actions and conversations and will change my approach based on the group or situation that will best fit the needs of the outcome desired.

 5. What are you most excited about when you think about what is happening with facilitation here in Arizona? What would you like others to know about?

I have noticed in multiple groups that facilitation in Arizona is increasing. This is occurring in multiple groups that I am engaged with including other non profits and government offices when trying to problem solve or come to group consensus.

 6. What would you like to see advance in the field of facilitation and / or in the Arizona ToP network locally?

I would like to see facilitation integrated into teaching practices in Arizona. We have a high number of dropouts in our state and utilizing engaging practices to interact and solicit participation with them can help retain their focus and keep them in school. The techniques also promote problem solving skills which are essential for healthy growth and much needed in our future generations.

Learn more about ACYR at www.acyraz.org



Empowering Parents/Caregivers to be their Children’s First Teachers: The Readiness Basket in 2014

Posted on: January 27th, 2015 by admin No Comments

Graduates!Empowering parents to be their child’s first teacher; The Readiness Basket, a bilingual  (English/Spanish) training, is an exciting interactive parent and child learning workshop series offered through selected AZ schools and community sites for over six years. The program is offered to parents, caregivers and their young children ages 0 – 5. Using ToP methods during these 11 two hour sessions, parents discuss issues vital to parenting, brain development, the importance of play, discipline techniques and school readiness.

2014 has been an amazing year with many successes to celebrate. The Gila Bend Readiness Basket Program expanded its leadership in parent education to not only teaching classes but helping in the developmental screening as facilitators as well.  The Readiness Basket Literacy Nights (two semesters in 2014) produced 658 (children & parents) participants and again that success was based on parent empowerment along with the Readiness Basket facilitators. As this event continues to grow the parents continue to stay motivated to organize and implement it. New parents for the first time have taken parenting skills classes and are ready to continue their journey in learning, being active advocates for their children.

Partnership and collaboration have been essential to our success this year. Partners like the Fire Fighters, Maricopa County Health Department, Arizona Learning Institute, Valley of the Sun United Way, Arizona Literacy & Leaning Center, Town of Gila Bend, Chicago Community Foundation (Spencer Charity Fund), parent liaisons, school districts, Family Resource Centers and dedicated parents with high commitment to their children’s education together build the fabric of Readiness.

Some key 2014 accomplishments:

  • 288 parents/caregivers who are better prepared with new tools and knowledge about early childhood education and the importance of their role as the first and most important teacher of their children
  • 370 children better prepared to start Kindergarten, ready to learn
  • 246 tool kits in the hands of parents/caregivers as an important tool for preparing their children
  • 292 boxes of materials for Kindergarten prep delivered to each graduate from the program
  • 1740 children’s’ books distributed to participants of the program (an average of 4 books per participant)
  • 288 “Play to Learn-Learn to Play” activity books delivered to graduates of the program
  • 289 program workbooks given to graduates containing all the materials from the 11 sessions
  • 71 car seats given to and installed for children in Gila Bend Readiness Basket Programs in partnership with Safety, Nutrition, Activity and Care for Kids (SNACK)
  • 26 Parents/caregivers received their CPR/First Aid training and their certification card
  • 4795 snacks for adults and children who participated in the activities
  • 169 training sessions and parents network support group sessions
  • 49 Developmental screenings ASQ-3 in the Gila Bend area
  • 500 Arizona Diamondbacks tickets for games distributes to parents during the Spring 2014


Overall 288 parents and 370 children directly benefited from the Readiness Basket Program in 2014. Our sincere gratitude to the Spencer Family Charitable Fund, Valley of the Sun United Way, First Thing First of Arizona, Arizona Literacy & Learning Center, Arizona Learning Institute, Prendergast School District and Pilgrim Foundation for their support for working with children and families and for making these Arizona communities a better place to learn and live. We’ll let one of our participants have the final word.

“I am Maria, I want to thank you for this program. I have learned so much, all I know about child development, discipline, be patience, communication and how children learn through play, brain development and how to prepare my grandson for school. If I got these type of training when my children were little, I could do better job as a parent in the past, especially how to discipline and prepare them for life. But I am prepared as grandmother and I am raising a grandson. Thank you so much, I am confident and I am empowered to teach and learn with my grandchildren”.  Readiness Basket Participant from Gila Bend, Arizona

Blast from the Past: World of Change

Posted on: November 26th, 2014 by admin No Comments
by Jim Wiegel
There is a consistent subtext in the history of top methods that we live in a world of rapid change the world it is transforming and we are facing problems and challenges that simply cannot be dealt with effectively using the methods, approaches and values we grew up with

Transformation is happening all around us all the time. It is no news to anyone that we are experiencing massive economic, scientific, technological, political, social and cultural changes that together conspire to take us far beyond business as usual. Our institutions and conventions are under intense scrutiny from all directions. People are looking at our world and their own situations quite differently from how they did even 20 years ago. Indeed, we are living through several earth-shaking shifts that are rewriting our story of who we are in the world. The speed and manner in which this is happening make it more clearly visible to some people and less obvious to others. However, not being aware of it does not mean that it is not happening. When a hurricane flattens a forest, it makes a sound—even if no one is there to hear it.

“We are living in a critical, violent moment of history; an entire world is crashing down, another has not yet been born.  Our epoch is not a moment of equilibrium in which refinement, reconciliation, peace, and love might be fruitful virtues.”  Nikos Kazantzakis, 1923, translated 1960.

Top methods and, indeed the whole field of group facilitation were born out of a concern for new ways of responding to change happening in our world, and really I mean change happening in the collective impact (our social process) of our species on one another and, now on other species and conditions on our planet as a whole.  So, you have three things:

1.  groups of people (organizations, families, friends, teams, departments, neighborhoods, associations, individuals as well),
2.  the shifts, changes, transformations going on around them
3.  Their capacity to respond, as a group, to what is going on around them which you can also see as three things:   (images they operate with that shape their behavior and attitudes and, indeed, their perception of what is real, true, good.  structures and connections to resources, that determine their power and ability to survive and/or thrive  And, modes of participation and interaction whereby they engage and decide and act together.
sometimes we forget, as facilitators, the broader calling of which we are a part.  We can fall into what Margaret Wheatley called, “a ritual etched into twentieth-century memory.”
“I sit in a room without windows, participating in a ritual etched into twentieth-century tribal memory.  I have been here thousands of times before, literally.  I am in a meeting, trying to solve a problem.  Using whatever analytic tools somebody has just read about or been taught at their most recent training experience, we are trying to come to grips with a difficult situation.  Perhaps it is poor employee morale or productivity.  Or production schedules.  Or the redesign of a function.  The topic doesn’t matter.  What matters is how familiar and terrible our process is for coming to terms with the complaint.
The room is adrift in flip chart paper — clouds of lists, issues, schedules, plans, accountabilities — crudely taped to the wall.  They crack and rustle, fall loose, and finally, are pulled off the walls, tightly rolled and transported to some innocent secretary, who will litter the floor around her desk so that, peering down from her keyboard, she can transcribe them to tidy sheets, which she will mail to us.  They will appear on our desks days or weeks later, faint specters of commitments and plans, devoid of even the little energy and clarity that sent the original clouds — poof — up onto the wall.  They will drift into our day planners and onto individual “to do” lists already fogged with confusion and inertia.  Whether they get “done” or not, they will not solve the problem.”  Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science, Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe.  San Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1992, page 25.
The meaning of a method is the change it produces in the group.
Bill Staples in Transformational Strategies, reminds us of the constant shifts and changes surrounding us and the organizations we work with.  Changing the attitude or relationship between the people and the task from one of victim or reluctant or simply follower into one of responsibility and challenge is a big part of the change.  Bill points out, however, that their is also a more external dimension.  He notes 5 levels of change, of increasing complexity and challenge:

Some clients already know the type of impact they want from the planning, while others may have only a vague impression of what the result might be. The ToP practitioner can design the following outcomes or impacts on the organization. These impacts are arranged in order of difficulty.

1. Enhancing or changing current operating structures   The plan might lead to a shift or a new emphasis conducting normal operations. For instance, strategies might emphasize practical training even though some training activities are already in existence. Implementation of these types of strategies may involve a simple reshuffling of some workloads or resources. ToP action planning can be used for the immediate implementation of strategies of this nature. If the implementation team is very small, it can be very helpful to prioritize the strategies first.

2. Creating new initiatives   The final plan may call for a brand new focus in a new area that is markedly different from the normal areas of operation. Strategies implemented for this purpose are added to the workload normally carried out within the organization. For instance, a strategy might call for the creation of a new research area or product line. Gearing up for this new focus could require new activities that have never been done before by the organization, and which they currently do not have the capacity to initiate internally.

3. Formalizing organizational structural change   The client may need a plan that is significant enough to require some substantial changes in organizational structure and reporting relationships. For example, a strategy could be to gather all the communication functions operating throughout the organization at many levels and in several areas of work into one cohesive area of responsibility.

4. Transforming whole systems   Some clients may be looking for a major transition of their entire organization, with a completely new focus and new modes of operation. This need for transformation can happen during organizational mergers, break-ups, or periods of accelerated growth. If this is the case, the strategies call for transition planning, and the organization’s new vision often highlights dramatic changes in mandate.

5. Supporting value-based, behavioral changes   Sometimes, rather than shifting what is done, a major shift is needed in how things are done. This occurs, for instance, when a new set of values are to guide all operations of an organization, or when a new accountability framework and new measures are to be embedded throughout the system, or when an the organization decides to operate in an entirely new way.

Any of the five levels of impact above can also require people within the organization to make personal life changes. During periods of personal transition (such as in career, health, or relationships), a person can develop strategies that keep them from making “the same ol’ mistakes.” The behavior changes are more sweeping than changes to specific activities and may require the development of a personal vision and an understanding of the root causes of difficulties in their personal lives. The development of strategies within that context can be very powerful for encouraging sustained changes in life.


At the time, the landscape was beginning to shift. Founders of the newly forming profession were beginning to consider the very nature of facilitation, and one of its most basic tenets was that of neutrality. As facilitators, ToP practitioners knew they could always play a neutral role with participants, but as agents of transformation there was still the question of whether they could really be neutral.   Professional facilitators debate this possibility of being a neutral presence and at the same time being a conscious agent of transformation. A transformational process used by an agent is heavily dependent on the values and philosophy of that agent, but those values and philosophy may not be shared by the client group and participants. Does one knowingly use a transformational process that shifts the client or participants in the direction of one’s own values, or does one try to remain neutral knowing that the client’s values may be the main dysfunction within the group?

This tension exposes the central dilemma of the ToP practitioner. On-the-ground evidence from 35 years of practice by hundreds of master ToP practitioners shows that the methods are indeed transformational—as they were designed to be. Therefore, the ToP practitioner can remain simply a professional facilitator, and use the methods as neutral planning and productivity tools—just as many clients want. On the other hand, the facilitator can admit to a transformational intent, use the methods at their full power … and take the consequences. Typically, the consequence is that the client is happier afterwards. However, if you talk about the potential for transformation beforehand, it can cause a degree of nervousness in clients. As more and more ToP practitioners and certified facilitators become passionate enough about the potential for positive change in society they talk about it with the client in advance. When they don’t mention it, they are in a similar position to a master architect who doesn’t mention his or her qualifications when renovating a neighbor’s garage. Selecting a master ToP practitioner to create a plan to increase productivity is somewhat akin to selecting a Ferrari to drive to the convenience store for milk. A reasonable question for every ToP practitioner is “When do I want to facilitate just what the client wants, and when do I want to ask about transforming their situation?”

hhmmmm . . . .


Reflections and Celebrations: Facilitating Awesome Holiday Conversations

Posted on: November 26th, 2014 by admin No Comments

by Alisa Oyler

thanksgiving_table_2000x1200 Holidays have always been our benchmarks of passing time, our opportunities to gather together and look back, take stock and reconnect.  Maybe now more than ever we are aware of the luxury that is sharing time and space and having the  attention of those we love.  The compression of these days, however, has been known to spark conversations that happen in fits and starts. Sometimes it’s because we are trying to squeeze a year of information into a social flyby. Sometimes our treasured diversity in perspectives leaves us with a mental tally of “awkward topics” we  dance around to avoid tension. awkward topicsOur great coming togethers can fracture apart in moments.

But you can help.  With a little care and facilitation you can use great questions to urge those conversations towards more authentic sharing.  You can help set the stage for conversations that celebrate the chance to share our stories and our learnings and enjoy the chance for some open-hearted listening. Focus on the individual experiences and stories, invite everyone in, spare the judgements in favor of personal insights, and play with ways to make things visual and interactive.  question jarA ”question jar” can be an opportunity for everyone to contribute and can be included as prize or punishment to other games and activities. Conversation card printables like the ones here or here and here can add content to decor.  A “looking back board” can be a fun graphic on the wall for people to add pictures and quotes and notable events to.

There are also numerous resources on the web to help shuffle these conversations along.  TED Talks recently put out two posts which may be of interest.  “10 questions to ask your family around the table” and “How to turn small talk into smart conversation” both provide some quick tips on facilitating more meaningful conversations.  And sources as diverse as AARP, the Kansas City Star and Daily Good have all posted helpful questions lists linked in this sentence.

And every year, we at Partners hand out the following question set as a resource for people who want take the opportunity to look back and reflect on the year, connect more deeply to themselves and others, and draw out any meaning or significance that might carry into their future.  It’s meant as a menu of questions to draw from, adapt and change to help set the tone and structure for the reflection that makes sense to you and the group of loved ones you may be hosting.

imagesYear End Reflection

Use the questions below to make time for yourself or with your loved ones to reflect on 2015. Though written in the first person, they can easily be tweaked for a family or group setting.

Re-call the Happenings.

  • What are all the things that I experienced, that happened to me this year?
  •                 10 events I participated in
  •                  5 people I remember
  •                  5 places I visited, near and far
  •                  5 books/poems/articles
  •                  5 movies/TV shows/plays/sport events
  • What global news events have had the most impact?
  • What are memorable things people said, or decisions that were made?
  • What has happened to those closest to you?
  • What new thoughts, concepts, books came into your life?

Re-experience the Journey.

  • What added seasoning and spice — salty, sweet, bitter, sour, umami?
  • What was your favorite belly laugh of the year?
  • Anything really silly happen?
  • What were the underlying struggles or tensions?
  • What were the “seasons” you experienced?
  • What were the characteristics of these various seasons as you see them? Hot, cold, subtle changes, one long…
  • Where did you experience hope and joy? Darkness and despair?
  • Where did you weep? Shout with rage? Dance with joy? Fall in love? Stand with conviction?
  • What unexpected occurrences (adding too much, too little, forget to pay attention to time, needing to substitute for a missing ingredient)?

Re-create the Meaning.

  • Look over what happened this year until some event begins to call to you. Circle that event, take a piece of paper and just start writing about that event. Tell its story, the details, the setting, what happened, the significance.
  • When you run out, pick another and do the same.
  • Key personal event…
  • Key family event of the past year…
  • What are the roots of your feelings about this year?
  • What connections do you see across levels? (between your personal life and the world, between work and personal, between nation and family?)
  • What has the journey of this year been like for you?
  • How would you characterize this year using a song or book title?
  • If you were reading a synopsis of your year’s life events but someone else’s name was plugged in, what would you admire that person for?
  • Suppose your year was a meal — where was the prep? Appetizer? Entree? Dessert? Clean up?
  • What “keys” made this year unique? Why?

Re-engage with your Life.

  • Looking to next year, what do I intend?
  • Who am I going to be in the coming year?
  • What is my greatest need?
  • 3 things I’m focused on beyond self:
  • My prayer for the earth community:
  • 3 things I intend to participate in:
  • What would you like to be able to say at the end of the coming year about what happened?
  • What’s the “one thing” you want to be able to say is different, stronger or deeper?
  • My name for the past year is “The Great Year of…”
  • My deepest anticipation of the year coming up is:

What are your favorite end of year questions and reflection tools?  How might you change or adapt this list?  Email us and share with us your thoughts and we’ll keep updating this set and sharing it with others.


You’re invited! Partners’ Holiday Open House December 5th

Posted on: November 26th, 2014 by admin No Comments

holiday open house tree imageIt’s the time of year again!

Time to look back on the events that have shaped us as we look around to people and the network that sustains us and take a moment to give thanks for each other.  Please join our Partners’ team and other colleagues for a  Holiday Open House to celebrate our joint efforts in 2014!

Drinks and light snacks will be provided.


No tickets needed!  This event is open to the whole ToP Community.


The event will take place on:

Friday, December 5,  4:30 – 7:30 pm


Partners in Participation

4208 North 25th Street

Phoenix, Arizona 85016

 Click the address for a link to the map.



RSVP to:  Marilyn Oyler at 602 468 0605 or Marilyn.Oyler@gmail.com


Download / Print the Invitation Here:  Partners 2014 Open House


We look forward to catching up, and swapping stories, with you there!

trees background


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