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Archive for the ‘Community of Practice’ Category

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.

Practitioner Profile: Terri Sue Rossi talks about using ToP in Public Participation.

Posted on: October 18th, 2014 by admin No Comments

by Alisa Oyler


Terri Sue RossiTerri Sue Rossi knows the ebbs and flows of public participation. Working for almost three decades in the highly contentious water industry, she has seen efforts involving a diverse array of invested stakeholders stutter under the weight of politics, hidden agendas and benign neglect. She’s also seen the cloak of a highly technical industry lose the human story to the weeds of mathematical equations. In increasingly ambitious efforts to effectively engage the public and key stakeholders in these big tricky questions of water management, Terri Sue was part of a team that used ToP methods, alongside complementary long term strategic planning tools, to build relationships, agreements, working networks and trust that the process would generate results. Ultimately, this culminated in a unanimously approved Summary of Emerging Consensus after two years.   Terri Sue is now exploring other ways to merge ToP methods with Public Participation efforts. Related to this, she is providing leadership in a task force working to bring the ToP Facilitators Network Annual Gathering to Phoenix in January of 2016!

Read more about Terri Sue’s facilitation work and ambitions for the ToP Network in Arizona in her interview here.

How did you first become exposed to facilitation and top methods?

“My first glimpse of ToP methods was at the 2004 International Association of Facilitators Annual Conference. I took the GFM [Group Facilitation Methods course] from the Canadians! My first exposure to facilitation was being selected as one of ten people to serve as internal facilitators at CAP [Central Arizona Project]. We went through an internal training program and started facilitating internally. I also used my new facilitation skills for the public participation element in policy development projects.”

When have you seen a need for facilitation?

“The need for facilitation is everywhere. Even in a technical field like the water industry where I work, at the root of every problem or solution is human decision making. In my field, we are super good at disguising our human stories in mathematical equations. Whether we describe our problems and our solutions with words or numbers, if human beings are involved, facilitation is needed.”

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

“My organization used ToP methods extensively in a massive public participation project called ADD Water. This roughly 100 member group met from May of 2008 through March of 2010. They produced numerous intermediate products using customized ToP methods moving from small to large groups and back again. These products ultimately culminated into a single Summary of Emerging Consensus that included over 90 points of agreement. Several key participants advocated the approval of the Summary before our governing board and the Summary was unanimously approved.”

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 ToP methods incorporated into the decision making structure developed by the International Association of Public Participation or IAP2. To me the IAP2 structure is the golden standard for excellent public participation. IAP2 is not intended to be a facilitation practice. The IAP2 methodology would be more effective if highly disciplined facilitation techniques were used to support the structure.”

What do you see as your unique contribution or your niche?

“My niche is creating facilitation designs that allow people to solve their own problems. My goal is for the participants to own their problems and solutions so much that they forget I was even there. I consider it a failure if they thank me at the end of the day. I am less interested in substantive outcome and more interested in helping people see their reality with all of its glory and awfulness so they can make decisions in their lives that will move them from where ever they are to some place better.”

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 am excited about bringing the ToP Network Annual Gathering to Arizona in 2016. We are heading to a point of convergence where human beings are demanding more involvement in decisions affecting their lives. I am looking forward to the Arizona ToP community, integrating with other facilitation and public participation practices, to explode onto the scene serving all voices in our communities.”


Terri Sue Rossi specializes in policy development, strategic, long-range and business planning. She is trained in the Technology of Participation® (ToP®), Balanced Scorecard and American Management Association strategic planning method. Terri Sue prepared business plans for Central Arizona Project from 2001 to 2008. All were honored with the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Award. Terri Sue was also published in GFOA’s Government Finance Review. Terri Sue holds a Master of Arts degree from Rutgers University in Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arizona in Communication with a minor in renewable natural resources.

Mapping Community Resources at the Community of Practice

Posted on: May 8th, 2012 by admin No Comments

On May 4, 2012, John Oyler showed us a quick and highly participatory process for mapping community resources in the public, private, voluntary, and informal sectors. There are two parts to the process: the “Community Resources Inventory” and the “Circles of Involvement.”

This tool can be used with any community initiative. We used it in a fun and timely simulation (Get Out The Vote!) to demonstrate the process.

This tool has been used successfully with the community impact events of AARP across the nation; with community teams connected to the Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development; within communities in the Arizona Communities for All Ages initiative; by member agencies of the National Network for Youth; as well as international relief work in Haiti and Afghanistan.

Here are two handouts and the photos from the event on Friday. In addition there are a couple of photos from the international events.

Charting the Given Realities  and  Community Action Plan

Mapping Community Resources
Website design and development by Keri Christian – Freelance Web/Graphic Designer.