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Welcome to Facilitation Stories, where we discover how facilitators ended up in the profession, and how facilitation methods, principles and techniques are used more widely. Brought to you by IAF England and Wales. For more information on our chapter, click here.

Aug 10, 2021

We have two guests joining our host Nikki Wilson in this episode: Steve Yorkstone, talking about IAF Scotland and Ewen Le Borgne, who talks about process literacy with Liberating Structures.

Steve Yorkstone, tells us about how he got involved with the IAF and how he's ended up running the IAF Scotland chapter. 

Since he's taken the baton, Steve has set up a website for the chapter, where people can sign up to the mailing list and receive updates about what's going on.

Steve and some of the other members of the chapter are coming up with many ideas about how to develop the chapter.Steve works in a university, facilitating as part of his job in process improvement, and so he's keen to hear from people who use facilitation in all sorts of ways.

A retreat in the Scottish Highlands (or a castle in Spain!) for people to take the time to focus on what facilitation is and how to learn from each other, is one of Steve's ideas. Meanwhile, he's hoping to bring people together in Edinburgh. 

Of course, you don't have to be based in Scotland to get involved with the chapter! 


Twitter @IafScotland
Or email:

Starting at 05.39, Nikki introduces someone who got in touch with the podcast team: Ewen Le Borgne (by the way, we love hearing from you

While facilitation constitutes a lot of his work, Ewen doesn’t consider himself a facilitator. He has a Knowledge Management and Communication background, helping people think about how they can use their information and combine it with others.  As this involves a lot of collaboration, behaviour change and relationships, facilitation plays a part.
Ewen first experienced Liberating Structures as part of a Community of Practice called Knowledge Management for Development, but his first proper experience was a few years later.  Working at a research centre for Agricultural Issues in Developing Countries he and a colleague arranged an Agricultural Process Knowledge Share Fair; They invited one of the pioneers of Liberating Structures to co-design and facilitate the event which allowed him to go in at the deep end with Liberating Structures.  It has since become an increasing part of his work.
Ewen goes on to explain what Liberating Structures are.  The terms and language can be confusing but people usually experience them first as a toolbox of facilitation formats. Some have been developed by the co-creators of Liberating Structures. Others are borrowed from other sources but have been broken down across 5 micro design elements present in all Liberating Structures.
More than this, he sees them as a pattern library; for helping groups collaborate and allow them to do something magical together.  They’ve been developed from complexity theory and they’re particularly apt for complex environments.
Nikki asks how Ewen’s use of Liberating Structures has evolved and become more of a part of his work.  This has been quite gradual. In the “Share Fair” Ewen interested in how Fisher Qua had been able to use the Liberating Structures in different combinations to create results.. As he began to use them, he moved more into thinking about the language and logic and the lenses within them, such as looking at things in a dynamic way, or recognising that whatever you are doing that’s not adding value needs to be removed to make way for things that do add value.  
He realised that Liberating Structures is about getting deep, fast and as they’re easy to use - they don’t need a lot of facilitation experience.  Liberating Structures is an open source movement so one can make a business out of it as long as the creators are credited.
He never used purely Liberating Structures but began planting them into his process design and then he got an opportunity to be a trainer on an Immersion Workshop which took his involvement to another level.  
Nikki asks Ewen about his observations in the Immersion Workshop of others experiencing Liberating Structures for the first time.  It confirmed for him that others could see the depth and complexity quickly.   He also observed that despite seeming “harmless” in fact you are confronting the group with deep questions that are sometimes uncomfortable.
He began to see the impact of some of the design choices.  For example the high pace of Liberating Structures is to encourage “quick draft”, agile thinking.  If the structure hasn’t given enough the first time, then it’s repeated rather than extending the time as repetition is seen as another form of change.
He noticed that when workshop participants began to consider their own contexts they could see lots of applications, including in personal life.   
Nikki asks how using Liberating Structures has changed the way Ewen views the facilitator’s role. He sees them as a way of giving a role to everyone.  While he sees the value of a central facilitator in complex environments, the long game is not to have an external facilitator, but to allow people to find solutions for themselves.  
He works a lot around "process literacy", giving people some tools to be able to harness the power of the process and connect their energy to that of others.  He considers Liberating Structures to be “process literacy in a box” allowing everyone to be part of the solution and also be a facilitator.  If a whole group is familiar with Liberating Structures he sees that they can create their own collaboration processes without the need for an external facilitator.    
He then describes the opportunity to “string”, “nest” and “merge” Liberating Structures  which means that while the repertoire is quite small, the possibilities are endless. 
Ewen has been exploring some of the lesser used Liberating Structures and would like to contribute more to the global LS community on Slack. He’d like to use Liberating Structures in France, his home country where he hasn’t worked very much.  He sees there’s potential as the national culture is not collaborative and he feels that Liberating Structures is a natural repertoire to encourage it, particularly as one of the creators is French.
He’s also working with established partners on Immersion Workshops, and they’ve decided they will begin to offer both a standardised workshop and some more creative immersion experiences. He’s also thinking about how to use the “Critical Uncertainties” structure to look at his consultancy business.  
Nikki asks for Ewen’s suggestions on how listeners can get a taster.  Ewen suggests
as a good starting point, and he knows that there is an established community in the UK that listeners could contact and give them a try.  He suggests reading and trying structures, starting with something like 1-2-4-All or Troika Consulting.  As with a lot of facilitation it’s about giving it a try with a playful, curious and open mind. 

You can also use the LS community on Slack.
(Let them know you heard about it here!)

And of course, you can get in touch with Ewen through:
You can find Nikki on Twitter: @NiksClicks
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Twitter @Fac_Stories