25 Women Who Influenced My Facilitation Career – A Tribute


Thursday, March 8th is International Women’s Day #IWD2018 #PressforProgress. This year has been rather an extraordinary year for women around the globe. We have found our voice and spoken about things that we all took for granted or for things we could not speak about. At first, I was a bit ambivalent about the various ways that women are speaking up. But as story after story came through, I realized they were sharing my stories. Today I’m not going to talk about that but I am going to talk about some amazing women that I have worked with over the last 20+ years. Each of these women have been co-facilitators with me. I feel I want to honor the gifts they have given me. In addition, it will create a story which I hope each of you can see and feel are also your stories. I know that as women we often don’t take the time to honor and thank each other. So today I do that for these particular women and for all women who are trying to change the world.

Come walk my story with me here…

Setting My Foundation in Creativity, Thinking, Adult Learning Theory and Speaking

I’m going to start with the first people I co-facilitated with in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. These women pointed me to several skills that would carry me into a very satisfying career for the next 24 years. One woman was Nancy Peterson. One of the first methods I learned about and studied with her was called PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope). I was trained with 2 other brilliant women to do this incredibly hopeful graphic process for both individuals and groups. She was an expert in Dr. Edward de Bono’s methods, e.g. Six Thinking Hats, Lateral Thinking, PMI (Plus Minus Interesting). Nancy and I created a spin off business called Creative Life Institute which we ran for 3 years with another friend and colleague, Janis Rosen. This was a time of incredible growth in my creativity skill building. We ran the institute once a year for three years before we realized we were losing money at a much faster pace than we wanted. What Nancy and Janis both brought to me were a quest for helping people think well together. I was introduced to so many thinking skills through Nancy in particular. Tragically, Nancy died about 5 years ago from a rare form of intestinal cancer. So thank you Nancy of getting me on the path of creativity and thinking skills – I still use them every day!

Bobbie Marshall was our other PATH learning colleague. Bobbie also introduced me to public speaking – because I joined Toastmasters for many years and even won a few competitions. Bobbie’s gifts were her enthusiasm, sense of adventure and her incredible energy. I can’t leave Winnipeg colleagues before I mention my longtime friend and colleague Diane Christensen. I met Diane at a women business owner meeting in 1996. Somehow among 100 women we gravitated toward each other in the room and have never really left each other side – in spirit at least. Diane and I created a facilitated session called Worklife Balance for Women. It became so popular within 2 years that it would fill up within a day of it being announced by our sponsoring government department. Unlike training, which most people thought it was, we spent the whole day helping women think about their lives and changing the way that would help them be more sustainable. Diane’s gifts to me were creativity, enthusiasm, story-telling, and a brilliant understanding of adult learning theory. She taught me to be a great trainer and curriculum developer, as well as improved my facilitation skills.

Gaining depth in ToP, Diversity and Social Justice Work

Since moving to the US in 2002, I’ve had the pleasure of working with dozens of amazing women. The ones I mention here are the ones I facilitate with most often. Early upon my arrival in the US I was “scooped up” by Judy Weddle who to this day continues to co-train the ToP Facilitation courses with me in Oregon and Alaska primarily. We have also facilitated at ToP trainer gatherings for clients in Oregon. Judy’s gifts are her generosity, her sense of how to get a group to its desired product in a visual way. Judy still makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis so I thank her for keeping things light when I need to be lifted out of my seriousness. Judy’s website is www.facilitationserviceschicago.com/.

Eunice Shankland is a profound source of ancient wisdom. When I need to know something deep about the Technology of Participation, design, or philosophy of facilitation, I know I can turn to Eunice. She has deepened my practice beyond belief. Find Eunice here: www.shanklandassociates.com.

Also early in my USA business startup, I met someone who has had a big lifetime impact on me. Her name is Nanci Luna Jimenez. Nanci and I worked together for at least 8 years on the most amazing projects that dealt with social justice issues. She has just renamed her company Luna Jimenez Institute for Social Justice. Nanci coached me to be a better ally to people who were different than me in race, gender identity, age, etc. She taught me some powerful skills in cultural competency. She is one of the most powerful, generous, smart women I know. You can find her at www.ljist.com.

Through Nanci I met several amazing women. One is Rangineh Azimzadeh Tosang. Rangineh is a global thinker. Also focused on conflict transformation. She and I continued to co-present and co-facilitate on topics such as generational diversity and health equity. Rangineh and I have a delightful irreverence for life and each other. Rangineh helps me be completely comfortable with myself. We are both immigrants to the US and were raised in difficult circumstances. Our parents both experienced war first hand and this makes us tough and we know how to be tough together. I can count on Rangineh for anything adn she knows she can count on me. You can find Rangineh at www.solhresolutionsinternational.com.

Marem Flores, also an immigrant to the US, has shown me what loyalty is. Marem is an incredibly resourceful friend and colleague. She is often who I think of when I need to resolve a difficult challenge. I only have to think, “How would Marem handle this?” and I usually get a good answer. She is my go-to resource for research and sounding board. Marem will often take the back stage when I facilitate, but her presence in thinking are so powerful it’s almost like she’s invisibly co-facilitating with me.

The next four women have been a part of the 2009 facilitation cohort, as were Rangineh and Marem. All of these women don’t regularly facilitate with me anymore due to life changes but they have had a life impact on me. Sandra Jackson has strong courage. I watched her do things that most of us would be terrified of – be willing to make mistakes, fix those mistakes, and start again. Watching Sandra allows me to strengthen my own courage and resilience and resolve to not make mistakes bother me. You can reach this fabulous mediator facilitator at this email sandrabaldinojackson@gmail.com.

Mari Mizobe Chu! Mari is not afraid to tell me I made a mistake in her direction as a millennial. She is fierce in her values and commitment to human dignity. Mari is an incredible teacher, facilitator, parent, friend and colleague. If she were available, I would joyfully consult with her and facilitate with her as often as possible. She is currently based in the city that I’m going to move to, Victoria, B.C. Raising one beautiful boy and about to have another child.

Afifa Ahmed Shafi worked with the City of Portland for many ears in neighborhood involvement. She was a fabulous facilitator who I loved deeply. She was quiet, strong, and had a deep presence. She passed away at age 35 of a brain tumor. She stays in my heart when I facilitate because I know everyone felt her strength when she was in the room.

Stephanie Gonzalez was our last female cohort member. Stephanie is now an emergency medical technician. When one of her potential employers called for a reference, I told them what an amazing facilitator she was. I knew Stephanie would be able to talk to people in crisis and to ask them exactly the right questions calmly, ensuring they were in good hands. You never know where a facilitator’s skills might come in handy. Stephanie and I know we adore each other and her love for me has always motivated me to keep going when things are tough.

There are many more in the US I would like to mention briefly – they include Shoshanna Cogan (expert in beauty, visuals and quality), Kathleen Rice (smart, socially responsible, discerning); Beverly Scow (genius, creative, and heart centered); Dawn Newman (clear minded, sharp and focused, fun loving and smart).

Gaining Confidence and Determination

Lilian Wang , Hong Kong has influenced me for almost a decade – I first met Lilian at a certification event in Vancouver, B.C. She sought me to help her develop her facilitator competencies but honestly she might not realize how much she has helped me grow my competencies and confidence. Lilian went on to be the president of IAF Hong Kong and has expanded her coaching practice to doing very high level work in countries all over the APAC region. Lilian’s influence on me has been one of of gratitude and generosity. She manifests these qualities so strongly that she brings these out in me as well. I watch her determination to be the best she can be and to offer the gift of facilitation to her colleagues, friends and clients.

Yvonne Yam showed up in my life because Lilian introduced us. Yvonne reminds me there are absolutely no boundaries, thresholds, no walls so high I can’t climb over it. Her enthusiasm is infectious and when we co-facilitate at conferences together, I know it will be amazing quality. Yvonne’s spirit has also encouraged me to keep moving forward no matter the obstacles.

Jackie Chang is a women of extraordinary reach – I think she knows everyone in the world! She lives and works with joy and presence. Jackie has taught me to love even more deeply. I think that is the one word I would describe Jackie – LOVE.

Erness Irwin Wright – although Erness is a US born ToP colleague, like my Asian born colleagues, she definitely has infused me with confidence and a spirit of “nothing is impossible”. Erness always makes me smile when proclaims, “We can do this!”.

Dora Perry has also been a dedicated member of our 2009 diversity cohort. Dora has such a large heart and is always thinking about others. Her belief in me and her warm embrace continually fill me up with hope and strength. I feel like Dora wraps me up in a warm blanket, sends me out in the world and says, “Go for it! I’ve got your back.” And I know that Dora is right out there with me doing her own equity inclusion world changing work.

Sharon Alimerigi – Sharon of Barbados has reminded me and supported me in my quest to share the spiritual dimension of facilitation. She has enriched and expanded my learning about transformational practices and has been walking the path with me “forever” in this field

Jo Nelson of ICA Associates in Toronto, Canada is also a kindred spirit. Jo’s passion for passing on the values and depth of ToP methods in particular is awe- inspiring. Her recent co- authoring (with her beloved late husband Wayne) of the book Getting to the Bottom of ToP, is a must – read book if you want to know more about the phenomenology and depth of ToP methods. Her mentoring of me goes beyond words.

To all the women that I have met in Asia through facilitation conferences and courses I’ve delivered, your dedication to facilitation astonishes me and encourages me to keep building my connections in Asia. Your enthusiasm is contagious.

The last woman I’m going to appreciate today is my mum! She turned 89 last week and I’m going to visit her today for several days. My mum has never co-facilitated with me but has literally showed up at a few trainings and greeted people and given out supplies. I was deeply touched when she offered to do this as it showed she really wanted to know what I did for a living. She brags about me to her friends but honestly, I need to brag about her. She has extraordinary intelligence and a keenness to learn of which that I may have inherited a small amount.

How have women influenced you and your life? Share here….

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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