Becoming a ToP Facilitation Trainer and Other Questions About ToP Methods

ToP Facilitation Trainer

Recently we ran a Technology of Participation (ToP) training for a school district. It was really wonderful to work with principals, consultants and department staff together on an issue of importance to them. We were asked a few questions about Technology of Participation training. This blog answers a few general questions they asked plus tells you a little bit about what it takes to become a qualified ToP trainer. We are definitely looking for new, young people of color and in the USA, especially black leaders to do this training in the future. We were gently reminded of this need by some of our participants in the training.

How do you become a ToP trainer?

There are multiple steps to becoming a really good ToP trainer. Once you do this rigorous “train the trainer” preparation however, the benefits are major. You feel highly skilled to facilitate almost anything. And, you can make reasonably good income once you build the market in your area. (More on this later).  Lastly, but not least, you get to work with some incredibly skilled facilitators and trainers if you co-teach this course.  My partner in crime for that last 17 years has been Judy Weddle in Oregon, and I’ve had the privilege to co-train with others in the US, Canada and Asia.

Co-trainer, Erness Wright-Irvin

ToP training is in high demand all over the world because of the high standards set for trainers, because the methods focus on hearing every voice and because they are profoundly respectful in doing this. They also have been tested and found to work well in all cultures across the globe.  We definitely need new younger, under represented trainers in many areas of the US and the world.

These “train the ToP trainer” steps are generic to most areas of the world but will vary so ask your local or regional person.

ToP Facilitation Methods participant

Step 1: Sign up as a participant for the first level course, ToP Facilitation Methods (also known as Group Facilitation Methods), anywhere in the world. Canada even offers this as a virtual course. Find links to training near you in the Resource section.  If the methods resonate immensely with you, you are likely a good ToP trainer candidate.

Step 2: Take a second ToP course, ideally ToP Strategic Planning (also known as Participatory Strategic Planning).  Again this course is offered on most continents. This will allow you to better understand the depth and breadth and universality of the methods.

Step 3: Look for a ToP mentor who can guide you in facilitating with the methods. Facilitate groups as often as possible trying out the methods in different ways. Document what you did with each group for future reference. See step 6.

Step 4: Take a course that includes how to do the Journey Wall method (also called the Wall of Winder and Historical Scan). Try other ToP courses of interest in your area.

Step 5: Ask to apprentice with a trainer who is a designated ToP mentor trainer or who has been mentoring others for awhile. Begin to shadow a qualified ToP trainer and co-teach the first course. You likely need to co-teach about 3-6 times so you successfully teach all parts of that course. Your mentor will give you feedback each time.

Step 6: This step can begin anytime but this might be the most meaningful to start now. Ask your local mentor if they or someone else might help you prepare for gaining the Certified ToP facilitator (CTF) designation. Apply, prepare your portfolio and sit for the assessment. You can learn more about this in our resources section.

Step 7: Once you have both your CTF and have co-taught the first course a number of times (in USA, it is 10 times with a lead trainer), you can then be the lead trainer and eventually train others. Each country is slightly different but these are the essentials steps of the process.


The process may seem long – you could achieve this in two years if you are in an area or in a large organization where there is high demand. You could create that demand also! Typically, most take 3-5 years. Each country varies in terms of cost but in the USA, it would be about $2200 US for the minimum course work and CTF process, plus about 25 days of participant and apprentice training. Once you develop a market, you can typically earn $3,000-$5,000 per two day course in the USA. The marketing, preparation and follow-up is about 3-4 days per course. Often you gain facilitation clients from doing the training.

ToP Technique Questions

Question: When do you bring in data or presentations?

Answer: Data can be offered at any time. Think of it as the O or Objective level of ORID. Be sure to follow the data presentation with a full ORID or Focused Conversation. See resources section also.

For example:

O: In hearing and seeing this data, what words or images do you recall?

R: What is most interesting to you? Surprising?

I: How does this data help us clarify or guide us in the issue we are working on?

D: What else do we need to know or do to move us forward?

Question: In the consensus workshop, is it ok to alter the individual ideas to clarify.

Answer: Yes, simply ask the team that offered the idea to clarify a bit. This is especially helpful if they only offer a one or two word idea. Add a phrase underneath the original answer so people do not keep getting confused by the original idea.


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ICA ToP Training:

ToP Network:

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.


  1. Chisa on January 8, 2019 at 11:52 pm

    Hi Barbara, this is an awesome blog. I’m learning a lot already

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