IAF Methods Database Newsletter

Dear Colleagues,
Welcome to the December IAF-Methods Database Newsletter, the last of the year!

New Associate Editors

As we look forward to a new year, I am delighted to introduce two new members of the IAF Methods Database team, Ester Mae Cox and Ann Shofner, both of whom have joined the IAFMD as Associate Editors. To start out, Ester Mae is editing the text of the existing database to make it more readable and Ann is adding new methods. During 2012 we plan to confer virtually as a team and look at new ways to diversify what the IAFMD can offer you.

Ester Mae Cox

Ester Mae Cox, MA, CTF, is a mentor trainer of ICA-USA ToP (Technology of Participation®) courses, and a “retired” educator from Iowa State University Extension. She is also an independent consultant/trainer/ facilitator. In her encore retirement work; she worked as a trainer with Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, and assists World Learning groups creating action plans with participants who will implement projects when they return to their home countries. For more than 10 years, she has trained ToP Facilitation Methods and ToP Strategic Planning with her long-time trainer partner Deb Burnight in Prairie River Partners training consortium. She met Sheila LeGeros at the International Association of Facilitators meeting in 2008, and since then she and LeGeros set off on an adventure to design and learn virtual facilitation methods and teach them to others. Together they have written materials and trained ToP Virtual Faciliation Methods courses in US and at United Nations (FAO) in Rome. Ester Mae lives on an acreage near Winterset, IA, with her husband, numerous animals, an abundant garden, and four grandchildren close by.

To contact Ester Mae, please reach her at:

Ann Shofner

Ann Shofner is an experienced educator with significant expertise in virtual classroom, program management, curriculum development, and training facilitation. She holds a bachelor’s in education from Vanderbilt University and a master’s in educational psychology from The University of Memphis. She has more than 20 years of national and international training, curriculum design and communication successes, working with companies such as Cisco Systems, Inc., Apple Computer and Bull Information Systems. Prior to her corporate training experience, Ann devoted 8 years to teaching in both elementary and secondary classrooms.
Ann is a native of Tennessee, who enjoys writing, dining on southern confections, and visiting beautiful beaches all around the world. She is organizational president of the Shofner Lutheran Chapel in Bedford County, Tennessee, a family chapel that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the role of IAF Methods Database associate editor, Ann will bring her devotion to instructional facilitation and lifelong learning. Her significant expertise in virtual, in-person and blended learning environments will allow her to contribute new activities that will help you reach your facilitation goals.

To contact Ann, please reach her at:

Method of the Month

This month’s method is from Judith van de Geer of the LEF Future Center of the Ministry of Environment and Infrastructure in the Netherlands. What can you do when a group comes to a session already convinced that they are hopelessly blocked by some external situation, policy or event? One possibility is to try a Wall of Woe.

The Wall of Woe.


To enable participants to externalize their own negative perspectives toward a situation they must manage. This is intended as an opening exercise at the beginning of a workshop.
Provide a very large wall space, sticky wall or whiteboard. At the top, write “The Wall of Woe” and below that the name of the project, phenomenon or event which the participants feel is blocking their way. The Blocker can be anything -- for example: “the travel freeze”, “the new contracting policy”, “job cuts”, “Unfair competition from ABC Inc.”, etc.


1. Context: introduce the Wall of Woe – here is a place to collect all of the many issues that they have with the Blocker. Take some time now to itemize what your issues, concerns, feelings and problems are.

2. Have participants write as many as they can think of directly onto paper or posted with cards or post-its. Some blues music as background could be suitable here. Let them continue until they have filled the wall space.

3. When everyone has gotten their woes on the wall, have participants gather their chairs around the wall, and reflect together on what you see:
• What is something here on the wall that strikes you?
• What are some things that are new for you? What’s familiar?
• What touches you?
• We all have matters within our sphere of influence – things we can change – and also things that may concern us but that we cannot change—our sphere of concern. Looking at the wall, take your marker again and underline only the items that lie within your sphere of influence.
• When the group has finished their underlining, ask: What do you notice?

Last Month's Poll

Last month’s Poll raised the question, In interviewing someone to do facilitation, which of these questions would you be most likely to ask?

There’s some diversity of opinion this month – have a look:

What are the most common things you do in meetings?13%

How much do you know about this organization?6%

What other sessions have you facilitated that dealt with issues similar to this one?31%

How do you go about designing a session?50%

How did you become a facilitator?0%

Please remember to let us know any suggestion you may have for a poll!