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The Institute of Cultural Affairs International

General Assembly

The Collaborative acknowledges the extensive support and contribution of our colleague Tamara Freeman to this effort.


ICAI was planning a Summit in Talegaon, India at which they would be addressing significant issues critical to the organization’s structure and function. Since not all of the ICAI member organizations were able to attend the conference, but needed to be involved in the deliberations and decisions, ICAI asked ToP Network virtual facilitators to step in. A group of six worked with ICAI leadership to design and facilitate online sessions. These sessions enabled members gathered in Talegaon and members dispersed across 17 times zones to discuss and decide issues important to the future of ICAI.

Preparation and Solutions for the 7-day series of virtual sessions

  • This first virtual ICAI meeting required several months of pre-meeting joint planning between the ICAI on-site facilitaion team and the virtual facilitation team.
  • One member of the virtual facilitation team was identified as the liaison to the on-site facilitation team.
  • The scope and complexity of this multiday facilitation necessitated 4-5 virtual facilitators to prepare for and work each daily session.
  • The virtual facilitation team scheduled facilitator availability for each session.

The lead virtual facilitator of each session

  • Was responsible for the meeting agenda & logistics,
  • Chose appropriate graphics for session content, and
  • Considered the needs of both the Talegaon participants and those off-site.

All virtual facilitators

  • Contacted distant participants prior to the sessions to assess their technical capability and provide assistance to assure their smooth participation,
  • Designed and facilitated virtual orientations with distant participants,
  • Facilitated the on-site group to hear and understand the needs and issues shared by the distant participants, and
  • Urged the on-site team to include all remote participants in the voting process. Note: Prior to this virtually facilitated meeting, those not present were not allowed a vote. See client comments below.


  • The local and distant facilitators discovered the importance of using optimum equipment and the flexibility to effectively address breakdowns that were a frequent occurrence in 2010.
  • The extensive planning and preparation for the sessions by the virtual facilitators combined with the pre-session orientations for the participants were critical to successful outcomes.
  • Many participants who had previously had negative experiences with virtual meetings noted these meeting transformed their perception because they found they now had a variety of ways to participate and be heard.
  • The deep connection and camaraderie that developed among the virtual facilitators was an unanticipated and profound bonus.

Client Comments

You could say the primary gift of the collaborative facilitators was their care for us each evening and supporting this dialogue and confirmation or expansion of decisions. Another gift of the collaborative was that they also became champions for the voices they were hearing from around the world, so even if an ICA could not make it to the virtual meeting, their voice was being passionately represented by the collaborative team member.

The one thing that we did not do was to actually have all the member nations vote yea or nay during the meeting.  The realization that we could have done so caused us to change our systems, allowing us from that point forward to hold all of our General Assemblies electronically using methods we learned from the collaborative. In addition, we have become adept at hosting our own regional meetings virtually, each facilitated by colleagues from a different region to enhance neutrality.

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