We all suffer - How to address suffering affective

We all suffer – How to address suffering affective

Some days ago, I discovered the podcast Social Distance by The Atlantic. This podcast captures conversations between the preventive medicine physician and staff writer at The Atlantik Dr James Hamblin and the executive producer of podcasts for The Atlantic Katherine Wells about different aspects of the current 2020 COVID-19 crisis. Often they are joimed by a topic expert to discuss with and learn from.

One of the first episodes I listened to was episode 21 ‘You’re Doing Great’ in which James and Katherine are joined by Lori Gottlieb, a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a psychotherapist. She recently wrote a column about losing her father in the mids of a pandemic. Their conversation evolved around grief during these uncertain times at large but also very personal. 

One statement by Gottlieb resonated with me:

“Grief is the pain of loss. And it doesn’t have to be a death. It’s any kind of loss that causes you pain. People are minimizing certain losses because they feel like they aren’t valid. You’re missing your college graduation, for example. That’s a loss, and you grieve that. But it’s not the loss of a life, for example, or the loss of a job. As I always say: There’s no hierarchy of pain. There’s no hierarchy of grief. Grief is grief and loss is loss.” 

It reminded me of the many times friends apologised for sharing a problem with me. In the bare face of the death of my father, the struggles with a flatmate over the dishes or the disappointing date seem too small, too unimportant to bother me. How could they feel bad about the favourite t-shirt from that live-changing concert 15 years ago getting ruined in the laundry while I was grieving one of the most important people in my life? How could a sprained ankle that ended the participation in a dance tournament when my heart was breaking over never again seeing the man who raised me?

Similar to Gottlieb, I believe that there is no right or wrong grief, pain or suffering – no bigger or smaller. How could working towards this one dance tournament for over a year sacrificing time with family and friends being ruined just a day before it not count as a loss? Same goes for the shirt, which is so much more than a simple and replaceable textile. It is the token of the memory of the last concert they went to with their university best friend before she moved to the other side of the world.

That might sound ridiculous to you.

To help you better understand this seeming riddle, I would like to introduce to the concept of subjective vs objective suffering to you. 

In this blog post, I am referring to a concept I was taught by a disability activist some years ago. Unfortunately, we fall out of touch and to my shame, I cannot recall her name to correctly cite her here in recognition of her emotional labour. I am aware that these terms ate used similarly within Buddhist teachings and medical philosophy. Nevertheless, I have not done enough research to correctly include them here.

Let’s explain the concept of subjective vs objective suffering with an example. For that, I would like to introduce Alma and Bettel. Alma is a wheelchair user depending on assistance in many of her daily activities. Bettel struggles with chronic back pain and takes pain killers frequently. 

Looking at those two people without knowing anything else, who would you think struggles more going through life? Most of us would say, Alma, as most of our infrastructure is not accessible for wheelchair users and their life is impacted by countless stereotypes and stigma. If both would enter a room at the same time, Alma would always be identified as “different” and “in need of assistance”. In navigating or capitalist, sexist, ableist and racist society, people with visible disabilities and illnesses would encounter more discrimination and oppression – e.g. higher objective suffering.

But if we zoom into the actual daily life of these two people, we would see that Alma actually is the executive director for a nonprofit organisation, frequently travels the world and lives in a house fully adjusted to their needs. Bettel’s pain got so bad that they are on sick leave for over two months from their minimum wage job. The medication they are taking is highly addictive and harms their stomach and liver. Some days the pain is so bad they cannot get out of bed, which isolates them more and more. 

Again, who would you think struggles more going through life? Saying Alma does not feel right anymore, but how could we choose Bettel? It feels wrong to ignore all the societal and systemic factors that Alma as a wheelchair user has to fight against. But it also feels terrible to not count the real physical, psychological and financial hardship that Bettel experiences despite her societal and systemic privileges as a person passing as able-bodied.

That is where subjective suffering comes into play. Subjective suffering looks at to which degree an individuals’ life is negatively impacted through the intersection of their unique lived experience. Acknowledging Bettel’s daily pain and struggle to the degree they negatively affect their life within the framework of subjective suffering does negate the real systemic oppression Alma experiences.

Going back to my apologising friends at the beginning: Your at first sight trivial appearing everyday issues, due not get devalued because my father died. The monstrosity of experiencing grief for a parent does not mean you cannot get upset because the bus did not come, and you will be late for the coffee with a friend. 

If we encounter each other in an affectionate way in which we really see one another with all our weaknesses, we can avoid falling back into oppression Olympics where we measure each other’s struggles in better or worse terms. The pure fondness of affections allows us to be there for others facing racism in the same way we can help out a friend who needs a couch to crash on after a bad breakout. It also allows softness for your own struggles. You can cry over the loss of a pet in the same way you are raging about the endangerment of women* in refugee camps. Our lives and experiences are big enough to give space to both – subjective and objective suffering.

Thank you for taking the time out of you day. I hope it is helpful for you in navigating these uncertain times. Let me know what you think by leaving me a comment below. If you want me to reflect on another theory or concept reach out. Also, it would help me out if you like and share this post with our fellow trainer friends!

Love and appreciation,



Give your workshop a strong backbone!

From Learning Journey to Thematic Building Blocks – Part 3 of the ‘How to Plan a Training’ series

Ever wondered how to narrow down all the content you want to cover in a seminar or training? How to use good aims and objectives to develop topics and concepts for a training? Or how to translate the learning journey in actual blocks of content that you can dedicate sessions to? If you sais yes to any of those questions, this is your blogpost! Intro

In this blog post, I will guide you through the process I use to define the Thematic Building Blocks for a training. What those are I will explain in a moment, but first I want to set the scene, where in my four-step approach to planning an educational activity we are.

In the first part of the ‘How to plan a training’ series, I took you through the steps necessary to define laser-sharp aims and objectives. Check the post out for more information! In short, you need to focus on keeping your objectives as specific, achievable and realistic as possible. Next, in part 2, we looked at those as the different elements for a successful learning journey you want to take you participants. Check here for more details, but in short, I offered you three different approaches to create a draft agenda. The first one was focusing on a logical order of the objectives. The second looked on the development a participant will go through during the event. And the third referred to the hero’s journey my facilitator friend Bastian Küntzel over at Incontro proposes in his book ‘The Learner’s Journey – Storytelling as design principle to create powerful learning experiences’.

Now that we have aims and objectives as well as a draft agenda, we want to combine those with the overall content of the educational activity. For that, I want to offer you the following analogy:

Give your workshop a strong backbone!

Imagen the human spine. It’s an intricate system of different parts that all serve a different purpose but are all essential for us to stand, sit, walk around or do any kind of activity with our body. Same goes for the success of an educational event and the equivalent to the bones of our spine – the vertebrae – are the Thematic Building Blocks.

Those are all the different pieces of content you want to cover during an educational activity. These can be concepts and terms as well as skills or attitudes you want participants to master or reflect on. They are predefined by the aims and objectives as well as the learning journey and will give you the frame to develop the concrete sessions.

Let’s see how we can come up with them by using an example:

We are planning a training on climate change and its social impacts. It will consist of eight sessions, and the participants are youth activists that work on a local level with displaced people. 

As learning aims, we have formulated the following:

  • Participants explore the social impact of climate change.
  • Participants can articulate the connection between this impact and displacement.

As objectives we set:

  1. During the training, participants gain knowledge regarding the effects of climate change in rural communities in the global south.
  2. Participants develop displacement profiles through case studies.
  3. Participants explore the connection between climate change and displacement.
  4. Participants learn about reasons for displacement by building on each other’s expertise.
  5. Participants present the social dimension of climate change to stakeholders in the decision-making process.

The narrative of the learning journal would be: 

Participants work on reasons for displacement, starting from their own experience on the local level. Next, they are taking it to the global level, generalise it and add the impact of climate change to their perspective. They close the activity by bringing it back to the local level and formulate the tangible effect it has in their municipalities.

To start, I would look for keywords in both the aims and objective but also especially in the learning journey. These can be important concepts or terms which need definition or summarising titles that need to be untangled. Below you can see what I would identify for our examples:

  • Climate Change
  • Displacement
  • Local context
  • Global Context
  • Social impact
  • Rural community
  • Stakeholder

As concepts like climate change and displacement are enormously huge, I would create mindmaps to further dissect those terms and concepts – always keeping it in the context of the training focus.

Give your workshop a strong backbone!

Looking at the different mindmaps, I would try to identify intersection and interesting aspects but would also start crossing out ‘irrelevant’ tangents.

Give your workshop a strong backbone!

Referring back to the learning journey I defined prior, I would attempt to arrange the different aspects in corresponding order. At this stage, I would also decide if there would be a need an adjustment in the learning journey to fit this analysis. The ‘essential’ building blocks and those specific for this educational event would be added in at this stage. 

Give your workshop a strong backbone!

These are the Thematic Building Blocks! As mentioned before they represent the general flow of the different sessions. What needs to be done now, would be to define how many sessions will be dedicated to each building block and what will be the focus (speak aims and objectives ;)) of each of the session. I usually use the same approach here as I would for the aims and objectives for the overall activity. Check out part 1 of the ‘How to Plan a Training’ series if you want to learn more about this process.

Risks & traps

Go big or go home is not the right approach here. No matter how interesting an aspect in your mindmap is if it does not fall into the scope of the activity, you have to let it go. Also, be aware that a connection that appears entirely logical to you might not work for someone else. Keep this in mind when moving from your building blocks to the methods in the next step. Participants must be able to establish these connections in how you translate down the learning journey and building blocks into the methods.

Some pro-tips

  • Keep it visual: Especially if you work in a team, it helps to establish a shared understanding of the Thematic Building Blocks if you find ways to make them visual. A simple way would be to use post-its and a whiteboard. 
  • Get a second perspective: If you working on your own, you could share your building blocks with a friend or family member to check the logic. Maybe you even have a topic expert in your network. Get their input to the mindmap – but don’t forget to narrow it down afterwards again.

So, what do you think about this step in planning a training? Do you have a different approach or a question? Leave me a comment below. Also, it would help me out if you like and share this post with our fellow trainer friends!

In the next and last part of the ‘How to plan a training’ series, I will show what I think is essential when picking the final methods for your sessions. Stay tuned!

Love and appreciation,


Who, what, why - Defining your ultimate facilitator identity

Who, what, why – Defining your ultimate facilitator identity

In my initial Training of Trainer by the International Union of Socialist Youth, our trainers put a bunch of cards on the ground. On these cards, they had written titles like ‘mother’, ‘football coach’, and ‘teacher’. They told us to choose one of them and that it would represent our identity as a trainer.

Picking one thing that defines me as a trainer? I broke a sweat and started to restlessly sort through the cards. I was looking for the title that would promise me the most diverse ways of working and approaching education. The last thing that I wanted was to be backed into the restrictive boundaries of the formal educational teacher thinking.

It did not dawn on me at that moment, was that any title would be what I made of it. I was the one deciding how to fill any role. Back then, I picked ‘older sister’ as my card. I envisioned my trainer identity to be one that cares for their participants but does not control their learning, that embraces them both lovingly and challenging.

This idea of me as a facilitator and trainer did not change a lot since 2016. What changed is that today I have a better understanding of how different each and every one of us approach their practice. Over the years, I have met and worked with many very different trainers. Thanks to their diversity, I was able to identify eleven trainer or facilitator archetypes. Each of the archetypes expanse around one aspect of the trainer-participant relationship. Once you have read through the different profiles, I show you my way of defining my very own trainer identity using these archetypes.


The Coach guides the participants through the process. They are incredible in finding the right question to ask to challenge a participant’s assumption. Their high awareness for the process and its flow makes it easy for them to adjust and think on their feet. 

But the Coach can also get into too deep. They risk focussing their attention too much on one or a few participants. They can also lose track of themselves as they are so tuned into the participants. Self-care is not their most vigorous pursuit.


The Expert trainer is in love with their topic or approach. They often come from the field or have worked on it for along time. They are a great resource to tab into while developing sessions or if participants have specific questions. Their insight can help to push participants to the next level through detailed and precise questions.

On their own, an Expert can be problematic in a participatory setting as they might be too deep into the weeds. They could take over discussions or enforce their authority by giving to much input. Their relationship to participants can be distant. Participants could even be afraid to voice their opinion if it is different than the one of the trainer.

Best Friend

The Best Friend is close to the participants and can relay to their needs and problems. They trust them and want to hang out with them in the evening or after the training. The Best Friend trainer is incredibly useful in feeling the pulse of the group and anticipate what they need next. 

But they can also be too close. The best friend might cut a team meeting short because a bunch of participants wants to grab some drinks. Even in the most non-formal setting, if the line between participant and trainer gets too blurry, it becomes hard to have all the pieces in place to put the process in motion. 


The Cheerleader creates fantastic energy. They cheer the participants up, spread joy and laughter. If a group is stuck, they know just that small energiser that will help them move on and climb to new heights. It is the same energy that makes them fantastic team members. A team meeting with them feels more like a coffee date with friends. You will feel empowered by them to grow and go further.

Nevertheless, sometimes they miss the target. Cheering up for the purpose of cheering up can feel shallow. It might even allow participants to not reflect on mistakes or shortfalls. When cheering up turns into people-pleasing, it stops being constructive. Especially if there are conflicts that need to be discussed in the team, the Cheerleader in their extreme can be a stumbling block.


The Controller is always on top of the situation. They have an eye on all the things – the time, the method, the mood, the discussion, the and and and. They know how to keep things on track and make methods work.

For participants and co-trainers alike, the Controller can be a bit of a challenge. Being so focused on keeping everything in the green, they have a hard time to adapt to the flow of a session or the need of the participants. They can be perceived as distant and stressed out at times.

Accountability Buddy

The Accountability Buddy lets participants find their own way but checks in with them to keep them on track to. This type always strives for the right balance of freedom and structure. They are also an ideal partner to have in the team, as they give you your space but also hold you accountable to get shit done. Who does not need some external accountability some time? 😉

The most significant risk with the Accountability Buddy is when they don’t check-in. In that case, the loose structure of their approach falls apart. Especially with participants, it can create a feeling of been let down.


The Nurturer has the gift to accompany participants throughout their entire learning journey by giving them exactly the right intellectual nourishment to grow beyond themselves. Also, in the team, they often show that they know exactly what the others need and how to take care of them.

Nevertheless, even the Nurturer can overdo it. Helping participants too much or too early can stop them from putting an effort in. In the team, they can be just too much. As a consequence, individual team members might need to enforce boundaries which can lead to a conflict.


The Sharer has one really powerful tool – they lead groups through their own vulnerability. When talking about a tough topic, they don’t mind lowering the hesitance to participate through bringing a personal example. 

The Sharer becomes problematic when they overshare. Their examples can make them the main focus of the discussion instead of encouraging participants to share their own. Their personal feelings can derail a team meeting.

Method Magician

The Method Magician has – as the name says – always a method up their sleeve. Does the group discussion get stuck – they have a method. Is the brainstorming all over the place – they have a method. Is there a conflict between to groups of participants – they have a method. As a co-trainer, you can always count on the method magician to help you out when you feel stuck developing a session. 

As useful as that might sound, the Method Magician can overdo it. They can plaster sessions so full of methods that no real flow between the participants can establish. The group could also just stay on the surface of an issue because they are more focussed with understanding the next method than to reflect on the topic. Furthermore, methods can create a barrier between participant and trainer. Who would like to approach someone with a question knowing the answer will be a method instead of a personal connection.


The Entertainer is always ready to turn a stuffy session into a fascinating action movie. Their joyful mentality makes them super approachable for participants and a joy to work with for every educational team. They are excited to take on every energiser and lead in educational games and team building activities.

But sometimes they do not know when to dial it down. Some topics or situation need a more thoughtful and sensitive approach. It can be challenging for participants when hard issues are approached with ‘Let’s create a dance that symbolises it.’. Also for themselves, the Entertainer can at moments be too much. They can put all their energy into being on all the time and forget to take care of themselves.

Fly on the Wall

The Fly on the Wall is the most excellent observer of them all. They know precisely the right moment to step back and give space to the participants. Their strong suit is active listening. It gives participants the feeling of being heard in a really authentic and genuine way.

On the other hand, the Fly on the Wall can appear withdrawn and not really part of the process. That can make it difficult for participants to approach them. As a co-trainer, you can feel being let down by them if they are too passive.

Do you remember how I told you at the beginning that I got anxious about picking just one of the cards as my trainer identity? I would have the same feeling today if I had to pick one of the above archetypes.

The way I approach them to form my ultimate trainer identity is to look at them as scales. In myself as a trainer and facilitator, I see parts of all these archetypes manifesting themselves to a different degree. You can see my current set of the scales in the graphic below.

Who, what, why - Defining your ultimate facilitator identity

So what does that mean for my practice? I approach the archetypes as base-assessment for my professional development as a trainer and facilitator. Let’s say I want to be more supportive of my participants without making it easy for them. In the first step, I identify the archetype that relates to this skill – the Coach, Accountability Buddy, Nurturer and Cheerleader. Next, I check-in with my current set of the scale and how it presents in my practice. Finally, I formulate a goal for each of the archetype I need to improve.

I also used it in analysing my practice in retrospect after an activity. That helps me to understand what drove specific actions and how I can do it differently the next time. They can also be a useful concept when addressing specific needs among the participants. Let’s say the group is really slow to react, I might want to dip deep into my Entertainer behaviours.

How would you describe your trainer identity? Do you know other trainer archetypes? Is there a profile you want me to dive deeper in? Let me know in the comments below. 

Also, it would help me out if you like and share this post with your fellow trainer friends!

Love and appreciation,


P.S. Looking for more archetypes? Check out the different kinds of experts and how you can work with them here.

How to facilitate workshops while you grief

How to facilitate workshops while you grief

Some of you might already know that my father passed away in December last year. He struggled with ALS with a drastic course of the disease. Within a bit over a year, he went from climbing on the roof to being almost entirely paralysed. Acknowledging that at the end he was unable to eat or speak, his death was almost a release for him and in part also for us.

Nevertheless, since this day, I am finding myself struggling with missing him in all parts of my life. That also affected my work, both on the more administrative project management side and on the facilitation side. Especially about the later one I was worrying a lot. My father is a significant factor behind my approach to education, and I was not sure if and how I could manage to do this work, knowing he would not be there anymore.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was travelling to the European Youth Centre in Budapest with a giant pit in the stomach to facilitate a Study Session with youth. What followed were seven intense days, in which I led a facilitator team of six amazing, strong and passionate women hosting an emotionally tiring five-day seminar on the feminist struggle. The overall lesson I took from it was that I can still do the work I love so much even though I am still grieving one of the most important people in my life. I also identified many small tips and practices that made it easier to juggle both – facilitation and grief.

The first tip is both simple and really hard at the same times: Be honest to your team if you work with one. It sounds so simple, but it is actually tough to be so open and share that you are struggling with grief. You do not want to appear as you are not up to the task, as you could be a burden or be at risk to break into tears in the middle of a session. You do not want them to pity you or give you too much of a break. 

In my experience during the project in Budapest, it helped me and the team to be honest about:

  • how much I could put into the facilitation. – With that I do not mean, that I skipped sessions or parts that I was responsible for, but about how personal I can be in the facilitation, how much capacity for flexibility or intervention I had. 
  • my needs on a situation base. – Like many other similar circumstances, grief comes and goes in waves. On one day, I might have the need to be more supported or withdrawn in team meetings, on others I can take the lead. 
  • when I need to take a break. – The most important about it was that I let the others on the team know when I needed to step out.
  • when they supported me too much. – Sometimes support can be too much, and that is okay. And it is also okay to let the person helping know. It is crucial that you still feel self-sufficient.

One practice we developed as a team together was to check-ion each morning before the following two questions:

  1. How are you coming into the space today?
  2. How can we as a team support you today?

This simple routine allowed us to be in touch with how every person on the team – so, not just me – was feeling that day and to adjust our support system daily.

Concerning participants, the situation is way more delicate. As there is no preexisting relationship beyond the authority you have as the facilitator, it can be really harmful if you open with ‘my father died recently’. You do not want this to overshadow the event and distract from the actual content. With labelling yourself, you are creating an extra distance between you and the participants, which can make it hard for them to open up and fully engage. They might even worry about you and hurting your feelings.

The following things worked well for me during our event in Budapest:

  • Selectively engaging during social times. – This time I was really cautious of how I showed up during social times. Often I stayed in the seminar room during coffee breaks or did not join the evening activities. 
  • Keeping it professional. – I limited what I shared about myself to more professional facts. Usually, I am someone who leads through vulnerability but this time, being vulnerable felt too much.
  • Bringing conversations to the content of the sessions. – Often when I was in a conversation with a participant, I used it as an opportunity to make them reflect about the session before or ahead. That made it easier to stay away from the personal but also add value to the process.
  • Sitting with a team member. – Especially during the shared meals, I was trying to sit as often as possible with one of my team members. This way, I could strike up a conversation with them or they could direct a conversation with a participant on my behalf.

Using these small tricks, I was able to hold my situation as far as I needed from the participants. But on the other side, in this seminar, I made only a minimal connection with the participants compared to how I usually work. I had to accept this bargain to keep both myself and my participants in a comfortable space and to not transfer my grief.

Similarly delicate to your relationship with your participants is your relationship with the facilitation space itself. The energy we bring into this space can shift an entire session. It has an impact on the safer brave space you and the group aiming to establish and how emotions are going to be displayed.

Some practices I used to manage this relationship and my grief were the following:

  • Grounding myself before entering the room. – A couple of deep breaths before I entered the seminar or meeting room helped me to leave my grieving self as much as possible outside.
  • Deciding on a role before each session. – For all those sessions in which I was not actively facilitating, I consciously picked another role/task before their start. That could have been Communications, Note-taking or any other responsibility that would support those facilitating.
  • Stepping out when needed. – When I was feeling the grief coming up, and I had not an active role during the session, I simply stepped outside the room after informing the team. These small breathers helped in maintaining my energy levels.

The base of all the tips above is that you need to be honest to yourself. After a loss, you do not return as the same person. Make sure you do things because you can and not because you think you should do them. You are at the core of your practice, so take care of yourself. Only then you will be able to show up and serve your group.

Many of these tips I will continue in my regular practice. They have connected me deeper with my co-facilitators and me. I felt less physically tired after the seminar and actually felt setup for healing and growing out of my current state of grief. It is immensely empowering to know that I can do this work I love most no matter what is going on in my life.

The only aspect, I won’t carry on is the distancing from participants. I never felt so in the unknow about a group that I worked an entire week with. This disconnect also had an impact during the sessions. To affectively hold the space, I need to connect to the people in the room on a personal level. That was missing in this Study Session.

What is your experience with working while grieving? I am curious to know if you would use similar practices in a completely different work context. What are other methods you use to cope with grief?

Please let me know in the comments below. Also, indicate any other difficult personal situation you want me to explore and write about. And as always, like, subscribe and share this post!

Love and appreciation,


Let’s do it non-formal – Toastmaster Tuesday

In June 2018, I wrote a blog post introducing you to non-formal education. Everyday. I am falling more and more in love with this approach, its methods and setting and its practitioner. So it comes to no one’s surprise that I would dedicate one of my Toastmasters speeches to this topic. Check out below how much passion for education meeting a young hedgehog can evoke.

img_0979‘Let’s do it non-formal – My love for education’

When I was about six years old, my father constructed a glass house in front of our kitchen. One evening, he finished digging the fundament and left it without a cover overnight, so the forecasted rain would condense the soil. The next morning, we found a small surprise in one of the deeper spots of the diggings.

A young hedgehog had fallen into the ditch. It had to have been searching the churned earth for insects and worms. After its fall, it found itself trapped as the walls of the hole were too high for it to find its way out.

I remember how my father took his gloves and carefully picked up the small animal. He told me that I could gently pet the hedgehog if I would only stroke its spines from the front to the back. This way, they would not hurt me.

Dear fellow Toastmasters, guests and friends, this story is not just a charming anecdote from my childhood. In fact, it was a moment of learning.

I learned that hedgehogs search for food at night – that if touched correctly their spines would not hurt – that you should not leave diggings without a cover because you never know who could stumble inside – and most importantly I learned compassion for those smaller than me.

In education science, these occasions of learning are considered as informal education – colloquial known as learning by doing. This form of education occurs unplanned and gets neither assessed nor monitored. It is not restricted to a set environment but happens – like in my story – in everyday life.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is formal education. This happens in a clearly described setting with a person holding the authority over a pre-defined set of knowledge which has to be received by the learner. The learners are kept to an institutional standard and assessed by their ability to reach the criteria of this standard without consideration for individual circumstances. Therefore, formal education focuses on the outcomes, not the process, which makes the participation mandatory.

Does this sound familiar to anybody?

Indeed, we are all familiar with formal education as we all were taught by teachers in subjects, we could not choose, at schools, we were obliged to go to while being evaluated by an educational standard written in curricular that did not consider our individual strengths and needs.

Today, I want to introduce you to a third, lesser-known concept of education, which is really dear to my heart – non-formal education. Many would describe it as a sweet spot where formal and informal education meet. Do you remember the compassion I learnt as a child in contact with the hedgehog? It would be possible to explain compassion in formal education, but only informal education helped me to feel what compassion is. For me, it means liberation of the learner – and liberation of the facilitator of the learning.

So let’s look at some characteristics that make learning non-formal. As in formal education, the process is planned and structured by some kind of facilitator. Even though the content is preselected, participation is voluntary. This means, the learner actively chooses to join the learning process. There is no assessment of the outcomes and the learners’ abilities and knowledge. So non-formal education is clearly process-oriented. Typical occasions for this way of learning are workshops and seminars, especially in youth work – or – this Toastmasters club meeting.

For me, the magic of non-formal education lays in its process. It gives the space to participants to acknowledge their own expertise, connect it to those of fellow learners,  and create together unique solutions, which can only occur at that precise moment with those exact people. The most valuable takeaway is precisely this moment of self-awareness and growth. Non-formal education creates connections beyond the conventional separation of class, race, gender, religion and enables thinking outside the boundaries of fear, logic and the restrictions of the learning environment. Once set in motion, the facilitator becomes part of this ever-changing and evolving learning system and, through the chosen methods, guides the participants to their own, unconscious milestones.

I witnessed this myself as a facilitator on many occasions. I saw it in Fatma, who found the bravery to speak up despite her traditional upbringing – in Carl, who left the limits of his disability behind him and embraced his passions – in Mikael, who saw beyond the playfulness of the methods and understood that his opinions can hurt someone else – and in Lena, who did not say a word in a week-long training but carried something she heard with her, that changed her life a year later. She ran for a national office and got elected.

I acknowledge the value of informal and formal education. Nevertheless, I wish that both would be approached in a more non-formal manner. I firmly believe we are missing out on these moments of actual change.

So, when it comes to education, I say – LET’S DO IT NON-FORMAL! Thank you.


So what do you think? Should we make our education systems more non-formal? Leave your comments below!

Also, it would help me out if you like and share this post with our fellow trainer friends!

Love and appreciation,


Photo by Liudmyla Denysiuk on Unsplash

Tell me about yourself – Method of the Month: Parallel Autobiography

How did you become the person you are today? What events played a crucial role during your life? And how do you relate to the world around you?

These questions can stand at the beginning of an educational process. For many topics, it is essential to first understand who the learner is and what shaped the lens through which they approach a subject. Self-awareness marks the start to untangling societal issues.

I first came across today’s method Parallel Autobiography in the form of Parallel Citizenship Image-1Autobiographies as published in ”Under Construction – Citizenship, Youth and Europe – T-Kit on European Citizenship’‘ by Council of Europe (2003). I was searching for methods that would allow participants to reflect on their understanding of their own citizenship. Ever since I have used it in many different contexts reflecting on a diverse range of aspects. To simplify it I developed this base version just looking at the development of one’s identity, which I want to share with you as my Method of the Month for August 2019.



For Parallel Autobiography, the participants create two parallel running timelines Untitled_Artworkstarting from the moment of their birth to the current day. On the top line, they mark moments in their personal life that changed their understanding of themselves. On the bottom, societal or political events are chronologically arranged that affected the vision of their own identity. The participants are given a certain amount of time (usually around 25 minutes) to fill in their individual sheets. After that time, they are invited to share the autobiography if they feel comfortable.



In the debriefing, the trainer guides the group through a reflection of the process by following the experiential learning circle by Kolb. Possible questions could be:

  • How did the exercise make you feel?
  • Did one of the timeline feel different?
  • Was it uncomfortable, and if yes, why was it?
  • Was there a difference between the personal and the societal moments?
  • Was there something that surprised you?
  • Were there things in common within the group, and if yes, why could that be? If no, why not?
  • Does this experience impact you beyond the activity, and if yes, how?
  • How can you use this experience in understanding yourself or others better?
  • How can you use the commonalities with others for building bridges?
  • Is there a use for this experience beyond reflecting on your own identity?
  • How could you go more in-depth with it?
  • How can being aware of the history of your own identity impact the world around you?



As mentioned earlier, this exercise is extremely versatile. You can focus it on any personal aspect. Also, the systemic context of the second timeline can be drafted as narrow or broad as it makes sense. Some examples:

  • political beliefs reflected on the global economy
  • development as educator reflected on the different learning environments encountered
  • relationship to once citizenship reflected on the history of one’s country of residence

It is only essential to incorporate the dichotomy of the individual and the systemic timeline. That will allow the learner to reflect on themselves in the broader context and to find commonalities and differences with others. This last aspect is especially exciting when working with a diverse group.



Whenever it comes to self-reflection, there can be triggering moments. Participants can Image (1)carry past traumas which this exercise can open up. Therefore, a real safe-space must be established beforehand, and enough time must be allocated to address it adequately. One way to lower this risk is to frame the activity more on the surface. Choosing a focus of the reflection that is more general might allow the participants to decide by themselves how deep they go.

Nevertheless, that carries its own risk. Being too superficial might not push the participants enough to actually be challenged. One important thing is not to ”force” them to present their result. Let them choose if they want to open up to the group.



If you want to go even further with Parallel Autobiography, try one of these pro-tips.

  • Shared Autobiography: After the participants created their individual timelines, let them group together and create a common one. That could be done either in the whole group or in logical subgroups. These subgroups could be based on geography, age, or similar aspects related to the object of the reflection. It can help the participants to discover patterns in each other’s stories or find something in common with a stranger.
  • Be vulnerable yourself: In my experience, it helps the participants to open up when I make myself vulnerable first. That is based on the authority I as the facilitator hold. If it is safe for me, it feels safer for the participants. For Parallel Autobiography, I usually do this by presenting my own timeline first and using it to explain the activity. I always make sure to share things that push my comfort zone but do not overwhelm the participants.
  • Give access: If the participants agree, I like to hang all timeline up on the wall. This gallery allows them to discover the stories of the rest of the group during breaks and to approach other participants if they have questions. It can lead to personal connections and more intimate sharing.
  • Use it for yourself: I used this exercise also just for myself when I wanted to work on developing in a certain area. So I took it for the base assessment. The gained understanding of how I came to where I was then gave me insides how to move forward. It allowed me to gain insights on my values and priorities through the moments I chose or left away. It can also be a powerful tool in a coaching setting.


So, what do you think about Parallel Autobiography? Do you use it before? What are other variations you can think of? Do you know a similar activity?

Leave me a comment below. Also, it would help me out if you like and share this post with our fellow trainer friends!

You can download the method sheet of Parallel Autobiography here!

Love and appreciation,


Turn on the right light – How to work with an expert

Have you ever been in a workshop and an expert bored you out of your mind? They had important stuff to say, but there was no process behind it? Did you maybe even wondered why they are there in the first place? That happened to all of us at least once.

As a facilitator, we sometimes have to work with experts during a learning event. Most of the time, this decision is not in our hands, but how we work with them definitely is. I am convinced if well prepared the above horror scenario can be absolutely avoided! In this IMG_0104blog post, I will present you with different types of experts you might encounter and walk you through how to work with them in different settings.

I differentiate between three types of experts. First, there is the floodlight expert that loves to be in focus and floods the participants with knowledge like the floodlight the soccer field. On the other end of the spectrum is the living room lamp expert. This expert feels awkward being in the spotlight. They prefer to shine their light from the background like the lamp behind your couch. And finally the flashlight experts. They feel comfortable navigating an educational space and know where to spot their light while leaving other aspects in the dark.


The floodlight

The floodlight expert needs the stage. They will take up space no matter what and will speak and behave like THE expert. That might lead to the expert explaining to the participants by flooding them with facts. It also could establish their views as the only correct IMG_0107ones. This kind of expert can operate from a spot of entitlement and often is pushed on you by your client. There is the risk that this expert will take over control of the session as you might not have the ‘authority’ to set up sharp boundaries.

Working with a floodlight expert can be a challenge and has to be handled with some artfulness. Especially if the client insists on the expert. In this case, I work with the client on a clear framework for the expert’s presence. What do they add to the event? In what role will they participate? What are the power relations? After that is clarified, I would present to the client candid which processes are possible in that frame. I would also speak about what role I can take during the event to not create tensions with the expert. If the expert and their input were the main focus of the session, I would suggest that I either moderate the conversation or step back and conduct a Graphic Recording.

IMG_0101In a one-session-learning-event, there is not much more you can do than the above. It really depends on the frame the client sets. If I take the role of the moderator, I sit down with the expert beforehand to clarify the process and look at the questions I would ask. In the case of the Graphic Recording option, I would only passively participate in the session. Nevertheless, it still could be my responsibility to open and close the overall activity.

IMG_0102For a multi-session-learning-event, I often use the sessions before the expert’s input to prepare it with the participants. For that, I would look at what knowledge or attitude they need to build to interact productively. Sometimes, I even work with the learners to formulate questions, that have the potential to increase the relevancy of the input. After the presentation, I usually would debrief the session. For that, it would be best if the expert leaves after they are done. The group would have the chance to voice their opinion on the expert in a safe space and reflect on the content. That makes it easier to build on it in the remaining time.

IMG_0103I would similarly work in a multi-day-learning-event. The point in the learning journey in which the expert would join is crucial. When does it support and not interrupt the process? How can we build up towards it? If the moment depends on the schedule of the expert, I check if I need to redraft the journey itself. Putting an input at the beginning of the event could lead to the participants adopting the views of the expert. I would try to avoid that on any cost. If the group worked already on the topic, they would feel more comfortable to disagree with or challenge the expert.


The living room lamp

The living room lamp expert blends in just like the actual lamp in your living room. They IMG_0108might even ask you to join the participants throughout the learning event and feel awkward being put into the focus. They often do not establish themselves as an expert and inputs might be diffuse. That opens the risk for a conflict of views if you have a really dominant participant or that the group does not really know what to do with the input. Unfortunately, this kind of expert is often young and/or female. 

I usually aim to work really close together with this kind of expert in the preparation. The more they feel integrated into the development, the more they appreciate the setting. It also helps to gain a clear understanding of their specific expertise to support them to integrate effectively. If they still do not feel comfortable and prefer to be an expert participant, I try to find small group methods with a lot of rotation of the members. This way, as many participants as possible, can have conversations with the expert.

IMG_0101One way, I include a living room lamp expert into a one-session-learning event, is to let them (co-)facilitate one activity. That could be the moderation of a group discussion or guiding a simulation within the specialisation of the expert. To support them and the group, it helps to give them very explicit guidelines regarding the content and the context of it. The earlier they get this briefing, the easier it will go, and both of us have the opportunity for bilateral feedback beforehand.

IMG_0102For a multi-session-learning-event, I would look at the possibility to give the expert a kind of consultant role. Let’s say, part of the sessions is to develop roadmaps for follow-up actions. Let the groups present their first drafts to the expert. They then give feedback and advice, which the groups afterwards have time to consider and integrate into the final draft. Another way is to let the expert follow a simulation up with a reality check. How does the simulated situation look like in real life? What are the options that the different roles actually have? I also sometimes let them simply go around during a group work phase, where they challenge the different groups.

IMG_0103For me, an ideal option for a multi-day-event is to work with this expert throughout the entire time in a co-facilitator relationship. That will allow the participants to build a connection with the expert and feel comfortable to ask them questions and vice versa. It is also convenient for me as I can tap into their knowledge for the preparation. Nevertheless, this option needs some sensitiveness for how the roles are established. The expert needs to remain a resource person than a knowledge authority. 


The flashlight

The flashlight expert only shines their expert-light on specific aspects that will further IMG_0106the process. They often have an educational background or at least are experienced in the setting. They usually are aware of the space they take and incorporate the learners’ discussions into upcoming inputs. So, if that does not happen, the different moments of the expert might seem disconnected. This kind of experts can also stir your process in an unplanned direction.

This expert is a juicy one to work with – so many opportunities! I really love to use this expert like an actual flashlight. Before the event, I would sit down with them and see with them what are crucial moments or aspects they can shine their concentrated light on. That makes it really easy for me to guide the process and for them to focus and challenge the preconceptions of the participants.

IMG_0101Nevertheless, in a one-session-learning-event, this approach is a bit tricky to implement as it takes up some time due to the multiple inputs. Here I would see with the expert if they have one aspect that is really crucial for the topic of the event. They would then focus on that, and I would guide the group into diving deeper.

IMG_0102For multi-session-learning-events, I prefer to have this expert with us for the entire time. This way, I can weave the different inputs really deep into the programme and build them up on each other. The preparation with the expert is hugely crucial here. I need to be sure that they stay on track and do not go off on a tangent. Also, I always have an eye on the time and stop the expert when necessary. After all, it is about the participants, not them.

IMG_0103I would dedicate one specific day for the expert to come in and integrate them similar to above. It is essential to establish an understanding among the participants why the expert joins the group. This way, I can lower barriers and support the group to open up to them. Should the expert participate for more than a day, it is crucial to make sure that they do not take over the educational process. They are joining as an expert, not as a facilitator no matter their experience. That is needed to create clear roles and not disrupt the participants. I usually give them space for feedback and input in the preparation to honour their educational skills and knowledge.


So what do you think? Here are the main takeaways:

  • Get your client into the clear: Check with them what is their expectation for bringing the expert. Sometimes there is a strategic reason behind it, and you do not want to cross them there.
  • Be frank and honest: You must be really precise with both your client and the expert. The better each partner knows what and how it will happen, the smoother the activity will go. And the more they understand the reasons behind it, the less resistance will be there.
  • Preparation is key: When the expert knows, what is expected when from them, the better the cooperation works. Also, a proper groundwork will allow you to get the most educational value out of an expert.
  • Adjust to the type: Use the expert strategic. This way, you make sure they do not accidentally sabotage the activity.
  • And as always, be the advocate of your participants!

What are your tips and tricks to work with experts? Did you have a difficult situation with an expert and no clue what to do?  Let me know in the comments below. 

Also, it would help me out if you like and share this post with your fellow trainer friends!


Love and appreciation,


Let me take you on a trip! – From the objectives to the design of a learning journey – Part 2 of the ‘How to plan a training’ series

All good experiences have a journey to it. That is true for your favourite movie or book, where the heroine goes from insecure and reluctant to brave and genius. The impact of the challenges and the support of companions along the way is essential for this. Same goes for a day in a theme park, where you go from the idea and planning to a fantastic memory. 

I approach the planning of educational activities in the same way. That is not just true for the overall process but especially for the phase where I translate objectives and outcomes into a general draft schedule. IMG_0976

In the first part of the ‘How to plan a training’ series, I took you through the steps necessary to define killer objectives and outcomes. Check the post out for more information! In short, you need to focus on keeping your objectives as specific, achievable and realistic as possible. It will not help you to set some wage goal like ‘participants will look at different mindsets’. Better is something like ‘participants explore how four different mindsets are affecting a person’s personal development during adolescence’. That gives you actual guidance for further development. Also, your client understands if you are walking in the right direction.

IMG_0989Once you have hammered that out, you need to look at the transformation you want the learner to go through. What is the learning journey you want to design? Who are they going into the activity and who are they going out? What experiences and challenges will support them along the way? Where do you want them to start working and towards what?

I approach this process through different lenses. Those depend on the context and content of the educational activity and the target group of participants. Is the content either entirely theoretical or skill-based, I would see how I can logically connect the learning outcomes and objectives. When the activity is more about self- or topic-exploration, or the participants are non-experts, I would go down the road of participant or topic development. Of course, you can reverse or mix the approaches too.


Let’s look at these two approaches using an example:

We are planning a training on climate change and its social impacts. It will consist of eight sessions, and the participants are youth activists that work on a local level with displaced people. 

As learning outcomes, you have formulated the following:

  • Participants explore the social impact of climate change.
  • Participants can articulate the connection between this impact to displacement.

As objective you set:

  1. During the training, participants gain knowledge regarding the effects of climate change in rural communities in the global south.
  2. Participants develop displacement profiles through case studies.
  3. Participants explore the connection between climate change and displacement.
  4. Participants learn about reasons for displacement by building on each other’s expertise.
  5. Participants present the social dimension of climate change to stakeholders in the decision-making process.


The objective approach

So, building the learning journey from the objectives is a quite straightforward process. First, I check if any objectives need to be achieved before others as they are relying on each other. Looking at our example, I would tackle objectives 1, 2 and 4 before 3 and 3 before 5. 

Next, I evaluate the objectives looking at the group process. Objectives like number 4 would come before number 2. Both look at reasons for displacement, but 4 includes sharing personal perspectives. That helps the group grow together as it gives them a meaningful space to connect while initiating a work process. This gives me the following order: 4 – 2 – 3 – 5 

As objectives 1 tackles a different topic than 4 and 2, it could go before or after. In this case, I would schedule it afterwards, to have the personal exchange at the very beginning. So my final order is 4, 2, 1, 3 and 5.


The development approach

Working on the learning journey through the lens of development is almost like drafting a narrative. I start by defining my protagonist, the learner. In our example, these are youth activists that work with displaced people on a local level. That tells me that they will already have a political opinion on the topic and personalised expertise regarding displacement. They might carry frustrations and trauma with them, and their approach to the issue might be more localised and reactive. 

Next, I would decide the flow of my story. Do I want it to go from micro to macro or the other way around? The example gives us ‘personal and general’, ‘local and global’ and ‘practical and theoretical’ as possible pairs. Before I make the final decision, I would have a look objective if I can recognise a pattern regarding these pairs. For me, the objective 5 is deciding. As it involves stakeholders ‘local and global’ makes more sense. The order depends on the kind of stakeholders and on which level they are included in the decision-making process. Let’s assume that they are stakeholders on the municipality level. As also the participants are working in localised realities, my proposal for the flow would take the pattern of ‘local – global-local’. 

My narrative for the learning journal would be: Participants work on reasons for displacement starting from their own experience on the local level. Next, they are taking it to the global level, generalise it and add the impact of climate change to their perspective. They close the activity by bringing it back to the local level and formulate the tangible effect it has in their municipalities.


In this example, both approaches let to a similar learning journey, but that is not always the case. I personally prefer the second approach as it really starts with the participants. As I am coming from non-formal education, it is the most crucial aspect in the development of educational activities to put the participants at the heart of it. 

The Learner’s Journey

A third approach goes even one step further in this direction. This one is developed by a friend of mine, Bastian Küntzel over at Incontro. He recently published a book called ‘The Learner’s Journey – Storytelling as design principle to create powerful learning experiences’, in which he uses the hero’s journey as a core tool. The heroes journey is a model that is used in scriptwriting for movies since the 1990s but can be found in stories dating back to ancient Greece. I will write an in-depth post just focussing on this model another time and get Bastian on board for a Q&A.


Risks & traps

What are the risks when it comes to designing educational activities this way? I think the most significant threat is to get stuck in this stage. Sometimes the wish to find the perfect narrative keeps me from moving on. Also, you need to make sure to consider all aspects – participants, objectives, learning outcomes, client, and so on. And finally, be aware that you need to be flexible with the narrative once you facilitate. There is nothing worth than insisting on your design even though the group needs you to adapt and find another way.

Some pro-tips

  • If you facilitate a multi-day event, give every day a theme and work from there.
  • Once you are done, check in with your objectives. Did you cover everything? Are you able to refine some of them or even add one because you include more?
  • If your client still needs to publish a call for participants, draft your learning journey as a story to attract applicants with it.


So, what do you think about this step in planning a training? Do you have a different approach or a question? Leave me a comment below. Also, it would help me out if you like and share this post with our fellow trainer friends!

In the next part of the ‘How to plan a training’ series, I will show you how I work the actual content into the learning journey. Stay tuned!

How is 2019 so far? – Update on everything Affective Facilitation

I am back and this time with a review of what the first half of 2019 has brought so far for Affective Facilitation. Some significant changes brought many ups and down along. Therefore, I had to step back from the efforts towards my online presence here and on social media. As the waves are slowly calming down now, I have the headspace and time to recommit to regular contributions. Also, there are great things ahead! 

But let‘s go back to where I started this year.

In 2018 the author and podcast host Gretchen Rubin started the goal-setting project “18 for 2018”. The idea behind it was it to achieve 18 things in 2018 that are aiming to create happiness in your life. This year she relaunched it as “19 for 2019”. Her focus is on personal development, growth and first and foremost happiness. She invites her listeners to pick big and small things that they WANT to achieve on their way to a more fulfilled life. It is not about should-or-should-not-s like in traditional New Year’s resolutions. 

So this year, I decided to join in on the fun. I chose to have two separate lists – one for my personal life and one for Affective Facilitation. As the year is already a bit more than halfway done, I want to share my picks together with a status update on my progress.



1. Go on part-time in my day job

2. Find a day job more in line with Affective Facilitation

These two picks were the most important ones, and I actually already achieved them. For the last two years, I was stuck in a relatively abusive and exhausting day job within the cooperate sector, which did not align with my values and aims. Affective Facilitation as my side hustle had to take the backstage in many moments to maintain my overall health.

So on the 3rd of March, I dared the jump! I joined the International Falcon Movement – Socialist Educational International on a three-day position as Project and Communications Coordinator. That does not just mean a more fulfilling field of work but also opens up time for healing and refocussing on Affective Facilitation. I put up with a significant pay cut but trust in this still small endeavour to provide and make up for the financial cutbacks.

3. The 3-3-3 of client acquisition

One of the things I really need to focus on for making Affective Facilitation work is finding more clients and building and maintaining my existing ones. For that, I decided to try out an approach called 3-3-3. Per month I will contact three potential clients for the first time, follow up with three who I contacted but have not worked with before and check-in with three existing clients.

So far, I have not done this. I gained a big new client, but there is no method to the madness. Trying to apply to every call that comes my way, is not paying off. So, I will be focussing on this pick in the upcoming two months.

4. One meetup a week

As an ambivert, I am not always comfortable to spend time with larger groups.  Nevertheless, if I want to succeed in a city like Brussells, I need to get in touch with people on a personal base. Last year, I discovered the app Meetup. I already joined several groups related to public speaking and facilitation. But I went just here and there once in a while without a real focus. 

This year, I want to use these opportunities more purposefully. Therefore, I decided to join one meetup or another meeting each week of the year. There will be weeks when I will not be able to go, so the goal is in general 52 meetups in 2019. So far, I went to 12 meetings. With 23 weeks left in this year, I will have to join 1,7 meetings a week…

5. My own meetup

As much as I am enjoying the meetups offered, topics are missing that are dear to my heart. I want to discover those with the diverse bunch of people Brussels has to offer. I am thinking mainly of one for non-formal education practitioner and another for planner and journal junkies. I have many other ideas, but I need to start small, so it does not overwhelm me.

The furthest developed is the one for non-formal educators, and the summer break in August might actually allow me to kick it off. I will keep you posted! 😉

6. Go on the stage

7. Go in front of the camera

These two picks are again connected as they go along with my public speaking journey with Toastmaster International. I am enjoying writing and giving the speeches in my club and receive relatively good feedback. Therefore, I want to hold at least one in front of a large and mostly unknown crowd.

I am looking for a stage where I can be me and speak my truth. So far, I have not found one, but I have a couple of moments coming up in the next months in which I could create this stage for myself.

I will keep sharing my speeches here in writing, but I am also looking at recording myself on video. That scares me more than I like to admit… I will have to get over it if I want to promote my message.

8. Networks

I am thinking of some international networks related to facilitation and visual practice and also applied for a couple of Pool of Trainers. From both kinds of connections, I hope to gain additional work once I can actively engage in them.

On the other side, I also want to purposefully develop my own network. Being a trainer and facilitator is a quite solitary profession in between different engagements, so I want to bring the community together outside of work. That can mean having a coffee or dinner with one or two people or coming through on my plans for the meetup.

9. At least 12 paid projects.

In 2018, I was able to have four paid engagements. In 2019 I am attempting to triple this number. That is realistic as I am having several smaller requests for design and logo work as well a couple larger trainings already done and more booked. Properly implementing 3-3-3 and reworking my website and portfolios should give an additional boost. AND, I am already halfway there.

10. Allow art in

My professional background, among others, is in art and art education. Through my Bullet Journal and Visual Practice, I was able to bring it into Affective Facilitation. Nevertheless, I want to further build this out. Friends are encouraging me to start to offer my illustrations and graphics for designs and prints or create videos of my process.

I will spend the upcoming months discovering what this would mean administration wise and putting myself and work more out there. Check my Instagram to stay tuned!

11. Tidy up my bookkeeping

12. A Salary for me

These are two big ones! As in the last year, Affective Facilitation did only generate a tiny income keeping track of it was easy. It was enough to simply log it in my Bullet Journal.

That is finally changing for good, but having more money coming in means also more money going out. My attempts to diversify my offers and income streams are additionally complicating things. So, I need to take a weekend time and start a proper bookkeeping Excel spread! This will also allow me to evaluate my potential to start paying myself a monthly salary. My goal is to put this in place latest by December.

13. Train the Trainer

14. Give back

I am at a stage in my development as a trainer and facilitator where I feel comfortable giving my skills on to other practitioners. I already gave smaller visual practice sessions, and I enjoyed it genuinely.

So, for 2019, I hope to be able to be part of at least one Training for Trainers as a facilitator and gain at least one mentee to give back to the community. I already reached out to a couple of junior trainers in my network and some stated interest. So now we need to put the structures in place!

15. Volunteer

As facilitation becomes more and more an income-generating activity, I do not want to lose sight of its the potential for social change and innovation. Those people who would benefit most from my kind of work often cannot afford my services or join activities I am engaged in.

So I want to make a conscious effort to keep creating time and space where I volunteer my skills for a cause that matters to me. That might be a neighbourhood project here in Brussels, an NGO that does fantastic work or something even more significant.

16. Device up!

For the last four years, I only had an iPad Air 2 and a Bluetooth keyboard to work on. That drove me mad at times, but I could not afford to device up. An update was more than overdue!

My new job gave me access to a MacBook, and some projects from 2018 enabled me to purchase an iPad Pro and an Apple Pen. These two devices revolutionised my workflow! It is so much easier to work on enormous documents, add graphic design and digital visual practice to my offers and to work on the go. It feels like my possibilities are unlimited now!

But, be aware, I do not believe you need the newest and fanciest devices to get started or progress in your venture. My minimal setup was serving me well for a really long time, but I reached a point where I felt like I deserve an upgrade for my efforts.

17. Skill up!

In most of my skills, I am majority self-taught, and I often carved my own way. I have the urge to further professionalise and add on new ones as well. I am enjoying learning things like graphic design and copywriting. But I would prefer to take a course than to just go by learning by doing. I also want to broaden my repertoire of facilitation methods and add on to my art skills.

So far, I took a weekend course in Creative Facilitation by Partner for Youth Empowerment which blew my mind! They combine personal development and topic work with arts practices reaching from visual arts to dance and music.

18. Add a professional language.

Over the years, I attempted to learn many languages and even mastered some to the point where I have a good understanding of the spoken and writing word. But I am far away from being capable of working in any of them…

Living in Brussels and dreaming of going into development work with my facilitation demand to add at least one additional working language to English and German. The best would be French and Spanish. My Spanish is relatively rusty, but I think some effort in revitalising and actually speaking it, could push it far.

Nevertheless, I decided earlier this year to focus on French, but I have to honestly admit that it is not realistic for me to master it this year… There was just too much going on, and I was not able to put real work into it. This pick will have to migrate to my 20 to 2020 list… 😉

19. Stick to a schedule

To make all the things above come into reality, I HAVE TO stick to a schedule. Having these two days during the week for Affective Facilitation is only paying off if I actually spend them working on something and not in my bed with Netflix. I am aware that after my old job, I needed time to heal and recover, but it is due time to start eating the frog.

So before I focus on anything else, I will sit down to create a schedule and take the necessary steps for implementing it. That will make things hard in the short turn but will prove viable in the long run.


There are they, my 19 for 2019s. Many of them are ambitious and scary. But my progress so far and the willingness to admit that I might not come through on some of them are proof that I can do it. Putting them out here on the internet will create much needed outer accountability.

So what do you think, did I go too big, too bold or just far enough to push me forward? How is your year coming along so far? Let me know in the comments below or on social media!











Why I hate to talk about myself – Holding my Icebreaker speech

Every journey starts with the first step – and with Toastmasters International this first step is your Icebreaker speech. This speech aims to introduce yourself to your club members shortly and lightly using funny and amusing anecdotes.

I did go another road. I wanted to take a risk and challenge me from the beginning. Therefore, I chose to get real personal and share facts that might make others, and I feel uncomfortable. However, I also wanted to share a positive message through this radical openness. This was important to me as I firmly believe the things that I had to go through in life made me stronger and that sharing my experiences might make one of you feel a little better.

I followed the structure taught in the corresponding module in my ‘Effective Coach’ pathway: Interesting topic – opening – body – conclusion. I struggled the most with the end and worked with my mentor Keyla fine-tuning content and wording. I will have to work on how to best close a speech as I do not have a feeling for the right sweet spot. We all know these speeches that go on and on and on, and we wished the speaker would have finished an hour ago.

So here it is, my very first Toastmaster speech! Enjoy!


‘Your Icebreaker is about you – and that should be your favourite topic to talk about.

Dear fellow Toastmasters, guests and friends, actually I hate to talk about myself.

I grew up in a small German town, with two loving parents and a younger brother. For most of my childhood, my grandmother was around to help to raise us, as both my parents were working back then, We have been an average higher middle-class family with a house, pets and an annual summer holiday. My parents raised me both protestant and social democratic. Civic engagement, social justice, and cultural activities are high held values. After a smooth carrier, I went to university and aspired to become a teacher. In 2017, I moved to Brussels. Today, I have an indefinite, full-time contract in a job that generates enough income for me to give a decent living, here in the heart of Europe.

That brings me to tonight. As you might guess, my life has not been this average and easy rundown of geographical, personal, and educational cornerstones that I just shared with you. Nevertheless, they are all true.

Let me tell you another story about myself, which is equally true, but harder to share.

The school was never easy. I never had to redo a class, but I did not fit in. I was too tall – too lively – too curious – too polite – too whatever my classmates came up with that day. I was a victim of bullying and spend most of my years in school alone. At home, I was loved and supported and still also there things weren’t as easy as they looked. Most of my close family members struggle with sicknesses that do not just affect their path, but also our shared life. I had to start working at the age of 14. Due to these facts, I left school not just with the highest secondary school degree but also with my first burn out.

In university, my dreams about what it means to become a teacher did not match with the contemporary academic teachings and the educational reality. My fellow students and professors did not welcome my idealism. Due to my mother’s early retirement, I had to support myself – and in part my family too. Therefore, I was forced to combine classes with two jobs, which led to medical consequences I still face today. In 2016, after a severe operation, I dropped out of university without a degree. I moved to Brussels for a job aligned with my values and aims. I lost this job just a couple of month later when the leadership of the organisation changed.

Today, I am a chronic pain patient in a high-pressure job that negatively impacts my body and soul and barely covers my costs of living – and the payback of debts acquired during my time at university.

Dear fellow Toastmaster, at the beginning of the speech, I told you that I hate to talk about myself. If I am honest, I actually hate that every time someone asks me to say something about myself I have to choose between these two stories.

Do I tell the first one and confirm what was assumed by just looking at me? Or do I say the second story and risk scaring the person off or making myself vulnerable? Both, the story you see and the one that is hard to share, make me who I am today.

The truth about having these two stories is, that being able to tell the first story give e the safety to choose to say the second and give hope through how I became who I am.

Thank you.’


I got a lot of positive feedback from my club member and came second in the vote for the best speech of the night. Nevertheless, I did not manage to go back to the meeting since then and only logged into the online platform once but did not keep working on it. It’s hard for me to go back to a group after I skipped a couple of meeting. I feel guilty and that I let everybody down by not showing up. Next week is the last meeting of the year, and I want to use this post as motivation to go there. Fingers crossed…

What do you do when you fall off the track? Would you be interested in me delivering the speech on video? I would love to hear your feedback!

Love and appreciation,