About the Technology of Participation (ToP)


Technology of Participation (ToP) is a powerful collection of structured facilitation methods that transform the way groups think, talk and work together. ToP trainees come from all walks of life and are applying these simple, flexible methods to some of the world’s most complex challenges.

What is Facilitation?

Facilitation is something many of us are called on to do in our day-to-day work as we lead meetings, manage projects, or organize people to get work done. At the core, a facilitator takes responsibility to plan and manage the process that will help a group to achieve their goals.


What is ToP?

Technology of Participation (ToP) is a powerful collection of structured facilitation methods that transform the way groups think, talk and work together. They enable highly energized, inclusive and meaningful group collaboration that lead to successful outcomes.

Without effective methods like ToP, it is easy for meetings to fall into a lot of cross-talk that gets nowhere or to have a few dominate the conversation while others feel bored or excluded. More long term and complex organization or community change projects often flounder because there is no consistent and authentic engagement of members and they do not feel ownership of the desired change.

ToP Methods support genuine participation, which leads to long term commitment and quality outcomes, as well as more effective teamwork. ToP Methods recognize and honor contributions from all group members, identify commonalities and pool contributions into useful patterns - all while welcoming diversity and minimizing conflict.

The paradox of these methods is that they provide a structured approach to participation while enabling greater freedom of expression and voice.


Where can ToP methods be applied?

ToP methods were developed by The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), a leader over the past five decades in promoting lasting positive change in organizations and communities around the world. The methods were crafted over 20 years of global action-research efforts exploring group decision-making and collaborative governance, and ToP’s deep philosophical roots go beyond "tips and tricks" to empower profound and lasting transformation.

These methods have been used in more than 50 countries, in major international social change ventures, in United Nations and World Bank programs, in hundreds of organizational, community, and corporate change initiatives, in Fortune 500 companies, adopted as internal processes by government agencies and made part of the staff training systems of international nonprofits. Few methods have had such long history and have been applied in so many global cultures.

ToP can be used for anything from strategic planning and staff retreats to stakeholder workgroup meetings, department/organizational needs assessments, action and event planning, and more. The methods allow for meaningful and engaging experiences no matter the situation and desired outcomes.

In addition, ToP methods play well with others. ToP can enrich, strengthen, and produce better results for practitioners of Six Sigma, Lean, Agile, Scrum, TQM, Design Thinking, Collective Impact, Results-Based Accountability, Asset Based Community Development, and many more.

Whether you work on the bleeding edge of technology and design, in the complex worlds of academia, government and finance, or on the frontlines of community development and social change, ToP methods offer a powerhouse collection of tools to navigate your group’s unique needs.


What can I expect from ToP training?

ToP training is hands-on, fun, and rigorous, giving you the chance to practice and get feedback in a high-energy, supportive environment. Immersive demonstrations, practice, peer coaching, and real life application opportunities will ensure you leave with confidence to immediately put your new skills to use.

Each ToP course and companion participant manual is packed with tools, tips, examples, and step-by-step resource guides you’ll come back to again and again. In addition, you’ll leave each course with an hour of free expert coaching to support your practice.

Our sliding scale pricing makes training affordable for individuals and organizations of all sizes. Explore our catalog of public courses or contact us to design a customized in-house training for your organization.

And training is just the first step. Go further in developing your skills through certification and becoming a part of the ToP Network of practitioners.

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