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Neighborhood Allies


429 Fourth Avenue, Suite 1900
Pittsburgh, PA 15219






Strengthening Our Skill Set to Effectively Engage Communities

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In our continuous pursuit to learn of productive approaches to engage residents, deepen connections to communities and to build better partnerships, Neighborhood Allies’ staff members Shad Henderson, Shikha Jerath and Mary Taylor traveled to Chicago IL. to participate in a two-day Technology of Participation (ToP) Facilitation Methods course.


Neighborhood Allies Staff with ToP Trainers: Judy Weddle and Dennis Jennings

The training is offered by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) which is part of a global network of 35 organizations that use participatory processes for community development. ICA is widely known to be on the cutting edge of training people to use simple yet highly productive group leadership processes. The ToP methodology aims to harness the energy and wisdom of a group to build consensus to create and implement strategic plans.

“My most important take-away from the training is that highly developed facilitation skills are essential for any leader to have in the community development field. Facilitative Leadership moves away from the top down style of Hierarchical Leadership and embraces the creativity, wisdom and capability of the group. The lessons learned from the training will help me in my everyday work with our Community Leadership, the Temporary Public Art & Placemaking Pilot and in my ability to form cross-sector partnerships.”

-Shad Henderson

Throughout the course, participants were taught tactics and received hands-on practice in three facilitation methodologies: 1) Focused Conversations; 2) Consensus Workshops and 3) Action Planning. This foundational framework leads to productive group meetings and tangible outcomes by:

  • IMG_0244Recognizing and honoring the contributions of all
  • Allowing a group to deal with more data in less time
  • Pooling individual contributions into larger, more informative and inclusive patterns
  • Welcoming diverse points of views while minimizing polarization and conflict

It’s important to mention that the ToP Facilitation Methods are highly technical in nature and requires a lot of practice to master. The Neighborhood Allies team is eager to put the ToP learnings into practice and share this knowledge with others in the community. The training is also part of Neighborhood Allies’ on-going efforts to build its capacity to engage and convene diverse and dynamic groups to solve complex problems. For more specific information about the training please click here  Technology of Participation Facilitation Methods or feel free to reach out to Shad, Shikha or Mary who are happy to share more about their learning experience with you.

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