A New Facilitator tries VisualsSpeak

We hear from facilitators all the time who are using the VisualsSpeak toolset — but usually it is from experienced practitioners. Recently, though, we heard of an experience by someone brand-new to the tools and to facilitation!

Learning by participating

He was working with a group in his organization on planning a conference, and they needed to get a clear vision. The toolset was very useful, and the company’s Chief Operating Officer happened to be in the meeting.

So the next time an issue came up — in this case, a work team that wasn’t really a “team” at all — the COO decided VisualsSpeak was the answer. Now this COO had never done facilitation before, and had only used the toolset once before as a participant. But in she dove!


Our more experienced user (who was a participant in this team intervention) said that even though the COO made some newbie mistakes, the toolset worked beautifully. It yielded great bonding for the starting-to-be-a-team, and laid a strong foundation. Or, as he put it:

It’s amazing how robust a tool it is–you can’t mess it up even if you’re new at using it!

Creating ripples of impact in the world

It’s hard to know where you might make impact in your life, and how you might do it. Often it’s little things that slowly ripple out and take unexpected twists and turns.

Using images in Africa

Mari reviewing the birth records

VizPeep Mari Alexander is a therapist, physician assistant, intercultural consultant and Mom to two teenage boys. She’s also the co-founder of a grassroots nonprofit, Safe Passages to Motherhood that has been working in a rural village in Kenya. They’ve been sharing Home Based Life Saving Skills with a group in the village, and that small group has reached out and shared the information with over fifteen thousand other people.The program teaches people to recognize the signs of childbirth emergencies and to get those women to help before it is too late. Since the program has started, none of the women in the village have died in childbirth. Pretty impressive in an area of the world where 1 in 16 women die having babies.

One of the challenges of working in the developing world is really knowing what is happening and if you are actually making a real difference. This program has assessment and information tracking built in, but Mari was interested in the impacts beyond just the number of births in the clinic or attendance at programs.

Mari knew how powerful using images was in her work as a therapist and consultant, but feared the photographic images would be difficult to relate to for the people in Africa. So we worked with her to develop a set of paintings she could use instead.

Stories of Empowerment

Bware woman sharing story about paintings with translator

The paintings worked exceedingly well. People easily found images to describe the impact the Safe Passage to Motherhood program had on their lives. The stories weren’t so much about saving the mothers lives as they were about how becoming a trainer and sharing this vital information was changing them. They were stories of discovering purpose, and becoming someone.

Increasing the feeling of empowerment

It was obvious this group had been changed by participating in the program. Now, to figure out how to make it sustainable after the five site visits of the Home Based Life Saving Skills program. Part of the training had been to get the community thinking about how to leverage the resources they had. The US group provided some limited funds, but wanted to make sure the group could carry on after the official part of the program ended.

The group was very motivated to find ways to keep the work going. They looked around the village for opportunities, and realized for most of the long gatherings, people sat on the ground and on benches that weren’t comfortable.

Mari with the SPM trainers in Kenya with their chairs

The group saved up money to buy chairs, which they rent out. From the money they made, they bought dishes. They knew they were great at feeding big groups because they did it every time they did a training. They were saving money to buy a tent to extend their new catering business into rainy season. The US based group made a donation to the tent fund, and it arrived the day after the US group left. They now have a way to support spreading their work to other villages.

They have requested their own set of images so they can use them in their training. Of course VisualsSpeak will provide them!

The last official visit

The Home Based Life Saving Skills program that Safe Passages to Motherhood uses has five visits to the community in the developing world. The last trip is focused on evaluation, and documenting the impact the program has had. We already know the group has reached over 15 thousand people, and women are being brought to the clinic in time for help to save their lives.

Safe Passages is a tiny grassroots organization. The health care workers and team who go to Africa take time off from work and volunteer their time. They are very resourceful and keep costs to a minimum. Still, it is very expensive to get them there. When they can, they purchase medical supplies to bring to the village. They have not raised all the money to fund the upcoming trip.

Can you help?

Make a donation

Any amount will help, it’s incredible how far our dollars can stretch in the developing world. Right now they are several thousand dollars away from just paying for transportation for the upcoming trip.

This program is powerful and effective. We’re seeing the impacts ripple out to make real differences.



VisualsSpeak Improves Existing Leadership Programs

A few months back a large bank was looking to beef up the effectiveness of their leadership development program for new supervisors. At the same time, they wanted to get people up to speed more quickly. So they called on Doug to come onboard and rework the program.

Doug’s an experienced facilitator and developer, and after looking at the previous program, he decided to bring in the VisualsSpeak system. Now, one of the first things he does in the program is ask people to create images around “What is a leader?”

As the group discusses their images, they start thinking about everything that changes when you move from being an individual contributor to being a leader. Just tacking that on at the beginning was, well, just the beginning.

Now Doug has reported they used VisualsSpeak every session of the program, with great results. By incorporating these activities, people are understanding their new roles more quickly, and effectiveness has really grown. Well done, Doug!

Building trust in a merger

Stephanie Carroll loves change. She thrives on it. But as one of the best organizational development and change facilitators around, she knows that not everybody does. When companies call her in to help, she brings all of her experience — and a big bag of tools. One of those tools? VisualsSpeak.

Recently, Stephanie was working with two organizations that had just become one. At least in theory. Unfortunately, their leadership team was still fragmented–there was no trust on the team. They needed help.

So Carroll, knowing that using images helps people express their ideas more genuinely and in a safe way, brought out her VisualsSpeak ImageSet. She used the tool to help the team members share their personal values and their leadership values.In the rich conversation that followed, team members gained deeper understanding into their new colleagues. Carroll helped them highlight commonalities and uniqueness, and it set a tone of sharing and candid conversations for the rest of the work.

Great work, Stephanie! Thanks for sharing this effective use of the VisualsSpeak tools!