Skip to main content
The Facilitation Impact Awards (FIA) honours organisations that have used facilitation to achieve a measurable and positive impact as well as the facilitator(s) who worked with them. More about FIA
Platinum award
Government Digital Service, UK Cabinet Office
London, United Kingdom

Building Facilitation Skills Competence & Capacity


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has achieved its objective of establishing an internal facilitation community of practice. The initial target of training 120 staff in core facilitation skills has been surpassed and the organisation now has some 180 trained internal facilitators running 3 to 4 facilitated interventions each week. This amounts to around 2,100+ interventions a month across the UK Government.

Key features of the community of practice include:

  • common approach to facilitated intervention planning, design and design standards and preparation of interventions
  • common facilitative language adopted
  • baseline competence of facilitation skills, tools, techniques and processes.
  • core set of facilitation tools, techniques and processes adopted across GDS

The community of practice is delivering positive results for GDS including:

  • more structured facilitated interventions with clear purpose, outcomes and agenda(s)
  • more engaging facilitated interventions through use of words, visuals, graphics, posters and pre-prepared templates
  • more effective sessions, meetings and workshops through clear purpose, outcomes, agenda, session design, delivery using practical and relevant tools, techniques and approaches and clear actionable deliverables

Context and challenges

GDS is part of the UK Government Cabinet Office. It works with departments to transform government and meet user needs.

As a centre of excellence in digital, technology and data, GDS helps departments with their transformation and builds and operates platforms, standards and services. GDS is recognised as a world leader in public sector digital innovation.

GDS identified a need to develop and build internal facilitation capability and capacity as a core competence; create a community of facilitation practice; enhance facilitation, communication and group working skills across GDS and reduce the cost and dependence on external facilitation resource. To meet this need, GDS embarked on an ambitious project to:

  • build facilitation skills and competence; develop and enhance existing skills and provide a broad understanding of facilitation tools, techniques and processes
  • help individuals build greater confidence in working with groups and individuals and in handling and managing ‘difficult’ people-types and situations
  • increase individual and group effectiveness
  • provide individuals with a safe environment to practice facilitation

Project objectives

The objectives of the project were to:

  • co-design and deliver a series (X 10) of two-day core facilitation skills learning workshops, to include 120 GDS staff
  • upskill and increase internal GDS facilitation capability and capacity and embed facilitation as a core competence
  • improve the quality of both design and delivery of large and small facilitated interventions
  • support the building of an internal facilitation community of practice and embed facilitation as a core competence
  • provide GDS facilitators with a suite of tools and techniques to use to design and run more engaging facilitated interventions
  • develop and sustain a facilitative culture of participation and engagement across GDS and pan-UK Government.


GDS engaged IAF CertifiedTM Professional facilitators, Gary Austin and Justine Marchant from circleindigo to assist with the project.

Gary and Justine:

  • delivered a 2.5-hour facilitation awareness workshop for GDS senior staff
  • following initial consultation with GDS point of contact, co-designed a core facilitation skills two-day learning workshop designed for a maximum of 12 participants which was delivered 15 times to 180 GDS staff
  • supported GDS in the establishment of an internal GDS facilitation community of practice
  • recommended useful and relevant facilitation resources to support the community of practice.