The Facilitation Academy

To address the high demand for skilled workshop facilitators, we established The Facilitation Academy. Our goal was to cultivate a larger group of qualified facilitators who can meet this demand. This comprehensive learning program for employees encompasses both instructor-led sessions and self-service resources. Through applied learning, participants gained a strong foundation in the essential concepts of Service Design, Design Thinking and the art of Facilitation.

Head of Innovation


Curriculum design & direction, Content direction, Stakeholder management, Internal partnerships, Promotion & Awareness, Funding


Fidelity International

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A few years ago, I was given the task of identifying, implementing, and expanding new ways of working across our global workforce. It was a challenging endeavor, with plenty of room for improvement. After conducting internal research and gathering feedback from colleagues in various departments, including HR, Technology, Operations, Learning & Development, and Business Propositions, I arrived at a clear conclusion: we had a tendency to dive into finding solutions without fully understanding the problem.

I saw an immediate opportunity to promote a User Centered Design (UCD) approach on a larger scale. I secured the necessary budget and approval to establish a Service Design Centre of Excellence under the leadership of Rod Butcher. This team focused on training and coaching staff in the core principles of Design Thinking and UCD.

Often, these trainings led to consultations with internal clients, as teams recognized the potential of UCD and sought our assistance in running design sprints or workshops for their projects.

The demand for facilitating team workshops grew rapidly, primarily through word-of-mouth, eventually culminating in facilitating our annual leadership conferences.

Rod facilitating at the executive offsite

This conference brought together over 100 executives for several days to discuss and outline the company's strategy. To plan and execute workshops of this magnitude, we had to tap into our internal networks to recruit facilitators.

Facilitating any workshop is challenging, but when the room is filled with senior members who have strong opinions, the delicate balance of art and science required to be a great facilitator is on full display.

Our team quickly became the go-to resource for these types of large executive events. However, the demand for skilled facilitators exceeded the capacity of my team, leading to the creation of the Facilitation Academy.

The Academy

Facilitation, in our view, is the skillset and mindset needed to lead diverse groups towards better, more collaborative decisions and outcomes through creative problem-solving. Facilitation enhances productivity, promotes diversity and inclusion, and helps us achieve better decisions and outcomes.

We see it is as a unique blend of hard and soft skills that is a crucial leadership skill in the modern age.

We already had our core content as part of the Service Design Center of Excellence, but we required some help pulling it together into a training curriculum that caters to different learning styles. To reach that objective, we engaged Dr. Myriam Hadnes, a PhD of behavioural economics, to collaborate with us on curating our content into a learning journey that covered:

  1. Designing workshop agendas
  2. Virtual whiteboarding
  3. Utilizing activity templates
  4. Active listening
  5. Effective speech & questioning
  6. Stepping outside of one's comfort zone
  7. Navigating group dynamics
  8. Remaining neutral
  9. Using hybrid technology to engage participants

However, to reach our distributed workforce of 12,000+ employees, we had to take this learning online.

The course is delivered in an interactive and dynamic manner, covering both the theory and practice of successful facilitation, with real-world support and check-ins provided throughout the training.

We created a virtual learning journey that guided employees through a curated sequence of recorded video content, roleplaying scenarios, and live sessions led by our lead instructor Nikesh Patel.

One stop along the learning journey

Employees followed a board game format where they create and asynchronously move their avatars throughout the learning journey, arriving at training destinations - complete with videos, downloadable worksheets, links to relevant articles, etc. - that they need to complete before progressing to the next stop.

To maximize the impact of the Facilitation Academy, we identified key areas of the business where embedding facilitation skills would have the maximum impact.

We created a targeted stakeholder map which allowed us to reach all corners of the company and engage influential individuals within the organization, such as people managers, team leaders, business managers, delivery leads, and chiefs of staff.

The academy is an eight-week program that requires written manager approval due to its time commitment. We limit the size of each cohort to ensure adequate instructor attention and participation opportunities.

Approximately 20-30 participants are enrolled in each cohort, and we run around four cohorts per year, resulting in approximately 100 certified facilitators annually. The training is integrated into our enterprise Learning Management System, allowing for easy tracking of training hours and certifications.

Graduates of the Facilitation Academy are added to a Microsoft Teams community, providing them with ongoing updates on evolving practices and a platform to share tips and techniques they have acquired along their journey. We also keep track of which departments have Facilitation Academy alumni, enabling us to direct requests for workshop facilitation to individuals with the appropriate domain knowledge.

Facilitation Academy graduate badges

Furthermore, we introduced a badging system to gamify and encourage staff to facilitate more workshops. Academy alumni proudly display their facilitation experience level as part of their email signature and on their LinkedIn profiles.

Top 25 Facilitator NFT, created by Ashley Humphrey

As part of our exploration into digital wallets, the top 25 facilitators in the company were awarded unique non-fungible tokens (NFTs) by the Innovation team, which unlocked an opportunity for them take part in a Facilitation masterclass led by Dr. Myriam Hadnes to further advance their craft.

"In my 8 years at Fidelity, this is the best training I have attended and I hope others in my department get the chance to experience it."

– Senior Technical Manager

Since its launch, the Facilitation Academy has consistently been ranked amongst the highest of all internal training at the company(and there is a LOT!).

After over eight cohorts, the Academy has a +86 NPS Score when alumni were asked "how likely are you to recommend the Facilitation Academy to a colleague?" When asked how valuable they found the training, an average score of 4.77/5 was given and over 95% of respondents said they would be eager to facilitate workshops outside of their own departments - solving the facilitator shortage problem that we originally were faced with.

After over two years of running the Academy, we now have enough seasoned alumni to transition into a train-the-trainer approach. Alumni of the Academy are now acting as the instructors for the live sessions and sharing their experiences gathered from part of the organization outside of the Service Design Center of Excellence. This transition has led to greater diversity in thought from our instructors and has lessened the Academy's dependency on the Innovation Labs team to be resourced and funded.

Rod & Nikesh being interviewed on the podcast

To hear more about the the Facilitation Adcademy and how it is being scaled throughout the company, please listen to Facilitation Skills at Scale: Fidelity International's Facilitation Academy, on the podcast.

Our work would not be possible without the contributions of our team. We are a diverse group, spread across the globe. Special thanks to the Service Design Centre of Excellence: Rod Butcher, Nikesh Patel, Lisa Guan, Matt Twigg, Akshay Khullar, and Helga Pleban