Case Study: Virtual Facilitation


International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Addis Ababa. ILRI is part of CGIAR (


To design and deliver a series of digital workshops to launch the collaborative project for Improved Livestock Production Systems in Zimbabwe (LIPS-Zim).

Circa 50 participants would be joining the workshops from a number of different organisations, including universities, research organisations, NGO’s and financial stakeholders.

Geographies included Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Switzerland and France. This was delivered during the COVID-19 crisis which meant the majority of participants joined from home, some from the office and others from very remote field locations.

ILRI had three main objectives for this Inception workshop:

  • Engage individuals from all the participating organisations.
  • Agree collaborative working tools & methods.
  • Gain clarity on next steps in order to ensure project momentum.


We started by breaking the objectives down across three different workshops, ranging from 90 mins to 2 hours each. Each session involved some asynchronous pre-work to ensure maximum value from workshop time. This always means factoring in the reality that some will not complete the asynchronous work, and ensuring process design accounted for this.

From there we worked with the ILRI team to identify what content we needed for each session, building up the workshop running orders in SessionLab.

collaborative workshop tools

    • Session one was focussed on introductions and working methods.
    • For session two we discussed project objectives and formation of working groups.
    • Session three was for discussion and input on the logical framework for the project.

In each session there was a balance between presentations, plenary and smaller breakout discussions.Together with the ILRI team we designed the workshop structures and running order. ILRI then took care of developing content such as presentations, while we designed the visual materials in MURAL for each session.

During the session our facilitator looked after the workshop process, facilitated the plenaries, managed time and hosted breakouts. This in turn meant the ILRI team could concentrate on the workshop content and contributions.


We like to share what we learn from each of our projects. In this case we realised quite quickly that we had a broad range of technology available to users, and had to adapt our approach after the first workshop. This applied both to the asynchronous work and the workshops themselves.

Similarly, the organic formation of working groups in Session Two was challenging. If approaching this challenge again we would probably put more structure in the process.


This was a successful series of workshops that met the planned objectives. We were able to work iteratively between sessions to apply learning and adapt our approach each time. All attendees left with an improved understanding of the project, clarity on whom they would we working with, and where they could contribute.

Many of the participants were surprised and impressed to see how much could be achieved working virtually. This has led to ongoing work with ILRI and other institutions, including the Africa Development Bank.