Meetings and events belong to our daily work. Find below our recommendations for tools that help you to organize and to design these meetings, workshops and events in a way that make them most productive for learning and hence for improving our work.
Design for Wiser Action
Design for Wiser Action is a template that helps planning and designing an event, projects or processes. It is a visual planning tool and helps to make the first steps in the planning. The canvas brings together the organizing team, the core group or the mandate giver. A moderator could support the joint planning.
The canvas outlines several prescriptions which form the building blocks for the planning activities. On the image below you find the template.
It is important to allow free reflection. There is no given procedure which question needs to be discussed first. On the contrary, it is the possibility to switch between the different blocks that allow considering all important aspects.
Design for Wiser Action does not limit the discussion to the content of an event or project but opens up a comprehensive planning. It is an interactive tool that fosters analysis, understanding, creativity. The canvas is very easy to use (see below for possible steps and questions).
Design for Wiser Action is helpful to clarify key aspects in an early stage. It can be used for the planning of a face-to-face or other events but also for strategic questions.
Possible from1h - 2h
min. 2 peoplemaybe 1 moderator
empty canvas templatepost-its, pens
Start with clarifying the call and the purpose of the workshop. Why is this workshop needed? By whom? What bring people to the table in terms of questions and experiences? What do we want to achieve?
Point to the block "harvest", the results (tangible and intangible) you want to achieve. What is it you want to make happen in people's minds and hearts? What do you need as organizer of the workshop in terms of results?
Then move on step by step through the process: What are the burning questions to tackle? What about social reporting and harvesting? Are there any difficult or even sensible issues you need to take care of? What are the next steps in the preparation process?
The ideas and answers that emerge through intense conversation are written down on post-it notes and assigned to one of the blocks. Ask the team Learning & Networking for a template for your SDC event or draw your own on a large paper.
Design for Wiser Action opens new perspectives and ways of thinking when planning an event, project or process. Its open structure makes it adaptable to every situation. It is a creative tool and is a change to the conventional linear planning process. The multidimensional approach helps not forgetting anything and also allows integrating strategic questions into the planning.
The canvas is inspired by
The Harvest Hub - Designing for Wiser Action
The method is also widely used for business planning:
Business Model Canvas
is a way to help people address and solve difficult, impossible-seeming issues … to think, talk, and work together collaboratively and creatively and achieve shifts and breakthroughs." (source:
Tobe.net) . Dynamic Facilitation – a method designed by Jim Rough – can be used with a flexible number of participants to address rather complex issues which may evoke strong emotions.
Dynamic Facilitation may be applied in a wide range of situations. According to our experience, it works well for meetings around a rather complex and emotional or conflictive issue e.g. of strategic importance, when no solution seems evident, but when the participants have a genuine interest to find a solution.
Some important preconditions for a Dynamic Facilitation session are:
3-4 meetings of 2-3 hours, not more than a week apart
4 flipcharts, markers
Frame the issue and formulate a compelling question.
Four flipcharts with the following respective titles are installed:
Invite the participants to contribute their thinking and enter into a conversation.
The participants come up with their comments to any of the four categories without following a defined order. In fact, the participants do not have to care about, whether their comment is a problem statement, a suggested solution, a concern or information. The facilitator writes all comments down on the flipcharts. Any comments describing the challenging aspects of the issue are noted down on the flipchart "Problems / Questions". Any suggestions, ideas how the problem(s) could be addressed will be written down on the "solutions"-flipchart.
Under "concerns", the facilitator will collect all fears and concerns participants may have towards the issue, the problems, the suggested solutions etc. All other comments, figures, data, information and views will be noted on the flipchart "information" (or data, as in the original version of Jim Rough).
The facilitator may - if necessary - check back with the participants, if a comment was understood correctly, if an argument could be outlined more precisely, etc. It is important to observe, that no comments, suggestions, concerns are being rated as true, false or good. They are taken up on the flipcharts as they are in order to reassure the participants that their views are taken into account.
Even though the "solutions"-flipchart will be filled with an impressive number of suggestions, there shouldn't be a necessity to rate the different suggestions and to pick the one which gets the highest score from most participants. The astonishing effect of Dynamic Facilitation is, that the participants will collectively agree in a consensus with what is concluded as to be the best solution or set of solutions. It is the task of the facilitator at the end of the process to make the solution for the group explicit and to reflect on it.
Dynamic Facilitation evokes "choice-creating," a special quality of thinking where people use all their capacities to achieve breakthroughs on issues that seem to be impossible to solve. Choice-creating is an attitude similar to an attitude that happens naturally in a crisis: everyone drops the old ways of thinking and comes together to achieve the impossible. Dynamic Facilitation supports the reaching of this attitude.
An exhaustive description of Dynamic Facilitation is provided within Rosa Zubizarreta's
Manual for Jim Rough's Dynamic Facilitation. More information about Jim Rough and his method you find
Further material you find here:Workshopbank,
Wisedemocray - Dynamic Facilitation explained, and a
video (showing Swisscom Wisdom Council Experience);Some links in German you can find here:
PartizipationWerkzeugkiste: Dynamic Facilitation, and a
video (9'45'', in German)Ganz anders moderieren
An energizer is a brief activity that is intended to increase energy in a group by engaging the members in physical activity, laughter, or in ways that engage them cognitively (problem-solving). They can be used with any group, including during training.
Sometimes the interaction of the participants in a workshop can be difficult. Maybe because there were too many inputs, the contents are not relevant, the room is too hot, it is Monday morning or Friday afternoon … In such moments the use of energizers can be very effective. Often you can just make them up on the spot.
Don't use energizers just because you have some time in the agenda. Use them when you feel that they are necessary.
small to large
dependent(none, a ball, paper, handkerchiefs...)
Keep your instructions about the energizer short and very direct. Adults often do not like to get involved in energizers. If you are very short and direct you can surprise them, so that even the most reluctant students will participate before they realize what you have just asked them to do.
An example for your instructions:
Energizers can bring back attention, energy and motivation to a group that is getting tired and does not engage actively in the discussions or the debates anymore.
Collection of Energizers:http://knowledgebasecentral.co.nz/TUTOR+RESOURCES/Activities/Energizers.htmlhttp://thetrainingworld.com/resources/Training_Methods_and_Activities/Energizers/http://workshops.350.org/facilitation/#energizers
Facilitation is the art of leading people through processes toward agreed-upon outcomes—in ways that elicit participation, ownership, and creativity from all involved. In simple terms it includes those skills and practices involved in leading group process. In more complex terms it includes all the strategies used to support collaboration and organization change.
Facilitation is the art of guiding the discussion process in a group. The facilitator is responsible for the planning and implementation of an appropriate process; the concerned group is responsible for the content by contributing expertise. Facilitation aims at being economical (goal oriented and time efficient) and at ensuring the well-being of all involved participants (giving room to all voices in a group, establishing an atmosphere of listening to each other, and striving for decisions that are supported and owned by all).
Conditions for successful facilitation are: commitment for openness and sharing, benefits for all, and respect for the facilitator based on his / her competence, neutrality, independence and credibility.
Facilitation ensures the equal participation, the engagement of participants, the learning in meetings, conferences, f2f-network meetings etc.
Negotiate your mandate with the owner of the event. First get clarity about the expected results, and then choose the appropriate methods.
Successful facilitation begins with preparation. Make sure, the program meets the expectations of the owner and the concerned group.
Limit yourself to what is feasible. If needed, re-negotiate your mandate.
At the start of every event, make a clear agreement with the participants (objective, program, time frame, roles, and procedure).
Stick to your role (process manager) and respect the role of the participants (experts of content).
Good facilitation enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of an event: Clear leadership of discussion and consistent visualization help to save time and to ensure that meaningful results and agreed-upon goals are achieved.
Good facilitation makes participants feel more comfortable: Participants feel contented when questions are formulated clearly, everyone contributes in an appropriate way, and everyone listens attentively to what others have to say.
Comprehensive Text about Facilitation
SDCLAN-Blogposts about facilitation
facilitating a public meeting.
The Fishbowl is a form of discussion for conferences or workshops. A small group of people is in dialogue while the majority of the group listens. The small group is seated in a circle surrounded by the rest of the participants. Like fish in a fish bowl. The idea is that the small group represents the interests of the onlookers and that they work out issues in a conversation with a manageable number of participants.
Ideally, the Fishbowl is used after subgroups have worked on issues separately. All participants have come back together and the fishbowl helps present the results of the subgroups. It can be seen s an alternative to traditional debates and for panel discussions. It helps if you want to discuss controversial topics because it allows everyone to express their opinion. Additionally it can be a great alternative to lenghty presentations.
Lager groupsmin. 4 people in the inner circle
Set a small circle of chairs. One chair in the inner circle is occupied by a moderator. The remaining chairs are filled by persons who were chosen to represent their subgroups or who wish to be in the Fishbowl. The remaining participants sit in an outer circle of chairs or they just stand around the inner circle. The participants seated in the inner circle are encouraged to engage in a direct discussion of relevant issues. The outer circle listens. Anytime a member of the inner circle wishes to retreat to the outer circle he or she may do so and someone else may take his or her place. When the members of the outer circle wish to replace someone in the inner circle they may signal this by making a knocking sound or by touching the person they want to replace. The member of the inner circle may finish his or her sentence and then move to the outer circle. .
The benefits of the Fishbowl are that it is more manageable than a plenary discussion, but less rigid than a panel discussion. Persons who find it difficult to voice their concerns in large groups are more likely to get a chance to talk, but may leave the Fishbowl whenever they wish to do so. Dominance is made visible because we see participants move in and out of the discussion round. The movement also keeps the discussion alive. In addition, the circle arrangement helps develop a more natural conversation, which helps onlookers identify with the conversation. Intuitively, the members of the inner circle will discuss what is of concern to the entire group.
Tips and Traps of the Fishbowl Method
Graphic Recording/ Graphic Facilitation
Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there are important differences.
The graphic recorders are artists who listen to a speaker and transcribe the information visually. They create live large, wall-size documents during gatherings and meetings. Usually the recorder is doing silently his or her best to translate what is being spoken about into an attractive visual summary. Graphic recording captures the conversation and energy of the group, and therefore providing a record of ideas and agreements that may otherwise be difficult to follow.
The Graphic Facilitation is more interactive, it combines skilled facilitation with the benefits of graphic recording: big-picture, visual displays to support collaborative communication. Graphic facilitation can either be provided by a true graphic facilitator (someone who designs and leads an event AND takes the visual notes at the same time) or a graphic facilitation team (a lead facilitator and one or several graphic recorders). Using these techniques, a shared picture for groups is created to literally see what they are saying, uncover previously unseen patterns of behavior, align to agreed-upon objectives and move to action. It is a very interactive process, as the charts are created in front of everyone's eyes and through everyone's words.
Graphic Recorders can work as a recording service for summaries of the key messages of speakers at conferences, or executives or leaders to graphically facilitate for strategic planning and company visioning. Graphic recording is best used when the topic is a general and easily tracked nature. It is not useful for highly detailed situation. For those situations, it is best to default to graphic facilitation methods.
A graphic recorder keeps people engaged. The process starts with identifying the desired outcomes of the meeting, captures the main ideas from expert presentations delivered at live events and turns them into memorable and eye-catching visual summaries. To create this visual content, graphic recorders listen for key ideas in a conversation. They are trained to recognize verbal cues to identify these key ideas and quickly replicate them through drawings. This skill helps them to capture the essence of a live presentation in a short amount of time. Graphic recordings are so fresh, that much of their appeal resides in watching the process itself unfold.
Graphic recorders often prefer to not to know beforehand the presentation materials, as they are then focused on certain expectations.
Working visually is attractive – a large part of the general population are visual thinkers. Some people are better able to translate (and recall) information when visuals are involved. Graphic recordings' combination of pictures and words is novel, compelling and memorable.
See also the
Blog of the father of graphic recording/facilitation - Dave Sibbet and a
retrospect to the development of graphic recording/facilitation.
More videos you can find here:Essential tools for graphic facilitation and
Icebreakers are interactive exercises that make introductions easier and set the tone for the coming event. Typically they are used at the beginning of an event so that people can get to know each other, establish what the goal of the meeting is, and become more engaged. It is a good idea for the facilitator to think about who the participants are, what difficulties they might face, and what is important for reaching their objectives. There is a wide variety of Icebreakers and they can be designed to meet specific needs.
Icebreakers are used to start off an event as a form of introduction. They are particularly helpful when new teams are formed, when people come from different backgrounds, when participants need to bond quickly to work towards a common goal, when the topic of the event is new to the participants, or when it is important for the facilitator to get to know the group and vice versa.
Possible from10 mins - 60 mins
Usually nothing special required but depends on the icebreaker
There are many different ways to break the ice, but it is important to keep things simple. First think about what the "ice" is that needs to be broken. This may range from people simply not knowing each other yet, to differences in status or culture. Think about the people in the group, as well as the purpose of the event. A helpful checklist consists of the following questions:
Introductory Icebreakers help people get to know each other and get to talking. Following some examples of simple but effective icebreakers:
Team building Icebreakers will help people work together towards common goals:
A successful Icebreaker can influence an entire event by having a positive effect on teamwork. It is a playful way to introduce participants to each other, establish what common goals they have, and engage them in the work. A good Icebreaker gets things off to a good start.
40 icebreakers for small groups
Great collection of icebreakers depending on group size from small to extra large
Read the method Sociometric Exercises below to know more about a specific icebreaker
"A Knowledge Cafe is a means of bringing a group of people together to have an open, creative conversation on a topic of mutual interest to surface their collective knowledge, to share ideas and insights and to gain a deeper understanding of the subject and the issues involved."
David Gurteen, Knowledge Manager and host of Knowledge Cafés all over the world.
The knowledge Café creates a space for conversation with no need to produce a concrete output. People are sitting around tables like in a café and exchange on a topic. Several rounds of conversation allow discussing a topic from a different angle of view. In the end the insights are shared within the whole group. This method is especially valuable to share tacit knowledge and can be used within teams, networks or across silos to question. It helps to learn from others, fosters networking and helps to gain a deeper collective understanding of an issue.
Knowledge Café can be used as part of a workshop or you invite people only for the participation at the Café. Consider the KC if you want to break with traditional talks, Powerpoint presentations or meetings and organise instead an engaging learning event.
If your team or organisation is suffering of hidden problems that might be caused by lack of communication, the KC gives voice to people who otherwise would not dare to speak up.
Furthermore, it can break down organisational silos when inviting people from different units.
Possible from2h - 4h
Lager groupsmin. 12 peoples
First, the topic to be discussed is introduced by a host. Usually this is followed by three rounds of conversation in groups of three or four people – not more. Each round lasts about 10-20 minutes.
People sit around a table and start discussing. No need to take notes. After every round people are free to change their table if they wish. The host has no key role and should avoid to cut in on a conversation.
The knowledge café ends in a big circle where all participants are invited to share their thoughts or learnings they experienced during the conversations.
Following the core principles of a Knowledge Café according to David Gurteen:
Conversation is key for an organization and helps for mutual understanding. Knowledge café helps better decision making and innovation. As David Gurteen puts it: "Knowledge Cafes connect people to people; people to ideas and ideas to ideas; they challenge people to reflect on their thinking; surface new ideas and make new connections."
Homepage of David Gurteen
Youtube Channel of David Gurteen
Open Space is a self-organizing practice that allows all kinds of people in any kind of organization to create inspired meetings and events. It is known to kindle enormous energies and to bring forth fast and well-documented results. Participants of an open space event create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance. By inviting people to take responsibility for what they care about it releases the inherent creativity and leadership in people, establishes a marketplace of inquiry, reflection and learning bringing out the best in both individuals and the whole group.
Open space is best applied, where there is an urgent need to make speedy decisions, for which all stakeholders are needed and where you have no preconceived notion of what the outcomes should be. It works best when work to be done is complex, the people and ideas involved are diverse, the passion for resolution (and potential for conflict) are high, and time is very limited.
Possible from2 hours to several days
From 5 to 1500 persons
Writing materials, flipachart or pinboards for agenda and news walls
Open space technology captures the knowledge, experience and innovation in the organization not captured through conventional closed system processes.
Comprehensive Text about Open Space
Find more information about Open Space on the
Ritual dissent is a formalized way for a group of peers to criticize sketched ideas, drafted proposals or strategies in order to strengthen them. The learner gives a short presentation and then turns his/her back to the peers to listen attentively to their feedback without reacting to it. Listening in silence without eye-contact increases the attention of the listener and depersonalizes negative feedback.
Inviting peers early enough to a ritual dissent process helps to ensure that knowledge and experience of others is integrated in the elaboration of a new concept, strategy or proposal. This may mitigate the risk of a «rude awakening» later in the process, i.e. when the idea, proposal or strategy is presented for the first time outside the core group.
Presentations not longer than 3 min
3-12 in one group, can be several groups rotating
With Ritual dissent a significant improvement of ideas and proposals can be achieved. Further, not only the spokesperson learns, but the group dissenting learns also from different presentations and respective comments.
Comprehensive Text about Ritual Dissent
Explore also the website of
Social Reporting is a method to report collectively and live from events like conferences, workshops or face-to-face meetings. It involves the use of social media (Blog, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, WebConferencing) which allows participants, or a dedicated group to share workshop insights in real time. The generated content which include texts, photos, videos, power point presentations, etc. represent then the workshop report. Social Reporting can take different forms and different levels of participation.
There are two forms of Social Reporting:
1. Social light: Social Reporting by resource persons
An assigned resource person or small reporting team is responsible for the report. The reporters posts daily workshop results on a social media channel (ex. blog). Participants are invited to contribute to the report as interviewees and commentators. But they don't post comments, videos, or tweets on their own.
2. Social full: Social Reporting by participants
A reporting team leads workshop participants in the process of co-creating a report. While active in the workshop, the participants are writing blog entries, capturing video-statements of fellow participants, uploading self-made photos and videos to the workshop blog.
Social Reporting can be used during a face-to-face meeting or a longer workshop. It is helpful if you want to create a space for network members to create trust and a common identity online. It foster the exchange of knowledge and supports communication processes where all participants are invited to report.
Possible from1 day - several days
1-3 main reporters, depending on size of the event
Camera and recording material, blog, good internet connection
First, decide on the type of the reporting. Do you want a Social Light or Social Full Report?
Prior to the workshop
During the workshop
After the workshop
Social Reporting supports communication processes where all participants are invited to report. The visualization of the workshop through photos and videos strengthens the group's identity and cohesion. The process allows participants to communicate with all the senses. A blog is like a container for all workshop material and key moments, be it a power point presentation, a snapshot, or a video. It allows also sharing tacit knowledge. Furthermore, social reporting helps you to communicate in real time and allows people not being able to attend the workshop to follow the discussion.
Why use social reporting: a short summary
What is social reporting? A short explanation and links to common tools for social reporting are blogs and video reports.
Examples of social reporting blogs:
This is an Icebreaker that is useful for many differently sized groups. People get a first chance to talk, to connect, to discover diversity and more. Everybody is involved and is in constant movement. It works for groups between 15 - 500 persons (not everyone needs to talk) and usually takes around 30 – 45 minutes.
A sociometric exercise is used at the beginning of an event so that people can get to know each other.
Possible from30 mins - 1h
Lager groupsmin. 10 people
paper to write down the questions
Prepare 3 - 4 sets of 4 signs. Each set contains 4 possible answers to a question. Examples for the question signs:
Set 1: What do you expect from this workshop?
Answer 1a: I want to learn new things about xyz
Answer 1b: I want to share my own experience on xyz
Answer 1c: I want to meet like-minded people who work on similar issues Answer 1d: I want to have an interesting week away from my work place
Set 2: How do you feel at the moment?
Answer 2a: I am criticalAnswer 2b: I am skepticalAnswer 2c: I am curiousAnswer 2d: I am expectant.....cautious, neutral, excited, fascinated
Set 3: What do you know about the topic of the workshop?
Answer 3a: Nothing, that is why I came here to learn more aboutAnswer 3b: I have already read some papersAnswer 3c: The topic is or has been part of my workAnswer 3d: I am an expert
There are countless possibilities that can be adapted to the situation and the task.
Now put 4 persons in the 4 corners of the room with the first set of answers, ask the question and ask persons to position themselves next to the answer that most applies to them (they can also stand somewhere in between). Then move from group to group and pick 2 - 3 persons per group who quickly introduce themselves and then explain why they have chosen this answer. Repeat this with 3 - 4 rounds of questions and each time ask other persons to talk "on behalf" of the group they stand with.
There are other possibilities, for example once 6 pictures of different ships were used, from a race sailing boat to a container ship, from a tug to a fishing boat – and persons were asked to stand next to the picture that best represented their organisation.
Using cars or animals also works well. In some situations, it makes sense to allow people to choose either to associate with a car or an animal since some people may find it difficult to associate with one type of object – much like the way there are dog people and cat people.
Other forms of sociometric exercises are lining up according to age, experience etc., or finding someone else in the room who had the same breakfast, feels the same way etc.
Sociometric exercises help people get to know each other. They also make expectations and feelings people have of and about the coming event visible. They are active, informal and adaptable.
Examples for sociometric questions:
Get to Know You Sociometric Questions, Energizer & Icebreaker Activities
TedX Talk Mike Sheehan - Sociometry: Revealing Hidden Structures in Group Behaviour
People have a limited amount of time to talk in pairs about a given question. When time is up, they switch partners. This enables participants to talk personally with a large number of people and hear many different perspectives in a short amount of time.
Speed Dating works well for large groups with up to 60 participants. It is used to exchange experiences and opinions which would not all be heard otherwise. It is a good way to bring a dynamic element into a workshop or an event. Speed dating is recommended in the beginning or in the middle of an event.
Have participants sit in two rows of chairs that face each other. Define how much time they have to talk to the person sitting across from them. No more than 3 – 5 minutes are advisable. Announce what question they are meant to discuss. When time is up, everyone moves to the left. Announce the next question and so on.
You may want to have a general topic for Speed Dating and then have pairs discuss a different question that relates to the general topic every time they switch partners. Or you may have them discuss the same question over and over again, with different partners. Another option is for people to take notes on note cards while they talk. The note cards may be displayed after Speed Dating. Results may be discussed with the entire group.
Speed Dating helps people exchange experiences and supports the learning process in a team. Plus it is fun.
Using Speed Dating Techniques to Enliven and Improve Conferences and Workshops
SWOT is a tool used to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that projects or other situations might involve. It incorporates past experiences with strengths and weaknesses, as well as an assessment of the future with opportunities and threats. Strengths and opportunities show us what is positive and possible, while weaknesses and threats show us what is negative and difficult. The idea is that individuals have a chance to reflect upon themselves while also thinking about the project at hand. It helps people find a common language and plan well.
This method is universal and flexible. It works well in team meetings or whenever a brief analysis of a situation is necessary.
1h - 2h
on your own to
medium sized groups
paper, writing material
SWOT is an effective and efficient method of evaluation. It is structured and helps people find a common language. It includes personal experiences as well as thoughts about the common project.
Comprehensive Text about SWOT
example of SWOT analysis in the assessment of the gender dimension of development programmes
free SWOT analysis worksheet
Examples of SWOT analysis, case studies of the private sector (Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Nike)
In a café ambiance participants discuss in small groups real life issues and questions evolving around one topic. After a certain amount of time all participants change the table. Only the table host remains and gives a summary of the previous conversation to his new table guests. In the end, all gathered ideas are presented in a plenary session.
Are you dealing with a larger group? You want to explore key challenges or opportunities? You do not have a specific answer or determined solution to a problem yet? Use the potential of exchange to share knowledge, stimulate innovative thinking and explore action possibilities dealing with real life issues and questions.
Possible from1h - 3h
Tables, chairs, largepaper, writing material
World Café means first to create a hospital space. Then, small groups seated around café tables discuss a theme that matters in two to three rounds.
Following the procedure of a World Café:
For the detailed procedure read the documentation below .
A World Café is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue. It breaks down the large group into small effective units and allows collecting a lot of input in short time.
Comprehensive Text about World Café
Find more information about World Café on
worldcafe.com and on the online
World Cafe Community.