Techniques to help you run successful groups
There are so many different ways of making groups work. Here are
some tried and tested ways. Some take a lot of organising and time, others can work as
parts of wider conferences, workshops or public meetings. This site also has some case
studies where people have used these and other techniques to deliver some good community
To be used with a variety of interest groups for devising
coordinated action for systemic change. Recommended to last three days, the team looks in
detail at the past, future ideas and lastly the present.
A typical example of a search conference allocates the first morning
to looking at the past: events which had great impact. A brief summing up period would
take place prior to lunch. Afternoon discussions would be based on visions of the future.
Day two would review day one and progress to group work on factors which would effect
their future aims. They would consider courses of action and priorities. Finally they
would take a look at the present and what was actually going to happen next.
Post It & Cluster Exercise
For this exercise each participant should have a post-it pad and
pen. They should individually brainstorm an issue and write all the issues onto a post-it
notes; each post-it having one element written on it. For example with "stakeholders
in joint commissioning" elements would include elected members, care managers,
existing users of services, etc.
The first person will then place his post-it on a board. Then the
next person will look at his post-it and think whether it has any relevance to the post-it
already on the board. If he thinks so, he will place the post-it beneath the one already
on the board, and if not he will place it directly beside it. This is continued with the
other participants until there are about 15-20 post-its on the board. Then discussion can
take place about the choices of the participants, which will lead to naming of the columns
and further discussion as to the links between various issues. Some post-its may need to
be in more than one column, they can be written out again, and some may be decided as
relevant to the new headings.
This method is particularly useful when bringing together people
from different sections of agencies and to realise common issues and different
perspectives. It can also bring new clarity to a complex issue where it is easy to
flounder in the details.
Seating Options for Groups
Where people sit is really important to the way a group functions.
Optimum group sizes are between 7 and 10. If you have a large number of people in a group,
breaking up into smaller groups is very helpful, particularly if they are meeting for any
length of time. Using smaller rooms or part of a big room is one option. A very good way
of moving between large groups and small groups without a lot of disruption is to set up
round tables in a large room 'cabaret style'. This means people get to know one another
over the course of the day, can keep their resources together and build on group sessions
whilst at the same time being able to listen to speakers.
Giving feedback from small groups needs managing carefully. Ensure
that people know they are feeding back at the beginning of the group session. By giving
people clear guidelines about how to present the material and a time scale for doing it,
feedback can be concise and useful. Keeping people to writing on one piece of butcher's
paper or on one acetate which can go on an overhead projector, really helps. If you have
time you can even have pre-printed acetates with boxes in which people can write their
Every Picture Tells a Story
With a minimum of fifty photos, this method is used to allow
participants to try and express themselves in a new way and therefore open up new
discussion. The photos should be very mixed, they should be non-stereotypical and
Ask people to choose two or three photos which they identify with
the topic under discussion, then ask them to explain their choice.
Cabonne's Vision 2000 case-study has a good example of using this
type of technique.
To develop both individuals and teams, usually led by a facilitator.
Ask each person to introduce him or herself.
Select someone to write down the key points.
Clarify the aim of the discussion and ask what the participants want from it and what they
want to talk about.
Explain any ground rules.
Initiate discussion with an open question.
Record the discussion on the butcher's paper.
Warn people 2 minutes from the end and draw the discussion to a close.
Points for the facilitator to bear in mind are - what sort of group
is it? Do they have the same level of knowledge? Will they meet again? What activity came
before/will come after?
Five main process interventions
- Summarising and reviewing implications
- Challenging or confronting
- Building consensus
- Seeking agreement
Using pictures or modelling
Although this sounds intimidating to many people (we are, after all,
not used to being asked to let loose our creative side in normal adult interaction) asking
people to draw or model as a group activity can be very effective and is used increasingly
in planning and organisational development. You could ask people to draw their community
or the problems the community faces. You may give people modelling clay or materials and
ask them to model the way key organisations or businesses are working together. It is
often helpful to do before and after models or pictures.
Not only does such an activity break down barriers between people,
it encourages use of a different part of the brain and allows people to see problems and
opportunities from a new perspective.
Aim - to promote clearer communication. A player has a card with one
word of jargon on it. He or she has to try and explain the word to the rest of the group
without saying the word.
This is a useful ice-breaker when working with mixed groups.
This exercise takes the form of an organised visit to an
organisation. Players converge on offices of an organisation and have access to the in and
out trays, the files and the people working there. Players gather after to discuss what
they have seen and heard. Tha aim is to learn from the way the other organisation works.
What is familiar/different?
What constraints/incentives are they working under?
What is done well/ needs improving?
What can we learn?
- No idea is criticised no matter how outrageous
- No discussion takes place
- The wilder and more creative the better
- Quantity is better than quality at this stage
To generate ideas either freewheel (shout out as you get ideas) or
round robin, by going round the table.
After generating as many ideas as possible the next stage is to
filter them by eg:
- Customer impact