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Simple Group Workshops

"how to help your community create its vision - step by step guide to workshop"

As part of a wider meeting about your community you may like to split people into smaller groups and invite them to think about their vision. By giving people some structured activity and allowing them to work with a smaller number of people you can encourage quieter people to speak and some imaginative ideas to flow.

Set the room up in such a way as to allow people to be able see each other and move around easily (consider if people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility problems are going to be attending the meeting and as well as having accessible premises, ensure they can get around the room.)

Make sure groups know what is being expected of them before they start. The chairperson or facilitator of the meeting should use their introduction to enthuse people about the task.

Groups of between 7 and 10 work best. Try to have one facilitator per group to ensure that people introduce themselves. If the facilitator can introduce himself or herself first they will set the tone for the rest of the introductions. If you want more than just names, then ask the facilitators to describe where they come from and why they came tonight. That way, other people will feel more confident to do the same.

Ask someone in the group to agree to write up the key points. Agree beforehand how you want the discussion written up. It helps if people know they only have five minutes to present 4 points at the end. No one appreciates someone giving a blow-by-blow account of his or her particular group for 25 minutes at the end of this sort of session! It is the facilitator's task to ensure that everyone is saved such embarrassment.

Encourage the group to brainstorm a range of actions/projects/initiatives which would contribute to achievement of your vision for your community, and create new opportunities for local people. Remember that brainstorming is a technique, which allows people to be completely creative, and at the time that it is taking place, ideas are accepted as they are presented and not analysed or discussed.

Then take your brainstormed list and discuss the possibilities, finally choosing up to 4 projects which would create the most positive change in the community. For each selection project/initiative write a short description including:

  • a title
  • one or two sentence description
  • list of key elements

Put each project/initiative on a separate piece of butcher's paper or overhead projector acetate. Make sure each project is discrete, practical and achievable.

Share the group's ideas with the wider audience.

At this point it may help to have a skilled and confident facilitator to listen to the ideas which are presented, and to note them down in such a way as to allow everyone to see.

Once you have pulled all the ideas together and had a general discussion, you may like to get the original groups back together so they can refine the accepted ideas, or as a second step in the process to agree what ideas should be taken forward.

This way people have real ownership of the ideas and will be more enthusiastic about coming back to further meetings or doing more work on projects when they are finalised.

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