Tag Archives: facilitation

Facilitation for smooth group work

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Facilitating our process

The Process-team both ensured a good flow of the meetings, using a number of techniques, and enabled newcomers to facilitation to learn, practice and improve their skills.

Some of the facilitation techniques we used are listed here:

Circle Work

The first session of each EPT meeting started in circle, this allowed us to reconnect with each other and to focus our attention on the topics set for discussion. The purpose of working in circle is to create a level playing field, one in which every person is equal to all others.

Open Space Technology

Using the Open Space approach participants create an agenda together around a question or topic. Participants put suggestions for conversations or workshops forward and a market place of options is created of topics to be discussed. Although a number of conversations take place at the same time participants are free to employ the “law of two feet” any time, which states that someone is not bound to any one session for its entirety. One may choose to leave and move to a different group to contribute as desired. Each session is written up and contributes to the overall documentation harvested.

World Café

A World Café consists of a number of rounds of questions. Participants are seated around tables with paper to write, doodle or draw on as they discuss the questions that has been posed on this table. Each round lasts for approximately 20 minutes and after the round participants move to different tables, with the exception of the table host, who leads the discussion and remains at the table for all rounds. The World Café methodology is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue.

Our Working Structure: Based on the VSM

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Why we use the Viable Systems Model

Initially at the kick off meeting of the EPT in Germany (August 2012) the group found great difficulty in deciding how it would work and move forward with delivering the stated outcomes of the Learning Partnership. Davie Philip from Cultivate Ireland suggested using the Viable Systems Model (VSM), as a way to structure the work of the partnership.

The study of ecosystems and the way muscles, organs and the nervous system of the human organism interact, were the inspiration for the Viable Systems Model, which was originally developed by the English management cyberneticist, Stafford Beer. The VSM is used as a tool for diagnosing problems in social organisations, and to help to improve their functioning.

As both the Irish and UK partners had been using VSM in their own organisations and were familiar with the model, and as the other partners were interested in learning and applying a new approach to structure an organisation, we decided to host a workshop exploring how we as a Partnership could adopt this model to structure our work.

How we implemented the VSM

In the workshop the first step was to ask: “What are the operations that do the things that justify the existence of the Partnership?” The partners identified its “Primary Activities” or what we need to DO from the project application to Europe and set up working groups to focus on these outcomes. People then gathered in the areas that they wanted to work in and discussed the work that would need to be done in each activity, including identifying their “5 top tasks”.

Continue reading Our Working Structure: Based on the VSM

Other Games

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nature1Secret friend (also known as Angel)
Every participant takes a piece of paper on which the name of his/her secret friend is written. You keep this in secret as your secret friend does. You can use the time of the course to make nice things for this person like prepare a hand-made present, write something nice and hide it under the pillow, and so on.

Variation: Every person could write his/her name on a postcard slip and attach it to a wall. Throughout the whole period of the course you could receive surprises from the other participants in it or you can do the same for others.

Spider’s web
Create a spider’s web between two trees or posts using a rope. All the people need to pass to the other side without touching the rope with their bodies. After one hole is used it cannot be entered again. The game ends when everybody is on the other side.


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touring-the-gardensTreasure hunt

Aims: To help participants know the area

Conduct a treasure hunt around the town/farm/village/center where the course is held. Hide various objects in important locations such as the closest shop, post office, bank, pharmacy, toilets, showers, swimming pool…  use a map of the area to plan this.

There are lots of different ways of doing this, here is one example:

Raw vegan candies race:

In this type of treasure hunt the task is to make raw vegan candies.

  1. A bowl and a box of dates is handed out and the people take out their stones on the way to the next location
  2. A package of nuts is handed out and the participants are asked to chop and mix them with the dates while they walk to the next location
  3. A plate and a package of coconut flakes is handed out in the third location and the people are asked to start forming small balls from the sweet-nutty dough and roll them in the flakes
  4. A fresh juice is given to the hunters

Once everybody is home again they could start gifting candies and juice to one other.

Introduction Rounds and Getting to Know One Another

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Aims: Getting to know each other and creating a “gallery of heads” together (for decorating the rooms)

Numbers: 10-30 participants in pairs

Materials: Sheets of paper, cardboard, pencils, scissors, lamps (or candles)

After a short introduction, silhouettes are made in pairs; the outline of the head of each person is copied and then cut out. Possibilities for continuation:

Games: Ice-Breakers

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stretchAims: getting to know each other from the first day and remember the names of everybody

Numbers: Any
Length: 10-30 minutes depending on group size/s

Alphabetical name game

Place two parallel strips of tape on the floor, one foot apart (or use a nature pattern like the wave). The participants are then asked to stand between the two strips without leaving any space between them. Then they are told to stand in alphabetical order. People are asked to try and stay between the strips; therefore they have to help each other. At the end of the game they are standing in alphabetical order, e.g. first those whose names begins with an “A”, then with “B”, and etc. You can also do it according to other differences or similarities – age, size of foot, height, gender, country or whatever you might want to determine, but the first day it’s always the best to start with names.
Variation: Introduce a silence rule (no talking) or replace the strips of tape with a row of chairs. Get creative.

Catch the Ball

Simple name game where you need to remember the name of the other participant by saying it when you throw him/her the ball or vice versa (say your name when you are throwing the ball). Everybody stay in a circle. It can get more complicated when you start repeating the same pattern – people throwing the ball in the same sequence, but speeding it up, then you introduce a second and a third ball that follow the first one. At some point people can change the direction or you can add  a fourth ball cycling around from right to left and a fifth – from left to right.

Continue reading Games: Ice-Breakers