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facilitation tools & methods

Ideas to Impact uses a range of methods and techniques. Some of these are described below.

open space technology

Open Space was developed by Harrison Owen, who noted that what people often said they liked best about conferences was the coffee breaks! He developed Open Space to structure meetings in a way that replicated the coffee breaks. Although a theme is set for an Open Space session participants set the agenda themselves by offering to run workshop sessions on areas they are interested in. For example a theme could be: "how can we increase volunteering across our area?" Participants might suggest topics such as developing a volunteering app, understanding volunteers’ motivation, improving CEO’s understanding of volunteering, or giving all volunteers free tickets for events. Each workshop leader then goes off and runs the workshop, and people come together again at various points for feedback and for new sessions to start as appropriate.  People choose themselves which workshop they attend.

Ideas to Impact has run various Open Space events for groups of 20 through to over 100 participants.  We also take a lot of the principles of Open Space into our other facilitation practice, for example giving participants as much control over the agenda as possible, allowing people to choose their workshops themselves so they are discussing what they are most passionate and/or knowledgeable about, and giving people the space and the responsibility to come up with their own solutions.


world café

World Café is a way of sharing and harnessing the knowledge and ideas that people have to create new and innovative ideas to which everyone is able to contribute and build relationships. Small groups of people sit around tables holding a conversation about a topic that has been set. Tables are set up to resemble a café, with paper “tablecloths” that participants can make notes on about the topic. After the initial round of conversations, generally 20 or 30 minutes, one person stays on each table to describe the ideas and insights that have arisen from the first group, and other participants move to other tables into a new small group, formed from people from other tables. The conversations then continue in that group, and ideas start to be linked across the room.  This may be repeated for another round before the whole group harvests the discussions that have been held.


appreciative enquiry

This is a mechanism that we often use, at least in part, at the beginning of a session to get people in a positive and creative state of mind. Appreciative Enquiry is a way of identifying and building on people’s positive and best experiences in order to solve problems and to build future solutions. This includes people telling stories of their best and positive experiences, whilst their partners ask questions to draw them out.  Following this, these positive experiences can be used think about how their organisation, group, team or situation could be at its best, before moving onto designing and implementing solutions.


ICA focused conversations and consensus workshops

Focused Conversation is a mechanism to structure conversations to get the best out of them mirroring people’s thinking processes, as such it can be used with many other methods. Consensus Workshop is a five step process for enabling everyone in the group to identify and agree common ground around a topic and to pull out the most important themes.  It starts with everyone individually considering answers to a question before combining these with other participants and identifying priorities to share with the group. Once these priorities have been shared they are grouped into clusters of similar items, and the clusters named, with the names of these clusters giving the answer to the question. The whole group then reflects on the outcomes.


ice breakers, energisers,
team building exercises

We have a range of these that we can use to get participants talking and feeling involved, and
re-invigorated when energy is low or the discussion gets “stuck”.


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