Working with large groups can involve different challenges to more intimate workshops. Sometimes these large group work is broken up into different sections to make it more manageable. Events organised in this way can be called BarCamps, Unconferences or Open Spaces.
This is a lovely co-operative game that always brings a group together and lights up people's faces! Ask everyone to gather around you in a tight semi-circle, several people deep. Divide the semi-circle into three groups. Explain that you're all going to create a rainstorm by making four simple sounds in a round. The sounds are as follows... People playing the rain game
Start off group one on making drizzle. Once that's under way turn and signal to group two to start with drizzle, then group three. Turn back to group 1 and get them to start light rain whilst the other maintain their drizzle, then turn to group two and do the same, then group three. Keep the round alive until all segments are making hail. Then work backwards so that group one stop hailing and make heavy rain, then two, then three, until you work back through light rain to drizzle and then silence!
(NB: if any participant doesn't have two feet, it might be more sensitive to rename it as the Law of Personal Responsibility). “Don't find yourself stuck in a conversation that's neither dynamic, creative nor useful for you. Open Space gives us full permission to use our feet and move whenever and wherever we want. Remember it's a self- organised space.”
Handsignals are a simple technique that can make larger workshops and meetings run more smoothly and help the facilitator see emerging agreements and common ground. Three simple signals usually suffice:
Raise a forefinger when you wish to contribute to the discussion with a general point.
Raise both forefingers if your point is a direct response to a point that's just been made or a question that's just been asked. This allows you to jump to the head of the queue, in front of all those people raising just one finger. Use wisely and discourage overuse!
Silent applause - when you hear an opinion that you agree with, wave a hand with your fingers pointing upwards (this saves a lot of time as people don't need to chip in to say “I'd just like to add that I agree with...”). You can signal disagreement with a downward wave of the fingers.
Sometimes with big, diverse or difficult groups more hand signals can be useful. Take a look at the Seeds for change briefing Hand Signals for different examples of usage and clear explanations of what they can do.
There are also 2 roles that are particularly noticeable in large groups.
Bumblebees move from one conversation to the next, cross-pollinating between them. There's no need to stick with one conversation for the full time – remember the Law of 2 Feet and move whenever that works for you.
Butterflies appear to be sunning themselves, often hanging around by the refreshments. They may decide never to attend a formal conversation throughout the whole Open Space. And that's fine. Open Space came about as people recognised the value of the informal interactions they had at conferences, over meals and coffee breaks, in corridors, and the butterflies keep that possibility alive in Open Space.”
The Law of 2 Feet and Bumblebees / Butterflies resources are from http://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/resources/
The following are an example of guidelines provided to session facilitators. They are offered as input for facilitators as they consider to guide their sessions; facilitators will obviously have the final say in how the sessions transpire.
A primary goal of Aspiration events is to let the participants drive the dialog. The concern is less with information transfer and more focused instead on maximizing social interaction; when friendships are established, that drives knowledge sharing long after the event.
Facilitators are invited to envision themselves as catalysts in this process, and to consider the following suggestions for structuring their sessions:
Pick which activities or methods above you will employ should your group become too big to handle. Considering your workshop topic and potential participants, how well do you think this will work? Why?
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