WHY and HOW TO ORGANISE A PARTICIPATORY WORKSHOP …
You may feel like organising a workshop …. In the hope that such an event will finally solve ‘the situation’ … You feel that ‘the situation’ has developed so badly over time that something must happen for a break through to improve it!
Or maybe you are convinced that the many stakeholders need to be involved before you can proceed…. Or you just want the check a reality with others who may know better … before you write a proposal.
You may need help in organising such a workshop … because many people tend to have become allergic of badly organised workshops … So, better do a good job or don’t do it at all!
Please indicate your current level of understanding of this topic.Below you find a checklist that can help you in deciding on whether you really need to organise a workshop or not. And if you decide to go for it, it should be well organised resulting in a commonly agreed approach to address the situation. All participants must be confident and happy at the end!
Below you find a checklist that can help you in deciding on whether you really need to organise a workshop or not. And if you decide to go for it, it should be well organised resulting in a commonly agreed approach to address the situation. All participants must be confident and happy at the end!
1. The situation (or content)
Different stakeholders are involved and perceive a situation differently, in such a way that little progress is made and tensions build up.
Depending on the urgency, the seriousness, the pain caused by the situation and the prevailing power game on the one hand and the importance of stakeholders to collaborate for reaching the expected benefits on the other hand, you should estimate whether it will be worth the effort and the investment to bring the relevant, motivated and willing stakeholders together in a workshop for some days.
Once the boss who participated in a workshop said at the end:
“Gosh, we should have done this six years earlier …. What a waste”
2. The process (group dynamics)
The problem with stakeholders seeing things differently is often caused by a difference in experience and perception. This might change however when one understands each other’s experience and perception. So, the key for better understanding is LISTENING. Making each other express and listen to facts, to descriptions of real existing situations and not so much to expectations.
In seriously damaged relationships sharing ones emotional truth can heal and build friendships and create commitment for change.
Even in less emotional discussions understandably a professional facilitator or moderator is required to properly guide this sharing and listening. Writing on cards is one of the tools used and ‘anonymity’ in treating the issues raised is the magic that facilitates sharing and have everybody participate. All participants should feel safe and free to express ones self. And at the end the participants are happy about their ‘ownership’ of the decisions taken.
3. The structure (procedure)
It helps the thinking process of the participants when a certain well-selected procedure is followed in the workshop. The procedure helps to focus on selecting a specific issue before the issue will be further examined. Actually, most procedures will first emphasize on the analysis of the situation before moving towards objectives, solutions and assumptions, the plan. In many situations the Logical Framework Analysis procedure can be followed:
– The topic (purpose)?
– For Who?
– What? and What not?
– By Whom?
4. The workshop setting
The selection of the venue can of course influence the success of the workshop. Taking people out of their work environment makes them reflect better than when they attend the workshop in their office environment with all distractions.
The venue should have sufficient space to arrange the participants in half a circle in front of a large wall on which the facilitator visualises the products (cards) developed by the participants. A guide on the logistical requirements is available on request.
5. The preparation of the participants
It helps when participants are clear and agree about the purpose of the workshop. And when participants have been disappointed by previous workshop experiences more effort needs to be made to motivate the participants to attend this particular workshop.
Representatives of those stakeholders need to be invited who have information about the actual situation and feel the pain and those who have the mandate to act and make decisions. As perceptions may differ a rule on gender balance and inclusiveness may be applied in the selection of participants.
It is important for the participants to realise that this event is not a usual meeting of a few hours, but may require even a few days. Moreover, one must commit to participate the full workshop.
6. The Moderator or Facilitator
In order to act neutral and independent, best would be when the moderator does not have specialised knowledge on the topic under discussion. He or she should be an expert on workshop facilitation and the participants should have the ownership on the substance or content. Only a professional moderator will be able to ‘play that role’ properly.
The Facilitator or Moderator can help in advising on:
– setting the purpose and the possible results of the workshop,
– motivating your boss and other stakeholders to organise a workshop (cost-benefit),
– the selection of the venue and room lay-out and catering requirements,
– who to invite (e.g. gender balance ..),
– the programme (the design of the workshop procedure is done by the Moderator in function of the results to be delivered),
– the expected duration … (depends on the purpose and results, the complexity of the issues, differences of opinion, number of participants, steps of the procedure, required depth and thoroughness of the discussions, effective hours made available, etc., etc.),
– and finally drafting the invitations (making clear it is NOT a training!),
– and making agreements (with participants) on who and how to write “the plan” … (the Facilitator does only write a brief report on the workshop)
– During the workshop the Facilitator or Moderator will be in charge of the workshop process and procedures in function of the results to be delivered under the prevailing circumstances. However, please realise that any workshop plan is outdated once it has been produced! The procedure will usually have to be adjusted during the course of the workshop in order to achieve the required products and results.
‘Snags’ that kill participation and creativity and make people allergic for workshops, are: when …
- Workshop are used as ‘democratic’ instrument to push a hidden agenda …
- The term ‘workshop’ is miss-used for a training …
- The boss ‘facilitates’ the workshop …
- Only ‘supportive’ participants are invited from one party or stakeholder …
- Too short time set for the workshop that limit real brainstorming, participation and discussions …
- Facilitator is not neutral and has an opinion on the content and gives the impression to influence the direction of the decisions …
- ‘Presentations by individuals’ are up front and aim to influence the workshop outcomes …
- Decisions taken in the workshop are ignored after the workshop …
Do leave your name and email and tick ‘Workshop Organiser’ in the box on the right.