Re-energising activists

A week ago, I spent the day in the company of NGO Capacity Building Forum folk, facilitatingWordle: Capacity Building a day of Open Space and skill sharing. The theme for the day was Re-energising and Re-motivating Activists, and it drew a crowd from 14 or so NGOs that work with grassroots networks of activists – individuals or groups. There was certainly a lot of energy and motivation in the room. As always with the Forum, ideas, problems, experience and solutions were shared freely and everyone went away with new contacts and new ideas to try out.

The format was simple – a morning with a couple of hour-long Open Space conversations, followed by a sharing of insights, issues and themes which the group then ranked to give us 2 top priorities to work on in the afternoon. Over lunch I worked with 3 others from the group to develop these 2 ideas into 90 minute skill sharing sessions to explore those themes, which we then delivered in 2 co-facilitation pairs. 

The idea that emerged top of the pile was how campaigning organisations could work together more effectively. The next choice was around activists working effectively as part of their local communities – in other words being active in a community rather than being a slightly separate community of activists. Both were delivered using a mix of tools, but we set out to make them as experiential as possible after a morning of talk, with one session drawing on forum theatre whilst the other used a fishbowl roleplay.

I’d asked one of my co-facilitators to run the evaluation in advance and the technique used was one I hadn’t come across before. He drew a large hand, fingers outspread, on a piece of flipchart paper and asked everyone to write upto 1 comment per finger on post-it notes. Each finger represents a different view of the event and it’s outcomes:

  • thumb – thumbs up, so something that was positive or ‘cool’
  • index finger – used for pointing, so something you’d like to point out – could be positive, negative or neither
  • middle finger – improvements, things that worked less well for you
  • ring finger – think engagement rings, so something that you’re now committed to doing
  • little finger – what you’re hooked on – an idea that grabbed your attention and got you interested

The evaluation was very affirming all told. Here’s a sample of responses:

  • thumb – the Open Space and the opportunity to meet and network
  • index finger – “Role plays hard but makes you think issues from different angle”, “Best open space I’ve done”, “Should replicate [the event] for activists”, “Need more action planning”
  • middle finger – more skills sessions, some complaints about the room we were using (it was hard to keep it well-ventilated), and requests for a more specific topic, were amongst the suggested improvements
  • ring finger – “Open Space”, “shaking up existing groups”, “learning more facilitation techniques”, “encourage activists linking up”
  • little finger – lots of excitement about storytelling (the topic of one of the morning’s conversations), and connecting activists in diverse communities and in more personal relationships

A small working group went away tasked to make th next event happen later this year. As always, if you want to hear about NGO Capacity Building Forum events, drop us a line and we’ll ensure you get on the email list

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One thought on “Re-energising activists

  1. Pingback: Open Space: the Technology, approach, free resources and critiques | rhizome

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