Designing on the Fly
Recently, I helped out with a conference in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania hosted by the Global Network of Religions for Children, an organization that promotes interfaith dialogue and cooperation to address issues like violence against children, appreciating our differences and similarities, and poverty. It was a large gathering of over 400 delegates from 64 countries with participants who spoke English, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese and/or Swahili.
On Day Two of the Forum, the groups divided into regional sesssions that were facilitated by their coordinators. As the program manager, I dropped by each group to see how it was going. When I came to the GNRC Africa meeting, a colleague ran up to me to ask for help.
She was filling in for the meeting organizer to host a session with 150 delegates from Eastern and Southern Africa. But all she had to work with was a simple outline that included 30 minutes to discuss the following agenda items:
7. Review of Challenges
8. Review of Successes
There were no furher guidelines on how 150 people should engage in this conversation.
"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do during these sessions," she said. "Can you think of something?"
She then ran back to introduce the next speaker. I had to act quickly. The participants were sitting in rows facing a screen and we had only one microphone. Moving the chairs into smaller groups was out of the question as there was no time nor space.
So I grabbed a piece of paper, designed two quick pairs tasks, and reviewed them with my friend while the speaker finished. I hadn't even finished typing them up when she called me up to the front to facilitate! But I quickly created two slides to show on the screen as follows:
Task 1: Review of Challenges
- Turn to your neighbour and name one challenge that your organization / community faces in addressing poverty.
- After 10 minutes, we will hear a few examples of your in the large group.
Task 2: Review of Successes
- With you same neighbour, share a short story of a success that you have had in addressing poverty in your community or with your organization.
- Describe why you were successful in 3-5 key words.
- We will hear some examples of your reasons together after 15 minutes.
1. Both tasks included dicussion in pairs to provide them have a chance to share ideas. Asking them to talk in pairs created Safety for the participants who did not speak English very well.
2. We only promised to hear some examples (i.e. a "sample") of their responses in the large group rather than creating an expectation that we would hear from everyone.
3. How the 2nd task asks them to share their story only with their partner. We then asked them to analyze why it was successful and distill this reason into 3-5 words that they would share with the entire group. This avoided the problem of people trying to share their entire story with the whole group when we did the debriefing.
Although not perfect, this "design-on-the-fly" did help to set them up for the next step in the meeting, which was to name some personal commitments that they and their organization would undertake to fulfill the mandate of the Forum.
Have you ever had to "design on the fly"? Share your experience below: