PALS grant business planning workshop for Santhali women in West Bengal, India.
Watch Nelson. He starts very uncomfortable here. Six months later he was smart, had stopped drinking and his two wives were working together.
‘We Are the Champions’ twist dance song, coffee farmers, Kenya.
Peer Sharing role play, Uganda.

Changing Life, Changing Rhythm

Changing one’s life is like learning to dance. First you need to feel the basic underlying rhythm – the principles of respect, inclusion, equality and empowerment for all and belief in the possibility of change and need for discipline and self-reliance to achieve in life. Next you need to regularly practise particular routines learned from others who have been dancing for some time to really experience the benefits and changes so that the rhythm becomes automatic. Then you can really be creative with your own dance – fit, energetic and responsive to the dances of others.

Everyone can do this. But some people, including many teachers, mistake the practice routines for both the rhythm and the dance. They become over-concerned with ‘correctness’ and cannot judge which steps are necessary to maintain the rhythm and take the wrong short cuts to keep time. They get easily confused and their own dance becomes stiff and uninspired.  Yet other people think they are already ‘naturals’ and do not need to practice any steps or discipline and try to go straight to free-style. Those people can get tripped up and often bump into others and the whole dance becomes chaos.

The skill is to know when you have understood the rhythm enough to guide your detailed practice with confidence and when you need to go back to listen more carefully to the rhythm again. To realise that learning the dance is a lifelong process getting ever stronger through integrating inspiration from the rhythm, disciplined practice and creativity of your own dance. And to really watch, share inspiration and dance in harmony with others.

The overarching aim of GAMEChange empowerment methodologies is to inspire a dynamic and sustainable change movement that reaches thousands, if not millions of women and men. The main GAMEChange sharing and capacity-building takes place within participants’ social networks, within households, communities and local groups.

By the end of the first Catalyst Workshop participants need to be inspired to continue their own progress towards their visions through ‘living diagrams’. Participants progressively develop confidence, leadership and listening skills to share what they have learned with others.

‘fun with a serious purpose’

GAMEChange facilitation uses fun processes so that concepts of equal rights and social justice for all are progressively internalised by participants as ‘natural rhythm change’ for their lives.

As workshop time is always short, these fun processes are specifically focused on learning the diagram tools and participatory skills, never just energisers.

‘Crystals from Chaos’

The aim of external facilitation is not to ‘train trainers’ but to give participants the confidence and skills to vision, analyse and plan for themselves, and to then inspire others, creating spaces for different voices to be heard and listened to.

This involves the lead facilitator/s to stand back once they have given brief interactive guidance on tools and activities. Experience indicates that when facilitators stop looking over their shoulder and ‘policing’, participants soon learn to ‘crystallise’ any initial moments of ‘chaos’. From this they will learn that they will need to continue to progress towards their visions and organise many things without external support.

This is a very active form of facilitation (sometimes called ‘facipulation’ facilitation + manipulation). It requires practice and experience to be able to assess when and how to have minimal but effective and pointed input. Successful GAMEChange facilitation is when the facilitator can leave the room, focus on photographing or video while participants facilitate themselves. But keeping an eye on the participatory processed, and reserving the main contribution to a short summary and issues for further consideration at the end of the plenary.

‘Fun with a Serious Purpose’

The key task of GAMEChange facilitation is to inspire and constantly reinforce an excitement and enthusiasm for change – the new rhythm. As an exciting process of self-empowerment and exploration, a process of breaking barriers that prevent men as well as women of different ages and from different backgrounds from achieving their full human potential.

This means participants having ‘fun outside the comfort zone’ – replacing top-down mechanical school-type teaching with being ‘creative (and subversive) with culture’. Questioning conventions and prejudices and breaking down barriers between people from different backgrounds. So that everyone can open up to new ideas and experiences.

Every session or meeting should include a range of different elements to make them lively and inspire further change and action learning.

Visual communication and drawing

(to be updated 2023)

Drawing is not just ‘pretty pictures for illiterates’, but a means of visual communication to clarify and communicate very complex concepts. Using drawings means that people who cannot read and write, as well as embattled CEOs of global companies and government officials, are able to put their experience and ideas on paper and communicate clearly to each other.

Visual communication skills are progressively refined through participatory games like ‘guessing charades’ integrated into the facilitation of the diagram tools.

Dance Songs

(to be updated 2023)

Songs and dance are used to subvert existing cultural stereotypes and reinforce and communicate the tools. Groups of participants work together as a participatory exercise to produce a series of songs, often with dance, and ‘song competitions’ are held to decide the best songs for each process. These songs and dances then become an integral part of group meetings and dissemination. The aim is not a polished karaoke-style individual performance to raise awareness, but to directly engage ALL participants in identifying and rehearsing changes. There are no professional actors or singers, no one leads and everyone participates. people will take back home and sing in the shower to reinforce change.

Transformatory drama

(to be updated 2023)

Participatory role plays and theatre are used to directly engage participants in identifying and rehearsing changes, and new ways in which women and men can relate to each other, and new ways of addressing inequality. Role plays are an important part of developing confidence to change, examining peer sharing strategies and ‘significant changes’ impact assessment looking at past, current and future scenarios. The aim of transformatory drama is not polished performance theatre by ‘good actors’, but EVERYONE BEING AN ACTOR, STRENGTHENING THEIR VOICE AND EXPLORING CHANGE.

‘Crystals from chaos’: workshop facilitation strategies

Building a change movement means participant ownership and confidence in their own visioning, analysis and action plans, understand the importance of ongoing reflection and tracking to improve progress and have the simple tool steps in their notebooks to share with others.

In GAMEChange the focus of workshops facilitated by community champions and/or external facilitators is to inspire and enable ALL participants to continue innovating with the tools to better achieve their visions, and able to facilitate similar activities for others when they get back home. Workshops are not like TOTs or school where participants sit and listen.

Crystals from chaos – the facilitator has to give voice, power and responsibility for learning to participants, but also know when to intervene and build on what emerges in order to reinforce the rhythm change and underlying principles. Facilitators at all levels – within the community as well as organisation staff and external consultants – need to develop listening and observation skills and experience in distinctive participatory facilitation techniques and processes adapted to specific mixes of participants.

The focus throughout is on ‘active learning’ and participatory leadership for participants. Balanced by ‘active listening and observation’ by the facilitators in order to decide how best to ‘spark and fertilise crystal growth’ through minimal but focused contributions.

The first Catalyst workshops need to be fun and inspiring so people will be ‘hooked’ to continue, not overwhelmed by complex ‘correct’ tool details. Different participants will start at different levels of experience, formal education and other skills. It is the task of the lead facilitator to help both those who start with least experience to work together and get as far as they can, and to also work with those who want to run fast and go into as much depth as possible. And ensure these two extremes can then come together with those in the middle as a supportive team when they get back home – face to face and/or on-line through eg mobile phone.

Subsequent skills strengthening workshops can then build on this base and diversity to progressively deepen visions, analysis and planning skills, together with participatory facilitation skills to further strengthen sharing within communities and also champion co-facilitation of programme replication to new areas.

GAMEChange Facilitation Techniques

(systematic FACILITATION GUIDE to be further updated 2023)

General Facilitation Principles

Facilitation from the back

The facilitator should sit at the back for 90% of the time. A seat should be put at the front with all pens and materials so that the facilitator does not need to hold the pen so that very quickly participants will be able to facilitate themselves Through encouraging participants to speak and asking a few pointed questions at the end, good facilitation manages to arrive at a point where most of the important issues come from participants themselves. Participants are then in turn able to facilitate similar activities without external support when they go back home.

This requires practice and experience – and often a leap of faith to let things take their course – and is hard even for those trained in many other participatory awareness-raising and training techniques. It also requires intense observation of the participatory process, and use of some key techniques to increase participation.

equal participation: Listening as important as talking

In group discussions everyone’s voice much be heard. No one person should lead group facilitation. Every person should draw. Every person should come to the front to speak. Every person should listen. Lead facilitators should ensure that no one person is dominating, people encourage those who are quiet, or hidden at the back come forward. Introduce some sort of tool in group discussions such as a stick or a banana to represent a microphone. It is only the person holding this tool who is allowed to talk.

No political correctness 

No one should feel they cannot ask questions or say things which they feel. Unless all opinions are expressed, even those that are uncomfortable, they cannot addressed. If issues or views are very sensitive and likely to cause offence, the facilitator should divide participants into ‘soulmate groups’ to enable those from similar backgrounds and with similar views to ‘let off steam’ and work out how to articulate these views to others in a real spirit of wanting to understand, without offence or undermining the free expression of others. Some issues can be left ‘in the drawer for later’ if they detract from the spirit of moving forward on consensus – with a date for when they will be tackled.

facilitation skills practised by participants

Facilitation practice for participants is an integral part of the facilitation and workshop schedule. This includes:

  • participatory diagrams and quantification in group activities to practice visual communication skills and speaking in front of others
  • facilitation role plays to practise the tools as well as sharing
  • sharing each evening with family if the workshop in in the community
  • sharing the tools with local government and other stakeholders on a onto to one basis and presentation of diagrams
  • a community day or series of days at thend where each participant invites 10 other people from their networks and facilitates these people to draw their visions and vision journey. To disseminate the change messages, start the community upscaling and set up support networks.

Workshop Process

Workshops start with participant discussions

Workshops should start by participants talking to each other, not [presentations by the organisation, local leaders or facilitator. The facilitator should explain that GAMEChange methodology is different – first we listen and then adapt as far as possible to participant needs – or to clarify that some needs will need to be addressed in another workshop.

Ask local leaders and other stakeholders to come on the final day, not the first day. Then they will have something to really see from what participants have been doing. And their input and support will be very welcome at that point.

Prepare the Room

The room should be decorated with good examples of diagrams and drawings relevant to the training from other processes – if this is the first country process then make a panel of printouts of high resolution photographs from Linda Mayoux visual communications Zemni Image site. If possible put on songs and/or video from another GAMEChange process (eg through the You Tube downloads from this site) playing as people arrive. These can also be shown in breaks.

The seating must be arranged to prioritise group discussion and feedback on flipcharts by each group. Leaving a central space in the middle for songs and drama. Ideally participants will stand and move around for group sessions, and go to the group flipcharts for plenaries.

Pairwise discussion

Start each session/day with a participatory pairwise recapitulation of the previous session, or questions on perceptions and expectations of the meeting while others are arriving.

Feedback from the back 

Minority participants should go first in all feedback (e.g. men first if they are poor and fewer in number) to show respect for those who are likely to be less confident and to promote inclusion.

Applause and respect

Everyone’s contribution at all times should be appreciated through a culturally relevant form of applause following each presentation.

Make sure everyone has contributed

At the end of each stage anyone who has not spoken or drawn on the diagram must be given the ‘microphone’ or pen and encouraged to comment/draw on the diagram. Those who speak least in the group should be the ones to feed back to the plenary, supported by the others.

evaluation through photography documentation

Photography and video can be taken by the facilitator in breaks to document the workshop process and dynamics – if they are facilitating from the back. Just before the final day to select their favourite diagram and take a photograph of them as a participation certificate. Comparing both choices and the quality of the diagrams enables an objective assessment of how far EVERY participant has been inspired and able to vision, analyse, plan and share. It also enables the workshop to end on an uplifting song or event, rather than a tired and untransparent participatory feedback – though a pictorial questionnaire could be circulated as well as a pictorial mood chart through the workshop.

Empowering Facilitation checklist

GAMEChange facilitation aims not only to teach diagram tools and skills, but to catalyse discussion, awareness and motivation ‘from within’ the participants themselves so that they own the change process and are able to facilitate themselves. All GAMEChange workshops and meetings aim to help people:

  • vision how their lives, families and communities could be in a more gender equitable world
  • identify achievable steps to change that they can implement immediately and also over the longer term
  • develop partipatory, listening and leadership skills
  • build confidence and creativity in visual communication, songs and theatre
  • form new friendship networks within which women and men treat each other as equal human beings.
  • develop facilitation skills to become champions of change in their households and communities
improving Workshop facilitation: Checklist

This should not be just a policing questionnaire, but identify issues that arose with any particular set of participants or context factors to bear in mind going forward:

  • Do all the diagrams include a vision to start with the positive?
  • Do all the diagrams include action points that can be implemented.? Are there some actions that will be implemented as soon as they get home?
  • Does everyone have the basic steps of each tool in the back of their notebooks?
  • Is the importance of tracking progress clear? Do people understand how to do this? Have people decided how often and when they will check progress on the diagram?
  • Was everyone able to participate? Was everyone respected? Were power relations changed? Were new voices heard and listened to?
  • Is everyone inspired to become a leader of change for others around them when they leave? Do they have confidence, speaking and listening skills? Do they have a peer sharing plan?
  • How far was the lead facilitator able to ‘facipulate from the back? At what points was more active facilitation needed? Are there ways in which that could also have been done in a participatory way?

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