Facilitation design

A framework to ensure the success of workshops and exercises

Decorative only

Facilitation doesn't need to be complex.

Sometimes, when tasked with putting together a new workshop, or facilitated exercise, it can be hard to know whether it will work—whether it will be successful.. We've always found it helpful to approach this strategically, and systematically, by breaking down the components of each activity or workshop.

Understanding all of these is crucial to engineering the best outcome and can mean the difference between a glowing result or the kind of workshop that people can't wait to run out of at the end.

This canvas explores a range of basic domains to consider. For those new to facilitation it may prove useful to map out each exercise in detail. For more experienced facilitators, returning to this tool is useful as a quick reference and quality check. 

  • Purpose: The reason for undertaking the exercise. What are you ultimately hoping to achieve? E.g. This could be 'Democratically agreed upon vision of the future' or 'Connection with team and appreciation of skills and resources'.
  • Length: How much time is allocated for the exercise? This may greatly impact how the purpose is achieved.
  • Tactile outcomes: The physical outcomes of the exercise. This includes anything physical or material that will be produced. E.g. List of ideas, written feedback, conceptual models, prototypes, etc.
  • Abstract outcomes: Anything immaterial that may be produced. E.g. Personal connection, team building, self-reflection, etc.
  • What occurs before and after: Context is key and understanding where in a schedule this takes place is crucial for tone and setting. E.g. The exercise is scheduled just after lunch, this may impact the attention, energy, and focus of participants. 
  • Open and close the space: Goodness doesn't just happen. Setting the tone and style is as important as handing participants back to the outside world. How are participants introduced to the exercise? What knowledge is required? How might they understand what's required of them? What feedback or explanation is supplied at the end?
  • Totems and resources: The physical requirements of the exercise eg; Paper, pens, slides, scissors, chairs, tables, music, etc. 
  • Why they’ll love and hate it: Design for love. How might you engineer joy, surprise, calm, or play into the space? This requires understanding who the audience is, what their motivations are, what they value, what they need, what they’re scared of, and more.
  • What is a completely different way to fulfil the purpose? This challenges the “sunk cost fallacy” of design. Just because you’ve designed an activity doesn’t mean there might be a completely different and potentially more effective way. 

The aim of the domains aren’t to simply be “answered” but to be a prompt and to refine ideas. 

Click here to download an A3-sized PDF of the canvas.

Facilitation blueprint