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Four techniques to avoid a collaborative-blackout [#PPPNP]



This post offers an overview of four tools to develop participative and elaborative processes. Four different useful techniques that can be connected with each other and used to strengthen their effectiveness, in order to avoid a collaborative-blackout.

The World Café

Dialogue and confront through changing groups

How it works

In a welcoming location, give an issue to small groups seated around tables, allow them to converse, compare and think. After 20 minutes ask each member of the group to change groups and set up a new conversation. At the end of some rounds (or in between) individuals are asked to share ideas and thoughts arisen through the dialogues. Written and graphic notes can be used to show results of individual/collective elaboration.

Strong points

  • The World Café is a flexible participative method to allow small, medium and large groups of people to compare points of view.
  • Differences are welcome to meet.
  • Topics can be explored, discussed and analyzed.
  • Ideas can be expressed and compared.
  • Meanings discussed can be connected and organized.
  • People express their thoughts, listen to each other, and reflect on their own and in groups.
  • The World Café is an affordable and productive technique.


Guided elaboration and writing, from individual to collective perspectives

How it works

The acronym OPERA (created by Innotiimi) identifies a five step process. After having identified a crucial question to be considered, participants are invited to:

  • O. reflect ten minutes individually (Own suggestion),
  • P. compare, discuss and write ideas in couples (Pair suggestions) for less than fifteen minutes,
  • E. explain from three to five statements for each pair, to all participants at the session (the Explanation step lasts no more than twenty minutes),
  • R. rank the suggested ideas from the most important to the least important, and finally
  • A. arrange statements in a cluster of connected ideas.

To complete the entire process it takes more or less one hour and a half, and of course there are some variations that can enrich the deepening of the ideas and discussions of the group.

Strong points

The main features I found using OPERA are:

  • The itinerary goes from individual engagement to re-aggregated statements.
  • The technique helps to express many ideas, to refine them, to present and ponder them, reorganizing ideas in a specific cluster.
  • From different voices and ideas it is possible to reach a common point of view,
  • OPERA is a technique to enhance writing in groups and produce a draft that can then be rewrote and refined.
  • Consensus-driven decision making is an output of step-by-step writing involving systematic reconstruction.
  • Guidance is fundamental to define the question to consider and to achieve results.

OPERA is more than a problem-solving method, it helps people gathered in temporary groups, organization or small communities meetings to work on developing projects, educational and voluntary activities, make strategic change and agree on creative solutions.

Diamond ranking

Visual and dynamic content recap

How it works

After an activity, a conference, or a meeting to summarize ideas and results reached by a joint work, contributors work together (in sub-groups, too) to arrange thoughts and ideas elaborated individually or during the discussion.

The core of the method is an open procedure that enables participants to collect the variety of opinions, ideas, reflections (even images or pieces of writing), to connect them into nine statements that are available in different layouts to address multiple understanding and learning methods.

Strong points

  • Many reading perspectives are possible: patterns from up to bottom, diagonal, first, central and last statements… Each configuration helps to grasp visually concise concepts.
  • The technique activates collective efforts to gather and match different contributes in a new pattern of complexity.
  • For the sub-groups and for the whole meeting it is a system of sharing, re-thinking and fixing, through some variations, the essential contributions.
  • The approach is easy to present and to accomplish, it allows bringing back a concrete result after a collective work.

The Village

Know yourselves and your potential by an archetypical social game

How it works

The Village is a social game that builds social and professional skills. Fifteen cards, with fifteen archetypical characters (each one has different strong traits and one weak too):

  1. The shaman
  2. The fire guardian
  3. The farmer
  4. The merchant-explorer
  5. The weaver
  6. The cook
  7. The warrior
  8. The builder
  9. The story-teller
  10. The head of the village
  11. The smith
  12. The legislator
  13. The lunatic
  14. The hunter
  15. The hero-traitor

Like a role playing game, there are plenty of methods to play (i.e. cards on the table or not; opponent or helping cards). Players are asked to consider a task or an issue, through progressive phases determined by the appearance of new cards with different features (positive or critical). Participants get involved, discuss and go deep to find multiple suggestions and to move toward some consensus visions.

Strong points

  • Playing The Village is thrilling, it drives you in a land of metaphoric archetype, it activates your emotions and engages you in a personal research, light on the surface, but moving in depth.
  • This game can be used to develop social skills in a participatory way, to discuss how a team should work to be effective, how to promote community projects and change.
  • This role-playing game offers collective learning through emotions, conversations and reflections about an imaginary (but authentic) village.
  • The board game postulates that emotional conversations impact the way we perceive our experience and, thanks to continually evolving dialogue, our representations can be reconsidered and changed.
  • The board game elicits cultural and transpersonal meanings, social competences, personal features to develop.

Of course…

Behind/beyond the techniques are theories, methods and practices. To examine them in depth see the web sites quoted.

Diamond Ranking


Thanks to Paola Mannarelli for the revisal of this post:-)

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Mainograz è il blog professionale di Graziano Maino, consulente di organizzazioni e network, professionista indipendente (legge 4/2013).

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