Tools for running workshops

1          Learning Resources for Two Types of Event

This site provides learning resources for use in workshops and formal awareness-raising events. The distinction between these two types of event is not always clear; the number of people involved can vary greatly in both cases.

A workshop engages participants in the learning process; they are involved in discussion, sharing ideas and helping to build a common understanding of the situation and negotiating what to do next.

An awareness-raising event may be a formal presentation or a drama performance, but in this case the people constitute an audience. They do not share their own knowledge except in limited ways, such as through a question and answer session.

There can be a great deal of overlap between these two types of event. Workshops for example may include short presentations to the whole group (or plenary), whereas conferences can include opportunities for people to work in smaller groups.

The benefit of small groups is that people can share their ideas more freely and check that they understand the same things before moving forward; the drawback is that it is difficult to capture the learning from all of the groups.

The advantage of large plenary sessions is that many people can hear the same information at one time; the drawback is that people will not interpret the information in the same way and often we have no way of knowing whether they have understood the message we wished to convey.

The following sections, therefore, apply to both kinds of event; it is up to the organizer or facilitator to try to make each event as engaging and informative as possible using a combination of approaches.


2          Before the event

Spread your resources appropriately across the process – we suggest that you spend 50% of your time and effort on the preparatory stage, 20% on the event itself and 30% on follow-up after the event. A crucial step in planning any event is ensuring that the right people are attending. For this reason we suggest you conduct a detailed stakeholder analysis before sending invitations to what could be a costly and time-consuming event.

2.1 Identifying and categorising stakeholder groups:
Categorise the stakeholders according to the following qualities:

  • Responsibility – those stakeholders that have legal, strategic, operational and financial responsibility for planning projects in your region
  • Representation – not just political leaders but those who represent a constituency such as networks and other ‘multipliers’ whose members or colleagues are involved in oil and gas projects and related infrastructure as well as the communities affected
  • Influence – those with actual or potential influence on decision-makers and/or project implementation (e.g. experts, NGOs, corporations, media and lobby groups)
  • Dependency – those who are directly and indirectly impacted by the oil and gas projects and related infrastructure
  • Empowerment – those who could be positively impacted if included in the process. NB Be mindful of the barriers that may prevent certain stakeholders from engaging in the process. In some settings, women are particularly vulnerable to being excluded due to cultural or even legal barriers. Similar problems may arise in the case of members from certain ethnic groups and even young people.

2.2 Prioritising

Identify primary and secondary stakeholder groups according to who would be most important to involve in the process. Ideally do this through consultation (through interviews, focus group meetings, etc.). Identify and record the concerns of different stakeholders.

Type of stakeholder Stakeholders Primary/Secondary Concerns

It is critical to get the right people there. Use your knowledge gained through your stakeholder analysis to write individual/customised invitations to key participants reflecting their interest in the process and follow up the letters as appropriate by phone, e-mail, etc.

If possible, assign people specific tasks at the event according to the analysis you have carried out as a way of deepening their engagement and sense of ownership in the process.

At this stage you may wish to negotiate the specific outcomes of the event with key stakeholders so that the process can accommodate their priorities as well as achieving your desired outcomes. It may be very helpful at this stage to hold a planning meeting among potential contributors and key stakeholders in order to jointly agree the outline of the event.

3          Planning the event

The nature of the event will depend upon your goals and your participants. It may, for example, involve participants from a similar background in one community or it may involve a cross-sector, multi-stakeholder group. It may help you to use a ‘planning grid’ to lay out the aims, approaches and procedure for the workshop/event (see below):

Aims (Some examples)By the end of this workshop the participants will be able to:

  • Define their personal attitude towards the ‘x’ development
  • Describe the causes and effects of ‘x’ activities/incidents
  • Be able to link lessons from elsewhere to our own situation
  • Contribute to a process of stakeholder dialogue in the future
  • Lobby their own constituency to support this process
  • etc.
Approaches used (Some examples)Brainstorming group; SHOWeD exercise; SWOT analysis; short presentation; buzz groups; plenary discussion; etc.
Procedure Facilitator Activities1.2.3. Participant Activities1.2.3.
Description – Comments (Text)
Resources  e.g. Resources from this website such as fact sheets; case studies; additional reading; also flipcharts, marker pens, Post-it notes, etc.

4 Some methods for engaging people with the materials on this website

4.1       Brainstorm discussion

This can be used to gather ideas from a large group.

Ask the group for their views but make sure the question is specific, e.g. ask participants for their objectives for a workshop. The facilitator should accept all the answers. It helps to have a separate person or people writing them down, in this way the exercise can become fast-paced as people call out their ideas. Call a half to the brainstorm after a set time or if the ideas stop coming. Now invite the group to look at the suggestions that are written down; remove any repetitions; cluster similar ideas; try to group them by type of idea.

Rather than calling out and writing on a flipchart, people can write their ideas on a large Post-it note or piece of card (one idea per card) and stick it on the wall or large board. This allows you to move the ideas around in the discussion. The writing approach can help to give a voice to the quiet people; the disadvantage is that it feels less dynamic. If some participants are illiterate, others can write on the cards for them.

4.2       The SHOWeD method

This is a useful way of engaging the whole group with the material and checking their understanding of it.

  1. Choose a case study from the site that you feel has particular relevance to your own situation. Set the scene using the ‘background information’ – read this section out or display it on a large screen for people to read
  2. Give people a minute to absorb this information. Now ask the group the following series of questions:

What do you See here?
(i.e. What are the elements of the story? Where is it? Who’s involved? No analysis is required; this simply checks that everyone has read or heard it)

What is Happening?
(i.e. Do we share a common interpretation of this situation?)

Does this happen in Our community/location/region?

(i.e. Explore similarities between the case study and our own situation)

Why do we think it happens?

(i.e. A critical part of the discussion, looking for reasons for our situation, preferably without actually blaming each other)

What can we Do about this?

(i.e. The first steps towards an action plan)

(The mnemonic ‘SHOWeD’ can help you to remember the order of these questions)

  1. At this point the group will have explored the background of the case study, linked it to their own situation and begun to think about how they would approach it. Now continue with the description of the project. What did happen in this case?
  2. Before reading/presenting the section on ‘most significant changes’ ask the group what they think the impact of this project might have been. Can they guess at the changes they are about to hear?
  3. Now discuss the most significant changes or impacts of the project. Was this as the group had predicted? Go on to share the learning points at the end of the case study. How does this compare with experience in your situation? Would the same challenges face you? Can you overcome them or use this experience to your advantage?

4.3       Buzz groups

Rather than trying to conduct a discussion with a large group, you can generate much more energy and interest by asking people to divide into smaller groups of between 5 and 12 people.  Give each group a topic for discussion, e.g. a fact sheet on oil spills or fracking or the list of key challenges. Ask them to read the information and prepare a brief report for the plenary. Ask them to report on the nature of their topic and anything that is new to people in the group. Do they think the information is accurate? To what extent is it relevant to your situation?  What can be done about it?

If people in each buzz group are familiar with the SHOWeD method, this can be used with one volunteer taking the role of facilitator for their group. In this way each group could work through a different case study and prepare a brief report for the plenary discussion.

If you visit the additional resources section, you will find diverse documents (papers, articles, presentations, reports) that express very different viewpoints:

a)    good practice policies, guidelines and examples;

b)    critical accounts of negative impacts and effects;

c)    relevant documents produced by Living Earth Foundation and partners.

Give each buzz group a document from this section and ask them to report back with a summary of the document and state whether they think author(s) of the document is for or against the development of oil and gas. Is it very clear in every case? How can you tell?

4.4       SWOT or SWOC analysis

Another way of reviewing a situation before planning ahead is to conduct an analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (or Challenges). This can be carried out in relation to the case studies after reading the background information and the project aims. Once practiced in this type of analysis, the group will be better able to conduct a similar analysis of their own situation, possibly relating it back to the different case studies.

4.5       Sharing in Plenary

The plenary session is where groups report back on their findings. If not well managed, this can be worse than useless as people grow bored from hearing successive presentations. To avoid this situation, try the following:

  • Ask each group to ensure they have a tight, five minute, presentation – warn them to keep it short as timing will be strict.
  • Ask the group to present in a creative way, perhaps using illustrations rather than simply writing; some may decide to present a quick sketch/drama
  • Appoint a strict chairperson/time-keeper who tells the group (with good humour) when they have one minute to finish – this allows the facilitator to be tougher on the groups as well
  • If one person is presenting, remind them to ask the rest of their group whether they have anything to add at the end of their presentation

5.         Formal awareness raising events

When the event is a large gathering, it may be appropriate to present the material in our fact sheets and case studies as a series of slides. The video clips within the case studies are particularly useful for this style of event, especially if you can use the SHOWeD process to discuss them after each clip. If using PowerPoint, try to keep to four (maximum five) points per slide. Use the images from the site to break up the words or where possible to tell the story in pictures. Take care to ensure that the picture is illustrating the point you wish to make – a misplaced picture can interrupt learning as people discuss their confusion instead of listening to the speaker.

6.         Follow-up

Straight after the event, write to each participant with a message of thanks and a brief summary of key outcomes. A similar positive message should be sent to all key decision-makers who did not attend the workshop. A fuller report should be sent to all participants and other key stakeholders within two weeks of the workshop.

Linking stakeholders to other people and processes after the workshop will broaden the impact of the event. Depending on the capacity of the organisers, information about related events, funding and other capacity development opportunities should be shared with participants and other stakeholders. It may be that further capacity building or follow-up workshops can be organised by the stakeholders themselves in co-operation with other partners. Be sure to alert them to this website.

7. Tell us how it went

If you do make use of our materials please do tell us what happened. Did they have the desired impact? How could you improve them? Please take a few moments to send us your thoughts via our Feedback page.

Thank You




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