The power of circles

September 30, 2005 § Leave a comment

Chennai, India – September 22 + 23, 2005

The Mission 2007 trainers workshop was the first time that I felt the workshop model came fully to life.


An assumption underlying the whole program is that dialogue between people who are passionate about telecentres is the number one ingredient needed for a successful network. Stealing many pages from the Aspiration song book, I believe that this dialogue process is best sparked (and sustained) with face-to-face workshops that follow a few simple ground rules:

  1. Always sit in a circle of chairs with no tables. This lets everyone to see each other and allows movement in the space.
  2. Make sure everyone gets to talk, immediately … and keep the time any one person talks short. Opening circles, line ups and speedgeeks really help with this.
  3. No slideware, except in speedgeeks. End stop.
  4. Allow ideas and leadership to emerge organically. The right people facilitate small groups and the right ideas to move forward will pop up if you let them.
  5. Blog. Wiki. Snap. And wiki again. A flexible online space that everyone can add information to means that ideas are captured on the fly for later process.
  6. Drive to a concrete conclusion, write it down and follow up. Shifting agendas are good, but fuzzy outcomes are not.

While we have played with many of these ideas before, this was the first time that we really embraced them whole hog. The results were better than expected: people were totally charged at the end of the meeting, ready to network and move ahead together on training issues. Also, we had a rough picture of what a common training manual and future knowledge sharing efforts could look like.


Of course, there is much to learn on how to make these events better, and on how to transfer these approaches widely. But still, pulling the Chennai workshop off in this manner was a moment to celebrate in’s early history. Many thanks to all who participated, we made this happen together.

PS. I learned in this meeting that being a lead facilitator and blogging don’t go well together. I am writing this post many days after the meeting.

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