“I was absolutely amazed how much we got done in just an hour”, one of my participants told me after the final round of workshops at last week’s strategy retreat for German digital rights activists. None of these workshops was prepared in advance or externally facilitated – instead, we went for structure.

After we had determined the workshop themes in classic open space manner, I asked the workshop conveners to find someone to report back on the following questions:

  1. What is the current situation regarding the issue?
  2. Which options do we see?
  3. What course of action do we propose to the group?

When I checked in with the groups a few minutes before the end of the workshop phase, a frenzy of activity, wild scribbling and quick decision-making followed. “These last fifteen minutes were the most productive”, someone remarked.

The second round of workshops was meant to move into action and produce a project plan. A simple flipchart template (see picture) worked its magic here:

  • What are your objectives and milestones?
  • What do you need? Who can support you?
  • Who does what by when?

The groups came up with quite impressive results. Be prepared to see some action on data retention, e-administration and decentralized social networks soon.

What guidance do you give to workshop groups to help them do their work better?

The power of templates
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