Opening and Closing a Gathering
Framing & Opening…
The beginning of a workshop is often the most important component of a successful workshop. If you have a strong start, participants will be more willing to work with you - even in rocky moments. This is a time when facilitators can introduce themselves to the group, establish rapport, review the workshop’s goals and establish group agreements to create a respectful environment in the group.
Opening exercises can bring participants to become more comfortable with one another, and also provides an opportunity to begin connecting personal experiences with the information and issues presented in the workshop.
Example of opening activities:
- One word – Ask each participant to answer a question with a one word answer – What comes to mind when you hear the word immigration? How do you see your community? What did you have for breakfast? One word is a short and fun activity that invites everyone to participate and gives you a sense of how people are feeling. Remember, one word!
- Telephone – The facilitator whispers a message into a participant’s ear. That participant whispers the message into their neighbor’s ear, who whispers it into their neighbor’s ear and so on until the message reaches all the participants. The last participant is asked to say the message they heard aloud. This is a good exercise to reflect on how we share information or spread misinformation in our communities. Telephone gets people to relax and laugh and involves everyone.
- Human Rights – hand each participant a card with 1 of the 32 basic human rights from the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Ask each participant to read the card and think about a time when that human right hasn’t been respected or has been violated. Then ask participants to read their human right aloud, share their insight and tape the human rights card on a wall or flipchart. Ask for a small reflection afterwards. Make sure everyone in your group is able to read the card.
Closing exercises provide a way for the group to synthesize the discussions, ideas, and action developed during the workshop, and sometimes can set next steps for action.
Example of closing activities:
- The big hug – Ask the group to form a large circle. Read of a list of statements. If the statement is true, then the participant should step forward. Read statements that gets people to step forward - I liked the workshop, I learned something new today, I have ideas for next steps I can use in my community, I’m hungry. Continue to step forward until people are standing very close to each other. Have a group hug or other way of expressing thanks to the group. The big hug activity shows appreciation to the experience shared in the workshop.
- One word – can also be used during closing. Ask people to stand in a circle. Ask participants to answer a question with a one word answer – What gives you hope? What do you appreciate about their neighbor? People can go around in a circle or answer spontaneously. This is a short, and fun way to end a meeting. Remember to keep it positive!
- Head, heart, feet – Hang up a drawing of a person. Ask participants to think about three questions about the workshop – What did you learn? How did you feel? What are you going to do? Ask them to write down one answer and then tape it near the head, the heart, or the feet in the drawing (or have them say their answers out loud). This activity is a way to evaluate participant’s thoughts and feelings.
Compiled from experiences from the Center for Participatory Change and the Coalición de Organizaciones Latino-Americanas and from BRIDGE – Building a Race and Immigration Dialogue in the Global Economy.