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How to Hold a Workshop

On the front and back cover: Amerindian motif of beetle by Jean La Rose.

2012 © INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE Rainforest Foundation–US and Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) Organizer: Marina Campos Authors: Marina Campos and Christine Halvorson Contributors: Jean La Rose, Laura George, Carlos Calvo, and Tessa Lee Design: Scott W. Santoro / Worksight Created by: AMERINDIAN PEOPLES ASSOCIATION

Supported by:

Licensed by:

This means that the texts in this publication are under a Creative Commons license (, which opens intellectual property rights. In practice, this license allows the texts of these booklets to be reproduced and used in derivative publications without previous authorization from the editors (Amerindian Peoples Association and Rainforest Foundation US), but with some criteria: they can only be used for non-commercial purposes; they must cite the original source; and in the case of derivative publications, they must also be licensed in the Creative Commons. You can: Share—copy, distribute and transmit the Indigenous Rights and Climate Change Booklets Remix—adapt the Indigenous Rights and Climate Change Booklets for your community’s use

Under the following conditions: Attribution—You must attribute credit as follows: Indigenous Rights and Climate Change, Amerindian Peoples Association and Rainforest Foundation US (with link). Noncommercial—You may not use this work for commercial purposes. Share Alike—If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

I NTR O D U C TI O N Over the past few years the topic of climate change has dominated a lot of the news and national discussions in Guyana. Communities have heard a lot about REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and the LCDS (Low Carbon Development Strategy), but may not know what they mean and more importantly how they affect your life. Moreover, community leaders have told us that they need more information about REDD+ and LCDS, but fewer technical explanations. This series of booklets seeks to address these issues. As the owners of forest lands, how could REDD+ and other similar initiatives impact you? What are the risks, and the potential benefits? The Rainforest Foundation—US and the Amerindian Peoples Association believe it’s important for indigenous leaders to be informed about these issues, and more importantly, to understand how they relate to your livelihoods and your control of land and resources. These materials are arranged as a series of booklets that can be used by you, as trainers, to prepare for your community-based workshops. Each booklet will address a different topic and will contain basic information about that topic and also some ideas about questions to be addressed during your workshops. Together, the booklets will form a binder, so you can easily use them when they are most suited to your workshop. Booklet 1 provides guidance and support for trainers who will be carrying out workshops in their communities and regions. Booklets 2–6 deal specifically with climate change and forest issues. Booklet 2 lays out the general concepts behind climate change and REDD+. In the third booklet, we talk about the international negotiations on climate change that have been taking place over the past few years, and that have set the stage for what is currently taking place in Guyana and elsewhere. We talk in greater details about the REDD+ schemes in Guyana in booklet 4. It’s important for you and your communities to know your rights to your lands, and to consultation and participation. Therefore, booklet 5 discusses indigenous rights in Guyana and internationally. Social safeguards are explained in booklet 6­; they are critical and will need to be upheld in order for any REDD+ or other climate change initiative to work. You, as trainers, are the people for whom these materials were designed. We plan to update these materials every year, so your opinions and suggestions are essential to making this tool more appropriate to your needs. Let’s get started!

If you do adapt the booklets, please send us a copy! We hope to make these available in different languages and adapted to the different realities of different countries.


How to Hold a Workshop



Structuring and coordinating workshops can feel like a daunting and overwhelming task. But it’s actually an easy process if you are well prepared. If you were chosen as a trainer or facilitator it’s because you already have good skills, and we hope this brief guide can help you strengthen them. Your role as a good facilitator is vital to the success of a workshop. Even if you don’t have experience in facilitating group discussions, being enthusiastic, friendly, a good listener, and able to think on your feet are qualities that give you a good start. It’s also essential that you understand the objectives and content of the workshop, know your role, and prepare yourself carefully for each session—this binder will help you with that. Another key skill is the ability to engage your audience in the discussion. You must be able to create a friendly atmosphere of cooperation and trust where participants are comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas. You do not need to be an “expert” on the topic being discussed, but you should know enough about it to be able to explain the basic concepts in a simple manner, to structure the discussion, to ask sensible questions, and to raise points that may have been missed by the group. Since you are not an expert, it’s OK to not have answers to all of the questions that may be raised. Your main job will be to help manage a process of information exchange in an engaging way. Being a good facilitator, like being a good teacher, is about encouraging people to ask questions and learning from them. Tips for an effective community workshop To be a facilitator, you need to understand what your role is. We hope that these basic tips will help you to prepare your next workshop and to feel confident about the work you will be doing. The guidelines we are exploring in this booklet are divided into three sections: before, during and after the workshop.


3 Study ahead: First and foremost, be familiar with the concepts and ideas you want to

discuss. Re-read the materials and study up on the issues you want to discuss. You can only talk about things in a clear and comprehensive manner if you have done some preparation. 3 Practice: It might be a good idea to practice with friends and family or by yourself before you face the crowd. 3 Prepare questions: Think ahead about the directions in which the discussion might go, and prepare discussion questions to help the group in considering the subject. Solid preparation will enable you to give your full attention to how the group interacts and what individuals are saying. And if people are shy, you’ll be ready with a list of questions to get discussion started. Forest along Barima River, Guyana/APA Archive.


3 Structure the agenda: When setting it up you should make sure that: 1) The topics are structured in such a way that each one builds progressively on the previous one, flowing naturally. 2) You have enough time for the different topics you want to discuss. Don’t forget that since this should be an interactive process you have to allow time for questions and answers. 3) Don’t forget to set aside some time for introductions at the beginning of the workshop, and for closing remarks or an evaluation at the end. 4) Take into consideration whether or not you will need translation during the workshop. If translation is needed, you will have to reduce the length of your presentations to allow time for the translation.

3 Think through the logistics: You should have a good idea about how many people are

coming, so you can plan your space and arrange accordingly. This is important for meal planning as well. Try to find an adequate meeting place so that people can feel comfortable. For example, it’s hard to keep people’s attention if they are too hot and standing up all the time. Making sure people are comfortable might sound unimportant, but it can be key to a successful discussion.

3 Get informed about the community situation: Be aware of the specific political situation in the area/community where the workshop is being held, and prepare to incorporate it into your discussion. What are the main community struggles? What topics are sensitive to talk about? If you are holding a workshop outside your community, have a reliable contact person from the area of where the workshop will be who can assist in all aspects of preparation.

3 Check the dates with the community: Schedule your workshop in a place and time

that allows for a majority of community members to participate. Also, it’s essential to know about any weather conditions (such as rain, low level of rivers, etc.­) that might affect transportation and prevent people from attending. Make sure you schedule the workshop ahead of time, so people have enough time to plan their participation.


Create a relaxed, cordial, and open environment

3 Start with introductions: You should welcome everyone and then introduce yourself,

in case people do not know you. If the participants do not know each other, it’s also important to give some time for each person to introduce themselves. Before you ask them to briefly introduce themselves tell them what information they should share, such as their name, where they’re from, their interests in the topic, and any previous experience they have with the topic. The goal is to help create an atmosphere where each participant feels at ease expressing their ideas and responding to those of others. Moreover, by knowing more about each other’s backgrounds, people may be more inclined to interact with each other during breaks or after the workshop.

3 Welcome ideas and comments: Always be open to people’s ideas and never make

fun of or comment negatively about any question asked or comments made. All comments and viewpoints should be acknowledged and respected, even if you and/or the group disagree with them.

3 Relax and use humor: There is nothing better than laughter to relax people. So when appropriate, tell a joke and be funny. Well-placed humor is always welcome and helps hold the audience’s attention. Group singing can also be relaxing and a great way to break silence. Encouraging role-playing or other forms of participation is also good—and if people make it funny, so much the better.

David James in the Training of Trainers Workshop on Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples, Guyana, 2011/APA Archive.

3 Get assistance for note taking: Enlist someone to take notes during the workshop,

especially to record the comments, testimonies and questions people will bring up. As a facilitator, it will be impossible for you to do that, so make sure you talk with someone in advance and arrange with them to assist you with this task. It should be a person that has some experience in taking notes, for example a teacher or another community leader in the village. It’s important that once you find the person to take notes you give him/her some instructions about what topics and parts of the workshop you would like him/her to be taking notes about. Remember that these notes can be very useful for writing your reports once the workshop is over, and whenever possible the community should get a copy of the notes as well.

3 Make sure you have all the materials and supplies you need: Think about what

supporting materials (photocopies, documents, posters, etc.) and supplies (paper, pens, chalk, etc.) you will need for your workshop. If you plan to use a computer or any other electric device, make sure the community has electricity. If you have other people lecturing as well make sure you ask them what materials they might need.


How to Hold a Workshop


3 Rely on personal stories and experiences: When it makes sense, ask people to tell

stories and talk about personal experiences they have had with the topic that you are discussing. This will not only make the session much more engaging for the participants, but it will also make it richer. Refer back to such stories throughout the workshop to illustrate points you’re making or as examples of problems or projects the group can work on during the workshop (that way, participants can also leave with concrete suggestions).

Key starting points:

3 Establish clear ground rules: At the beginning of the workshop ask the participants to

help you lay out the ground rules for the event. The ground rules of a workshop are basically a set of principles that you and your audience will follow during the event. It’s better if you write them on a poster/flip chart or on the blackboard than to simply do it orally, that way you can easily refer back to them. Once they have been established, ask the participants if they agree to them or want to add anything. Keep a list and post it for each day’s session as a reminder. Some typical ground rules are:

• Everybody should be on time for the workshop activities. should avoid talking to each other while someone else is giving • Participants a presentation or making a comment. on your cell phone during the workshop is not allowed. • Talking Please answer urgent calls outside, or better, turn all cell phones off. • Everyone is encouraged to participate—at their own comfort level. everyone to be heard—no one person should dominate • Allow the discussion or interrupt others. • All views will be respected—everyone’s input is valuable. will not be personalized—belittling, name-calling, • Disagreements labeling or personal attacks will not be tolerated.

These are just a few examples of ground rules. Keep in mind that ground rules may vary in different workshops and contexts and that is OK. What is important is that the ground rules are something that you construct together with your participants rather than something that you impose on your participants.

3 Identify the purpose: Make sure that everyone in attendance knows why you are doing

the workshop. Clarify what topics will be discussed and, more importantly, what the purpose or desired outcome of the workshop is. Ask for a list of questions the participants want answered, or a list of goals they have for the workshop. It’s a good idea to keep this list posted for reference throughout the workshop. It’s also important at the beginning of the workshop to review the agenda of what topics will be covered and when, and to be willing to adjust the agenda to suit the participants’ needs and expectations. If possible, give the agenda to the participants in advance, so that people can come to the workshop with a better idea of what to expect. Make sure that participants know if the workshop has an objective besides information


How to Hold a Workshop

Group discussion during APA’s General Assembly, Guyana, 2011/APA Archive.

sharing – to develop a joint position or to agree to a project, for example. It’s important for participants to know this beforehand, so they are not surprised (it’s equally important for you, as a participant, to make sure the objectives of any workshop you may attend are clear). If you want a joint statement to come out of your workshop, make sure that’s clear up front. Guide the information sharing process with the group

3 Lead, don’t dominate: As a discussion leader, it’s your role to guide the sessions accord-

ing to the ground rules that you have all agreed upon. Keep the group focused on the content of the discussion. The best way to do this is to vary the way you address a topic and not to carry on long speeches without giving others a chance to talk. For example, ask questions instead of just telling people the answers, use different learning tools such as pictures, videos, newspaper articles, and break into smaller groups to complete an activity.

3 All should participate: Don’t let anyone dominate the discussion; try to involve every-

one. It’s important to monitor how well the participants are communicating—who has spoken, and whose point of view has yet to be heard. Consider calling on people who haven’t spoken yet, instead of those who have. Especially if people are being shy, choose them to speak.

3 Refrain from cutting people off: When you have to intervene in the discussion, put it off for as long as you can. Too many interruptions from the workshop leader can stifle discussion and could restrain people from continuing to participate. Let a tangent continue unless you are sure that the discussion is not returning to the topic.

3 Don’t do all the talking: Avoid talking after each comment or answering every ques-

tion; encourage participants to respond and comment directly to one another. The


most effective facilitators often say little, but are always thinking about how to move the group toward its goals.

3 Find common views: Help participants to identify common ground, but don’t try to

3 Don’t be afraid of silence: People need time to think. It’ll sometimes take a while for

3 Show all sides: Make sure they consider a wide range of views. Ask them to think about

3 Avoid conflicts: Remember that a workshop is not a debate, but a group dialogue that

3 Ask questions: Prepare lots of questions that can be asked at different times during your

someone to offer an answer to a question you pose. You can try to break the silence by asking the same question in a different way or by joking about the lack of answers. Don’t give the answer right away to avoid such a silence. allows the exchange of information. If participants forget this, don’t hesitate to ask the group to help re-establish or return to the ground rules.

3 Breaking up into smaller groups: When appropriate, you should consider splitting up the large group into smaller groups to examine a greater variety of viewpoints or to give people a chance to talk more easily about their personal connection to the issue. Giving each small group a task is usually very effective.

force consensus or agreement by all.

the advantages and disadvantages of the different ways of looking at an issue or idea. In this way, the decisions involved in making tough choices become less contentious. workshop. Asking questions, rather than giving answers all the time, will make your discussion more lively and interesting. Moreover, asking questions is a good way to make sure key concepts and ideas were well understood.

3 Be available: You should always be available to talk with participants before, during

breaks, and after the workshops. This is when the shyest people will come to ask questions. It’s also a good way to get feedback from participants.

Help the group grasp the content

Keep track of the time

3 Recap along the way: At the end of every important topic, it’s helpful to either sum-

marize the discussion or encourage group members to do so. That way knowledge acquisition is more successful. Consider doing pop quizzes, 60 second recaps, or other brief exercises to review topics, especially at the end of the day or at the start of a new day. The goal is to have participants put what they have learned so far into their own language.

3 Plan well and don’t rush: There is nothing more frustrating than a workshop where the explanation of concepts is rushed and there is no time to discuss and ask questions.

3 Check agenda often: Make sure you are following the agenda and using the time well.

If you realize that the explanations and discussions are taking longer that you had anticipated, reorganize your schedule. Check how you are doing in regards to time after each break to make sure you are on track not only in terms of content, but also on schedule.

Community Workshop in Katuma Village, Guyana, 2011/APA Archive.

Reserve adequate time for closing the discussion

3 Remember to leave part of the last day for closing remarks. During this closing session, you:

•  Should ask participants for final comments and thoughts about the subject. wish to ask participants to share any new ideas or thoughts they have had as a •  May result of the discussion. also want to ask them to evaluate the workshop, especially if you're looking for •  May feedback for further workshops. that learning new concepts and ideas is not easy, but with dedica•  Acknowledge tion it’s possible. Also encourage participants to transmit what they have learned to • 

their families, friends, and community groups and to keep the discussion alive even after you leave. Thank everyone for their time and contributions.

If you are looking to come up with a joint position, letter, or statement, make sure you save adequate time at the end for everyone to read and comment on it, and for their input to be included in the final document.1 1  Note that if you are developing a joint statement, the group should choose someone who can draft it during the workshop, incorporating the group’s collective input. Having a draft document for the group to comment makes the discussion more productive and takes less time.


How to Hold a Workshop


Evaluation Don’t be afraid of being evaluated. Getting people’s feedback will only help in preparing for future workshops. Therefore, provide some time for participants to evaluate the group process, either through sharing aloud or through brief written evaluations. In any case, you should have a list of the basic aspects of the workshop that you would like their feedback on, such as content covered, language used, time allocated, workshop dynamics, materials provided, and even your performance. Oral evaluations work well since participants can build on each other’s comments to make their observations. However, some people might be afraid to express their real opinion about something to the whole group. For confidentiality, written evaluations might work better, but only if the participants feel comfortable about reading and writing.

TOOLS FOR WORKSHOPS Here are a few ways to get the conversation going and to get people more involved:

3 Break into smaller groups: Each group discusses a different topic, or dis-

cusses the same topic from a different angle, e.g. by region or sub-region. If time allows, ask each small group to appoint a reporter, who will relay the group's findings to the workshop group as a whole.

As important as it’s to know what to do, here are some things you should NOT do as trainer/facilitator:

3 Interrupt people: Not only is this rude, but people might feel discouraged from more active participation.

3 Read from a paper: There is nothing more boring than having people read

their manuscripts or notes. It’s fine to sometimes consult your notes, but unacceptable to read during the whole session. So, be prepared.

Dominate the group: Let everyone express their ideas. This should make 3  the exchange more interesting and appealing (this is true both for trainers and for participants!).

Diminish or ignore people’s ideas: Any workshop should allow for 3  difference of opinions. People’s positions and observations should all be respected.

Delegates to APA’s general Assembly, Guyana, 2011/APA Archive.

Do short quizzes: This is especially good after lunch or at the end of the day 3 

when people are slowing down! Warn people about the quizzes, and make them fun.

Hold debates: Choose a topic that you want to discuss in depth, and di3  vide the group into teams. Give them some time to prepare, and then hold a debate. The preparation is as important as the debate itself!

Give homework: Ask participants to prepare presentations on specific top3 

ics for the next day. Give them time to prepare, and any help they might need. This gives people a chance to examine a topic in more depth, and allows them to think about how to best present it. Moreover, this gives participants the chance to listen to other people, rather than just the trainer. Another benefit: it might give you ideas for how to present things better the next time around!

Role play: This is especially beneficial if you're preparing for a meeting with 3  government officials or a press conference. It’s also a good way to look at different ways of approaching an issue and to make things a bit more fun.

Mix things up: Don’t do monologues—ask questions and encourage 3 

participation. Make sure you include at least one new activity (such as an icebreaker) per day. It breaks things up a little, and can be something participants look forward to. Do short quizzes or take stretches when things seem to be going slow. Keep things moving, and keep things interesting!


How to Hold a Workshop


AFTER THE WORKSHOP Reports: Summarizing the workshop You might have finished your workshop, but that does not mean your work is all done. It’s important for you and for your organization to summarize the key events that happened during the workshop. For example, think about concepts that you had trouble explaining or that people had difficulty understanding. This will help you find alternative ways to present that information the next time. If you run out of time, it could be either because you were not organized enough, because the group was really engaged (which is great!), or because you tried to cover too much material in the time allotted. In any event, the experience should guide you and your peers to rethink the structure of your workshops and the amount of time you need to cover each topic adequately. In most cases, workshop facilitators are required to write a report to the organization that has been supporting his/her workshop activity. Your report should at least have basic information such as the date of the workshop, the number of attendees (breakdown by gender and age could be helpful), a copy of the agenda, a description of the topics covered, and comments on what worked and what did not. Some organizations have a standard reporting format; make sure you know if the organization that supported your workshop has one before you give your workshop, so you can take notes on the requested information. Exchange this information with your colleagues and get their feedback about their experiences. This exchange of ideas will certainly benefit all of you and future workshops. Final thoughts Structuring and conducting workshops is a learning process, so the more practice that you get, the better you will become. It’s an honor to be chosen to lead workshops, and it can be an equally engaging and learning experience for the workshop leader as much as for the participants. We hope these few tips will help you feel more confident and eager to prepare and coordinate your own workshops. Now it’s time to get down to work!

Homes along Barima River, Guyana/APA Archive.


How to Hold a Workshop



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