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Brief description of technique

A brief scenario of the issue in question is developed to allow maximum flexibility on the day. A panel, preferably six to eight people, representing the viewpoints of the various interests, is led through two or three issues by the facilitator.

The panelists are encouraged to state what they would do to address the issue from their viewpoints.

To what kinds of consultation situations is this approach best suited?

This approach is useful early in conference and consultation processes to "break open" issues and canvas a broad range of views. It is not as useful when used as a summary technique. It flushes the issues out, rather than pulling them together into a neat solution, though this can be added to the process if desired.

How much time is generally needed?

1 - 1.5 hours (this results in about 10 minutes speaking time per participant which is ample).

How are target populations identified and approached?

Panel members are chosen to represent the various interests around an issue. Ideally, the set up should be that people who may be involved in the issue are asked represent a different interest, or at least act in a different hierarchical position to their nominal position, for example a recreation director may act as a CEO on the panel. In this way, perceived restrictions on actual positions are less likely to inhibit creativity.

The audience can have a role and it can be best to identify the audience first and then draw the panel from this group.

What are the skills required?

The main qualities required by the facilitator are:

  • Capacity to think quickly on one's feet
  • Knowledge of facilitation techniques and capacity to "draw people out"
  • Some knowledge of content, if possible

The facilitator should be involved in participant selection and scenario development. Scenario development should be minimal (ie: the issue should not be too "worked through" prior to the session).

A good understanding of the "activity based" approach is needed to facilitate interaction.

What kind of information do participants require prior to their involvement?

Simple written description of the topic and a 20-minute group briefing prior to participation.

Brief outline of how the process usually works ?

A moderator directs the attention of participants to hypothetical problems requiring action-based solutions, flexibly and dynamically modifying the scenario as participants grapple with solutions. One participant is needed with strong media and summary skills.

How is the process successfully concluded?
An effective summary of the complexity of issues uncovered from the moderator or another member of the panel.
What level of reporting back to participants occurs?

Reporting occurs dynamically during the process, with participants as active observers of their own behaviour.

How is this approach usually evaluated?

As a sub-component of a broader consultation or conference process.

  • High-profile, often entertaining event.
  • Capacity to bring in a large number of observers.
  • A forum to canvas a broad range of views around an issue in a short time.
  • Is usually only the first or one component of a broader consultation strategy.
  • Is not as factually-based or reliable as other methods.
Resources Required
  • Venue hire including elevated platform with six to ten speakers seated with individual microphones. Roving microphone for facilitator.
  • External facilitation may be required.
  • Promotional material distribution.
  • Recording facilities such as video or audio-visual.
Information based on material provided by Terry Laidler, broadcaster and Associate Professor at RMIT.


(to come - LGD and Alan)

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