IAF Methods

The Incident Method

by for . Last edit was about 2 years ago
30 - 60 1 - 10

Respectful dialogue among a group around dealing with a problem that one participant presents

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The purpose of this method is to deal with problems together and find new approaches and solutions. This process is used to learn with and from each other in a practice-oriented way and aimed at dealing with complex situations from different perspectives. It is used to prevent "Yes, but..." and situations alike.


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  • There are no additional resources needed.



Setting: A chart with the procedure and time table should be arranged in order to not lose track of the time.

Number of participants: 1-10, The group for this method should be of a small size of about four to six people.

Types of participants: Any type of participants can be involved in this process as long as they are interested in helping others or getting an advice themselves.

Time needed: Depending on the problem each will take about 30 to 60 minutes to be explored and discussed.

Ideal conditions: The place used to discuss should be a spot where the group is able to talk freely and undisturbed.

Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: There needs to be a certain level of trust between the facilitator and the participants as a problem has to be shared.

Facilitator personality fit: The facilitator only needs to interfere if the process of the discussion does not progress as it should.


1. One of the participants states a problem or question that he/she has.
2. Now the other participants are allowed and supposed to ask informative questions as to get a better understanding of the situation.
3. After having defined the problem the group can now analyze the problem and its aspects. Here the "problem owner" does not take part, but only listens. The contributing participants should not discuss or argue about their individual input.
4. Each participant then presents one (or more) idea(s) that he/she estimates to be a solution to the problem stated.
5. Now the "problem owner" gets the chance to criticize the different solutions or tell which one he/she considers to work.

The group can (but does not have to) do a second round in which the participants can ask additional, and more precise questions in order to narrow down the problem to its core and therefore find better solutions.


Follow-Up Required: There is no follow-up required.

Usual or Expected Outcomes: The outcome in this process should be new or improved solutions to the problem stated and therefore a satisfied participant.

Potential pitfalls: If the participant that stated his/her problem is not open for new solutions the whole process is meaningless.

How success is evaluated: The process is successful when the participants feel that they have got some advice or a new perspective on the discussed issue.


Source: Patrick Boel - May, 2006

Alternative names: Learn with/from your peers

Comments (2) ( 4.0  avg / 1 ratings)

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  • A practical application of Bohm's dialogue. The facilitator challenge is in making sure all participants remain in an open, exploratory mode.

    about 3 years ago
  • Additional material can assist the process: a flipchart outlining the steps in the process, a second one with agreed ground rules to make the process work

    about 2 years ago