Forming a buddy group
In large gatherings that will be stable for a few days or more, you can combine the benefits of having a high number of attendees (e.g. more minds at work!) with the supportive feel of a small group by creating "home groups" or "buddy groups".
To foster full participation and enable attendees to support one another
Create random groups of 5-8 people.
Send groups to have a 15-20 minutes discussion around such topics as:
- what would you need to be your best at this event?
- how can we support one another?
- what will our group be like?
Back in plenary, invite some sharing around what emerged, so that groups can learn from one another.
Send participants back to their home groups at various times during the event, e.g. at the end of each day for a reflection.
It's best to create random groups, thereby maximizing chances that new people will meet or meet at a deeper level. Allowing people to choose may result in people working with those they already know, and possibly someone feeling excluded.
Add playful elements to the first "culture creation" session of the buddy groups by asking them to create a group name, flag, cheer, secret handshake or whatnot.
Make sure there is some time at the end of the event for groups to say goodbye to one another and share what they have learnt by working together.
You can assign names to each group and allow them to choose their own breakout after the first time, by creating breakouts that are names after the group. Nevertheless, it is still a good idea for you to know who is in which group!
Create mixed groups of participants joining remotely with others joining online. Invite them to discuss how they can best support one another through the hybrid sessions. Those sharing a room with a facilitator might find it easier to attract your attention, or to speak out.
A buddy system is an excellent solution to ensure the group shares the challenge of making this the best possible experience, and lighten your load as well!
Deborah Rim Moiso
Hei Michael! Very banal answer here but how I've done this is: about 3 groups remained in three different corners of a room, and the others were in breakout spaces & a bench outside.
A question for Deborah and others: How do you manage hybrid buddy groups with respect to audio? I am envisioning a room with 18 people in it, and another 18 online. If you position six in-person groups of three around the room and ask them to meet with their three online buddies to make a group of six, how do you manage the noise? My sense is that whereas people can generally manage the peripheral noise of competing groups when they are in the room all together, it is much harder to have six hybrid groups with audio coming from all directions. I imagine it would be hard for online participants to hear their in-person counterparts well, and maybe vice versa.
That totally makes sense, Deborah (below). If heterogeneous buddy groups are constructed with the flow of the workshop in mind, then it's just a great way to support mixed groups in the flow. Alternatively, I see the idea of having assigned buddies who can be available through a backchannel as the activities proceed naturally. Talk soon..
Deborah Rim Moiso
Hei Michael! Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I've used both solutions (pairs of buddies and small groups) and --- isnt' this always the facilitator's answer? -- I think "it depends!" If your need is to support participation, as your question implies, I would agree having pairs makes most sense. If (as is the idea with this method card) it's more about creating a "home group" for small discussions, say at the end of each day (you'll notice the premise of this card is that we are in a longer event, lasting days) being a small group might ensure more diversity and keep it interesting in the long run. So, indeed "distracting" as you write, if your aim is participation support, but enriching if the aim is more around sharing and networking! How would buddy groups actually interact depends on your set up, I've been in a scenario in which two or three people in the room huddled around a computer, joined a Zoom call and the tech host put them in a breakout room with their Zoom-ing counterparts, and in a situation in which they had a list of their small group members on whattsapp and self-organised how to interact (including by only chatting or setting up their own call, note that these were all coaches&trainers, mostly knew one another, and are tech-savvy!!)
Thx Deborah! Re hybrid buddy groups, it seems like it could be distracting to have groups instead of say, buddies -- or more specifically, the people who are outside of the dominant modality have a buddy that they can contact easily for support or input. How would buddy groups actually interact?