IAF Methods

Historical Scan

by for . Last edit was almost 2 years ago
120 + 6 - 100

A method to look into the past and celebrate it as preparation for planning the future.

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Additional info


The group will have a concrete picture of their accomplishments within a historical and global context


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  • Blank flat wall, narrow tape for "lines", markers and long paper for wall, cards or stickies and markers for participants



Setting: Blank flat wall, narrow tape for "lines" or markers and long paper for wall, cards or stickies and markers for participants

Ideal conditions: Long blank flat wall for posting, participants that include both old-timers and newcomers

Pre-Work Required: Think through the timeline -- when did the organization begin -- decide size of time blocks.

Prepare horizontal timeline on wall ahead of session -- draw a line about 1/3 of the distance down, and divide into time blocks. Choose a significant length of time.

Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: Facilitator is detached from her opinions while leading the scan.

Facilitator personality fit: Able to keep group moving, accept all answers. Ability to evoke observations, then handle emotions, then draw out patterns and metaphor, and move group to conclusion.


Set context of session:
"We will reflect on the impact of the organization (team, etc.)"

Introduce wall chart

Introductions if necessary

Objective Level
1. "Global events" -- events that had an impact on the world.
- Group members brainstorm some global events -- try to cover time blocks.
- Put on chart (get from around the room).
- Quick reflection on global events.

2. "Industry/Field/Nation/ Community"
- Group members brainstorm events that had an impact on the nation or field.
- Put on chart in time block where they happened.
- Quick reflection on these.

3. Organisation
- Brainstorm events and accomplishments of this organisation -- try to cover time blocks.
- Small groups write cards.
- Put on chart starting with first time block.

Reflective Level
1. After everything is on the wall:  What catches your attention -- jumps out at you?

2. Where is a lot going on at once? High points? Low points? Gaps or slow periods? (can mark these on the chart)

3. What relationships do you see between the world and the field?
World and the organisation?
Organisation and the field?
How did we respond?

4. (Image of history as a river, with bends; or as a history book with chapters) Where do you see shifts or turning points? (Mark on chart)
What are these shifts to and from?

Interpretive and Decisional Levels
1. What would you name each chapter? "This was a time of ______"
(Write titles on chart)
2. Look from left to right. What trends do you see emerging? (List on right side of chart)
3. What are implications of these trends for our organisation?
4. What would you title this whole timeline?

What did we do this morning?
What surprised you?
What happened to us as a group?
What will you tell others we did here?
How are we different?
How can you use this?


Follow-Up Required: Verbatim documentation on paper in landscape layout

Usual or Expected Outcomes: A self-generated story of journey, healing of past rifts, sense of accomplishment.  Can be many years long, or a few months, depending on the need of the group.

Potential pitfalls: Names of "chapters" can have hidden meanings

How success is evaluated: Everyone has participated, the story hangs together, people are re-energized about the past and the future

Examples of successes and failures: An organization that had been forcibly created from 2 diverse organizations 5 years previously did an Historical Scan as a conflict resolution intervention, and discovered the roots of their animosity, which allowed a level of forgiveness and the capacity to move forward together.


Source: Lots of ICA folks

Derived from: Wall of Wonder, Journey Wall

History of Development: 40 years of development, starting from community development projects. Published as Journey Wall by Bruce Williams, this version written by Jo Nelson

Recognizable components: Events on a wall timeline, reflective conversation, visual summary of "chapters" of the journey above the timeline

Alternative names: Wall of Wonder, Journey Wall

Comments (1) ( 5.0  avg / 2 ratings)

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  • One of my favourites - here's an example of how I have used it with 120 staff of the European Training Foundation in Turin - https://martingilbraith.com/2014/05/28/facilitation-case-study-celebrating-20-years-with-the-european-training-foundation-in-turin-etf20/

    almost 2 years ago