IAF Methods

The Knot

by for . Last edit was over 3 years ago
15 - 25 6 - 12


This fun exercise helps participants to appreciate the dilemmas and tangles that they may experience when working in an organization. It is followed by a reflection on the experience making use of the Focused Conversation from the ToP (Technology of Participation) methods.

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To enable a group to come together to focus on the dilemmas and issues they are facing as they plan for future developments.


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Ensure that you have an open space free of chairs, etc for the group(s) to form their circles. 


All stand and move to the open and arrange arrange ourselves in a circle. If you have more than 12 people divide them into two or more groups of 6-12 people.

Note:  Care should be taken concerning cultural issues that might arise, for example, holding hands, whether with men and women or men and men, may be an issue. If necessary have the women in one group and the men in another.

Get close enough together so that each of you can reach into the centre of the circle with your right hand and take someone's right hand.

Now lower your hands without letting go and reach into the centre of the circle with your left hand and take a different person's left hand.

Let's run a test by sending a pulse through our hands.  Start here -  X squeezes the hand they are holding with their left hand. The person who received the squeeze in their left hand should pass it on from their right hand. Now keep it going and eventually it should return to the right hand of the person who squeezed first. Did it?

Note: Watch the group(s) carefully since a mistake at this level will cause the event to fail. Make sure no two people are holding each other's left and right hands. Indicate the person who should start the pulse. This may take one or two tries, but it is fun and ensures they have followed the directions.

Now your assignment is to get untangled into a circle. You can turn your hands around as long as you do not break contact. You can go over, under, around, etc.

Note: If the group(s) can't do it, break the circle at one point and have them untangle into a chain.  If time permits, you might start by doing a chain before asking them to do a circle.

Follow-on Reflection

All return to your seats and let's reflect for a moment on our experience.

(Usually it will take a moment or two for them to settle down and be ready for the reflection.)

What were our instructions?
What did we do?

What did you experience?
How did you feel all tangled up?
How did that shift as time went on?

How would you speak about this as a metaphor for participation?

Where would you like to use this as an exercise?

This reflection uses Focused Conversation from the ToP methods. You ask a series of questions which flow from the more objective to the more interpretive and decisional. Depending on the size of the group, it is often helpful to go around the group with the first couple of questions so that everyone has a chance to speak.


Source: The Institute of Cultural Affairs

Taken from the Institute of Cultural Affairs, Technology of Participation (ToP) Manual on the Participatory Strategic Planning process. Submitted by jim.campbell@icab.be

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