Inviting a paired walk is surprisingly effective in its simplicity. Going for a walk together increases trust and can help prepare the terrain for conflict resolution, while acting as an energizer at the same time. Make it hybrid-friendly by pairing a person in the room to one joining online!
Increase trust and mutual understanding, prepare the terrain for discussing difficult topics, inspire & energize.
Inform participants that they will be moving outside.
Invite them to pair up, ideally with somebody they don't know well or are less familiar with.
Participants will be expected back in [15/20 min]. Suggest that they walk in one direction for half of the allotted time, then walk back. Ask them to keep their own time (usually, by setting a timer on one of their phones).
Depending on the context of the workshop, suggest a topic, such as
- share the life experiences that brought you here;
- what is difficult for you / challenges in the team/company/project;
- ideas you have on the topic of the workshop/meeting...
Inform people that upon their return they will be invited to share any insights they would like the whole group to know about.
Expect people to deviate from the assignment and talk about whatever they want, this is ok if you keep in mind the main objective is to build trust.
People may tend to assume this is a break, so make sure to frame it as an activity.
Invite some reflections to debrief in the plenary, with the awareness that people may have discussed personal topics they may not want to share with the whole group.
- For hybrid workshops/meetings - an effective, simple and friendly way to build bridges between the online and offline participants. Set it up so people can use their phones and headsets to connect individually to another participant -- you'll need lists of participants and contacts for this! -- and invite a 10 min sharing and walk-and-talk. If someone does not have a phone, they can pair up with another offline participant, or you can invite a group of 3 to walk together (2 people online in a breakout and 1 offline OR 2 people offline sharing a device to connect with one remote participant).
- Gratitude walk (adapted from the work of Joanna Macy and the Work that Reconnects network) - an effective way for people to know each other on a deeper level, increase trust and re-energise the group. Invite participants to use the time of the walk to share what they are grateful for. Can be framed as an active listening exercise by asking one participant to share for the first half of the time, and the other to listen, then switch. Note: this means one person will share as they walk away from the main space, and the other upon return.
Keep in mind special needs in case of participants with disabilities or visual impairments, you might want to check in with them and find ways to make the activity accessible.
Taking a walk together is a basic human activity, no copyright required. Here is what Adam Kahane has to say about it in his 2021 book "Facilitating Breakthrough - How to Remove Obstacles, Bridge Differences, and Move Forward Together":
On one level, the walk is effective because of its mechanics. Two people who are curious to connect move forward side by side (or, if they aren't able or don't want to walk, sit side by side) -- relaxed and in nature, looking at the world together -- and talk informally, without papers, phones or other distractions, dealing together with whatever arises on their short journey. The walk offers them an opportunity within the structured content of the workshop to connect on a human level, as equals, and to share their perspectives.