Extra: 10 Steps to Plan a Workshop

Are you interested in hosting a workshop to build the capacity of your local organizing group and fellow activists?  We make our curriculum available for anyone to use with one caveat: organizing a workshop is tough work, and requires good facilitators and training.  It can also be a very worthwhile use of your time to build your team, and develop new skills to make your work more effective.  We hope that the following guide will set you up for success if you’re planning to host a workshop in your community.

1. Design your workshop

OK, this step has a lot built into it.  Its important to get together with your team that wants to organize the workshop with you right at the beginning to answer the following important questions to guide the vision and organizing of the workshop:

  • What are our goals of the workshop?
  • Who do we want our workshop to reach?  How will we get them there?  How many people?
  • What skills and sessions are most important to our participants?
  • How long of a workshop do we want to/can we organize?
  • What is our budget for the workshop?

Once you have the answers to these key questions in place and a basic vision, it’s time to start reaching out and nailing down the details.

2. Choose a venue

The primary factor in selecting a venue is likely going to be where you have affordable or free access. If you do have some flexibility or choice in the matter, we have a few recommendations to consider:

  • If there is an available and affordable venue, being away from the city in a natural setting can go a long way in providing focus, quiet for reflection, and inspiration to the group.
  • If you’re organizing a multi-day workshop, we recommend trying to have people stay overnight in the same place together, as evening free time often becomes important bonding time.
  • Finally, most workshops benefit from having slideshows or powerpoints or videos displayed during the workshop, so having a projector, sound system, and microphone is pretty important.

3. Choose Your Dates

We often find workshops have some of the best results when there is a clear, short-term trajectory for the group’s work following the workshop. By timing the workshop to be 2 – 4 months prior to a major campaign or event, you can provide a powerful opportunity for collaboration following the workshop that will help cement the bonds formed by participants.  The only other major thing to consider is to choose dates that work for your target audience, to make sure you get the people there that you want to reach.

4. Recruit Great Participants

Ensuring highly motivated participants in your target audience is possibly the most important step in organizing your workshop – here are our recommendations for making sure you get great participants:

  • In our experience, anywhere from 15 – 40 participants can be a good size. It’s enough people to have a diversity of perspectives and quality discussions, but still small enough to have more intimate experiences and develop real, lasting relationships and bonds in the group.
  • We recommend using an application process and establishing clear criteria as to whom you are seeking for the workshop (people totally new to the issue or people with some proven leadership experience already, etc).  Be sure to reach out far and wide – this is a great recruitment opportunity!
  • Seek to get a diverse set of perspectives into the room – it will make for a richer and more educational experience for everyone!

5. Designate facilitators

Having effective, energizing facilitators are key for running a successful workshop.  Here are some recommendations for considerating your facilitation team:

  • You’ll want more than one facilitator so you don’t get totally exhausted. For small groups (15-20 participants) 2-3 facilitators is sufficient. A couple more is also usually fine especially for large groups, though you want to be sure that facilitators don’t overwhelm the group dynamic.
  • It can be helpful to make sure facilitators don’t have logistical considerations on their plate as well – this will distract from their ability to be able to prepare sessions appropriately.
  • It can be important to have at least one facilitator with workshop facilitation experience.
  • Make sure your facilitators know they are responsible for keeping the workshop on time, for preparing and covering all the material and group exercises, and making sure everyone participates.  Be sure to check out our facilitation tips as well.

6. Organize the logistics

Making sure things run smoothly is an important part in setting participants up to focus on learning and bonding with their fellow organizers.

  • Food: Providing food on site will enable participants to focus, and keep them from getting hungry and distracted.  Meal times are also a valuable, informal team-building time and it is usually best to have group meals together.  Providing tea and coffee to keep people awake, and for breaks is very helpful as well.  Make sure to ask people about food allergies!
  • Travel: Make sure you know when people are arriving and communicate to them about what support you can provide, and where to go when they arrive.
  • Lodging: Let participants know what type of lodging they’ll be staying in, whether they need to bring bedding, if there will be showers, etc.

7. Craft the agenda

Once you have the logistics together and your participants selected, it’s time to map out exactly how you’ll use your time together. Look at the sessions on this site for ideas.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Less is more: the more you pack in, the more you’ll need to rush and the less participants will actually learn.  Cut back as much as you can so you can learn things in greater depth.
  • Ask your participants:  survey your participants to see what they most want to prioritize learning
  • Build in breaks: Free time, breaks, and informal socializing is key for bonding and to keep up motivation and focus.  If you don’t give your participants breaks, they will rebel!
  • Plan an open session: Let your participants plan their own session, whether its a skill share, a chance to share their work, or a discussion they’d like to have as a group.
  • Know that you’ll go overtime: It just happens – plan to be flexible.

8. Edit the materials

Prepare adequate time with your facilitators to download the materials on this site and familiarize themselves with the material.  You’ll also want to take time edit them for length, cultural appropriateness, and to include more relevant examples in the group activities beforehand.  We recommend printing out participants’ guides so that people can follow along, make notes, and refer to the agenda throughout the training.

9. Run your workshop

Have a great time, remember to breathe, and spend time getting to know the people who come – they’re who you’re building this movement with!  A few other reminders:

  • Stay energized – make sure to play plenty of games and energizers throughout the training to keep people’s spirits up
  • Document – make sure to take photos and videos to remember the workshop – and send them to us too!

10. Follow up

After the workshop, aside from providing time for people travel home, rest, and digest the material, it’s good to build off the positive energy and momentum created in the workshop experience to continue engaging everyone, and ideally transitioning into real action. This requires creating clear and efficient communications channels — email listserves, facebook groups, etc — and it requires modelling constructive use of those tools. When a workshop ends, no matter how tired you are, try not to disappear. Take a deserved rest, but capitalize on the moment and both model continued leadership by initiating more work, and also continue in your role as a facilitator, attempting to draw out and support other’s leadership, not simply falling back to the same organizing team you began with when you started.

Conclusion

Throughout the experience, from start to finish of organizing a climate leadership workshop, remain mindful of why we do this work. We are aiming to build a movement strong enough, large enough, and deep enough to transform our world, to create the solution, both practical and political that science and justice demand. These workshops have already proven to be one of the most powerful ways of furthering those aims.  Be sure to keep in touch with what you’re planning and how it goes. And enjoy!