Clustering

When I went to Alexandria to attend the 3-day Graphic Facilitation Workshop, by Nanna Frank and Anne Madsen, I experienced the clustering technique which was used by the trainers as an activity during the workshop. Clustering turned out to be a very interesting and highly engaging technique. I am going to describe the clustering process below.

Divergence: Brainstorming

Small pieces of paper are placed on the floor in the middle of the training room while participant seats are arranged in a large circle. Participants are asked to write one or more words on one of the small pieces of paper on the ground then leave the paper facing upwards on the ground. Participants may also draw instead of write. What they draw or write belong to a topic or answer a question asked by the trainer such as: “In your opinion, what do you think makes a community healthy or makes a team tick?”

Clustering

Participants are then allowed to move simultaneously in silence and arrange the pieces of paper on the ground into groups or clusters of related words and/or drawings. Participants should not keep holding the pieces of paper in their hands but move them around by pushing or sliding them on the ground without holding them in their hands so that they remain visible to the rest of the participants. Participants are not allowed to speak during this phase. When a participant feels satisfied with the groupings he or she then steps back. When everyone is satisfied and steps back the third phase of the clustering group activity starts.

Convergence: Distilling

Each participant selects a cluster and stands next to it. The cluster he or she selects should be the one that represents him or her more. We will find that participants sharing similar views are standing next to one another around the same cluster. Participants are then given a chance to speak to one another. Each group of participants standing around a cluster are asked to grab an extra piece of paper and write on it a title that sums up all the other words and drawings present in the cluster they are standing around.

Reflecting

Each group then shows the title they have arrived at. The trainer then asks them how they reached such a title and how did the discussion go. Participants then stick the pieces of paper forming their cluster on the wall under the title they have come up with. Those titles are considered to be the answer to the question the trainer had first asked. They were reached by the whole community of participants.

This technique is so fun and participants feel a lot of satisfaction after completing it. I have used it twice myself during delivering team building training for the banking sector and once during delivering a training of trainers course at Resala with great success.

Would you consider trying out the clustering technique in your next training program?

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