Co-creating community solutions through sharing lived experiences

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  • Co-created solutions
  • Strengthened Community
  • Trust 
  • Solidarity 


  • Provide an opportunity for participants to brainstorm ways to improve their communities. 
  • Build momentum and incentivise interactivity as this exercise starts with pairs, moves to quartets and moves to a large group discussion.
  • Help participants get to know each other and who else is in the room.
  • Create a safe, positive space by inviting participants to get to know each other through dialogue and reinforcing active listening

Adapted From:


You will need:

  • At least two hours for steps 1 to 5 and 30 minutes for step 6.
  • Between 4 and 16 participants.
  • A designated and experienced facilitator who can lead (and not participate in) the activity.
  • A topic that everyone in the room will have lived experiences they can share and be motivated to work together as a community to solve. If you don’t have a topic, you can get the people in the room to identify one 
  • To review and consider all the example prompts included in this exercise. Are they suitable for your participants? How might they be worded differently to ensure that your participants will be able to respond meaningfully

For face-to-face, you will need:

  • A large spacious room.
  • Chairs arranged in a circle (to begin).
  • Pens & Markers
  • Sticky Notes
  • Wall space to affix sticky notes.
  • Flipchart paper
  • Flipchart paper stand

For virtual, you will need:

  • A video conferencing platform allowing you to utilise and manage small group breakouts.
  • To set up a collaborative online doc like Google Docs or Etherpad, you can share it with your participants and have them work from it. Find our template here.
  • Inform participants beforehand that they will need to be in a location that allows them to participate openly and has enough bandwidth to open a collaborative document and simultaneously have their video cameras on.

The Play


  • Do introductions (suggested introduction: your name, where you are from, and ONE sentence on why you came to the meeting),
  • Review the agenda and objectives for the meeting,
  • Provide guidelines for interacting respectfully and creating a safe space for everyone’s participation.
  • If you don’t have a topic, ask your participants to identify one they can work on solving as a community. Put the following sample topics before them and get them to +1, their greatest priority. Invite them to add a topic for other participants to consider
    • Burnout 
    • Lack of Representation in Government 
    • Lack of transparent process in Decision-Making
    • Services in their community
    • Security
    • Misinformation

Step 1 – Get participants to reflect and share their experiences in pairs

Ask them to find the participant in the room they know the least. Instruct them to interview each other about their lived experiences on the topic. Ask them to capture the responses on a paper or in the online collaborative doc. 

Tell them that they have two roles,

  • As the interviewer, your objective is to capture the interviewee’s response.
  • As the interviewee, your objective is to convey your experience as clearly as possible.

Sample Interview Questions 

Provide either via a handout or the collaborative doc.

1. How confident are you in your ability to handle the topic?

  • ❏ Not at all confident
  • ❏ A little confident
  • ❏ Moderately confident
  • ❏ Very confident
  • ❏ Completely confident

2. What is the reason for your level of confidence?

  • Respondent 1: 
  • Respondent 2:

3. How much agency or power do you feel you have to be able to change your situation concerning the topic?

  • ❏ Not at all
  • ❏ Very little
  • ❏ Some
  • ❏ A lot
  • ❏ A great deal

4. What is the reason for your response?

  • Respondent 1: 
  • Respondent 2:

5. Can you describe a moment you felt able to influence the outcomes when experiencing circumstances related to the topic? 

Step 2 – Analyse Responses in Quartets

After they have interviewed each other, tell them to find another pair. They should exchange their responses with the new pair. Once they have reviewed and clarified their responses, ask them to spend a few minutes discussing and comparing the commonalities and differences in their responses. 

Get them to put their post-it notes on a wall and organise them into similarities and differences.

For virtual – put the following prompts in your collaborative doc and have them silently populate the blank dotes with answers.

What are the similarities in our responses?

What are the differences in our responses?

Step 3 – Understand the ‘why’ in a large group 

After everyone has read all the responses, get everyone to read them on the wall or in the collaborative doc. Then, ask the following, capturing the responses on flip chart paper at the front of the room or in a Google Doc. 

Considering the experiences of everyone in the room, why is the topic happening in our community?

Step 4 – Brainstorm collective solutions in triplets

Ask your participants to form new groups of three. Pass out sticky notes and markers or pens to all of the groups. Tell them they now have another 10 minutes to Brainstorm answers to the question: Given our experiences, what might be potential solutions for the topic in our community?

Ask them to write answers on sticky notes (one per sticky note). Occasionally remind them that ‘more is more’ – they should generate as many answers as possible. Also, remind them that the sticky note should contain a complete sentence as it must be read and understood independently.

Step 5 – Identifying solutions in a large group

Once the groups generate sticky notes, they should randomly place them on a wall.

After all the sticky notes are on the wall, tell participants they have an important task—they each must review every one. Encourage them to read them all.

Once they have organised all the sticky notes and are still standing in front of the wall, ask them to reflect upon what they see. 

Does anything jump out at them? Is there a solution on the wall that they think should be pursued?

For Virtual

Have people silently respond to the prompts below 

What SHOULD we do as a community in the future to prevent the topic?

What MIGHT you do yourself in the future to prevent the topic?

(Optional) Step 6 – Trialing with StoryTelling

Understanding the experiences in the room is the first step. To create solutions, we must develop narratives and stories that engage and inform others.

Ask the participants to form new groups of three. Assign each group with an audience and task for creating a story based on what they’ve seen in the responses. There might be a relevant audience and action that has come out of Step 4 to use. Suggested framing that may be helpful:

  • Inform a member of this community about what is happening in their community.
  • Tell a decision maker or person with power about what is happening in this community and how they might help.
  • Tell an ally about what is happening in this community to mobilise/call them to action.
  • Tell a neutral party about what is happening to educate them and make them an ally.
  • Tell an opponent about what is happening to counter their view.

To craft a story, they need to think about the following:

  • What is compelling to the person listening to the story?
  • What might the listener not know that will make the story more relevant (help contextualise)?
  • A specific individual that represents that audience. They should imagine telling the story to them and what their response might be.

Give each group three to five minutes to share their story with everyone.

Ending the exercise

Finish the exercise with a large group discussion, asking participants what has surprised them and what they have learned about it. The facilitator should listen to how participants might want to take ideas forward in the future. Using a piece of flip chart paper, record commitments from participants on how to move forward and work together.


Thanks to the following contributors who tested and provided feedback to this exercise:

  • Aislinn Lambert, Open Rights Group
  • Allison Corkery, WIEGO
  • Deborah Farrell
  • Dorine Files
  • Greg Bloom
  • Dr. Jesse Mears,
  • Luis Marquez Garrido, RightsCon
  • Sarah Allen
  • Soledad Magnone
  • Sophia Bazile
  • Teju Ravilochan

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