Getting people to share personal stories about their experiences can reveal very specific and often useful information. When told in a group setting, you can identify themes and patterns between the stories as well. This activity also works well as an icebreaker!
Identify 3-4 key questions that will help you better understand the challenge you’re addressing. Keep them open-ended, and wherever possible, allow people opportunities to share their individual experiences.
Everyone is given a poster board. The facilitator invites people to partner with someone they don’t yet know, or assigns partners randomly. The first question is read aloud, and each partner is given a set amount of time (usually 1-3 minutes each) to respond in turn.
While each participant is sharing their story, their partner is listening attentively and writing down the key words or phrases they hear on individual sticky notes, which are then stuck to the speaker’s board.
After both partners have shared their responses, the facilitator signals a swap, and everyone takes their boards with them and finds a new partner for the next question.
After the questions are complete, the boards are displayed and the entire group takes 5-10 minutes to do a “Board Walk” of the room and review the key ideas that have emerged.
The facilitator leads a quick share-out of ideas and asks the group to sort their keywords into thematic clusters to see what patterns emerge. To take this activity one step further, invite the group to steal key words from any board and use them to craft a sentence or poem about the challenge being addressed.