In a facilitation skills workshop back in the summer a participant asked about ways to break up a group into small groups. I threw the question back at the participants and suggested they could easily think of at least 10 ways to create small groups. We stopped at 12.
Here’s their list which was the result of just a few minutes of thinking, which just goes to show that breaking into small groups doesn’t need to be that hard to do…
- number off – count round the group from 1 to 3 for 3 small groups, and so on
- by theme – allocate a theme to each corner of the room and allow people to choose by personal interest
- gender – either divide genders or mix them as appropriate
- group with people you don’t know
- mixed representation – mix people up according to whatever criteria are relevant in the meeting – could be to ensure a mix of skills or experience, or to ensure representation from across the teams in an organisation
- sections of the room – simply split the room according to where people are sat/stood… e.g. “those to my left in one group, in the middle in another, to my right in a third”
- by geography – divide or mix based on where people have come from as is appropriate
- spectrum line – get the group to line up in response to whether they agree (one end of the line) or disagree (t’other end) and then group them with those standing nearby. For example, it’s sometimes used in direct action trainings as a crude way of forming action groups in response to people’s willingness to face arrest
- random – possibly using an icebreaker to mix the group up before grouping them
- by contribution to the meeting – shy with shy and vocal with vocal
- by age – divide into age groups or mix up as appropriate
- leave them to it – let people form their own groups as they see fit
You might also want to take a look at the Zhaba facilitator collective’s ideas on the same topic. We’ll also be adding a few more when we publish our resources page in the not too distant future!