A Simple Design to Facilitate Climate Change Action


This blog is going to focus on a climate change action workshop in Hong Kong I was co-leading in the midst of a super typhoon coming towards Hong Kong.  Hong Kong had never experienced this high level (9) typhoon in its history.  Here is a photo of a tiny sample of the after math in a park next to my hotel.

What I experienced in Hong Kong was that climate change disturbs every aspect of our daily activity. It also leaves one energetically exhausted given the unknown nature of what was coming our way.

I’m proud of what my colleagues Lilian Wang,  Yvonne Yam, Teck Kwang Loh, Jorie Wu, Eric Tseng, Jill Nicholson and Peter Seah were able to achieve either in Osaka (site of a super typhoon the week before where we were at a conference) or Hong Kong.  It gave me a clear picture of how dedicated and talented we are in the facilitator community in the face of intensity and adversity!

The Talanoa Dialogue Workshop

There is a movement happening in the world called the Talanoa Dialogues around climate change action.  I was incredibly grateful to be invited to help facilitate one of these dialogues in Hong Kong. Talking about climate change in the midst of a series of disastrous weather events was very interesting.  Luckily, the typhoon hit a day and half later and all of the participants were able to attend.  I’d like to tell you about how we managed potentially challenging space set-up (IAF competency B2).  In addition, I’m going to focus on how to use a very simple design that the Talanoa Dialogue creators gave us. And how to choose brilliant and effective activities for this pre-given design (IAF competency D4: adaptability).  We were working with local environmental experts and others well connected with working on climate change.  The Talanoa Dialogue format came from the UN (United Nations). The format was  a 3 part design:

  • Where are we now (around climate change in Hong Kong)?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • How do we get there?

First of all, I’d like to say that this is a deceptively simple design that you can probably use for almost 50% of your facilitated events.  So let’s take a look at this design and see how we chose some very effective activities to go with each of the 3 parts.  You can use any number of activities to answer each of the questions but choose wisely based on your time and audience. Here is what we chose.

Question 1: Where are we now?

  • Participants shared what they were doing with their organizations and/or as  independent citizens around climate change
  • They listened to each other using Constructivist Listening (timed, confidential, uninterrupted listening)
  • In the last part of the section, we had them get together in teams of 3-4 and draw their impression of where Hong Kong was now in a graphic format – here are few photos.

Question 2: Where do we want to go?

  • We used the ToP Consensus Workshop method. We did not have a lot of time so we had them brainstorm ideas before lunch and work in small groups to describe the vision themes that they saw emerging.

Part 3: How will we get there?

  • We used an Open Space format to get at the topics of most interest/relevance based on responses to the first two questions. They brainstormed proposed topics in small groups (modification to Open Space – see our earlier blog) and presented options to the group.  We then set up stations for the chosen topics and small groups were encouraged to visit 1-3 topic areas and provide their insights into what the next steps might be.

I think we were very successful as a first attempt. The tone was very collaborative despite multiple different agencies with different foci attending. Several factors that contributed to this, I feel were:

  • many advance meetings with the client to understand the topic, process and participant needs
  • a short rehearsal with all Facilitators and client the day before if all activities
  • careful advance examination of the space to determine how to work with such a small room, mosquitoes if we used the outside area, etc.

P.S. The space worked out just fine even though we were very anxious about it. We had to hang a lot of visuals on the bookshelves and use stand up cardboard walls for our sticky wall.

Here are a few photos of the space.


Blog: Tinkering with Open Space!

The HK Talanoa Dialogue report submitted to the UN – compiled by John Sayer – Download Here

Please let us know how you are working on climate change action.

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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