Appreciative Trios

Purpose: This activity is a great way for participants to deepen their relationships and knowledge of each other’s lived experience relating to a particular topic/question. By focusing on positive elements of a question or situation, participants are invited to reflect on elements/attributes/characteristics/situations that they appreciate and respond well to, with the intention being that intention follows attention.

Materials: Ask participants to each have a piece of paper and something to write with. Have the inquiry or question and the three roles written on a piece of flip chart paper and invite participants to take a picture of it before they find their spot for the activity. Otherwise, it’s nice to be able to invite trios to be in various different spaces - outside, in different rooms, etc - as these conversations should feel a bit intimate and private.

Time: 60-90 mins

Step one: Explain to participants that this is an opportunity to get to know two other participants on a deeper level, and that the focus of this activity is on the positive aspects of the situation the inquiry asks you to reflect on. Invite participants to self-organise into trios with people that they don’t know very well. Once participants have their trios, explain the three roles (Storyteller, Witness and Notetaker/Timekeeper) to participants and tell them that they will each have an opportunity to play each role. Then introduce the question or inquiry that you have formed for the activity (it should follow the inquiry of the workshop and/or dovetail into previous/later activities). The roles are explained below.

Storyteller - You have freedom to explore the inquiry in whatever way you wish/feels appropriate/comes to mind.

Witness - Your role is to bear witness to the Storyteller, without distractions (keeping track of time or taking notes). Provide eye contact and non-verbal responses. If needed, you can ask clarifying or generative questions to help the Storyteller.

Notetaker/Timekeeper - Your role is to keep track of time and to let the Storyteller know when they have 2 mins left and then when their time is up, as well as when it is time to switch Storytellers. You are also the notetaker, you can note down interesting things from the story, questions you have, body language you note, etc, as there will be time to reflect these things back to the Storyteller.

Step two: Give participants the instruction that each participant will have a set amount of time to tell their story, then a set amount of time for the Witness and Notetaker to offer reflections, and then another amount of time to respond to the patterns or reflections received. So - if there is an hour for the activity, each participant will have 20 minutes to focus on their response to the question. They could divide this 20 minutes into: 10 minutes for the Storyteller to tell their story, 7 minutes for reflections from the Witness and Notetaker, and 3 minutes for the Storyteller to respond to what they heard.

Step three: Remind trios a) to take a picture of the question and the roles, b) to take a piece of paper and pen, c) of the time they have to complete the three rounds, d) that each participant should have equal time to tell their story and receive reflections, and e) what the harvest will be if doing one. Invite participants to take some time individually to think about their responses if needed before beginning to share, but to adjust the timing as necessary so that each participant has the same amount of time to share and reflect.

Step four: If you plan to do a harvest, make sure to let participants know what they will need to have gleaned from their conversations. It would be helpful to give them the harvest questions before they go out, and suggest that they spend ~10 minutes after the three rounds to focus on those questions before coming back to the larger group

Often the harvest for this activity focuses on patterns across all three stories or insights that particularly stood out. Another reason to let participants know about the harvest before they start is that, while participants might be comfortable sharing something with two other people, they may not be comfortable sharing with the larger group.

The harvest should have a clear purpose that either allows for insights to come to the surface, or curls into other activities of the workshop. However, the harvest for this activity should focus on larger themes and patterns instead of details of participants’ personal stories.