Sample Exercises

Here are a sample of the workshop exercises we have developed and used in the last 5 years in strategy retreats with start-ups, social entrepreneurs, community developers, and software developers. Our exercises are interactive, on your feet, and visually engaging. Most automagically produce documentation.

*All times are minimum workshop time and do not include additional conversation which is often generated in documentation process post-event.

Map of the Theory of Change

Three layered exercise to flesh out issues, principles, beliefs, evidence, context, strategy, expected change (and evidence thereof).

  • 4-6 hours minimum
  • useful for nonprofits, social entrepreneurship
  • Defines the reason for being for the organization as well as method of solving gap between current and desired state.


Pyramid of Accomplishments

For existing organizations and groups to reflect and harvest successes of the past to catapult into the future.

  • 2 hours
  • Useful for nonprofits and existing organizations.
  • Energy and cohesion generating.
  • Useful when applying for grants and other funding.


Role Starburst

Develop understanding of roles and relationships. What are a person’s core strengths, where is their competence, what should be handed off, what are “must-do-anyway tasks, and what insights come from establishing these? How do these relate to the other people on the team?

  • 30 minutes per person
  • useful for start-ups and growing organizations. Also useful when downsizing.
  • Facilitates understanding of where tasks get lost and where conflict can arise.


Putting on our Glasses

Get clear about the vision for community and develop shared vision and core language.

  • 1 hour
  • useful for community and ecosystem design and development.
  • Share key findings from pre-event survey. (requires custom survey in advance of event)


Coopitition Chart

Creates a spreadsheet of related and connected or rival organizations and clarity about desired relationships. Pre-cursor to Embedding in a Network exercise.

  • 1.5 hours
  • Useful for start-ups and organizations seeking partnership strategy.
  • Side-effect is further clarity on values and core language.


Embedding in a Network

Create map of the individual or organizations network including qualification of flows to and from (or around)

  • 2 hours
  • Useful for start-ups and social enterprise.
  • Facilitates ecosystem design and development.
  • Can also be done as a before/after snapshot showing how the organization changes processes in the network.


Oceans of Possibility

Dream and surf on what might be possible. Move beyond red oceans and create blue oceans of opportunity.

  • 2 hours
  • Useful for start-ups, social entrepreneurs, and organizations in flux.
  • Reveals new opportunities through creative brainstorming. This is not a refining exercise. It needs to be paired with one.


Tree of Challenges and Opportunities

Creates a mindmap of challenges and opportunities as well as finding and harvesting the “fruit” on the limb.

  • 1.5 hours
  • Useful for interpersonal dynamics as well as organizational/network dynamics.
  • Culminates in strategies or tactics for approaching challenges and opportunities.


Sketching a Crowd

A playful small group activity for developing stories about community participants.

  • 1.5 hours
  • Useful for product/service development as well as community and ecosystem design.
  • Generates rough user stories for several key audience areas.


Making Pathways

A group mapping activity for collecting input about paths from where we are to where we want to go.

  • 1+ hours
  • Useful for product and service development and strategy refining.
  • Bridges from a generative brainstorming activity to clarified options for implementation.
  • Produces a map showing possible paths and options to achieve desired outcomes and vision.


Hunting for Treasure

A playful group activity looking for both the “rock in my shoe” and the “diamonds in the rough” along the paths we mapped together.

  • 1+ hours
  • Useful for product and service development and strategy refining.
  • Creates realistic picture of what is possible and optimal paths for action. Names known pain points.


Developing Foresight

Futurecasting exercise, anticipating challenges and opportunities from a future perspective. Making foresight out of imagined hindsight.

  • 1 hour
  • Useful for all individuals and organizations.
  • Expands sense of future while providing real awareness of restrictions and resistance.
  • Side-effect: refines messaging.


Break the Rules (before someone else does)

A playful approach to developing organizational and community governance. What can go awry? What has? And what to do about it.

  • 2 hours
  • Useful for start-ups and communities (both online and offline). Internal and external social dynamics.
  • Unearths the often unspoken rules of engagement in groups from a safe distance.


Take Action

Complete a workshop with a project management plan.

  • 1+hours
  • Advised for all workshops




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