This week I am facilitating some sessions of the Launch meeting of MAIZE and WHEAT CGIAR research programs in Mexico City. Agenda is largely driven by scientists and there is not much space for introducing more interactive facilitation methods. I was asked to run the whole day wheat session where morning was dedicated to three long PPT presentations each followed by panel discussion. That wasn’t really very challenging and went pretty well (having over 80 people in the room). After Lunch meeting continued with group discussions. We had only one room available (L shape) – I have tried to set up three large tables (25 people each), but that didn’t seem right. hence I have changed my mind and got chairs in the circle for my favorite Samoan circle. Introduction was OK, no opposition from people, however few minutes after start it was clear that this will not work – room was a Babel with too much noise to be able to hear clearly and focus on one discussion only. I have decided to remove the central group top another room and leave only two groups in the the room extremes to continue.
In the new room was a’classroom’ setting. No time for change. We have placed 5 chairs in the front (in half circle arrangement) and asked to continue with the same rules as in Samoan circle (how to get to speak) – surprisingly it wen pretty smooth and people coming and leaving the ‘speaking space’ like if it would be the inner circle. So at the end, except the fact that we have lost about 10 minutes moving from room to room, we have achieved the planned objectives.
Maybe the three Samoan circles would have worked if these were smaller, but having the large groups (almost 30 people in each circle) made it really too noisy.