This exercise is an easy introduction to the network process--easy in that it is
relatively protective and non-threatening. It has been used with as few as six to eight
people and as many as 100.
Here are instructions the process facilitator can use or
adapt (presented in script form):
1. Please pair up with someone you don't know or don't know too well.
2. One of you will be the Speaker, while the other is the Listener. The challenge for
the Listener is to listen without interrupting. This can be really hard to do but it is a
very important part of the process.
3. Now I'll ask the Speaker to begin with a minute or so of good news about what you
4. (After about one minute) Now the Speaker should take a minute or so to talk about
issues, concerns, or challenges in your work. (volunteer or paid employment)
5. (After another minute) Now try to complete this part of the process as soon as you
can and then switch over. The person who was the Speaker becomes the Listener, while the
Listener becomes the Speaker and repeats the previous process. That is, the new Speaker
gives about one minute of good news followed immediately by about one minute of issues or
6. (After about two minutes more) Now, try to help each other with your issues,
concerns, or challenges. You don't have to totally 'solve" the problem; just a
helpful hint or two will be fine. Thus, if your partner's concern is how to raise $2,000
to buy furniture for a shelter, you don't have to give them the money to qualify as a
helper! You might, however, give them some excellent fresh leads on how and where to raise
the money, whom to talk to, etc.
The facilitator should allow at least five minutes for step #6. You might still be told
to mind your own business when you try to call "time"; people do get
enthusiastic and committed to this stage of the process.
Comments and Discussion
A good way to begin the discussion is to ask how many people either gave or received some
help with their issue/concern during the process. Usually, at least two-thirds of the
hands will go up, and the facilitator can further enhance the effect by asking any pairs
who wish to do so, to share their helpful happenings from step 6. Discussion can highlight
how much you can learn from a relative stranger by following a few simple rules. Among
these the rule to 'just listen' may be the hardest of all. Yet, it is crucial; the ability
to listen carefully is an almost invariable characteristic of the successful networker.
Allow about 15 minutes for initial orientation and steps 1-6. Another 10-15 minutes is
needed for comments and discussion.
The process can be adapted for use by as many as 4 to 5 people in a set. Each of the 4 or
5 first give their good news. Then each gives their issues or concerns, followed by the
helping interaction of step 6 as a discussion among the entire group.