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Guided Conversation

From the book
When Everyone’s a Volunteer
by Ivan Scheier

Background and Rules
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 are doing.

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 concerns.

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.


When Everyone's a Volunteer   by Ivan Scheier is available for purchase from Energize.