Community Building Workshop -

The "Long" Participative Introduction
by Jerry Hampton

This article was written for Community Building workshops but the group dynamics in this can be adapeted to many types of communications workshops with a little creativity. If you need help in doing this, write the address below.


How a workshop introduction is done can impact the entire workshop outcome. I've had opportunity to experiment with workshop introductions over the last 20 years. This article is mainly about Community Building Workshops, but the group dynamics can apply to any group. I have concluded the way an introduction is done can impact the outcome of a workshop in terms of the amount of time spent in each stage and the overall quality in terms of depth of community. An introduction that builds safety and trust will result in expressions of more authentic pseudocommunity, more real disclosure of personal anxiety in the chaos stage and more time spent in emptiness with higher probability of a deeper felt community. This is done mainly by including several interactive events with the participants in the introduction.

This article is in four parts. You can jump to any of the parts by clicking on the title below.


I have experimented with content of introductions as well as time of the introduction. I have tried from 20 to 150 minutes and used content that has no participant interaction and content that has participant interaction. I found considerable favorable differences with participant interaction The results are given below.

A fairly short introduction of 20 -30 minutes with no personal involvement by participants will result in an extended time of inauthentic pseudocommunity and projected chaos or pseudochaos coming from outward stimulus. Emptying is often delayed for many hours, perhaps 8 to 15 hours. This pseudocommunity will the overly "sweet", highly mannered, "aren't we all alike" and usually interlaced with 2 to 4 projects (to build safety) like: if the lights should be on or off or if a person should be taking notes, etc. The chaos will tend to be projected on to other participants or some issue outside the room and be more blatant and obtrusive and not very personal. Most of this happens because the participants do not feel safe in the group.

A longer introduction from 30 to 60 minutes that gives more information about the process but with no participant interaction will produce results the same as above. If you add one element of participant interaction like the simple "checkin", the trust level goes up several notches. This may reduce the number of projects done to build safety and reduces the time to get into emptiness and allows the very shy to hear their voice and perhaps speak sooner.

I have tried about 90 workshops where the introduction took from 70 to 150 minutes with participant interaction and the results are excellent. [The time difference depends on size of the group.] These longer introductions include three interactive events with participants. This changes a workshop favorably in each stage. Pseudocommunity will last a much shorter time and be far more authentic. Chaos will start in the first hour with expressions of personal anxiety. True emptying (not dumping) may occur in the second or third hour. Participant interaction removes considerable stress about who is in the room and cerates a safer environment of trust for more risk taking. And, participants seem to know what to do sooner. This also reduces the number of facilitator interventions and the ones you do tend to be more positive. In most workshops without the participatory introduction, I see about 2 cycles of the process. In the participatory I see 3 to 5 cycles of the process which results in more true empting and greater depth of community. This has worked with 95% of the groups I've done since about 1995.


The pseudocommunity time may be reduced from 2 or more hours to almost zero. The introductory interaction is a form of structured pseudocommunity with an education element that builds safety and trust. It will be followed by a different kind of chaos that is mostly coming from personal anxiety within participants. Participant may even name it "internal chaos" they need to get rid of. They often do this in the first hour.

The chaos will tend to develop on a more personal basis of what truly is keeping individuals from community within themselves and the group. It may include statements about differences among races, religions, sexual preferences, their jobs and other situations that normally will take hours to develop. Discussions of differences become more authentic with words supporting understanding differences. The people are more ready to listen rather than just to argue for the sake of debate or speaking just to fill space. Bickering, squabbling or quarreling give way to more sympathetic statements that promote comprehension of differences. It is a more palatable chaos done in the spirit of community. It results in quicker transition to letting go or accepting of differences with focus on internal anxiety and what needs to be personally emptied. Participants find what needs to be lets go to be in community with themselves so they can be in community with the group. Another way of saying this is that it moves the individual to a place of higher self love and feeling worthy of love by the group.

The emptiness stage may cycle many times with the same person returning to tell more or even a different, deeper or more authentic story . The emptiness is of a more current nature rather than old stuff that matters less. It is like the energizer bunny that keeps going and going and going. Usually when groups share deeply there has to be a time of retreat to gather courage to continue. This still happens but the retreat time is less and the periods of emptiness are longer. The retreat may take the form of a project or group norming.

Community: Several facilitator's that have experience this changed introduction/workshop felt somewhat confused by what they experienced. I believe the confusion comes from the people gradually integrating all stages where individuals mix them together. The community is mixed in with the other stages in a nice way of acceptance not only of each other but of the revolving process in the stages. I have come to call this being in community while building community.

This community building is a continuously tightening spiral into deeper community. It feels more real and more authentic than some other forms of community that had very high feeling but not less personal content, sometimes referred to as the big bang or pink cloud effect.

When you first experience this type of workshop it will leave you asking questions about what happened, because it is different. You may ask: "Is this really community?" The community slowly sneaks into the group and is just there, like grace. The exit surveys tell the story when almost every person ranks the "sense of community experienced" very high, like an average of 8.8 out of 10. I have had several workshops where every participant ranked it in the highest block (10). It really does not matter what you the facilitator has felt in past workshops. What matters is what the participants feel as a group. There is an extra bonus in all of this. The introduction allows them to learn some principles of community in a deeper way and they may comment about this during the workshop: "Oh, we have just dealt with a difficult issue with love and respect". We did it!"


I have done this a number of ways and will present one way that works best for me. I have done about 5 workshops where I did the first 90 minutes of the introduction on the night before the workshop and then did 30 minutes the next morning before presenting the Rabbi's Gift. If done all in the morning of the workshop, I split the introduction into two parts with a break at about 1 ½ hours usually before or after the checkin. Time will vary with size of group.

The following is an outline of a long introduction with the interactive parts noted and times given for each element. Some elements will vary depending on the number in the workshop.

1. Sponsor Welcome/ Introduction/Housekeeping 5 - 7 min

2. Leader introduces self 3 -8 min

3. Second leader introduces self 3 -8 min.

4. Welcome to CBW. 5 min
Present Agenda. 2 min
Community Building History. 8 min.

5. Community Building Mission Statement - a thinking piece.
(interactive discussion among participants) 15-20 min

6. Community Building Dream/Philosophy Statement - a feeling piece
(interactive discussion among participants) 10 -20min

7. Can Tell You (KNOWNS) 10 min
(includes short discussion about stages and definition of a community)

8. Can Not Tell You (unKNOWNS) 5 -7 min.

[NOTE: I have experimented with from 4 to 21 guidelines and have concluded less is better. I'm currently using only 7, but have had good results with only 4]

9. Guidelines, Items 1 -4 3 - 7 min

10. Guidelines, Items 5 -7           3 -10 min.

11. Checkin - each person is asked to do the following and you go around the circle:
A. State name,
B. Where you are from,
C. Why you are here (if you know) and
D. (optional)If you have been coerced to attend, please say so and it will help you be present.
(time depends on number of people, but usually less than 1 min per person. You tell the group you will model what you want them to do and have your coleader do the same. Make it snappy and to the point)
[NOTE: Item D has achieved some terrific results, mainly with married couples or lovers. It has facilitated a male spouse really participating in the workshop rather than just sit with arms crossed and looking out the window. In two cases, you might say the workshop ended up more for these males than any other person in the workshop because they seemed to get so much from it.]

12. Break (optional here or before 11.)

13. Rabbi's Gift - Silence


[NOTE: Other topics can be used in place of the mission and dream. For example, with a group of youths ages 17 -19, I used the three words: trust, respect and love. I asked them to talk about what these words meant to them and how did the three words relate to each other. I have also extracted important part of the mission statement as concepts, and used only those, written on a chart and usually in a handout for all to have and take home.]

Facilitator presents the statement and says: "This statement contains the principles of building community and if you could live by these principles you could say you were truly living in community. Community is hard to learn and I have been working on this for X years and will be all my life. This is a real thinking piece. [Point a finger to your head.] I am going to read this statement now." (read) Then the facilitator says to the group: " Now for about 5 minutes I want you to discuss what some part of this could mean in your life or your organization. Please find someone you do not know well and discuss it with them." There will be a slight pause while they find a person. Your task here is to make sure no one is excluded and if you see a person that has been excluded, put them with others even if it becomes a threesome. Then monitor the group. They will start slowly. Once started, you may have a problem stopping them. At about 4-8 minutes warn them they have only 1 minute left. [Depending on the group, you may want to allow the discussion to last for 10 to 15 minutes.] Then announce in a loud voice: "It's time to come back to the large group." Wait a short time for them to focus attention on you. Then select a person by name that you have seen really talking a lot and say to them: "John, will you share some of what you talked about?" Let John talk and then select another person by name: "Betty will you share what you talked about." Then ask several others to respond. Sometimes you need to ask the second person of the dyad to speak. After 3-5 responses, summarize if necessary what you have heard as a transition into the next event, The Dream.

Present the dream in the same way as the mission statement, but state it is a feeling piece [hold your hand over your heart as you state this]. Tell them to find a different person that they do not know well. They usually do not need as much time for this because they start faster.
Do not be surprised if you get a few tears with this and some authentic sharing.

Start by saying you want them to say four things:

1. State your name
2. Say where you are from (may use something else here if all from the same place)
3. State why you are here if you know. If you do not know say that.
4. And if you have been coerced to attend by your company, spouse, or any other person it will help you be here if you can say that. [You will be really surprise at the results this gets]
For some groups that start in an evening, you may use a fifth event in place of one of the above or add it for night before introductions. An event I have uses is to ask them to share something about how this day or week has gone.

State that the checkin must be done quickly and you and your coleader will model how you would like it to be done. Most people will follow your modeling if you keep it crisp and to the point. Occasionally you may get a person that wants to tell their life story and you may have to stop them politely by saying they will have time to say more later.

This is the long participatory introduction. Try it and you will like it.

Copyright by Jerry L. Hampton, 1995-2003 revised Nov. 2003

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