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Three tools to foster engagement when planning a Social Innovation workshop

10th July 2018

When speaking about engagement in workshops, we tend to talk exclusively about public participation. However, the link is deeper and more complex than this: when connected with social innovation activities, engagement is about involving citizens in decision-making and actions to create solutions to social challenges. If your aim is to include people in decision-making and to come up with new ideas, engagement is an essential part of what you should be looking for. According to SI Research (Social Innovation Research), a project funded by the European Commission, the main arguments of why engagement matters for social innovation are that engaged citizens provide information and resources about their needs and opinions; that engaged people together have the power of solving different problems; and that, when engaged, citizens are empowered to take and influence decisions.

Even though engagement is sometimes considered to be a complex principle that can be applied through different techniques, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here we analyse three tools which facilitators can use, based on learning and teaching practices, and which aim to foster engagement and participation from the audience. As engagement does not happen of its own accord, explicit actions are needed to involve audiences in taking actions, making decisions and learning.

Engagement Flow by FLU

Developed by Fab Lab Barcelona’s Future Learning Unit (FLA), from Fab Lab Barcelona, this tool is part of a facilitator’s guide for workshops focused on social innovation. According to the graphic below, the workshop should consist of a flow of different processes that modify the level of engagement of the audience while time and activities advance. It is an increasing curve that has its peak in the main activity of the workshop, and then decreases by the time of the conclusion. It is an important tool to have in mind when planning a workshop and a special strategy to choose the right techniques to use. It is not centred on which kind of activities you will apply but in the order they should be perceived to create a cohesive connection between them.


Francis Lefebvre Formation’s 10-minute rule

Lefebvre Formation, an institution that specialises in professional education, has developed a method with several steps to retain a high level of attention from the audience throughout workshops and similar activities. The first step starts with the 10-minutes rule: the facilitator should change teaching techniques every 10 minutes in order to keep a high level of interaction and participation. Among these techniques are:

  • The demonstration method, also called the traditional learning method, where the teacher explains a subject while the audience listens.
  • The heuristic method, where the audience is able to develop and experiment with their own theories (e.g. brainstorming).
  • The application method: the audience use their newly acquired theoretical knowledge by applying it to practical cases.

Several studies have attempted to identify our average attention time, and results show that an adult has an average of 14 minutes of attention for a single task, while for a 5 years old child the average varies from 2 to 5 minutes only. That is why the method developed from Lefebvre Formation is so relevant: it considers the physical attributes of an audience even when content is interesting and the speaker level is high. The method should therefore be adapted to spectators’ needs: the 10-minute rule can become a 5-minute rule when speaking to children, and so on.

Learning Pyramid by Seeds for Change

This is another important educational tool for the planning phase of a workshop that employs a study about how the learning process happens. Developed by Seeds for Change, this pyramid reflects how the type of activities will cause different effects. This method is not directly related to engagement but with the learning process, and as we see in the diagram, the activities that require more engagement (like taking part in a discussion, or taking part in a role-play), are also the ones that last the most in the brain. When applying this tool you may also want to consider not only the variation of activities applied in a workshop, but also shifting from different degrees of attention so your audience doesn’t feel mentally exhausted.


The three tools explored here provide a short introduction to the learning techniques that can be applied when developing a new workshop and want engagement as a main return of it. These examples suggest that the planning phase, before the workshop itself, is crucial to defining the rhythm and pace you want to give, and the responses you want to attain from the audience. When analysing these tools, we see that a combination of duration, variation and level of attention should be considered to achieve a workshop with high levels of engagement and in-depth learning. These are some of many methods you can consider while planning a workshop, so that you can start thinking about generating engagement and how it can be meaningful when talking about social innovation practices.

This research is included in DSI4EU’s Skills and Learning Cluster, led by Fab Lab Barcelona, and has as main objective to develop and expand new educational models and skills for the modern days.



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