C-3. Round Robin Discussion Exercise


C-3a. General Description
The Round Robin Discussion Exercise is a useful process when there are a large number of participants and a relatively short amount of time for brainstorming ideas or generating a list of issues or indicators and reporting back in an organized fashion. The basic structure of the exercise is as follows:
1. Participants are divided into 5 to 12 small groups of 5-7 people depending on the number of participants and number of stations.
2. Each group is assigned to a station where there is a topic, question or issue to be addressed and an easel with flipchart pages and markers for writing down responses. The stations are set up around the room with adequate space in between each station to allow groups to converse quietly without distracting other groups.
3. After a certain amount of time (see below for timing), each small group is asked to move clockwise to the next station. (Group 1 moves to Station 2, Group 2 moves to Station 3, … the last group moves to Station 1). At their next station, the group spends a few minutes reading what the prior group wrote and then adds their own ideas or makes additions or comments on the prior ideas. Again, after a certain amount of time, each group moves clockwise (Group 1 now goes to Station 3, Group 2 goes to Station 4, etc). This continues until every group is back to their original station.
4. Once all groups are back to their original station, each group reads all the material that has been written by all the participants and summarizes it to report back to the larger group.
This is generally a fast-paced exercise and works well with 7-9 stations with about 5-10 minutes per stations. For calculating the amount of time needed for the entire exercise, it is important to add 1-2 minutes per station for moving from one station to the next and to add in time for summarizing the work once a group gets back to their original station. The report back time also needs to be added into the final schedule.
Things to Consider

  • It helps to have one person who is responsible for keeping track of the time with a stopwatch (or watch with a second hand) and some audible device (a whistle, chime, bell, etc.) for signaling when it is time to move. This person should not be part of any group.
  • Although there is no facilitator at each station, it is useful to have one person who is a roving facilitator to answer questions and to make sure that the groups are staying on task and moving along to the next station when time is up.
  • There is a tendency in some groups for 'the person with the pen to wield the power' - that is, if one person is the recorder for a group, that person's ideas tend to take priority. It is important to emphasize to the large group that everyone has the right and responsibility to get their ideas down on the paper.
  • Neatness counts! Since many people are writing their ideas down but one group will be summarizing the results, anyone with unreadable handwriting will not have their ideas included in the final result.
  • The timing for this exercise will depend upon the topics being discussed, the number of participants and the number of stations. If the purpose is a brainstorming session, 5 minutes may be plenty for each station. If in-depth discussion is desired, 20 minutes per station may be necessary.
  • It is important that the amount of work to be accomplished at each station be similar across all the stations (i.e., it will not work if Station 1 can be completed in 5 minutes but Station 2 takes 20 minutes since the people at Station 1 will want to move on while the people at Station 2 will still be working).
  • However, it is generally the case that the amount of time needed per station decreases as groups move through each station since many ideas will have already been written down by preceding groups. For example, if the process starts with 20 minutes per station, towards the end groups may only need 10 minutes per station to read what is there and add a few more comments.
  • This exercise is a useful icebreaker exercise if the small groups are organized so that people are not with others who they already know.

C-3b. Round Robin Indicator Selection Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to help select a small number of indicators from a larger list of sustainable community/sustainable forestry indicators that reflect community goals, issues and priorities.
Participants are divided into small groups of 5-6 persons. The long list of indicators (community indicators or forestry-related indicators) is divided into several smaller lists of about 10-20 indicators. Each group goes through each worksheet list of indicators and picks up relevant indicators for their community by putting a checkmark in the relevant column (you may decide to pick up about 2-3 indicators from each group or 5-6 from one group and none from another). If Montréal Process Criteria and Indicators are used, it is recommended that participants are divided into 7 groups and there are 7 lists of indicators, each corresponding to one of the seven Montréal Process criteria.
When the groups have gone through all lists, they go back and re-evaluate selected indicators to choose max 5 best/most appropriate indicators (based on the criteria agreed on by the group) and circle these on the worksheet. When each group is ready, one person goes to the lists on the wall and puts a checkmark next to the selected best indicators.
Finally, as a large group the participants review each list of indicators to see what indicators were selected by most of the groups. Large group discussion time allows each group to report back on their selection process as appropriate.


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