After my reflection on the little word ‘liberating’ it is time for the other little word ‘structures’. Workshops, meetings, learning events are structured in one way or the other. So, let’s dive a little bit deeper into what this means.


Just like stories, workshops have a beginning, a middle and an end. In stories, the main person is facing a challenge, then goes through a journey that ends happily or in drama. Or the main person has a longing, and there will be a happy end or a drama. In workshops it is quite similar (hopefully with less drama), people come together, face a problem or long for change and innovation and work towards new thinking and solutions.


The famous story about the blind men and an elephant is about seeing the whole and the parts. The same is true for a workshop, the big structure and the small ones, the overarching flow and the different sequences. As in the story of the blinds also in workshops sometimes there is a risk to focus too much on the parts and lose sight of the whole process.


Like architects create buildings and landscape gardeners create outdoor playgrounds, facilitators create ‚workshop worlds‘. What is the foundation of a building is the common ground and shared purpose of a workshop. There are, similar as in playgrounds, clear boundaries, paths to stroll, inviting places to sit and contemplate, other places to play and interact.

Guiding structures

Structures guide the way in which we organize routine interactions and how groups work together.
Liberating Structures

How a workshop is structured gives not only direction but also adds a rhythm and a pace to the process. But how much structure do we need? This question keeps me busy. To me each design process is an act of finding the right balance between structure and openness. Over-structuring can restrict the creative flow of the group process or distract the group from having the conversations that would be needed. In my last blog post I wrote that we need an open and networked approach in organizing and co-designing the meeting, workshop or learning event.

Many clients still long for a time plan in twenty-minute chunks with predictable outcomes. And many facilitators still try to orchestrate divergence in the morning and convergence in the afternoon. It gives the illusion of control and competence.

All that planning might comfort us and gives us the feeling that we are in charge, but it often leads to events that take away participants’ power, their feeling of agency. Agency can be defined as the capacity of an entity to act in any given environment.

Johnnie Moore and Viv McWaters

Reading the reflection of Johnnie Moore and Viv McWaters the one word turning in my mind is co-design. Ewen le Borgne adds an important element to this reflection in his latest blog post, we need more ‘everyday facilitators’, more people who step into the role of the facilitator.

When people see the value of this cultivation (of facilitation skills), each of us is set to become (and be recognised as) an everyday facilitator. That is when we start using skills and approaches that bring us closer to one another.
Ewen Le Borgne

Co-design with Liberating Structures

I am currently involved in the preparation of the Liberating Structures social immersion workshop in The Hague (see below). It is a stimulating and mind-shifting experience to work with the co-designers Anna Jackson and Qua Fisher, Cristina Temmink and Ewen Le Borgne. The more I dive into the concept and thinking behind Liberating Structures, the more evident it is to me that Liberating Structures offers us an alternative process. It is a shift to a more flexible, inclusive and shared workshop planning process that invites to co-design, co-facilitate and co-create.

Liberating Structures is definitely more than a fancy toolbox.


Are you interested to build your facilitation skills?

Join the Liberating Structures ‘social’ immersion workshop and explore with us the philosophy and mindset behind Liberating Structures and how to integrate Liberating Structures into your meetings, workshops and everyday collaboration.

Liberating Structures ‘social’ immersion workshop
December 12th and 13th 2018 at the Igluu in The Hague, Netherlands
More information:  Liberating Structures ‘social’ immersion workshop
–> Register here

It would be great to welcome you personally in The Hague.


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