A Draft Module on Listening and Learning for Event Design


This draft module was intially designed for CIVICUS, to support their partners in the Speak! Campaign. We are thankful for the invaluable contributions of the team at CIVICUS: Hannah Wheatley, Frances Topham Smallwood, Soledad Gattoni and Stephanie Brancaforte. We are also grateful for all the guidance we’ve received on designing participatory events from Aspiration.

This module will help you mark progress and capture learnings as you design and implement an event. It will enable you to document learnings about your stakeholders and supporters in the preparation and implementation.  This module is currently a work in progress. It is meant to be adaptable, and you may modify and edit this to better suit your context and needs. Do let us know if there are ways we can improve it.

Warning: This module won’t give you guidance in running your event. We highly recommend working with experienced facilitators. Please contact us if you’d like a referral.

Before you use this module, it might be helpful to:

  • Articulate what will make you feel like your event was a success. What needs to happen to make sure you feel like the time and effort was worth it?  How can this event be a step towards your long-term social change goals?
  • Prioritise the stakeholders and supporters you want to participate in the event and consider running the Stakeholder Mapping and Power Analysis Exercise.
  • Define what your relationship is like with priority stakeholders now and how you want your relationship to be different after the event.

Before the Event

Your first activity is to learn about your participants/stakeholders so that you can design your event. Interview 3 to 5 key individuals who are potential participants for 20 to 30 minutes. Questions you might want to ask:

  • For an interview with someone with a role in an organisation/institution/larger effort connected to your advocacy:
    • Tell me about the effort/organisation/institution, what is its goal? What is it trying to accomplish?
    • What are crucial short-term goals (i.e. campaigns, projects, etc.) that are currently taking a lot of effort?
    • What is your role in accomplishing long-term and short-term goals?
    • What are the significant challenges you are facing in that role?
  • For an interview with an individual.
    • Tell me about yourself (age, background, family life.)
    • Do you have any personal connections to the issue?
    • If relevant – What are your concerns for yourself and your family?
    • If relevant – What concerns you about your community?
  • And for both types of supporters, considering asking:
    • What is critical for the group of people coming together for this event to be able to accomplish?
    • How might this event be of value to you? How might it help with what you are working on or concerns you have about your family or community?
    • Thinking about this group of people coming together: do you have any concerns about participating? what might make this event fail?

After you’ve completed the interviews, ask the following questions:

  • What did you learn about potential participants?
  • What learnings should have priority when designing the agenda for the event?

Designing the agenda

Here are some resources to help you with designing your agenda:

Share drafts of the agenda with stakeholders prior to the event and make sure you explain how their interviews had impact on the design.

During the Event

Have a mechanism for capturing notes and outputs from the event. Take pictures of post-it notes and flip-chart papers generated. Assign a team to transcribe and organise notes – perhaps on a wiki.

You may want to consider the following questions in an Evaluation form that can be distributed and filled out by participants, and then collected at the end of the event:

  1. What new understanding or common learnings/perspectives did you encounter?
  2. Will today’s experience change how you think about or talk about this issue with colleagues, friends or family? (Y/N) If so, how?
  3. As a result of your experience at the event, do you feel more open to speaking with those from different backgrounds or perspectives? (Y/N) If yes, what has contributed to this?

After the Event

onfirm what you have learned about stakeholders and put it into action AFTER your event!  With your team, think about how you will engage key stakeholders, given what you have learned. Specifically think about:

  • How do they relate to your issue? How does it impact them?
  • What will motivate them to stay involved in the future?
  • What will be a barrier to their participation in the future?
  • What are ways to you can engage them immediately, that they will find valuable, to follow-up on this event?

Now you are ready to develop an engagement plan for the next three months. How will you continue to engage them and keep them involved?