1. share relevant information
People come to learn ER specific knowledge that they cannot find anywhere else. Give them that.
At the beginning of the workshop, say that it’s important to avoid getting lost into either broad political ideas, or details about housing law: they can discuss this information in so many other places. It’s important to focus on ER-specific knowledge, and if everyone hears this at the start, the workshop will be more focused.
2. Get people to participate
Think about yourself attending a workshop. Listening is boring. Participating makes you feel awake and involved. It makes you meet people and want to continue the conversation after the workshop. This is the main key to a great workshop. It makes everyone feel like “something is happening” and “WE have had a great time, I want to meet these people again!”
To achieve it, speak as little as possible: deliver the minimal ER-specific information that’s needed to start a conversation, and then ask something like “Any thoughts on this, or any questions?”
Then as people start speaking, don’t be the central person! Try to get people to answer each other’s questions: “Does anyone have an answer / idea?” You could even say it: “I would like to not be the central person. It’s more interactive and interesting if questions, answers and ideas bounce between you all.” This is very difficult to balance with the fact that you hold knowledge that they don’t have. When you feel that you have an answer/information that only you have, or which is important and hasn’t been mentioned, then speak. But speak as little as possible, then let people bond through discussions among themselves.
It’s by making people participate and feel involved, that you will make something HAPPEN. And this is what we want: people to DO something about the situation. Sometimes a short round of ideas can be good: each person in turn gets to speak (not too long!), which gives everyone an easy chance to participate, even people who have brilliant ideas but don’t dare speaking.
But beware to not go too far that way: be sufficiently central. If you let people speak but don’t have any structure to your workshop, then everybody will be wasting their time. Prepare your workshop, have some specific ideas to share, tell people “what we are going to speak about now”, and keep the conversations focused.
3. EACH WORKSHOP HAS A DIFFERENT GOAL
The specific goal of the workshop you are doing depends on who you are doing the workshop for. Think about it: what outcome are you hoping to get from this workshop? What should you share with them, and how, so you can make this outcome happen?
A WELL ORGANIZED WORKSHOP
Be a facilitator
Keep the conversation focused, and keep track of time.
People love a well handled workshop / they hate a messy one where they don’t hear the relevant information that they came to hear; or where there is “not enough time left and we need to rush on the most important parts”.
Very useful tip: have a time-annotated plan of the workshop written on a paper (only ONE page so it’s easy to follow), with the times at which you want to start each part. For example:
1:10 Circle of presentations
1:20 Stop the bailiff
This way you can tell people: “we are running 10 minutes late, we need to move on”, and choose to skip or accelerate a less important part of the workshop, to have enough time to finish properly. This also means having a clock or a phone visible, where you can read the time.
The most important is at the start and at the end. If you have rehearsed the start of the workshop in your head a lot, it will flow and people will feel that this is going to be a great workshop. At the end, people must leave thinking “this was so great! I want some more”. You won’t get this if the end of the workshop is rushed, so keep very good track of time. The middle part of the workshop should be more “free flow”, but prepare the start and the end well.
MAKE IT EASIER for yourself
In fact, at the beginning of each workshop I like to give a copy of my time-annotated workshop plan to an attendant, and ask them to be a time-keeper: “please interrupt us if we start to run more than 5 minutes late, so we can get back on track”. At the beginning of the workshop, tell everyone that this person is the time-keeper.
Get another helper attendant to write unanswered questions on a piece of paper, as well as the most brilliant new ideas that they hear. So they can send all of these by email to everyone after the workshop. It also means that you won’t have to type to whole list of emails by yourself, which is a relief.
If the workshop is 2-hours long, you MUST have a PROPER 15 minutes break in the middle. Otherwise people will be tired and headachy at the end, which is the most important moment of the workshop: the moment when people decide to either stay in touch, or that it’s not really worth it. It’s also better to have a break, so you can breath and come back fresher for the second part.
If your workshop is well organized, people will tell you “This was such a great workshop. Very well handled, thank you!” And it will make some of them want to get involved with you, because they feel that working with you will be interesting and that together you have good chances to make things happen. Workshops are not all about the content; people will also remember how it was delivered.
Do the workshop with someone else. For each section one person can deliver the content and the other one can facilitate. It’s also good because while one person is speaking, the other one gets to rest, check that you are on track time-wise, etc.
MORE Tips for a great workshop
Tell real-world stories to illustrate your points.
Watch the documentary SI SE PUEDE (see the Resource section of this website), it’s so good it says pretty much everything! For example I often mention it when I speak about the importance of mutual emotional support. The Spanish housing movement is very well constructed and inspirational.
KEY IDEAS TO SHARE
I don’t want to write too much here because it’s best if you find your own content for the workshop. The more personal it is, the better it will be delivered because there will be feelings in your words.
As you imagine your content, write a workshop plan and time-annotate it, so you can imagine how to whole workshop is going to be. Make sure to have enough time to not rush the end, which is what people will remember.
For me some important information to share in a workshop is:
1. How to stop the bailiffs.
Practical advice: what to do, what bailiffs must show.
And legal background: “obstructing a bailiffs is a civil matter”, “bailiffs can use reasonable force”, “the police can only intervene if there is a breach of the peace”.
2. How to support someone threatened with eviction.
For example: Care for them, empower them, the power of being a group, and of linking individual situations with the global situation.
Because the time before and after the eviction are even more important than the day of the eviction itself.
3. Try to make your chosen outcome happen.
For example if your goal is for people to create a local group of eviction resistance, you could finish with a round of ideas about what concrete things they could do now, to get things going. That also gets them speaking and involved, which is good at the end of the workshop.
In my experience to help a local group start and become active, I think it’s important for them to choose an easy means of communication. Whether it is a mailing list, a phone network, or a weekly meeting, you could make them discuss it at the end of the workshop.
And… that’s it! You have all the keys you need to MAKE IT HAPPEN.
PS: If you still have some energy to read you could check out this example of a workshop Plan, to give you some ideas. But really, what you just read is the most important. The rest is up to you I hope you’ll have great workshops and will meet people that you want to bond with, and mutually support each other in the future.