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Tools and Tips

Tools for community development

  • We know the best community work is done when people do it for themselves. As much as possible, our work in Healthy Community Development is designed to assist communities in doing it for themselves. With that goal in mind we present here some of our best tools. these are the ones we have tested in many different circumstances and places and have proven themselves supportive of then "Can-Do" attitude of northern BC. We start with our own brief description, followed by a tip for success and then a link to more information or resources for each one.

World Cafe


Brief overview: This is a fun way to support intense and deep conversations. You set up your meeting with small tables, and each table has a host and a note taker and a different question. The participants at the meeting form into small groups and starting at one table travel to each table in turn as a group, to discuss each question. They should finish up at the table they started at to see what happened to the discussion after they left and what the other groups added. Decorating the tables to resemble a friendly café and leaving tinker toys or paper, pens and crayons sets a relaxed tone and gives people something to do with their hands. The host helps keep the conversation going well and updates each new arriving group on what has been said so far. The note takers record the ideas and insights generated in the discussion. When we have done this, our table hosts use a flip chart as a way to visually present the discussions as they are developing.


Tip for success: Decorating the tables to resemble a friendly café and leaving tinker toys or paper, pens and crayons sets a relaxed tone and gives people something to do with their hands.


More about World Café


Open Space


Brief overview: Open Space is a neat way to host a meeting that allows the participants to decide what is to be discussed at a meeting. This agenda-less meeting format focuses on creating the “Open Space” for people to be able to talk and learn together about the things they care about. After setting the ground rules in place, the facilitator invites the participants to speak to their passion by asking “what is the most important thing that you want to see discussed on the issue that brings us together today?” If you have a strong opinion or idea, you offer it as a session topic and agree to host it. (If you don’t want to host you don’t get to propose!) Then, once everyone who wants to has proposed their topics, the group self selects into the topic areas they too feel passionately about. Open Space is really amenable to use by people who have not been trained in it as the work in the groups is based on only four principles and one rule. If these are followed and the trust and safety is in place, it is an amazingly empowering and effective mechanism for community members working together.


Tip for success: If it is people’s first time with Open Space they will be very uncomfortable at first. We are so used to being heavily scheduled we are not always ready to self directed. The good news is – as human begins – we are actually very good at self direction given a real chance to do it.


More about Open Space




Brief overview: Photovoice is a wonderful way for communities and groups to tell their own stories. The process calls on people to use cameras to take pictures of the issue in their communities. Each person takes pictures and then composes a caption for each one. Then, the group as a whole decides which pictures it wants to use to tell a collective story. Then the picture taker, or the group writes the story to go with each photo and caption. The finished stories and pictures can be presented as an exhibit or turned into PowerPoints or books. They can also be presented as “data to support any formal reporting.


Tip for success: As a research technique, this tool is great because people who may not read and write very well, or who have other problems with writing are equal participants. Photovoice allows people who are usually just “researched on” to become researchers.


More on Photovoice


Digital Story Telling

Brief overview: Digital Story Telling or DST for short, is way of making a sandwich from music, voices and photos. Buy layering these things together in a video program you can produce mini videos (they are never longer than 6-7 minutes) that are poignant and inspiring for others to watch. The videos are made by those most closely involved so there are often outcomes in addition tot eh creation of powerful prevention or health promotion messages. The people involved in making them acquire a sense of pride and capability and often see their own lives and selves differently through the medium of making the movie.


Tip for success: You need someone who has taken a Digital Story Telling workshop or who is familiar with movie making software on the computer.


More on Digital Story Telling


Our tool kit

In this section we present some of our own creations which we ahve built from our experience or adapted from other people's good beginings.


Decision making matrix


Brief overview: Sometimes in smaller communities making decisions can be complicated by personal relationships. In our work at Healthy Community Development we wanted to make sure that any decision we made would not only be fair but we could show how we arrived at them.   Our matrix tool is a flow sheet that helped us figure out if a work proposal brought to us fit within our mandate. Underlining this, of course was, we never say no – that is, even if we can’t do the work ourselves, we will make sure we link you to other possibilities. So the flow chart also helps clarify where help could be more appropriately or easily found.


Tip for success: After a while, the flow chart becomes second nature and you think it is embedded in your memory and you are making decision without actually consulting it. Every few months, though, it is a good idea to review it and refresh it based on the experience you have gained.


Access a copy of the decision making matrix here


Evaluation framework model – tip sheet


Brief overview: While many funders currently expect and require evaluation as a condition of their funding reporting, many of us find evaluation an intimidating proposition. This frame work is a simple and easy tool that will help you plan an evaluation project without missing any steps.


Tip for success: having an academic or consultant who is willing to work from a strengths based model (I.e. willing to work with you on the evaluation rather than simply do it for you) is a great advantage.