Last week, I participated in the “Funders Learning Lab: Investing in Networks and Network Leadership.” The participants included both funders and practitioners with expertise in networks, leadership development, philanthropy and social justice. The goal was to add to our collective understanding about investing in network leadership and networks. The lab was convened by Leadership Learning Community and Center for Social Sector Leadership. It was expertly facilitated by Alison Lin and Odin Zackman.
When I get to participate in sessions that are focused on content that I’m intensely interested in AND are well designed and facilitated, it creates the perfect storm for learning in my field and the trade craft of facilitation.
One session used the “Fishbowl” technique. It can be done in different ways, but in the lab they placed four chairs in the center of the room. The rest of the chairs were placed in a circle around them or the “bowl.” Three people or “fishes” came to the center chairs to have an intimate learning conversation, while the rest of the participants listened. After 15 minutes, someone could join the conversation and occupy the fourth chair. From there, people rotated in and out of the bowl.
The ground rules were simple:
- Listen, watch
- After 15 minutes other people can join the conversation
- If all chairs are filled, simply tap one of the participants on the shoulder and they give you their seat
- Fish can choose to leave whenever they want
- Fish should talk to each other, not the people on the edge
This is a great way to keep everyone in a smallish gather engaged while going deeper into a conversation. This techniques lends itself to reflective conversations versus didactic content.
Have you ever used a fish bowl in your convenings or trainings? How? Did you do it differently?