How do your workshops work?

We’re in the business of starting conversations. Our workshops inspire stakeholders to discuss ideas, viewpoints and experiences – creating a culture of trust and inclusion between the community, design team and project owners.

Here’s how we can make a difference:

  • Traditional community consultation involves tabling a concept or idea for support and agreement. We’d rather involve the community at the idea generation phase – so our workshops and surveys happen much earlier. We collaborate with the community to explore and generate ideas, which are then processed by the design team into an early project brief.
  • In a workshop setting, we bring clients, designers and the community to a shared table and facilitate a series of exercises to generate ideas that capture the diversity of the community. The interactive exercises are carefully designed to invite self-reflection and guide each individual to share their personal thoughts.
  • Our exercises harness different learning modalities and support each individual, be they a visual, auditory or tactile learner. We trigger a sense of ‘play’ through the use of games and drawing – moving our participants into an open creative mindset, where they respond through intuition as well as thought. This intuitive-creative state often finds our participants learning about themselves and discovering preferences they were unaware they had.
  • Our workshop sees each participant move through each exercise as an individual; this way it can be a true reflection of their unique self. We share at the end of each exercise in a controlled format. The sum of the day is a series of around forty personal insights shared side by side, with each person leaving with the imprint of the group’s collective thoughts.
  • The workshop design excludes any synthesis, patterning or organisation of the insights during the session. This allows us to gather ideas from the community in a convivial way, without promising things that may not be feasible, or asking the community to form agreements which may cause disruption.
  • After each session, there is a debrief with Surroundings, the specialist design team and the client (when available) to capture our ‘response’ on what insights we will take forward and integrate into the concept design.
  • By sharing personal ideas and thoughts, a quick and deep intimacy is formed in the group, as well as a trust in the designers and clients at the table. We liken it to breaking bread together, and this is the reason we cap the numbers at nine for the table. We have found that this deep trust is weakened beyond that number.
  • A designer is present to listen to each person’s deep personal experiences – ensuring that everyone feels truly consulted and heard. By using exercises, open questions and idea generation, we take it beyond the anticipated question and answer format, allowing us to conducta comprehensive consultation that is not restricted by the design of the questions.
  • By removing the synthesis, group work and need for agreement – and adding a fantasy element to the format – we can harness a wider collection of ideas without committing to specific design outcomes. Not all ideas are implemented, but the process helps to shape and discover best value. These wider ideas deliver innovation opportunities.