Learning from each other is at its best when participants feel comfortable about sharing their knowledge. Knowing one another and feeling part of the community has proven to be of great importance. When connected, participants are much more willing to contribute, share their opinion, and express themselves.
Brought together from different environments and each with a different background, it might seem that participants constitute a group of individuals, not a connected team. Lack of interaction might imply that knowledge sharing never takes place.
For knowledge sharing to be effective it is essential to integrate the participants. When learning events are of short duration, immediate integration becomes even more crucial. For this reason, we are introducing quick ice-breaking activities at the very beginning of our learning events. The aim is to bring the participants together as quickly as possible and initiate interaction.
For instance, at the last Training of Trainers we used making badges as an ice-breaker. At events, participants are normally given badges with a standard content: name and sometimes country, institution, and/or position. We decided to give the trainees a chance to present themselves in a unique way. We provided them with newspapers, magazines, color papers, stickers, crayons, and other writing materials, and asked them to be creative and make their badges as personalized as possible. After they had finished, they presented the badges to the others.
It turned out that people immediately made contact with one another while creating the badge, so it became a group activity. Presenting their badge, they revealed information about themselves that others found interesting and could relate to.
In our experience, it also goes well with capturing the impressions of participants, for instance on the wall of appreciation. Namely, we have noted that interesting facts about participants linking them with the badges facilitates further interaction.
Note: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the CEF.