The Discussion

How do I lead?


  • Introduce self and topic; tell group the outline of the discussion schedule; see outline above.
  • In groups where participants do not know each other, use instructions or icebreaker to facilitate participation in the discussion; connections among participants may encourage participants to decide to take action steps with others after the discussion ends
  • In small groups, people can say their name and where they live, or their organizational affiliation. Or use an icebreaker.
  • Keep introductions brief, but encourage people to speak slowly and loudly enough so that others can hear
  • In large groups use an icebreaker from page 9. Tell people to go meet someone they don’t know. They may need encouragement. Once they start to talk there is likely to be a buzz of noise as they relax. Call the group back together when the noise level starts to die down. If people are very engaged in conversation, after about 5 minutes, apologize for breaking up a great conversation but call them back together for the discussion.

You have done all of the prep work. Now it’s time to see how it goes.


QUICKLY go over the Ground Rules

  • Listen to others
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Give everyone a chance to speak
  • Show mutual respect
  • Speak about yourself and your own experience, don’t speak about others or people in general.
  • Confidentiality. Speak about what you’ve heard and learned but don’t use names or other identities.


Allow approximately an hour to an hour and a half of discussion; the discussion may stay on one topic or it may go in different directions and have different focuses, depending on the participants’ experiences and concerns. BE FLEXIBLE about timeframe and topics.

If using the whole time for discussion, start with a question like:

  • Our topic is Violence, why did you come tonight?
  • What’s on your minds about violence?
  • Why did you come to this discussion?
  • What’s an act of cruelty or violence you’ve seen recently or from the past that’s stands out in your mind?


If using cards to stimulate discussion, have a participant pick a card and read it aloud; ask the group questions to stimulate discussion:

  • What is your first reaction to the scenario?
  • What happens when you put yourself into the shoes of each major character in the scenario?
  • Has anyone ever been in a similar situation? What happened? How could people have behaved so things would have gone better?
  • How does your/our reaction affect our community?


  • Approximately 40 minutes before the discussion is scheduled to end, start shifting the discussion from issues and concerns to possible solutions/changes participants can make, actions participants can take and next steps, for individuals or the group as a whole.
  • Potential action steps will probably have been brought up during the initial discussion; review them to ask participants to help the group remember what steps have already been mentioned.

Use open ended questions for this part of the discussion such as:

  • We’ve talked a lot about problems, what about solutions?
  • What can people do to make changes?
  • How can you, personally, make things different ?
  • What will you do differently?
  • What’s next for you? For this group?
  • It is not the job of the facilitator to help the group “fix the world;” if participants do want to follow up on the Discussion by taking some action steps, encourage an exchange of phone numbers and setting of dates while participants are together.

If the discussion has been very negative, if participants seem discouraged or have no ideas about being able to make positive changes, ask open-ended questions to end the discussion on a positive note:

  • Are there any rays of hope that anyone sees?
  • How are things better?
  • Where have we made progress? Does anyone have any optimistic stories to share?


  • Thank participants for attendance, participation, enthusiasm, sharing, etc.
  • Ask participants to fill out Feedback Form

Breathe a sigh of relief and congratulate yourself for successfully facilitating a discussion.