For reasons already mentioned, participatory workshops are deliberately and decidedly ‘low tech’ affairs, with paper, pens and Post-it Notes far more likely to feature than mice, monitors or other machines. But this doesn’t mean to say that technology doesn’t have a potential role to play.
Many of the exercises described can be replicated in a technological environment using various collaborative tools. We do not suggest this as a replacement for a face-to-face workshop which benefits from all the advantages of personal interaction and communication that technology cannot hope to match; but it can make a very useful addition to it by extending the scope of those involved far beyond those you can accommodate in a workshop.
So once you’ve completed your workshop and those present have shared and shortlisted their ideas why not use technology to gather the opinions of a broader group of people? Perhaps others in the departments or areas who will be affected by the changes proposed, or who may have a role to play in affecting the change?
It need not be an equal say to those who participated, after all they will not have been exposed to all of the discussion and debate which led up to the final decisions, but they can still play a useful role in challenging any assumptions made, pointing out obvious but overlooked flaws from new perspectives or just ratifying or finessing the decisions made.
Here are some examples of how we have used technology to carry on the conversation and add further weight to workshop findings:
Blogs are great for spreading word about a workshop and its outcomes. Their informal style and the ability to easily insert images and links to other sources all add to their suitability. People can, of course, leave comments on what they have read but it’s probably fair to say that a blog post is better for dissemination than collaboration.
Here are a couple of examples of blog posts based on participatory events we have run…
Wikis excel at facilitating collaboration, especially where teams are geographically dispersed. There’s no reason why the contents of a graffiti wall or H-Form exercise conducted in a workshop can’t then be replicated within a wiki for others to comment on or add to, for example. Other online collaborative tools such as GoogleDocs can be used in the same way.
Why not extend the remit of any ‘bean counting’ exercise you carry out by using one of the many free online survey services to allow others within the institution to vote on preferred options?