Facilitating workshops for the co-generation of knowledge: 21 tips

This set of tips was written by Robert Chambers in January 2013, based on his 2002 book Participatory Workshops: A sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities.

Most of these tips are generic and apply to all types of workshops for learning, and sharing and co-generating knowledge. The list of 21 tips is included in the 'Participatory Methods' website, published by the Institute of Development Studies, which is itself a wealth of information on participatory approaches.

The following information was provided to BetterEvaluation by Jessica Noske-Turner as part of the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub

The Evaluating C4D Resource Hub sits within BetterEvaluation and houses a growing collection of the available guides, toolkits, tools and methods to use for research monitoring and evaluation (R,M&E) of Communication for Development (C4D) initiatives. The Hub is structured around two combined frameworks:

A circle with spokes and a number of graphics set against a rainbow

C4D Evaluation Framework (represented by the circle) is an approach. It describes the values and principles that guide our decisions in C4D. 

The BetterEvaluation Rainbow Framework (represented by the rainbows) is a structure. It organises the practical tasks into seven categories or 'clusters' and provides options.

While the resource recommendation below discusses the resource specifically in relation to its usefulness for evaluating C4D within the Evaluating C4D Resource Hub's C4D Framework, this resource may also be of use for people working in other contexts and with different frameworks.

Authors and their affiliation

Robert Chambers

Key features

The list follows the structure of the 2002 book. The 21 tips are organised into three sections: planning and preparation, the workshop, and follow-up and actions. It is accessible and fun, as well as highly practical and useful.

The resources include: 

1. Reflect on the “why?” and the “so what?” of the workshop

12. Encourage multiple ownership and credit 

2. Write or co-create a concise concept note

13. Set an informal atmosphere, and err on the side of informality
3. Use workshops to get to know key players face-to-face 14. Make good use of car and bus journeys!

4. Co-convene

15. Brainstorm to create the agenda.
5. Choose a fitting venue 16. Self-organising systems on the edge of chaos
6. Plan, but do not overplan  17. Declare a PowerPoint-free zone
7. Be prepared and optimally unprepared with the programme  18. Use Participatory PowerPoint
8. Be careful and thorough with invitations  19. Think in advance about follow-up and seek agreement on actions
9. Be aware of government protocol  20. Ensure short prompt summaries of workshops 
10. Act early for visas 21. Convene or co-convene in your own way, and share what you do and learn  
11. Identify key documents, encourage participants to study them in advance, and have them available   

Workshops may be used as part of Understanding and engage stakeholdersDeveloping RM&E capacityDeveloping program theory/logic modelSpecifying the key Research/M&E questionsCollecting and/or retrieving dataAnalysing data, and Developing recommendations

    How have you used or intend on using this resource?

    This resource has been identified as particularly useful for evaluating of communication for development, since workshops are often a part of participatory RM&E of C4D. It was identified as part of a research project in collaboration with UNICEF C4D. 

    Why would you recommend it to other people?

    The resource is consistent with the C4D Evaluation Framework in the following ways:

    • participatory: the tips are written based on decades of experience in participatory research with farmers, villagers and other local groups. The tips reinforce all the ways in which the planners and facilitators of workshops can set the foundations for mutual learning, trust, inclusion and dialogue, stepping back to allow participants to take the lead and power.
    • critical: some of the tips offer practical ways to think ahead about how to manage power differences, for example, between government officials and other VIPs and other groups.
    • complexity: many of the tips are consistent with complexity thinking and approaches, which need some planning, but not too much (tip 6 & 7), and make use of self-organising systems within workshops (tip 15 & 16).
    • realistic: a practical resource such as this can help to make participatory workshops easier to run.


    Chambers, R., 2002. Participatory workshops: a sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities. Earthscan.

    'Facilitating workshops for the co-generation of knowledge: 21 tips' is referenced in: