Strategy, development & support for coalitions, associations, organizations and initiatives

My close friends all know that I love to organize games. Some of my favorite memories involve playing Mafia, Balderdash, Cranium, Celebrity and Apples to Apples with friends over the years. So, it’s probably not a huge surprise to them that I’m now incorporating games into my career. Games and other simulated exercises allow people to interact with one another in ways that don’t happen very often just by chance.

Often, games are utilized as icebreakers for team-building workshops or as introductory activities when bringing folks who don’t know each other together, which is great, and totally appropriate. But I’m intrigued with the possibility of expanding the arenas in which games can be used – to promote community engagement, enhance dialogue, even aid in strategic decision making and problem solving.

It takes guts to introduce a game into a strategic conversation. Leaders worry about the perception that the topic is not being treated seriously, or that it could be viewed as a misuse of resources. But when a game or simulation exercise is carefully planned out, it can be a shared experience with emotional resonance that stays with participants for a long time after the event – a moment that spurs the kind of creative problem solving needed to tackle tough issues.

In Moments of Impact, Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon define experiential learning as “enabling people to discover key insights and concepts for themselves, with a bit of guidance.” If you think about it, that’s a pretty revolutionary statement.

Recently, a City of Austin event offered the opportunity for games to make that kind of impact. A 20-minute open house featuring several booths with simple games focused on different aspects of the Austin housing market helped break the ice for some tough conversations and differing perspectives on affordable housing policies and priorities.

With some careful consideration and attention to detail, a game may be just what you need to kick-start a strategic conversation with your team. Need help? Let’s talk!

P.S. Here are some great resources I uncovered on team building activities while doing research for this blog post. Enjoy!

  • An entire wiki devoted to team building activities
  • Good list of classic group games, with an emphasis on outdoor activities
  • Survival scenarios are a great way to get the adrenaline flowing and analysis a group’s decision-making habits
  • Need a quick icebreaker? This is a good list with detailed instructions
  • Fifty-four more favorites, in six categories (action-oriented, card games, icebreakers, rhythm games, stationary games, and team-building activities)

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Woollard Nichols & Associates is a consulting firm committed to building capacity for impact through strategy, development & support for social sector coalitions, associations, organizations and other initiatives.

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