Workshop Tactics

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Fishbowl Discussion

Fishbowl Discussion

What is a Fishbowl Discussion?

This tactic gets a large group of people to take part in a self-facilitating, inclusive discussion.

Fishbowl prevents the loudest voice in the room from dominating a discussion. It allows the entire group to participate and lessens distinctions between the speakers and the audience.

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How to use a Fishbowl Discussion in your workshop

1. Arrange three chairs in the middle of a room.

2. Invite the group to fill the ‘audience’ seats, and have two people sit on two of the seats in the middle, leaving one empty. These two people will begin the discussion.

3. Agree on the topic of discussion. Consider using the second step of Democratic Discussion to find out what people want to discuss.

4. Explain that anyone, at any point in time, can come and sit in the unoccupied chair in the middle and join the discussion.

Fishbowl Instruction #1

Then explain that when this happens, someone who is already participating in the discussion must voluntarily leave the 'fishbowl' and free up a chair.

Fishbowl Instruction #2

5. Set a time limit for the topic and instruct the participants to begin the discussion.

Origin: Sam Kaner & Lenny Lind, 1996

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