Tools that experience designers can use to develop engaging experiences
We think that simply getting a group of people in a room together isn’t enough. Whether you’re convening 8th graders or educators, community organizers or city leaders, it’s critical to do things together that you can’t do apart. Consequently, we design experiences that feature engaging, enjoyable activities that make the most of face-to-face interactions.
The tools we use to design engaging experiences are called techniques: a series of methods that provoke conversation, spark creativity, and offer structured opportunities for people to share their insights and develop new ideas together.
Over the years, we’ve used dozens of techniques to support our experience design practice. Very few of these ideas are new: we’ve drawn inspiration from an eclectic array of sources, from scouts to business consultants. We’re especially inspired by human-centered design and service design, and we most frequently draw from books and websites dedicated to design thinking.
Here, you’ll find 25 of our very favorite community building techniques. We’ve highlighted how we’ve used these techniques and the protips we’ve learned about them along the way. We also include examples of when we used them, and some sample sequences for how some techniques might be used in combination with one another. For each technique, we’ve included a link to an online source that inspired our own approach.
We hope you’ll use our ideas as a starting point to consider how each of these techniques might work for you and how you can combine them to enhance each experience within your community building campaign. Then, explore the steps in detail for each technique using the linked external resources.
Techniques to Generate
Lead a hands-on working session and build something new together.
Sketch out the details of a new idea.
Organize possible responses to a complex problem.
Draw the step-by-step process that brings an idea to fruition.
Break the ice, shuffle the room as people sort into categories.
Sketch your personal journey, then extend it into the future.
Develop detailed profiles representing people you hope to serve.
Generate ideas in silence before sharing them with the group.
Quickly generate, critique, and refine new ideas.
Illustrate connections between people, organizations, and communities.
Fill-in-the-blank prompts that spark lively conversation.
Sketch your pic and list your interests as a personal introduction.
Keep participants moving with dynamic station-based activities.
Techniques to Prioritize
Collect ideas and identify common themes.
Sort key priorities from less-critical ideas.
Vote for your favorites, move the most promising ideas forward.
Plot ideas based on their practical demands and their potential.
Techniques to Reflect
I wish, I wonder
Inspire people to offer feedback and capture emerging ideas.
Highlight big ideas with short, inspiring talks.
List critical lessons learned, consider how to do better next time.
Reflect on the key components of an experience.
Provocative look into how new ideas might fail.
Rose Thorn Bud
Classic approach to identifying strengths, challenges, opportunities.
Structured feedback discussions in small groups.
What? So What? Now What?
Reflection tool that captures what happened and why it mattered.