Public Lab Research note

Host a Goal Setting Workshop

by stevie | November 14, 2017 21:32 14 Nov 21:32 | #15188 | #15188

About this workshop:

Setting Goals starts with listening to individual interests and priorities and helps groups to build toward establishing a shared group agenda. This event guide covers a sequence of asking individuals to write down their goals, then looking for similar goals, voting for important goals, and finally choosing which are most important to measure progress towards. Goal setting workshops are helpful in deciding what is most important and what falls behind, for example: “what advocacy strategy should we use going forward” “what should we plant in the garden this planting season?” Note: this workshop is about setting the stage for what your group will do, not how you will do it. A subsequent workshop can help you tease this out with the group and plan your next steps forward.

Before taking on a Goal Setting workshop, the group should be able to pinpoint the driving organizing factor that brought everyone together. This could be:

  • An environmental threat to the community, for example a new or existing industry or activity that’s changing the air, land, or water quality of the community,
  • An aspiration for an environmental change to a space, for example, interest in developing a greenway or community garden, or
  • A predefined mission.

For exploring environmental threats, it’s helpful to have explored the concern with the group already. Here are some activities that you can do to help guide the group through this type of exercise:

In Preparation

Notes on Facilitating

Be sure to read this document in advance. It will help you understand where your group will start, how you’ll walk through the processes, and where you should end up. There are also some options within the document. For example:

  • Some activities have a few choices you should choose ahead of time,
  • You can plan on adding in some extra material you might have (such as your vision or mission), and
  • You can decide if you want to use the “optional facilitator prompts” in your workshop or your own words.
  • The times on the workshop are just suggestions, if your group needs more or less time for any given activity, that’s ok, but try to keep things moving, there’s a lot to get to.
  • It’s helpful to have some facilitation guidelines that everyone agrees to before the event starts. Here are some helpful ones
  • The Public Lab Code of Conduct can also be a helpful resource to send out ahead of time (and have printed at the event). The code of conduct applies to any Public Lab space, in person or online.
  • On setting the event: Pick a time for a 3.5 hour session that is convenient for the most people involved. Send invites two weeks to a month in advance of the event to give everyone time to plan.

Materials to have on hand:

  • Post-it notes or regular paper cut into smaller pieces and stacked (if using paper, bring tape),
  • Several pieces of large chart paper or a roll of paper,
  • Colored dot stickers - have three colors available and enough for each person to have one of each color with a few extra. They can be any color, but for the purposes of this exercise we are using the colors Red, Orange, and Green,
  • Markers,
  • Pens,
  • Nametags,
  • A sign-in sheet documenting people’s name and contact info (so you can keep track of who attends and be able to follow up after if need be),
  • If your group has a “mission” or “vision” make sure to bring it.

Structuring the room

The optimal room set up for this activity is horseshoe style around a large open wall space. That’s not always possible, but if you can set up the room with the goals of:

  • Participants being able to see each other,
  • There’s space for an interactive wall for people to go up to and someone can take notes on,
  • There’s either a table people sit around or there are books, clipboards or other hard surfaces available for people to write on.

Goal Setting Workshop

Facilitator Notes: Find someone in the group to take notes during the event. It’s helpful to relieve the burden on that person if you rotate over the course of the event. One suggestion would be to rotate to a new note taker for every activity.

Activity 1: Who’s in the room? (20 minutes)

About this activity: This activity is intended to help participants understand who is there and share excitement for hopes and aspirations for the day. It is also intended to provide a level starting ground for the group to springboard from. While full introductions with backgrounds of where people are from, what groups they are associated with, and other introduction artifacts can be interesting, these larger introductions with background information can set the stage for divisions within the group by showing alliances, hierarchies, outside influences, and ultimately alienate individuals. By providing a shortened speaking opportunity from the outset with one statement of each participant’s hope or value, each person is equal at the table. This can help to create productive, positive, and equitable atmosphere. This activity should help to set the tone for the event.

Materials needed:

  • Markers (one per person or few people)
  • Post-it notes (one per person)
  • One large whiteboard or paper with the word “values” or “hopes” written on top - depending on which speaking prompt you choose from the options below.

Facilitator Notes: Hand out a marker and post-it note to each person. Once participants are seated and quiet take a moment to explain the activity.

Optional Facilitator Prompts: “We all come from different backgrounds, experiences, and we all come to this space with different hopes, and expectations about what we’re hoping to see happen. Before we get started, I’d like to do a short introduction activity. On your sticky notes please write down
Facilitator Option 1: HOPES: “one or two words that describe what brought you to this event, or one two words on what are you hoping to gain by participating.” This is meant to draw out why people are there. You can use supporting text such as “what got you out of bed early on a Saturday morning to come?” This is a helpful prompt to get a pulse on the expectations and hopes people have the day.


Facilitator Option 2: VALUES: “one value that you have that you bring with you to this shared space.” This is a helpful prompt for a group that might need to feel more cohesiveness at the outset of the event. This prompt helps participants to realize the humanizing and positive pieces that each individual is bringing to the space before the group embarks on a challenging day of collaborative goal setting.

Facilitator notes: once everyone has their hope or value written on their post-it note, ask that individuals introduce their name, and what they wrote down on their sticky note. Once they have read out the sticky note, collect it and put it on the paper in the front of the room.

Optional Activity: if your group has a mission or vision, review it here.

Activity 2: My goals Our goals (45 minutes)

About this activity: this activity is organized so that during different moments people may be doing individual work, coming together in small groups, or discussing as an entire group. This style is sometimes referred to as "One, Some, Many." The activity is meant to draw out what goals of individuals are, as well as help the group reflect where there is overlap and outliers in goals.

Materials needed:

  • Chart paper at the front of the room with the word "brainstorm" on it
  • Markers (one per person or few people)
  • Post-it notes or small pieces of paper (3-4 per person)

Facilitator Notes: Hand out post-its to each individual for everyone to write down their main interest in collaborating. These can be smaller goals as well as big picture goals.

ONE: Have people write out their ideas on their own on post-it notes / small pieces of paper. Encourage people to keep their goals down to 1-3 per person.

Optional Facilitator prompt: “I’d like to take a moment for us to all individually reflect on what our goals are for working together. Please take a moment and think about the question: “What would you like this group to achieve?” Once you’ve had a moment to think and reflect, write it down on the piece of paper. You can have two, or if you need three, but try to keep them limited and concise.”

SOME: After everyone has written individual goals down, ask them to share their individual goals with one or two neighbors. If there are overlaps, they can combine them.

Optional Facilitator prompt: “Now that we’ve had a moment to think about our individual goals, take a moment and share your goals with a neighbor or two. If you find there are overlaps in your goals, combine them.”

Facilitator Notes: Write out the word “Brainstorm” at the top of a new poster board at the front of the room.

MANY: Have the smaller groups share out all the goals they have with everyone and hands them to the facilitator. The facilitator, looks at which goals are overlapping and moves them near each other on the poster board. Once everyone has presented, have the group observe which goals are widely held.

Optional Facilitator prompt: “Now we will each read out what our small group goals are and post them up on the board. If we start to see similarities in goals, we can group them together.”

--- Break---

Facilitator Notes: Over the break, ask someone to assist you with finalizing the grouping of goals and write them out clearly in bulleted format on your poster board. Once the goals are written out, take one of each color sticky dot and put it at the top of the goals paper with the key: Green- First Choice, Orange- Second Choice, Red- Third Choice

Activity 3: Identifying Shared Goals (15 minutes)

About this activity: In this portion of the event, you will work with participants to help to identify which goals are shared as a group. In this activity, it’s likely that some goals will float to the top with wide support, and others will fall behind. It is important to recognize both of these with participants. Many time decision making is about recognized what is lost or sacrificed. Recognizing those things, acknowledging what it means, and keeping track to follow up and revisit later will be important for your group in building consensus and staying on track with your decisions.

Materials needed:

  • Sticky dots, one of each of the three colors per person.

Facilitator Notes: This activity will start with individual voting. To do this, hand out sticky dots to everyone. Make sure that each person has one of each of the three colors of dots. In this activity each color dot will stand for each person’s personal ranking of the goals on the board.

Optional Facilitator prompt: “We’ve taken all the personal goals that were outlined in the last activity, grouped those that were similar and documented them on this chart paper. Now we’re going to do an activity where we’ll each vote on which goals are most important to us moving forward. Each of us will have three votes in this process represented by the three colored dots we’ve handed out. The Green dot is for your top choice, the goal you deem as most important. The Orange dot is for your second choice and the Red dot is for your third choice. You can choose to put all your dots on one choice or spread them out amongst all the options.”

Facilitator Notes: Take a few moments to let everyone vote, then once everyone has voted, ask that everyone sit down again. Have the group make observations about what’s on the board. What has the most dots? What has the most green dots? From what is on the board, pick the 3-5 goals that have the most “support” and move those into the next activity, flagging what has been left behind to revisit later.

Activity 4: Learning about SMART Goals (30 minutes)

About this activity: Now that we’ve observed where preferences are in the group, it’s important to make sure that the goals that the group has highlighted can be made achievable. To do this have the group work through an exercise to understand if the goals are SMART (Specific, Measureable Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound). This part of the event will include learning about how to make SMART goals, and an activity to ensure that the groups goals fall into each of the SMART categories.

Facilitator notes: On a new piece of poster board, write out the 3-5 goals that floated to the top of the last activity, be sure to leave room on the right hand side of the paper for a chart with the words SMART at the top (you might need an additional poster board.)


Learning Exercise: About SMART goals (10 minutes)

Facilitator Teaching Material: Making sure our goals are SMART can help set us up for success. It might be that we have some great ideas on things we would like to do, but we also need to make sure that we can achieve those things. If there are goals that aren’t SMART they need to be broken down, or redefined so that we can ensure that together we can achieve them. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Relevant, Achievable, and Time Bound.

  • A Specific goal means that it’s clear to everyone. We all understand it and it produces a certain outcome we want to see.
  • A Measurable goal means there is some metric in the goal that will help us know when we’ve achieved it.
  • A Relevant goal means that it’s important to our overall purpose.
  • To make sure a goal is achievable, we should consider the resources and limitations we have (time, money, relationships), and think about how we can see ourselves achieving the goal with them.
  • Time Bound means that we’re setting a clock on the goal. We’ve defined a specific time that we want it achieved by - we should also ensure again that that timeline is achievable.”

Activity 5: Identifying our SMART goals (45 minutes)

About this activity: This exercise will help you distinguish which goals are already SMART and which ones might need to be edited.

Materials needed:

  • Marker for facilitator
  • Poster board (with the chart from above with your listed out goals)

Facilitator notes: Have the group talk through the check boxes on the poster board. If a goal meets one of the SMART criteria, check that box. If the goal does not meet one of the SMART criteria, leave the box blank for now. Once you’ve checked the boxes on the goals, work with the group to add any text to the goals that still need SMART categories checked. There are some helpful prompts below for this:

  • SPECIFIC: “We know we will have been successful in achieving this goal because ___ happened”
  • MEASURABLE: “ In ___(one year, one month etc) time, what would success for this goal look like?”
  • ACHIEVABLE: “are there any resources we would need to achieve this that are currently outside our reach? What would it look like for us to gather those resources?”
  • RELEVANT: “In what way does it support the reason we all came to the table today?”
  • TIME BOUND: “What is the timeline we share as a group for our goals? How long do we want to work on things before we see changes? Do our goals set us up to be successful in that timeframe?”

NOTES: It’s likely your goals will need the most attention in the category of “achievable” category because often in our goals, we all want to shoot for the stars. You may need help breaking this down, set your timeline, thinking about the specific resources that would need to go into making that goal happen. Once those are agreed on, you should be able to make the goal “SMART.”

Activity 6: Review (20 minutes)

About this activity: It’s likely the group has significantly narrowed down their goals from the original brainstorm. It’s time to go back and review the goals list and make sure that what was brought through the last activity is agreed on, that there’s nothing significant that got left out, and that what didn’t make the list is acknowledged, and tracked.

Facilitator notes: Bring everyone’s attention back to the original brainstorm and discuss. You’ll want to know if there is anything from that list that didn’t make it over to the SMART list that should have. You’ll also want to track those that didn’t make the cut so you can use them as ideas if your group need to set goals again in the future.

OPTIONAL ADD-ON: revisit your group’s “mission” and/or “vision” if you have one.

Optional Facilitator Prompt: “At this point we’ve narrowed down our goals and fleshed them out. Keep in mind a few things: - Our list of combined goals need to be SMART together. - We will keep this brainstorm. - It is ok to prioritize and table goals. Now: Take a moment and think to yourself, “Is there anything from the original list that didn’t make the last exercise that we should reconsider?” If you feel like there’s something we’re missing raise your hand and make a suggestion that we should work on adding to our SMART goals.

Facilitator Notes: if there are goals people want to add be sure to check if this something people agree on.

NOTE: You can have each person vote with their thumb, thumbs up means yes, add it to the list thumb sideways mean’s I’m indifferent. Thumbs down means no, don’t add it right now.

Activity 7: Temperature check (10 minutes)

About this activity: By now the group should have a series of 5-7 goals. It’s important to revisit everyone in the group to check in on how the event went for them. This will give you a good idea about how people feel about the collaboration, the goals, and their confidence in moving forward.

Materials needed:

  • Markers (one per person or few people)
  • Post-it notes (one per person)

Note: if you find in this activity that people are feeling apprehensive, that’s normal and okay. Remember you haven’t said how you’re going to achieve these things, but you should have agreed on what’s important to do and that is an important first step. You can remind the group that the initial coming to the table to set goals can be the most challenging and the most important part of collaborating, and it is a vital first step to successful projects and campaigns.

Facilitator notes: Hand out one sticky note per person. Ask participants to write down one feeling they are leaving with today.

Optional Add-on: you can revisit the group’s hopes or values

Follow ups and Next steps (10 minutes)

Facilitator Notes: Make sure that you track the take-aways and to-dos from this meeting. Someone should type up the notes and it’s helpful if they can post them somewhere public where everyone can see and comment on them, such as on a Research Note on Public Lab. It could also be helpful to set a next meeting time to talk about strategies for achieving the goals.

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