Public Lab Research note

Workshop: Explore Issue Briefs with others

by stevie |

About this workshop: In this workshop, participants will work together to explore Issue Briefs posted to Public Lab. Objectives of the workshop are to engage in community science issues, help build ideas on how to address them, share ideas and pathways forward with the broader Public Lab community. This workshop can be adapted to be done for as few as 10 people or as many as 90.

Activities: Participants will break into groups of 7-10 and over a series of rotations, brainstorms with their group about a community science topics people have brought into Public Lab. They will then plan to post back to Public Lab about what was learned.

Materials Needed:

  • 4 Issue Briefs (on the wall or one printed on each table) (note if you’re doing a workshop for more than 40 people, you’ll need extra copies of the Issue Briefs so that they can be done by more than one group of 10 people at a time),
  • paper,
  • pens,
  • markers (2 per table or wall post),
  • chart paper (2 pieces per table or wall post)

Workshop outline:

Round 1: (10 minutes) Each group reviews a Issue Brief (an Issue Brief is a short writeup that is based off an issue or question that someone has brought into the Public Lab community. It is not direct text from people, but reframed for the purpose of this activity).

The group will work together to brainstorm and tease out the questions that are brought up in the Issue Brief and document the questions on pieces of chart paper next to the Issue Brief on the wall. - these are things that could be asked or explored about the issue by learning and engaging with others.

Round 2: (10 minutes) Each group rotates to read a new Issue Brief and the questions left by the last group.

They will then add any additional questions they have to the the questions list and start to fill out a second chart paper entitled “resources.” “Resources” can be anything that could be used to explore the questions. These could be information sources, tools, technology, people, organizations, or otherwise.

Round 3: (10 minutes): Each group rotates one more time. In this round, the group will read the brief, questions, and resources. They will add any new resources they might be aware of.

Round 4: (10 minutes) Each group will return to their original Issue Brief. Acting as if it were their own, they will assess the questions and resources identified and report back to the larger group two ideas or strategies that surprised them that they think are valuable in moving forward on this Issue Brief.

Review (10 minutes) take some time for each group to share back some of the ideas shared. Post Designate someone to post what was learned or explored back on the Issue Briefs on Public Lab.

Optional Facilitator Text:


For the next hour we’re going to do a short workshop exploring some examples of environmental issues communities face, and actively engage in the issues to share and demonstrate how community science and building the commons can work to support people on the ground.

People in the Environmental Justice movement talk about limited resources, feelings of isolation, and being small. Finding yourself on the receiving end of the negative externalities of industry is extremely daunting. Those feelings are valid, big industry has a lot of money, resources, and often political power. Individuals have much, much less. So what do we do?

When we can all being to see ourselves in the equation, we can better support each other, and together help to build the pathways forward. That’s exactly what we’re going to practice today. In this hour we’re going to engage in four Issue Briefs. These Issue Briefs are example write-ups based off of concerns people have brought into and workshopped in Public Lab. I should note that these Briefs have been drafted for the purpose of this exercise, while the issues are real, the writing has been crafted for this exercise and not by the individuals on the ground.

We’re going to divide into groups of 7 to 10 and rotate through the Issue Briefs. By the end of the workshop you will have worked on three Issues. In your team you’re going to contribute as individuals and as a collective to build support around these issues. You’ll need to engage your critical thinking skills. We’ll do best when we’re resourceful, creative, and when we support and build off each other’s ideas.

Let’s get started.

Round One:

In your first Issue Brief, you’ll need to do some deep thinking about it. You’re the first ones here. No one has seen this brief before you. Really mull it over. And once you’ve done that, on your own, tease out the questions that are in it, around it, or could be related to it. Just think about what could be asked or explored about the issue Write down on the chart paper all the questions you came up with. Then as a group, brainstorm and come up with more questions by bouncing off of and building off of each other. Write all those down on your chart paper as well.

You have 10 minutes.

Round Two:

Now leave all your materials at this station and rotate to a second Issue Brief. In this second round you’ve now had people here before you. People have already started to engage. Quickly Read the brief, and read their questions. Take a moment to add others you might have, but then I want you to switch gears. Take the second chart paper and start to write out any answers you have to questions that are there, any resources that you know of that could help to answer a question, people, places, technologies, ideas for how to address them. Draw lines connecting the questions on the one chart paper to the answers and resources on your second page. We’re starting to build a web.

You have 10 minutes.

Round Three:

Now Rotate to the next Issue Brief. In this round, I want you to read then only add resources. This is when you’re really needing to engage your creative thinking skills. Think about this round as teasing out pathways forward, what do you know? what do you have? what could be combined? what could be created? What could be easy? what could the community there do on their own? what could the do engaging others? these ideas are all resources.

You have 10 minutes.

Return to start:

This is the last round, as a group, go back to your first Issue Brief, The Issue Brief you started at. Look it over, and see what happened while you were away. Take 5 minutes to explore it together and talk about the brief as if it were your own. In a moment, we’ll share back one or two ideas or strategies that surprised you, or that you think are particularly creative, or valuable in moving forward on this Issue Brief.

Share what was learned

Take 10 or so minutes to talk about takeaways.


Now that we’ve done all this work, it’s important to document it, both for those who face these issues and for those who might have more ideas to build off of these we’ve created. It’s time to take some photos of our papers and post these things to Public Lab on the Issue Briefs people have drafted.

Can we get some volunteers?


We’ve just spent the past hour building an incredible amount of capacity. That’s only with the people in this room. People facing these hard issues need resources, answers, next steps, and a community of support. you’ve done that, you can do it and I hope now you can also see a little or maybe a big piece of yourself in the pathways forward.

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