Here are some ground rules for ASN workshops building on experience over the years. It is important that ASN workshops stick to certain standards of on openness to all faiths, confidentiality where appropriate, and that leaders are able to create a safe space for participants. Of course within this each leader will have their own style, and each event will be unique. The Chair or secretary are happy to discuss your plans and any concerns.
Planning a workshop
Plan ahead carefully for numbers of participants and make sure you have adequate space and facilities before you commit to an event. The ideal and maximum numbers need to be built into your finance plan. (NB a finance plan should be agreed in advance, see separate guidance.)
If you are looking for a venue for an event, consider the facilities, transport links and wider context of the building, to make sure people can get there, will be comfortable doing the workshop there. If you are not familiar with the building, it may be worth visiting in advance. Think about facilities such as water, drying space, tables and whether they need protection, floor coverings. Are they suitable for messy activities? If not, you may need to adapt your activities to the facilities.
Do plan your publicity well in advance, see separate guidance.
Make sure you know emergency procedures for the premises, insurance etc.
Catering: this may be provided by a host organization. If not, think ahead about how this will be provided : what, by whom and at what cost?
If one person is running the event, make sure you have one or more other people who are ready to deal with any disturbances (eg from outside) and who participants can give pastoral support to one to one if necessary.
On the day
- Get there in good time to set things up.
- We’ve found name tags (sticky labels) useful, it ensures everyone is welcomed and helps people get to know one another more quickly.
- Introduce the leaders and their roles
- Please say something about the ASN itself, and make publicity available, mentioning forthcoming events (perhaps at the end of your event). (If you have not been much involved in ASN before it may be helpful to invite someone else to do this bit.) This should specifically mention our openness to those of all faiths and none.
- Explain the structure of the day and how the various parts will complement each other. It’s good to have the timetable written up somewhere, or a copy to each person.
- If there is space, is helpful to designate different areas of the venue for various functions, i.e. an area where the group can be messy, a quiet area for reflection and a place to chat and enjoy refreshments.
- Make sure you know emergency procedures for the venue: fire exits, first aid boxes etc. Please ensure participants are aware of dangerous processes, materials etc, and take reasonable steps to avoid hazards.
- ASN cannot not take responsibility for accidents or injuries at our workshops. We do not carry insurance. Please make this clear to workshop participants as part of your introduction. If any participants have concerns about risks or health and safety issues they should be encouraged to tell one of the facilitators.
- It is good practice to allow time for participants to introduce themselves at an early stage. This might be as part of a ‘warm-up’ exercise.
- In your introduction and through the day, please be aware that some people may feel excluded by certain kinds of language, including ‘God talk’ or assumptions about beliefs. It can be helpful in your introduction to encourage people not to worry too much about the specific meaning of particular words, and if some elements are unhelpful or seem foreign to them, to concentrate on what seems helpful to them.
- It is useful to agree a policy of confidentiality at the start of the day or at the start of a sharing exercise.
- Once an event has got under way it is important that the group is ‘closed’ for the rest of the duration as people dropping in half way can disrupt the process.
- We encourage participants to work in silence and respect each other’s need to work alone.
- Participants are encouraged to explore each activity in a way that is comfortable and appropriate to them, it is always fine to opt out of an activity.
- Some participants may have difficulty in doing a particular activity, the leader/support person should be alert to this possibility and be prepared to make alternative suggestions and/or discuss an issue that has arisen, on a one-to-one basis.
- Since we value the creative process itself there is no pressure for participants to produce a final result.
- Often we will provide space for participants to share thoughts and feelings about their creations, as a rule it is important that we refrain from making suggestions about each other’s art unless we are invited to do so. Nobody should be under pressure to talk about their work.
- If anyone is prepared to take photos for publicity and/or write a short article for the newsletter this is also welcome. (Please ask participants’ permission if you photograph them or their work.)
- Participants should be invited to give feedback on the session, though not all will wish to do so. A standard evaluation form is available, you are welcome to adapt it, and/or feedback after the even it also invited. Feedback on the content, structure, venue and practicalities of the day are helpful for facilitators and for ASN when planning future events. Facilitators are asked to forward feedback to the secretary.
- A short debriefing session among facilitators after the workshop is helpful. Please pass a brief report on the workshop to the secretary, to help organizers of future workshops. (Numbers, activities, feedback, other comments.). Don’t forget to let the Treasurer have an account, and to tidy up any financial matters promptly please.