I recently facilitated a retreat for my 100th client, the Little Green Fingers program. What’s especially exciting for me is that this client, like many of my recent clients, is a collaboration of multiple organizations working together to affect change in Southern California. They are partnering to design, build and engage the community around the development of eight new community gardens designed for children under five years old.
The Little Green Fingers team includes: First 5 LA – providing funding for planning and implementation; Los Angeles Conservation Corps – program oversight and garden construction; Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (a former client of mine) – land acquisition, community organizing and leadership development; Nicole Gatto -epidemiologist and health science researcher at UCLA’s School of Public Health overseeing project evaluation; GDML: Glen Dake and Miguel Luna (another former client of mine) – landscape architecture and community organizing; UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program – gardening and nutrition education; and The Better World Group – strategic outreach and communications.
The Little Green Fingers Program asked me to plan and facilitate their recent retreat. As I mentioned in a previous blog, there are multiple process tools a facilitator can bring to help make meetings a success. I used several of these in the Little Green Fingers retreat. The retreat took place in one of my favorite locations, the Audubon Center at Debs Park.
One thing I more intentionally did at this recent retreat was shift the seating around throughout the day (as you can see in the various panoramic photos I took). I believe that one reason people find meetings and retreats boring is that they have to sit in the same seat the entire time. This locks people into just one perspective.
As an alternative, we met as a large group in different spaces within the main room. I also designed several small group sessions in which participants could meet outside. We incorporated a short walk and we ended the retreat in a majestic grove of pepper trees. We started with a U-shaped set of desks. In an intro activity, I asked everyone to pair up and come inside of the U to share their responses. One of the points I made is that within a collaborative change initiative, there are multiple viewpoints. Understanding the perspective of others helps. We literally did this throughout the day and folks shared their positive feedback with me at the end.
By the end of the day, all participants had the opportunity to engage with everyone else who attended the retreat, either in a pair, trio, small group or with the large group. The day gave stakeholders an opportunity to build upon their already strong relationships with each other, reflect on their past year of work together and begin to plan for their collective future.