Ice-breakers without Borders

Our May 30 meet-up was a shift to a lighter, funner learning discussion on the usefulness of ice-breakers. For many people working with groups, in group settings or in community, ice-breakers (also energizers, activators, etc.) are often incorporated into their work and can play an important role.

Ice-breakers are also often thrown into our plan with little thought or intention and the full impart of an ice-breaker can be lost. Even when there is no ‘ice’ to break, group activities that build thrust or energise are just as useful. Clearly then the use of an ice-breaker activity has the potential to be much more than a ‘fun’ activity.

For this meet-up, our discussions focused on how to make full use of the varied potential of ice-breakers (and energizers, activators, etc.) as a tool for community development work or group work in general. When viewed in this way ice-breakers (and energizers, activators, etc.) can: set the tone for group work, be designed around the theme/topic of your group work, be used to transition from one activity to the next, to shift the energy or focus of a group to a specific topic, etc.  

For the meet-up we shared and demonstrated examples of ice-breakers under the CD themes:

  • Building thrusting & mutual relationships
  • Creating inclusive & welcoming environment for all
  • Strengths/asset-based approach (i.e. looking for the gifts, talents and capacities in everyone)

And for each ice-breaker demonstrated we reflected on:

  • The objective of activity
  • It’s appropriateness
  • Audience considerations
  • Preparation considerations
  • Potential challenges and possible tweaks


At the end of the meet-up we compiled an Ice-breakers “Tips Sheet” (see below) to guide how we use ice-breakers in our various group and community work.

Ice-breakers “Tips Sheet”

  1. Set out simple group agreements such as ‘tone’ -> quick reassurance that we will be respectful of each other, etc. (have participants help you develop list)
  2. Know your audience (background, cultural considerations, ages, etc.)
  3. Consider that not everyone may like ice-breakers (such as intraverts) so plan accordingly
  4. When necessary consider visuals or demonstrations, different people have different learning styles
  5. Be clear on your objectives (e.g. fun, reflective, serious) and how this activity relates or transitions to next activity
  6. If possible, familiarize yourself with space or venue
  7. Take the necessary time to prepare, rehearse steps/ instructions, etc.
  8. Simplify instructions/ steps as much as possible
  9. Write up and make copies of activity (in case you need a co-facilitator or need someone else to run the activity)
  10. Trust in the process and in the participants (good results come from good process)
  11. Think of using ice-breakers to close or end the day (e.g. maybe revise opening exercise to a closing exercise)