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”
- 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)
- Know your audience (background, cultural considerations, ages, etc.)
- Consider that not everyone may like ice-breakers (such as intraverts) so plan accordingly
- When necessary consider visuals or demonstrations, different people have different learning styles
- Be clear on your objectives (e.g. fun, reflective, serious) and how this activity relates or transitions to next activity
- If possible, familiarize yourself with space or venue
- Take the necessary time to prepare, rehearse steps/ instructions, etc.
- Simplify instructions/ steps as much as possible
- Write up and make copies of activity (in case you need a co-facilitator or need someone else to run the activity)
- Trust in the process and in the participants (good results come from good process)
- Think of using ice-breakers to close or end the day (e.g. maybe revise opening exercise to a closing exercise)