Topic 2 Creative Returns

Normally, in the final stages of the diagnosis we tend to ask ourselves: And now what do we do with all this information?

In the return sessions we plan to cover several very important objectives within the participatory process:

  • That people see that we do not keep the information as if it were ours. The information has been produced by the people and is theirs, and they have a right to know what is done with it. This also tends to create a good climate of collaboration because it is not so common for these processes to be made transparent.
  • Verify that in the selection of postures and phrases we do not forget positions that may be important. That the people present can provide validity of what is shown, or complements if there are errors, or expand the self-diagnosis if it is necessary.
  • Facilitate an atmosphere of deepening and creativity from the first things said. Why did we say what we said? So that in these sessions the deepest reasons are provided that are not usually in the usual conversations, but that are facilitated with this type of returns of social creativity.
  • If small groups are made to deepen (and then a plenary session) people from different origins and cultures can be mixed to build a collective and creative interpretation, not to judge who said what, but to see qualities that are the reasons behind the different opinions. In this way, it contributes to creating a good environment and bringing the positions between different sectors of a process closer together.

Conferences and Self-diagnosis

We can propose the largest meeting for the return of the sentences collected from the listening work, for example, in the form of conferences, where they would be present:

  • The Motor Group and the Monitoring Commission.
  • The Institutions and/or Promoter or Collaborating Entities.
  • Social Organizations with a presence in the territory.
  • Citizens that we have interviewed or others who freely want to attend.
  • If there is enough time, Experts can be invited (lecturers).

Whether in a few conferences or in several successive workshops, this type of meeting should have three moments:

Summary of what the experience has been (objectives, process, phases and development…). Brief presentation, by the Motor Group, in which we can rely on audio-visual materials obtained in the field work phase (videos, slides, maps, panels and graphics…)

We can deliver the Synthesis of the analysis as a basic working document in the conferences or workshops. It may have been previously mailed or distributed as a brochure, and this way the explanation of this part would fit into the summary above, saving time.

In total, we should not dedicate more than half an hour to this first moment.

Discussion and correction of the self-diagnosis in small groups or work tables: the audience is divided into working groups to discuss the textual phrases that we have selected in the analysis, in the form of “phrase games” (as we have seen previously) on every matter of importance. Each group presents its positions and doubts through a spokesperson.

We can also work with a “problem tree”, for example, or with a “flowchart” as we will see below.

Plenary, where each small group or work table presents its analysis and priorities. It is convenient to make some device or graphic tool visible to all people, where the contributions (coinciding or divergent) are summarized and added).

Once the points of agreement have been verified, it is possible to propose a work plan to advance in the planning (PISA) that constitutes the next phase.

The Problem Tree helps us to identify the symptoms that account for a problem, and to relate these to the analysis of its immediate causes and its root causes. The positions to be debated to place on the tree can be brought from the phrases already collected in the previous field work, and can also be completed with the contributions of those who attend group work sessions and the plenary.

In order to develop this technique we can make small groups and help each other with the representation of a tree. Each group will try to identify a central problem (regarding the theme of the process) and from it see what are the symptoms that make such a problem visible in the community, and later see the most immediate causes and the deepest causes of it.

In this example of a problem tree, we see how the central problem defined is the disagreement between neighbours and immigrants, which becomes visible (fruits of the tree) in the use of public spaces, the appearance of ghettos, noise and dirt, complaints and attitudes of rejection, etc. The immediate causes, which appear in the branches, are culture shock, ignorance, misinformation, the need for a relationship, etc. The root causes are shown as the roots of the problem and could be inequalities between countries, the lack of adequate policies, recognition of the rights and duties of immigrants, etc.

We can also add who would be the institutions, groups, sectors, alliances, that could be involved in resolving such issues. The important thing is that each working group can discuss in an orderly manner so that it can return to the plenary session of the Conference or the return workshop clear analyses on which to prioritize. It can also be used as a graphic summary after the flowchart, especially when it is very complex.

Another possible technique is the flowchart, which seeks to identify cause-effect relationships, either starting from the selected phrases or directly formulating the elements that the participants consider to be influencing a central theme that will also have to be identified.

It is an appropriate technique for return workshops, because with it is possible to prioritize three or four issues where we can start working and also identify the actors responsible for seeking strategies and solutions to them.

It consists of collectively preparing a graph that visualizes the cause-effect relationships between the various elements related to the subject under debate, to establish the “critical knots”, the main factors where we should begin to solve.

The procedure is the next:

Each participant is given between two to four cards or post-its (depending on the number of participants in the workshop) so that they can write down the questions they believe are pertinent regarding the topic being addressed. It is noted that it is not so much a matter of providing solutions or proposals but of enunciating the factors related to the topic. The sentences must also include who depends on improving the situation cited.

Participants will have an assistant who will help anyone who has difficulty writing, not providing suggestions or entering into debates. In short, it will be a mere transcriber of what is said.

These cards or papers with the phrases are collected in such a way that anonymity is respected. They are read aloud and are grouped by their similarities in the opinion of the majority.

Whenever possible, each group of cards is summarized by two or three words that condense the main thing. These are placed on a blackboard, flipchart or continuous paper so that they are clearly visible.


Participants are asked to look for possible cause and effect relationships between all of them. To do this, arrows will be used to link the different texts together as cause

The person who moderates must take care that relationships are established from each of the written concepts. The person will try to get all the people in the group to participate by making a proposal or participating in the debate. So the group should not exceed 10 or 12 components.

Once the most consensual relationships have been established, we count the number of input arrows (consequences) and the number of output arrows (causes) that each theme has. Those with the most entry and exit arrows will be considered the “critical knot”.

Likewise, it will be seen what aspects and what knots can be addressed by the group, which can be influenced, and those that are outside the scope of the group.

These issues or positions can be placed in a table where, in the left column, some rows are marked with the main people in charge who can resolve these issues (from ourselves to those furthest away where it is more difficult to influence).
The other columns can initially be left blank, or put in them the main aspects that influence the process, or order them from the most structural to the most circumstantial causes.


Example of Flowchart made on flipchart

Another way to do it is starting from the selected phrases of the interviews, workshops, etc. of the field work phase. And it can also be done in a simplified way without making any matrix. It is enough to place the post-its with the problems or factors that the participants consider to be influencing or determining the problem studied, on a blackboard or flipchart without a pre-established order, grouping them homogeneously (phrases that come to say something very similar) and framing them in a circle. From here, the relationships would be established as explained.

Example of Flowchart without matrix

The relational description would end here, but later, in a propositional part, it should be: a) propose measures on the factors that are controlled, b) formulate proposals so that the influence that one has on the nodes described is effective, according to the matrix, and, y c) inquire about possible actions with which to achieve that what is out of reach becomes, in the medium or short term, controllable, or, at least, within the radius of influence.