The Workshop Book: From Individual Creativity to Group Action


173 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-86571-470-3
DDC 658.4'56




Reviewed by Louise Karch

Louise Karch is a career consultant with Carswell Partners in London, Ontario.


This book describes the Consensus Workshop Method developed by the
Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs. The five-step method (setting
the context, brainstorming, clustering the group’s ideas, naming the
cluster of ideas, and symbolizing the resolve) is well suited for
government, education, social services, and community groups because of
its respect for all participants and its consistent encouragement of
full participation.

The Consensus Workshop Method demands that, prior to the workshop,
facilitators spend time articulating the question that the group will be
asked to solve. At the workshop’s opening, participants are asked to
generate a list of their solutions prior to small-group brainstorming.
This innovation makes the workshop environment more welcoming for shy
participants by giving them time to think before they have to speak.
Next, it ensures that all voices are heard by moving to small groups
before the issues are discussed en masse. This approach limits the
possibility of dominant personalities taking over.

While Stanfield discusses how to prepare for and lead the workshop,
there is no information on how to evaluate the success of the
facilitator and/or workshop. Also, there are not enough real-life
stories about the effectiveness of the Consensus Workshop Method. Some
quotations from facilitators do appear, but there are too few of them. A
lack of concrete examples also weakens The Workshop Book. Still, for the
experienced facilitator who is faced with a hot-button issue, the book
does offer a unique, participative method for consensual idea generation
and action planning.


Stanfield, R. Brian., “The Workshop Book: From Individual Creativity to Group Action,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,