Part two –
Getting ready for developed model

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Overview. Getting ready for the developed model

We are getting one step closer to implementing activities developed in the Design and creative thinking toolkit. However, before you start to implement activities we would like to draw your attention to some important issues and aspects that have been covered in this chapter. What has to be taken into consideration in order to create an atmosphere that encourages and motivates? How do you create a Judgement Free Zone which is a prerequisite for adolescents to train creative thinking and design personal life scenarios? Learning types; how do you engage everyone in the learning process and, of course, not forget about the facilitation process.
Facilitation of the developed model is an important aspect because meetings of large groups of people can be very hard to organize and control when they are in progress. The facilitator can also help group members to get to know each other and learn to cooperate. Some of the key factors for a successful workshop are the following: everyone’s involvement, a safe environment, supporting individuals and group learning needs. In order to implement and run the developed model activities smoothly, some preparation work is needed. This part includes some important aspects that will help facilitators to prepare for activities.

1. Judgement Free Zone

A Judgement Free Zone – a prerequisite for adolescents to train creative thinking and design personal life scenarios


A Judgement Free Zone is a human ecology, group or context where the people involved experience to be accepted just as they are – with regard to gender, appearance, introvercy or extrovercy, education, level of skills and other factors. A Judgement Free Zone also matters in the many micro dealings between people. The term is used in different and sometimes more casual contexts; however we see this as a pivot point for any successful dealing, development and exchange with young people, and absolutely also in this work.

Philosophical background

The term, as we define it, is very inspired by Amy Edmonson’s research and work on “Psychological Safety” (Edmonson, 2018) and Brene´ Brown’s research and work on “Vulnerability and courage” (Brown 2018).

Creating psychological security is difficult – a neuroperspective

Although psychological safety sounds simple and easy to implement in theory, it has proven to be quite difficult. Otherwise, we had to assume that psychological security in teams was the norm. When we as individuals feel that interactions or environments have minimal interpersonal risk and we feel psychologically safe, then we share our thoughts without worrying about any negative consequences. On the other hand, when there is psychological insecurity in the environment, we are less likely to share” (Edmondson & Nembhard, 2009).

How do you create a Judgement Free Zone?

Our research and work with young people, as well as interviews with professional youth workers have made us understand that the responsibility to create a Judgement Free Zone (JFZ) in a context with adolescents lies with the adult youth worker. Part of this responsibility is to share it with the whole group, so that everyone in the group sees themselves as responsible for creating a JFZ on an on-going basis.

Behaviours empowering a Judgement Free Zone

These behaviours are suggestions to be modelled by the adult and elaborated with the young people.

1.Create ownership of the Judgement Free Zone with a simple set of house rules that supports it.

Possible areas of house rules to talk about: How do we foster a culture of honesty? Remind group members that they don’t have to like each other to be together and respect each other. Discuss ways to talk to each other in a conflict? Affirm collective responsibility. Highlight the importance of developing and practicing listening skills. Do we honour the agreements we have decided upon together?

2. Create a curious and open group atmosphere to thoughts and ways of going on that are different from the group “normal”.

  • Examples: “What you say (or do) is so different to what I think, tell me more about why you think xyz is right.”, “I really don´t agree with that, but I would like to hear why you think it´s a good idea”. “Ok, we know what half of you think, and we haven’t decided anything yet. Are there other ideas on what kind of party we want to have?”

3. Respond productively and forgive mistakes. If people experience that it is ok to make “mistakes”, then everyone begins to learn that everyone occasionally misses the mark, is clumsy or does not look impeccably smart.

  • Examples: “It´s ok, I am sure you did not mean to do that on purpose”, “I got hurt by what you said. Can we talk about what happened?”. “Just to say – I know my hair looks like s#it, but I feel greeeeat today”.

4. Be a role model and show that you (the adult), too, can sometimes be vulnerable and imperfect.

  • Examples: As an adult it is ok to let teenagers know that you, too, can have a bad day or get hurt, or struggle with things. That does not change the fact that you are a safe and secure person that is always ready to help.

5. Ask for feedback and give feedback only when asked.

  • Examples: Be careful with too much commenting on other people’s behaviours (that applies to both teens and adults). Feedback works best when someone has either asked for it or if someone is breaking the agreed house rules or agreements. In the latter case the feedback is not emotionally charged – it merely points out that we have house rules. We understand that this is difficult for most of us, so this has to be trained.

6. Facilitate group session. Facilitation with groups of teenagers does not mean performing a formal facilitation with agendas etc. It means that the adult (and sometimes even the teenagers) gently manage sessions, meetings, musical rehearsals etc., so that the group experiences the benefit of getting input from everyone.

  • Examples: Here facilitation means setting up simple frameworks that allow teens to get the best possible experience. In its simplest form, it can be conducting round-talking, where everyone is given some time to express their thoughts. It should mostly be done in a simple way, without talking too much about it, so that the young people do not feel like a gathering is being facilitated.

7. Remember to actively create circumstances where everyone gets a voice. If not done, the alphas of the group will dominate and others will feel subordinate.

  • Examples: Use the One/Two/Many method. The method is simply working in the way that the adult facilitating the processes, deliberately shifts between people working alone, working in two and two and working together as a group. This will ensure that everyone experiences to be heard as well as feel the good energy of the larger group. It can be used when you generate ideas, develop a theatre project, write lyrics to music or plan a party. Other ways to include everyone: give different young people leading roles (if they want). Make a round table talk so that everyone is being heard.

What are the benefits of creating a Judgement Free Zone

Studies show that psychological security makes room for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity and the courage to stick your head out. (Delizonna, 2017). Psychological safety in groups increases learning behaviours (Edmond, 1999). Psychological safety releases energy, as one no longer uses mental resources to deal with impressions and avoid mistakes. (Edmond, 1999).

In this project we have found that having a high focus on creating what we here call A Judgement Free Zone is a prerequisite for working with creative thinking processes and designing life scenarios with young people.

2. Learning and Non-formal approach

The moment we are born we start to explore the world and learn, and this process continues until our last breath. Throughout our lives we acquire new understanding, develop skills, change attitudes, shape values and improve behaviours. There are periods when we learn more intensively, but there is always something new to gain, acquire, study, find out, because learning is a lifelong process. Learning happens at different places, under various circumstances, in diverse ways, by us and in groups.
What are the types of learning?

Educational systems exist to promote formal learning, which follows a syllabus and is intentional in the sense that learning is the goal of all the activities learners engage in. Learning outcomes are measured by tests and other forms of assessment.

Non-formal learning takes place outside formal learning environments, but within some kind of organizational framework. It arises from the learner’s conscious decision to master a particular activity, skill or area of knowledge and is thus the result of intentional effort. However it doesn’t need to follow a formal syllabus or be governed by external accreditation and assessment.

Informal learning takes place outside schools and colleges and arises from the learner’s involvement in activities that are not undertaken with a learning purpose in mind. Informal learning is an involuntary and inescapable part of our daily life. Informal learning, however, is exclusively incidental.

Grid differences Formal learning, Non-formal learning, Informal learning

In this project our focus was on non-formal learning that takes place outside formal learning environments. Let’s see how non-formal learning takes place.

There are many theories about learning and here is one of them to explore – the Experiential Learning Theory that focuses on learning by doing. The Experiential Learning Cycle was developed by David Kolb (educational theorist) in the early 1970s.

The experiential learning cycle is a four-step learning process: Experience – Reflect – Think – Act.

It is a learning process initiated by a concrete experience, which demands reflection, review and perspective-taking about the experience; then abstract thinking to draw conclusions and conceptualize the meaning of the experience; leading to a decision to act, engaging in active experimentation or trying out what you have learned.

Learning is an emotional process – we feel excitement when gaining a new skill, embarrassment about mistakes and fear of being misunderstood. Fostering positive emotions in your classroom/ training will motivate participants to learn, while negative emotions such as stress and alienation will inhibit their learning.

Choosing the right methods can sometimes be a daunting process. But the most important thing is to remember that before deciding on a specific method, many factors should be taken into consideration.

When choosing a method important are to think of the following:

  • Aims – what are the specific objectives for this session, what do you want to achieve with the sessions;
  • Target group – who are the participants, what is their age, experience, background, expectations, how many participants are there, participants with fewer opportunities or specific needs;
  • Frame/settings – how much time do you have, what is the environment and the space, what resource can you use;
  • Sequence – what precedes this session, what will follow, the group dynamics stage of the group;
  • Institution/organization – what is the culture of our organization, what is the format of your work, what principles/ethics do you follow;
  • Trainers/ facilitators – what knowledge and experience do they have, what are their preferences.

Only when we go through all the factors listed above, can you find the method that suits best. The Toolkit provides a set of methods that we recommend implementing in a certain sequence, but, of course, we do not want to limit you only to methods included in the Toolkit; should you have other methods that could help achieve the same aim, you are welcome to use them.

A few ideas of how to create an open and supportive atmosphere for non-formal learning, growth and development:

  • encourage people to be active, involved, participating;
  • promote and support the individual’s discovery of personal meaning and application;
  • recognise and encourage people’s right to make mistakes (in the safe environment created);
  • embrace and accept the beauty of differences;
  • tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity;
  • encourage openness, self- and mutual respect;
  • foster a collaborative process.

3. The role of teachers and facilitators

First of all, any activity which promotes learning should be facilitated accordingly and thoughtfully. What should educators, teachers and facilitators keep in mind during the educational process?

  1. Always be ready for unexpected situations, reactions, challenges, obstacles. As in real life so in the learning process different aspects can appear. Your mind-set should be open to any experience and not stuck in a stressful situation.
  2. Create a psychologically safe environment where participants feel free and are safe to ask, try, risk and make mistakes.
  3. Mind your thoughts, attitudes and language! The process of learning can be affected by simple comments, limiting statements or emotional reactions.
  4. Use different learning tools and combine them. Try both formal and non-formal tools to see how they work and what works best for the participants.
  5. You are a very important person in the educational process; more or less you are a role model for your participants. You can also show good examples, share some personal learning stories, some inspiration and motivation.

To be effective, facilitators must juggle many roles in a session. At times you will need to strive to keep the group focused, at other times you should help them go deeper into a topic, and occasionally you will try to keep them from attacking each other! The Leadership Strategies Centre has identified eight distinct roles for a facilitator to be effective.