Idea to Message: workshop exercise

This is a stand-alone workshop exercise which you can use as part of a much longer day.

  • Length: forty minutes to an hour
  • Number of people: 1—5, or a larger group split up into small groups
  • Best used: middle of the day, when starting to plan actions
  • Purpose: to consider how to communicate messages effectively to others

What to do:

The facilitator or a member of the group should read (or paraphrase) the following text: Let’s imagine that you are deeply concerned about a particular issue. It could be broad, such as our changing climate. It could be local, such as the need for a new school. In short, you have an issue of concern, and you want others to be interested or involved. You’ll need to communicate well. How can you start to shape your idea into a clear and articulate message? Here are six steps to help you, and then an exercise to tie them together.

Go through each of the following steps one at a time. Spend a few minutes on each, considering what it means for your issue.

1.      What? Identify the primary issue which is of concern. What is it that you want to change? Can you define it in a phrase or sentence?

2.      Why? Dig deep into it. Why is it a concern? What’s wrong with the current situation? Find one or two very specific points.

3.      Where? Where does the problem come from? Is there something specific which is causing it, or is it part of a wider picture? Is it happening as a result of something else?

4.      How? What would solve the problem? Is there a simple solution, or is it a complex problem with knock-on effects?

5.      Words. Are there three or four words which express the concern? What words or phrases have been used in the past? What images do these words bring to mind?

6.      Emotions. What do you want people to feel when they hear about this issue?

Talk about these six steps in your small group. Try to write down something about your issue for each step. Then try to use what you wrote to come up with a short paragraph expressing your issue. It should be no more than four sentences long.


  • What? Refugees are treated badly and we are closing our borders to people who need help.
  • Why? Refugees are people. They need help. People are suffering. The news is full of horrible stories. The political parties assume that everyone wants there to be less immigration.
  • Where? The problem is caused by wars in other countries, and climate change. There are many causes. The people who do want to stop immigration seem to get all the airtime.
  • How? Not selling weapons to other countries would help. Opening borders. Letting other people in the community know that we support refugees. Needs political legislation for legal change.
  • Words. Sanctuary. Help. Human. Fleeing war and poverty.
  • Emotions. Angry and sad that people are suffering. Wanting to talk to people.

Short paragraph: We are ignoring the pain and suffering of people seeking sanctuary. Refugees are fleeing war and poverty – often caused by our bombs or our economic sanctions – and we are closing our borders and our hearts. We can help by asking our government to be kinder to desperate human beings, and by talking about the need to be kind to strangers with our friends and neighbours.

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