Rainbow communication: workshop exercise

This is a stand-alone workshop exercise which you can use as part of a much longer day. This is way of describing the level at which you are talking, and so should help you to become more organised. It is useful where there is disagreement or where people in the group seem to be talking at cross purposes.

  • Length: 30 minutes
  • Number of people: pairs to groups of ten (working for the same organisation)
  • Best used: towards the start of the day, when talking about organising your campaign, strategy, or group
  • Extra equipment needed: whiteboard/paper and pens in the colours of the rainbow, or a computer screen
  • Purpose: to ensure clarity in organising your campaign or setting your strategy, to avoid different members of your group talking at cross purposes

What to do:

On the paper, whiteboard, or screen, write the following in the appropriate colours.

  • Red. The ultimate aim. The overall mission. Why the organisation exists.
  • Orange. Values and principles. The general ethos.
  • Yellow. Strategy. Theory of change. The direction to be taken in order to achieve the (red) overall aim.
  • Green. High level implementation. How it’s put into action. Long term plans, programmes of work. Campaigns. Themes.
  • Blue. Projects. Longer pieces of work fitting into a campaign programme or theme (green).
  • Indigo. Specific pieces of work, such as a single episode of a podcast, or an event.
  • Violet. Day to day admin.

On a separate piece of paper, write down some of the things your organisation does, the decisions it makes, or the documents you have recently written. Circle them in the appropriate colour. Your overall goal? Red. That campaign strategy you wrote for the trustees? Probably mainly yellow and green, with a touch of blue. The minute by minute plan for next weeks webinar? Indigo.

Next, consider who in the organisation operates at each level. Generally trustees or directors are responsible for issues in the orange and yellow sections, while senior staff and chairs deal with green, and blue through to violet are managed by staff without trustee involvement.

Add the things your organsation does and the people who do them to your rainbow. Discuss in the group whether you agree. You objective is to find a rainbow which fits your organisation.

Use the rainbow in future meetings to clarify whether a proposal is a green campaign theme, or a blue project, or whether you are talking about the overall aim of the organisation (red) or the outcome of a specific event (indigo/blue). While a diagram is no substitute for meaningful discussion, it can help to avoid crossed wires.

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