Activity: Opportunity Statements

Source: __The “Do it Now!” Appreciative Tool Kit__
The link is no longer working. You can find the text for the source of the activity at the bottom of this document.


Background: This activity can be used when people are expressing feelings of frustration and negativity around their work.
  • Each participant writes a short statement on a notecard (or larger piece of paper) summarizing the problem or negative situation they are encountering. The one that is forefront in their minds and the one they would most like to make better.
    • Asynchronous:
      • Possibility 1: Online cork board (i.e.: __Padlet__, Participants can use a particular color for the negative statements
      • Possibility 2: Collaborative Google Presentation (add a slide with your advertisement)
      • Possibility 3: Use backchannel such as __Today’s Meet__
    • Synchronous:
      • Possibility 1: Add ideas to a blank white board
      • Possibility 2: Utilize the chat feature
  • Take a look at the statements that are posted on the board. Manipulate them into compatible groups, statements/problems that are similar. (If one of the groupings is too large, participants can voluntarily join another group that they also feel connected to.) Here, participants have reflected and formed task forces based upon what they feel is negatively affecting their work.
    • Asynchronous:
      • Possibility 1: Manipulate sticky notes on online cork board so that similar thoughts are clustered together (color coding may be another organizational tool)
      • Possibility 2: Organize presentation slides so that similar ones are clustered together (color coding slides may be another organizational tool)
      • Possibility 3: Review the back channel discussion & have participants share who they think is most compatible to their advertisement (i.e.: @Joe @Frances @ Jake)
    • Synchronous:
      • Possibility 1: Manipulate and move the text boxes on the white board so they are organized
      • Possibility 2: Look through chat and through discussion identify common advertisements
  • The newly formed task forces, will begin to work together (during following sessions)
    • Look at the negative statement.
    • Rewrite the negative statement.
      • In what way can that be restated so that it invites possibility?
  • Leads into__Discovery, Dream, Design, & Delivery (Destiny)__of an action plan for their group.

Text-- Opportunity Statements
There are numerous applications of the use of “Open Space Technology” within the Appreciative Inquiry and APA processes. This is a second one, used in our “Sustainability Workshop” in Kathmandu in August 2000. Participants had brought up on several occasions their frustrations around a number of very negative situations in their work and the difficulties they were facing in applying appreciative principles in the face of negativity… even dishonesty, corruption, and hostile opposition that had crept into some aspects of the Women’s Empowerment field program. This exercise was used to initiate the process of creating ‘Opportunity Statements’ (Provocative Propositions) which, in turn, was followed by the task of turning ‘Opportunity Statements’ in to ‘Discovery’ questions.
Note: In this particular exercise we asked participants to write a short ‘Advertisement’ on a Meta Card (about 4” x 6” or larger) summarizing the ‘burning’ negative situation they would like to work on. Turn by turn, they were asked to “sell” their projects to the other participants, to try and get others to join them. They then stuck their ‘ads’ on the board in an initial, spontaneous ‘self-selection’ process. (i.e.: “If your idea seems compatible with another’s idea, stick yours close to that one.”) After all have presented their ads and stuck them up on the board, they are asked to go up and move them around until they form several compatible groups. If one group was too big, participants were asked to voluntarily shift their card to another group with which they shared a mutual affinity, a group they would be happy to join. Thus several ‘Task Forces” were formed using a modified OST approach which then would go to work on the process of transforming negatives into positives.
1) In separate and following exercises, the Task Forces were then asked to re-write each of the ‘negative’ ads into an ‘Opportunity Statement’ for a positive outcome…. in the manner followed in typical AI workshops. This led into Discovery, Dream, Design, and Delivery(Destiny) of an action plan for their organization/group.
2) In later reflection (see below), participants were asked to give their feelings about what had happened to the negatives, and how they felt about them. Replies we got included, “They vanished!” “The have all been transformed into positive plans and actions.” “We found that the negatives are just opportunities for empowering action.” And the classics, “Problems are just opportunities in disguise,” and “Problems are just opportunities wrapped in fear.” Author-- Mac Odell