Chapter 15 Facilitated Conversations

There is nothing more potent than being in the presence of someone who just wants to listen to you. Someone who is both open minded and open hearted; someone who does not get restless for you to find a solution or for you to take up their preferred solution

  • David Naylor 2015

This chapter describes the work of Sign up to Safety in learning about the factors and methods that can help people talk to each other.

This chapter describes how our work started with a method we call ‘trios’.  The process is simple yet has lead to unexpected results.  It is amazing what can happen when you provide a simple but profound format for people to really talk together as equals.

Trios are a way of exploring safety issues in a group of three people; a speaker, an active listener and an observers (Naylor et al 2016).

The chapter then describes how we then used what we learnt to experiment with other methods:

  • Quads
  • Fishbowl methods
  • Small group conversations
  • Large group conversations

It then describes the lessons learnt from all of these – lessons for those organising and participating.  These include:

  • Making sure that you are really well prepared (I know everyone always says that!)
  • That skilled facilitation can be the difference between success and failure
  • You need organisers and facilitators who work together to pay attention to detail all of the time; before an event, when greeting people, during the event and after it
  • If you ask people in a supportive setting to tell their story they will
  • People can be incredibly generous, imaginative and open hearted – if you get some willing, able and thoughtful people to listen you can help people really think about what they can do differently
  • One of the easiest human acts of listening to someone, simply listening, can also be the most healing

As a bit of a post script – the team are currently working on a handbook of all of the methods we have used so that people can download and use them in their own workplace


Naylor D, Woodward S, Garrett S, Boxer P (2016) What do we need to do to keep people safer? Journal of Social Work Practice – [online] Available via