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close this bookCreative Training - A User's Guide (IIRR, 1998, 226 pages)
close this folderEnergizers
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View the documentPurpose


Energizers enable you to:

· introduce participants to each other
· foster interaction
· stimulate creative thinking
· challenge basic assumptions
· illustrate new concepts
· introduce specific material
· form groups
· enliven sleepy groups

Good energizers

· require 30 minutes or less (and often only 5-10 minutes)
· demand little or no advance preparation
· are simple to implement
· are flexible as they can be related to an unlimited range of topics


To use energizers effectively:

· never force group members to participate in an activity

· state clearly that the information generated is confidential, especially during feedback and disclosure exercises

· realize the importance of being a role model for the participants

· consider appropriateness carefully

· maintain an acute awareness of group development

All energizers are not the same; they vary in primary goal, level of impact and degree of intensity. We can identify six different types of energizers, grouped on the basis of their primary purpose, although many have several functions.

1. Tension reducers

These shift the emotional nature of the group. They are most effectively used when the participants appear "flat" or over-anxious. The activities serve as catalysts for energizing or reducing tension (e.g., simple stretching exercises).

2. Feedback and disclosure

These establish interactions of a personal nature by exploring thoughts, feelings, perceptions, impressions and reactions (e.g., Gender Circles, see below).



Gender circles


· to allow participants to move around
· for participants to give their instant reactions to ideas about gender



1. Ask participants to form two concentric circles, facing each other, and to move around in opposite directions. For a mixed group, you may like to ask the men to be in the inner circle and the women in the outer.

2. After a few seconds, ask them to stop and pair up with the person standing opposite them in the other circle. You can use music to signal when it is time to move around and when to stop.

3. Read out a statement about gender and ask the participants to react to it, talking about it in pairs for about one minute each.

4. Ask them to move around again and repeat the exercise until they have talked about all the statements.

5. Ask participants to form a large group again and comment on the exercise


A list of statements that the participants may commonly hear. For example:

· Men and women can never be equal because they are biologically different.
· Gender is just another word for women.
· Women should be employed in NGOs because they are more efficient.
· The word gender is not translatable and therefore not relevant in the field.
· All this talk about gender brings conflict to the family.
· My organization talks a lot about gender but it is not reflected in the structure.
· Work on gender should always respect people's social and cultural context.

Note: This energizer can be used for any topic.

Reference: Oxfam Gender Manual by Suzanne Williams with Janet Seed and Adelina Mwau, 1994, Oxfam UK

3. Games and brainteasers

These are exercises that stimulate creative thinking and alternative perceptions and that examine basic assumptions. These activities facilitate a competitive environment by pitting individuals or teams against one another (e.g., The Carabao Story, see below).


The Carabao Story


· to energize participants
· to help participants maintain mental awareness



1. Ask participants to form a circle, each facing towards the center, with the left hand open (in the begging position) and the right hand pointing into the palm of the person on the right

2. Designate a participant to stand in the center and begin telling a story with the carabao as the main character.

3. Instruct the participants that each time the carabao is mentioned in the story they should try to catch the finger of the person in their left and at the some time try to avoid being caught by the person on the right.

4. A participant who is caught will be the next person to continue telling the story, picking it up from where the last person stopped. The exercise may last up to ten minutes depending on the facilitator. If two or more participants are caught, only one should replace the person at the center.

An agreement may be established at the beginning of the activity that participants caught three times will be made to sing or lead the next energizer, etc.

4. Getting acquainted

These exercises provide participants with opportunities to learn more about one another in a non-threatening manner. They solicit surface information and are ideal for quickly mixing a group and for lowering barriers (e.g., Face Exercise, see below).


Face exercise


1. Ask participants to draw a face on a sheet of paper. The drawing should include eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

2. Ask participants to write information on the drawing about what they like or dislike to see, hear, smell and taste (Note: Sometimes objections are raised about dwelling on the negative but you can explain that sometimes people reveal themselves by stating what they dislike.)

3. Request participants to pair off and discuss their output with each other.

4. Ask participants to feedback information they wish to share to the rest of the group.


Option: Ask participants to write their names on the paper and post the drawing on the wall to encourage further interaction as the workshop progresses (e.g., during break, a participant may ask the person who particularly likes melted ice cream, Why?...)

5. Openers and warm-ups

These activities loosen inhibitions by stimulating, motivating and challenging the participants. They do this by heightening the creative resources of the group and encouraging intense and playful interaction (e.g., Choose your spot, see below). These are used to:

· begin a program
· start a session
· prime the group after a break
· prepare the learners for a new topic

These are also used to examine aspects of communication such as:

· consensus seeking
· problem solving
· non-verbal interaction


Choose your spot


· To get people moving around
· To start discussion about key topics
· To show up differences of opinion within the group


1. Preparation

Prepare 10 statements relevant to the next topic/session. The statement should be designed to bring out strong views and provokes open discussion.

On five sheets of flipchart or manila paper, draw the four faces below:


2. Pin the sheets up on the walls around the room.

3. Explain to the participants that the faces represent the options: strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree and that when each statement is read out, they should choose the face which most closely represents their feelings.

4. Ask all participants to stand in the center of the room as you read each statement, and then go and stand beside the face that represents how much they agree or disagree with the statement. After they have discussed each statement in their groups, they should choose a spokesperson to share key ideas from the group with everyone in the room.

5. Read the statements one by one, allowing five to ten minutes for discussion and reporting back on each one.

Reference: Oxfam Gender Manual

6. Professional development topics

These are exercises related to specific subjects such as leadership and supervision, problem solving or the environment, gender, etc.


A course on presentation skills could begin with warm up activities such as a one minute talk about yourself to the rest of the group. This will place an emphasis on presentation from the beginning and allow the rest of the group to get to know you.

Successful energizers

The success or failure of an energizer depends on the skills of the facilitator. As a facilitator, it is important that you establish a relaxed atmosphere that gives participants the opportunity to be by themselves. You can develop this climate through using subtle yet important behaviors such as:

· voice inflection
· gestures
· body posture
· eye contact
· verbal instructions

(The activity sheets or Body Language and Visual Gestural Communitation can help you be more aware of your body language.)

Adding to creative exploration, energizers encourage participants to:

· try new behavior;
· explore the unknown;
· engage in playful behavior; and
· think spontaneously.


Pfieffer. Encyclopedia of Icebreakers.