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Anneke and Dave at the Involve youth workers conference in Wellington, August 2021.

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Anneke and Dave are part of our amazing Adventure Therapy team at Adventure Specialties Trust and they recently attended the “Involve” youth workers national conference in Wellington.

Anneke and Dave led a practical workshop about a model of facilitation that we regularly use during our outdoor adventure programmes: the “What? So What? Now What?” model.

>>> What is the “What? So What? Now What?” model?

We create a challenging activity, then afterwards we ask the participants these three questions, to encourage them to reflect on the experience, draw out meaning, and create growth.

  1. What? (What just happened? What were your actions, thoughts, feelings?)
  2. So What? (What is the meaning and significance behind what just happened?)
  3. Now What? (What is the relevance of this to you, to your group, to your future?)

During the Involve conference workshop, Dave and Anneke ran the ‘helium pole’ activity with the 80 workshop participants, to illustrate this model.

Dave and Anneke leading a workshop at the annual Involve youth workers conference in Wellington, August 2021.

>>> What is the ‘helium pole’ activity?

Each group (4-10 people) is given a pole or long stick. The members of the group split into two lines, facing each other, with the pole in between them. Their task is to place the pole on the top of their index fingers and balance it there. Everyone must keep their finger touching the pole at all times. Then the team needs to work together get it down to the ground.

Sounds simple, right? 

But it takes a lot of patience, trust, teamwork, communication, and any other outcomes you might want your group to achieve. 

And as the name suggests, the pole can go up as if it is filled with helium!

You can also make it more difficult by adding a weight to one end of the pole.

Dave says, “The activity went off with a hoot, poles flying everywhere! One participant from each group got to facilitate the activity and then, afterwards, share their learnings with the rest of us.” 

>>> How can you apply the “What? So What? Now What?” model to the helium pole activity?

As an example, the group discussions included comments like:

1. What? “We noticed that we were all trying to speak at once and not listening to each other.”

2. So What? “This meant that our pole kept going up and not down. We needed to listen to each other and take turns, and then the pole began lowering when we worked together.”

3. Now What? “In challenging situations, we all need to talk together, listen to each other and come up with a plan.”

Outcome: a stronger team with improved communication!

>>> So how does all this tie in with your work at Adventure Specialties?

Anneke explains, “Models such as the “What? So What? Now What?” (and many other models of facilitation) really help to empower our programme participants to identify what it was that is meaningful, to identify the skills that were learned or practiced, and to reflect on how this understanding can help them in everyday life, or through very challenging times, or to celebrate success.”

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