For creating a functional cooperative workshop setting, it is key to set up a set of rules which will make it possible. Within the non-formal learning context, setting up your own rules and applying them to the group is undesirable. On the contrary, to achieve functional group dynamics and create a safe space, the rules must be set up by your participants and their needs. This gives the group a chance to think about what a good work-setting should be like, creates a safe space, and overcomes the barrier between the group and the facilitator. This technique also works well in the context of formal learning. Rules are not just coercive means of values that the facilitator holds. Everyone is involved in their creation; they are set up to benefit the group as a whole, and therefore everyone is motivated to stick to them.
The activity can be carried out in groups of any size. In the preparatory stage, the facilitator should consider whether the rule-setting will be done in the form of verbal brainstorming (suitable for smaller groups), or — for instance — whether each participant will write their ideas down. When choosing a particular approach, it is important to take into consideration that no-one is left out of the rule-setting process. Even latecomers should have a chance to comment on the rules and amend them if needed.
With consideration to the group size, the activity should not exceed 30 minutes. When working with a large number of participants, it is preferable to adjust the activity in such a way that it does not take too much time and respects the group dynamics.
Before this workshop activity, the facilitator is equipped with a flipchart with a drawing of a boat on the sea. There are figures on the deck; the sun is shining on them (see picture).
The above-mentioned picture serves as a template for filling in concrete rules. The participants are asked to think about the rules that should apply during the whole workshop. Depending on the size of the group, they write them down on Post-it notes or say them aloud. Before the facilitator writes any of them down on the picture, all participants must agree on it. If somebody does not agree with a rule, it is possible to ask them to rephrase it so that the group reaches consensus.
At the end of this activity, it is necessary that the group unanimously approves a particular set of rules, so all participants have to stick to them. It is good to mention that if needed, participants can make new rules during the whole course of the workshop but only when everyone agrees on it. Similarly, if anyone joins the group without participation in the rule-making process, they still have a chance to add rules later. The set of rules is put at an easily visible place. This way, the rules will be constantly seen, and it is possible to refer to them during the workshop.