Wishes: An Opener

What wishes do participants have for your training session? Which of these wishes do the most participants share?

Here's an opening activity that helps the participants to generate a list of wishes, discuss them, and identify the highest-priority wishes.


Each participant writes a personal wish for the training session. Later, the participants exchange these wishes and identify the highest-priority wishes by comparing them two at a time.


To generate a set of wishes for the training session and explore their relative importance.


Minimum: 10
Maximum: Any number
Best: 15 to 30


15 minutes for the activity
5 minutes for debriefing


  • Blank index cards
  • Pencil or pen


Identify two mediators. At the beginning of the activity, randomly select two participants to act as the mediators. Tell them that you will explain their task later.

Ask participants to come up with wishes. Invite participants to think of things they wish for the training session. If necessary, give a couple of examples such as these:

  • Frequent breaks
  • Direct application to my job

Listen to one or two examples from the participants.

Ask participants to write a wish card. Give each participant a blank index card. Ask each participant to select the most important personal wish for the training session and write it on the card. Instruct the participants to work independently and keep their wish statements brief and legible. Also, tell the participants not to sign their card or write their name. Announce a 2-minute time limit for this task.

Brief the mediators. While the participants are busy writing on their cards, explain what the mediators will be doing: During the activity, when two participants cannot decide which of the two wishes will be more appealing, they will bring their cards to one of the mediators. This mediator will review the cards, listen to the players, and quickly select one of the two. While waiting for indecisive players to approach them, encourage the two mediators to talk about their wishes for the workshop and try to predict which wishes are likely to be the popular ones.

Exchange the wish cards. After 2 minutes, ask the participants to stand up, hold their wish cards with the written side down, walk around the room, and exchange the cards with each other—without reading any of the cards. Stop this exchange after about 30 seconds.

Explain the goal. Tell the participants that while all the wishes are important, you are going to conduct an activity to locate the ones that appeal to most people.

Ask participants to pair up and select. Tell the participants to pair up with each other and show their wish cards, briefly talk about them, and decide which wish is likely to be more popular among the people in the room.

Explain what to do after the selection. The participant who had the wish card that was not selected should cross out the wish and copy the selected wish on the other side. Each of the two participants should pair up with someone else and repeat the discussion and selection process.

Explain how mediation works. If a pair of participants could not decide which wish has higher popularity, they should go to a mediator. Both participants should take turns to briefly present their case to the mediator. This mediator should listen to the arguments and quickly decide which wish is likely to be more popular.

Explain what happens after the mediation. The two participants who presented their cases should give their wish cards to the mediator and go to the Mediator's Area. The mediator should ask the player with the unselected wish to cross it out and copy the selected wish on the other side. Both players now continue to pair up with new participants and play as before.

Explain what happens when the same wish appears on two cards. When this happens, the two players discuss the importance of the wish while they wait to pair up some other person who becomes available.

Explain what happens when the wish on the back of a card is not selected. When this happens, the player with this card joins the mediator and discusses the relative importance of different wishes for the workshop.

Conclude the session. Announce the end of the activity after a suitable time (depending on the number of participants). Randomly select different players to read the wish on their card. Ask the rest of the players to join the reader if they have the same wish on their card—or if they feel that the wish is more important than the one they have on their card.

Discuss the selected wishes. Review the selected wishes, one at a time. Ask and discuss the following types of questions:

  • What are the benefits of implementing this wish?
  • What should the facilitator do to realize this wish?
  • What should the participants do to realize this wish?