Timeline of Transformation

This creative methods site was compiled by Kelli Rose Pearson and illustrated by Réka Livits (visualive.eu).

Title Timeline of Transformation
Purpose This method brings the tangible possibility of change and transformation into the space and roots it in personal experience and observation.
Time Flexible (all)
Description Collectively create a timeline that highlights key moments of transformation (personally, socially, and environmentally/physically) that are relevant to the project, issue, or group of people participating. In small groups or pairs, participants discuss what changed, why it changed in that moment (who was involved, what conditions), what the implications or ripple effects have been, and what can be learned. The timeline provides data about what types of change participants find relevant and inspiring, what lessons can be learned (from their perspective). Adaptive/transformational thinking for change.
Describe the Materials/preparation needed
Medium preparation time
The facilitator should prepare a timeline on a roll of paper. People can write directly on the timeline or on index cards or large post-its. Post-its should come in at least three different colors, and could also have different shapes for the “change moments” and for notes from the discussion. With larger groups, it can also be useful and visually effective to divide the timeline also horizontally (a line/section for personal, one for the project, and one for society, and one for environment).
Use Warm-up, Generating Ideas, Reflecting/Metabolising
  1. A pre-drawn timeline is displayed on a wall or on a table. It could focus exclusively on the past or leave room in the future for aspirational changes.
  2. Each participant is given several post-its or index cards in three different colors. One color for a personal change, one for a change related to the project or issue, and another for a change to society at large. These post-its could be handed out with the workshop materials as people sign-in or be distributed at the start of the exercise.
  3. Participants are asked to think of at least one “transformative moment” from each category and post it on the timeline.
  4. In small groups, participants are then invited to discuss the results. For example they could discuss what exactly changed, why it changed in that moment or period (who was involved, what conditions), what the implications or ripple effects have been, and what can be learned. Insights can be captured and added to the timeline.
  5. If appropriate, each group can present key learnings to the plenary.
  1. This exercise can be done as people are arriving and can be filled out throughout the day during breaks and then discussed at some time during the day or it can be organized as a discrete collective activity.
  2. It is a good idea to seed the timeline with examples and have at least example prepared for each category of change (personal, group, societal & physical/environmental)
  3. Addition: People could also be asked to identify tipping points or leverage points related to a current issue in light of what has been learned from the timeline.
References & Resources
Appreciative Inquiry Define, Discover, Positive Core