How to Plan a Successful Retreat
By Ora Grodsky and Jeremy Phillips
Jeremy Phillips and Ora Grodsky
The following should help.
Who Should Plan?
We encourage our clients to form retreat planning teams to help clarify the retreats purpose and develop its agenda. Engaging multiple perspectives enhances the content and process of the retreat, ensuring that it truly meets the needs of participants and the organization.
The work of the planning team should be guided by these questions:
Who Should Come?
We believe in inclusiveness. Retreats are designed to bring out the best thinking of the group, so you want the best group possible! Think about who would add value to the conversation, as well as who would gain value from being there.
At the same time, extraneous participants benefit no one. If people dont have a vested interest, dont have wisdom to contribute, and there is no need to build their buy-in, it may not be useful for them to attend the retreat.
How Long Should Your Retreat Last?
Several factors go into deciding on the length of a retreat:
The location of a retreat can help determine its success. Here are some important considerations:
Everyone should come to a retreat with an understanding of its purpose and agenda. Expectations should be clear and shared. If people come to the retreat wanting to have conversations that are not part of the agenda, frustration can build and the retreat can fall apart. This can be minimized if you communicate effectively with participants beforehand. If appropriate, poll participants as part of developing the agenda to hear their hopes and expectations.
Send out relevant informationincluding the agendawell in advance. Dont send out so much information that people feel overwhelmed before the retreat even begins. Do send exactly what they will need so they are inspired and excited to begin the work.
Who Will Do What?
Clarify retreat roles in advance. Questions to consider include:
How Can You Prepare for After the Retreat?
A retreat should have a tangible and significant impact on your work. Preparing for follow-up before the retreat even begins makes this more likely. If you know what steps you will need to take, set up structures ahead of time to ensure that your good thinking translate into concrete results once you are back at work. If you dont know what will be required, build planning time into the agenda so you can develop your next steps together. Without careful attention to what happens next, a seemingly successful retreat may end up, in hindsight, looking much less so.
Excerpted from The Why, When, and How of Organizational Retreats . Ora Grodsky and Jeremy Phillips provide training and organizational development services to organizations working for social justice.