Checking-in to prevent checking-out
If you are working with other people to build a movement for social justice and liberation, then you probably find yourself in meetings, what, every once in a while?
Here at the Center for Story-based Strategy, we’re always looking for ways to build community and disrupt the false dichotomy of play vs. work. A consistent dedication to fun or provocative check-in questions in our meetings helps us keep getting to know each other, and keeps space open for our whole selves to show up at work.
We find that fitting the right warm-ups, ice breakers and check-in questions to the topics of meetings can help frame and inspire the coming conversation and help get everyone in the mood and mindset for the group work ahead in the agenda. Some things we think about when crafting check-in questions, to ensure everyone sees themselves in the prompt:
Ensure the prompts don’t assume folks’ family structures/experiences or shared cultural backgrounds
Ensure prompts make space for a wide spectrum of class experiences
Watch out for other cultural assumptions, and ways a prompt might leave someone out
Maintain a culture of folks passing on the round-robin, so it’s comfortable for folks to sit-out responding to a prompt that is uncomfortable or for any other reason.
Sometimes seemingly-innocuous questions can be surprisingly triggering. The depth of the question might relate directly to the potential to unearth difficult things for people.So choose your question wisely!
To manage our time and energy, we typically use a round-robin response to a short prompt as our meeting check-in question or ice-breaker. Below we’ve collected a list of our favorite check-in questions for folks to adopt, adapt and share:
What’s the favorite hairstyle you’ve ever had?
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen in the sky?
What unique way do folks notice you eating a food?
What kind of movie/tv/book genre would the story of your last vacation/time-off be?
Who is the most famous person you’ve interacted with directly online?
A favorite childhood candy (or other treat if candy isn’t applicable) and the place you associate it with?
What was your favorite childhood toy/possession that had wheels on it?
What’s your favorite food to eat when you are sick?
What is growing in your garden right now (metaphorically or literally)?
Weirdest/funniest place you’ve ever done a conference call from?
Favorite birthday tradition you participate in?
What’s one thing you do to make your home feel like home?
What are you hoping to do before Summer/Fall/Winter/Spring is over?
What is something that is keeping you grounded right now? Maybe a quote, poem, relationship, song, etc.
Tell us your favorite bad joke! Googling allowed.
What’s the worst online communications mistake you’ve made? If not in a professional context, then a personal one.
Worst digital security crisis/problem you’ve ever had to deal with? “Getting hacked” etc.
What weird/favorite system of calendaring/planning have you had in the past?
One clothing item you are thinking about buying or wish you could buy?
What activity/hobby/interest did you enjoy as a youth, that you miss, and, after participating in this discussion, may return to in the future?
What app on your phone will folks be surprised you get a lot of use out of?
One local site you’d take a friend on a short visit, to show them something about your town?
Are you or have you been part of any online communities that were important for you?
What’s your favorite thing to eat salsa on? What’s your favorite type?
What was your first or favorite video game?
What non-food creative tradition do you have in the wintertime with family or friends? Could be holiday related or not. If no traditions, just a creative activity you’ve enjoyed before during the winter, holiday-related or not!
Pull something out of your pocket/wallet/purse/desktop that is important to you (even just a little), show it to the group and tell us why!
Do you feel at home in your neighborhood? Would you like to share anything about why or why not?
What kind and caring things do you like to do for yourself?
Who is an ancestor (bio/spirit) who reminds you of yourself? What do you share in common with them?
What’s your best moment being live on the radio/tv/internet?
If you got an hour sitting next to anyone from any time, on a bench in a wooded park, who would it be, and what would you talk about?
Who was your first (or early) crush, and what is a visual memory you have of them?
What career path have you considered (or are considering), even briefly, that is the most different from your current path? (considered at any time, from childhood to now).
What has made you smile in the past week or so?
What is your favorite summertime activity?
What’s a nickname you’ve had that was consensual or you liked?
What is your favorite activity to get you through a hump day?
If you were a city, which city would you be, and why?
What is your favorite thing (art or otherwise) hanging on your wall at home?
What is the most annoying or frustrating piece of technology in your life and why?
Tell us about your first protest!
What musical artist or band have you been the MOST into? At any point, not just now.
Which of the four seasons are you, and why?
If you could be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
Which elder (famous or not) do you aspire to be when you are 70+, and why?
What look were you rocking when you were 15?
What’s your current favorite thing to do for self-care?
What is one summer memory you’d like to make next summer?
What are your favorite and least-favorite artificial fruit candy flavors?
What’s your least favorite board/card game, and why?
What’s your favorite board/card game, and why?
What tips do you have for getting good sleep?
What’s your favorite tool for managing to-dos/tasks/projects? What would make it perfect?
What’s one thing you feel proud of, about the place you are from?
What’s your favorite go-to meal/recipe, and where did it come from?
Favorite childhood cartoon (or show)? And when was the first time you remember seeing a cartoon (or show) aimed at kids that you didn’t get or thought was awful?
Favorite way to cool down on a hot day?
Coming-of-age moment or memory? And is there a song/soundtrack associated with it?
Favorite K-12 teacher and why?
Easiest and hardest people in your life to find gifts for?
You get to open a food truck. What kind of food do you make and sell?
What’s a song you’ve recently discovered and why do you like it?
What’s your favorite flower, and a memory associated with it?
What is something in nature you enjoy observing?
What’s something you do that makes you feel free or the last time you remember having that feeling?
What is the latest movie or tv show that you watched and are still thinking about?
What key on the keyboard best represents how you are feeling right now?
Did you sell anything as a kid? What was it? What happened?
If you were a font, what would you be and why?