Team Building, It Doesn’t Have to be an Add On

In the International Budget Partnership (IBP), we have been working hard to embrace the principles and practice of Dialogue Education in all our meetings and learning events. Recently though, we have had to think about teambuilding or creating a network-dynamic through these events. At first, that felt overwhelming. Then, I realized: by embracing learning-centered principles and practices we are actually already working on teambuilding in our workshops and learning events without it being an “add-on.” Great!

Here are some aspects of design and facilitation we keep in mind to deepen the learning of the priority content we teach as well as working on building connections and a sense of team. Yup, double-dipping we can all love!



  1. Invite small group and pair work. By inviting participants to share with just a few people, all voices are raised, and meaningful and purposeful dialogue is shared.
  2. Invite story sharing. By sharing our personal stories in the context of learning, we are also sharing part of ourselves. This is powerful and helps connect us.
  3. Sample personal action plans. We often have time at the end to reflect on our learning and decide what we want to move forward in our work. Hearing colleagues’ plans is interesting and helpful.
  4. Mix the groups throughout the day(s). It is human nature to want to stay sitting with the same people, even in an all-day learning session. Invitations to move to other tables is sometimes all we need to sit with people we don’t know as well.
  5. Mix the size of groups. Shifting from pair work to small group work to large group work keeps the energy up and helps deepen our relationships.



  1. Check in at the beginning. Most individuals are not ready to learn the minute they step in the workshop room. Opening the space for personal sharing before launching into the day can be extremely helpful to some.
  2. Use “we” language when possible. Language usage is important and can help minimize the sense of us/them or you/me. Using “we” while facilitating reminds everyone that we are part of the same team.
  3. Minimizethe single story.” We never want to pretend to know someone else’s story or to speak for them. Reference specific stories and experienced already shared in the room, and refrain from generalizations.
  4. Offer tons of affirmation. Resistance can be experienced for a diversity of (valid) reasons: I don’t feel ready for what you are saying; I feel excluded from the group; I am confused and don’t know what we are doing; or, I don’t know why I am here. Affirmation helps minimize resistance.
  5. Co-create guidelines. When they are created by the group and agreed to by them, you can use it as a tool for ensuring safety and respect for your event.

At IBP, these tips continue to strengthen our skills as well as our sense of team. And, the good news: we don’t need special workshops on teambuilding!


How have you seen teambuilding naturally happen as a result of using Dialogue Education principles and practices?


Aideen Gilmore ( is Senior Program Officer with the Training, Technical Assistance and Networking team in the International Budget Partnership. In this role, she works to build civil society organizations (CSOs) capacity to perform analysis of and advocacy on public finance and fiscal justice issues.