Activity: Examining Quadrants

Students in deliberation in a
CommonAction issue analysis activity.
Sometimes groups need a concrete method for analyzing the issues they’ve addressed in their goals. Every goal your organization may have has issues embedded in it, both spoken and unspoken. This activity is taken from the SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum. It can be used to peel the onion of any issue your group is addressing by providing an interactive format for group discussion and examination.
I frequently use different versions of the “Examining Quadrants” activity to facilitate groups as they come to understand different sides of the same issue.
In this activity, participants will conduct an issue analysis of one of the goals they’ve created. 
  1. Divide your large group into small groups of 3-4 participants. 
  2. Start by having participants identify a single issue they care about from your goals. Give them a few minutes to come to consensus.
  3. Ask each group to write that issue across the top of a sheet of flip chart paper. 
  4. Participants should separate that paper into four quadrants by drawing lines along the length and width of the paper.
  5. Give them 5 minutes to brainstorm what some of the positives to working further on this issue are, and writing those in the upper left-hand box. 
  6. Then, have them brainstorm what some of the negatives or challenges are, and take notes in the upper right-hand box. 
  7. Have participants use the lower left-hand box to brainstorm some of the ways this issue can bring people within the group and outside the group together. 
  8. Then use the lower right-hand box to write down some of the ways this issue can divide people. 
  9. Finally, using a different sheet of paper, ask participants to write down their conclusion about whether or not to pursue this issue, and several reasons that support their response. Each group should present their findings to the larger group, and open the floor to critical feedback.
When the group is finished ask participants to reflect as a whole group on what they’ve discovered. If you sense they need reflection prompts, you can use the guidelines of “What, So What, Now What”. If they are open to a wider conversation, open the floor and allow them to go in the direction they’re most inclined.

When they’re finished, you participants will have conducted an issue analysis that’s either in depth or superficial, or some combination therein. Any way it goes, this will give you an opening opportunity to explore more later.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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