1-2-4-All is a group process from the Engaging Everyone with Liberating Structures guide that facilitates rich conversation in small groups and then brings the small groups together to integrate their ideas around an important question or issue. It can be done on its own or in combination with other group engagement techniques described in the Liberating Structures guide. Because of the need to form pairs and then bring pairs together, 1-2-4-All works best in a room where participants can easily pick up their chairs and re-assemble them in small groups as needed. The technique can also be done as 1-3-6-All, using trios rather than pairs.
Steps in 1-2-4-All
1 (Individual Reflection)
Give participants a short amount of time (a couple of minutes is fine) to reflect on a question or issue. Some may want to jot down a few notes. Others may want to close their eyes. Ask for silence during this time so that individuals really have time and space to get their own thoughts together.
2 (Reflection in Pairs or Trios)
Ask participants to find one other person and share their ideas. You can invite them to talk to the person next to them or, if you’d like them to move around and mix it up a bit more, ask them to stand up and find a partner. Depending on how much time you have, you could spend 5-10 minutes in pairs.
4 (Small Groups of Two or Three Pairs or Two Trios)
Invite each of the pairs to join up with one or more pairs to make groups of 4-6. (Larger than six is too big to give everyone a chance to talk.) Suggest that they each first share interesting things they heard or said in the previous rounds. Then continue with the conversation as a group.
All (Whole Group)
Invite everyone back to the whole group. Without “calling on” individual small groups, ask an open question such as “What insights emerged from your conversation?” or “How has your understanding/view of the issue changed?” Then ask, “What did you learn in your small group that is important for the large group to understand?” Let individuals speak up with ideas they consider important to share.
Group report-outs should be used sparingly. It is better to have individuals speak for themselves.