Question: How Do I End Long-Term Programs?

A playmeo member asks:

Do you have any tips or strategies on how to finish a group?  I co-facilitate a 29-week personal development group with 14 participants.  We have 6 nights left and we have started looking at endings and what endings mean to people. 


Hi Fergus, thanks for your question about how to end long-term programs. I’ve been pondering and have a few thoughts to share with you…

First, like you, I acknowledge that the conclusion phase of a group’s life is distinct and demands careful attention to help ease a group through this transition.

For groups that have developed powerful and rewarding relationships during their time together, saying good-bye can be a difficult and possibly painful time. Tears of joy for having celebrated a wonderful time together, through to tears of pain for the loss one experiences to say goodbye to fond friends.

In my experience, I am very aware of the need to transition my groups through this stage. First, I often frame this time in advance, so that the conclusion (whatever form it may take) does not come as a surprise. Second, I dedicate special time and energy to draw my program to a conclusion.

Here are three practical examples I have used:

Issuing of Certificate/Award

I randomly distribute these as part of my concluding sessions, and ask each person to find the person named on the certificate they receive, hand it to them and offer encouraging words of wisdom which affirm and value that person (on behalf of the group.) Naturally, everyone receives this attention, and it really helps end the program on a high. The energy, not to mention, also obscures any tearful moments that some people may be embarrassed to be seen.

Affirmation Circle

In one or several smaller circles, I invite each person to reflect on their experience in the group and ponder three questions: (a) the shift in their skills (leadership, confidence, clarity, etc) that has occurred as a result of their participation in the program (b) the three strongest skills or attributes they contributed to the success of the group and (c) what they need from the group to continue to be successful once the group ceases to formally exist. After 10 minutes of reflection, each person takes their turn to share, and then guided by my facilitation, I invite the group to add to the list of this person’s list of attributes. During this part of the session, I invite another person to take notes, so that the person receiving the feedback can be entirely present to receiving these affirmations. A wholly transformative and thrilling finale for a group.

Roving Evaluation

In advance, I post a bunch of questions or statements on the walls of the room my group will be meeting. Guided by my framing, I then ask each person to wander around the room, stopping by as many or as few of the topics as they choose, and either (a) record their responses under the topics/statements listed or (b) share their thoughts about the topic with whoever is standing there with them. I love the movement and energy of this finale, and also honour the choices people make, ie if someone does not wish to add anything to one or more of the topics, then that’s OK.

In terms of actual ‘games’ which may focus on group endings, nothing comes to mind that specifically end long-term programs. I’ll continue to ponder this a little more and let you know if something comes to mind.

Good luck!

And, if you happen to be reading this and have a curly programming question that needs an answer – click here to ask.


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