Liberating Structures Part 2: Tools to empower and engage

Liberating Structures are engaging tools that are able to empower people in an organization or group. Here are two of the 33 tools that can be used to generate ideas.

In 2002, Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless worked together to develop a way for organizations big and small to have more meaningful meetings and engage the participants instead of the same old boring interactions. They developed 33 Liberating Structures.


1-2-4-ALL engages everyone simultaneously in generating questions, ideas and suggestions. This structure is very common and can be used at different points in a meeting. Its goal is to provide a way for individuals to share their ideas but in a safe way with first one person and then with two other people. To start this activity, there must first be an invitation or question that you are looking for feedback on. Examples could be, “How would you handle this situation?” or “What ideas or actions do you recommend?” The questions should relate to your presentation or issue that the meeting or gathering is about.

Impromptu Networking

Impromptu Networking focuses on people, purpose and the power of loose connections. This structure is used many times at the beginning of a meeting to help break the ice to discover what people are expecting or challenges they are bringing to the meeting. This structure is timed. You have participants find a partner and share their answer to a question and give them two minutes to talk. It is recommended you repeat the round three times. The questions should be something like, “What big challenge do you bring to this gathering?” or “What do you hope to contribute to this gathering?”

These are just two of the 33 Liberating Structures that help facilitate a more open dialogue of engagement and empowerment through people.

This is the second part in a series of Michigan State University Extension articles that explore Liberating Structures. Read the rest of the series:

More information can be found in their book, “The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures,” or by visiting

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