Liberating Structures Part 3: Tools to empower and engage

Liberating Structures are engaging tools that are able to empower an organization or group. This article will explore appreciative interviews and troika consulting as structures used for generating ideas.

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

Appreciative Interviews

Appreciative Interviews focuses on discovering and building on the root causes of success. In this structure, the invitation for participants is around a question like, “Please tell a story about a time when you worked on a challenge with others and you are proud of what you accomplished. What is the story and what made the success possible?” The question can also focus on a topic that you might be meeting about and be timed for two to three minutes. The participants are asked to listen to their partner without interrupting. When the time is up, the pair seek out another pair and the four would share their stories. This structure utilizes a positive activity to spark peer to peer learning, mutual respect and community building.

Troika Consulting

Troika Consulting focuses on getting practical and imaginative help from colleagues immediately. This structure is a fun way to learn from your colleagues. The question that is asked could be general or more specific, like “What is your challenge?” Or, “What barriers do you see interfering with your project?” Participants form groups of three. A single individual shares their challenge or an issue they are facing. Once they are done explaining, the other two members of the group talk about solutions or ideas that can help that person. You repeat this process until everyone in the group has had their challenge heard and solutions or ideas talked about from colleagues.

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 third 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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