The Mingle

The mingle (also called milling) allows lots of interactions to happen between participants at the same time. Participants get a chance to talk to each other in one-on-one encounters and to carry out a task. It’s very effective and highly flexible activity!

Time: 5-30 minutes Group Size: 10-50+ people

The set-up is simple: The facilitator creates a limiting boundary, for example within the circle of chairs that participants have been sitting in. Participants are instructed to get up and move within the boundary.

The mingle involves lots of motion—so people meet up with someone for a one-on-one interaction. After they finish that, they go on to find someone else. When they first start mingling, participants made need encouragement to keep finding someone new. The goal, after all, is to benefit from lots of interactions with different people—and it’s a rare group or meeting that can’t benefit from a mingle!

The flexibility comes from the variety of tasks available. Note that they can be very different in relation to the comfort zone of the group. Here are a few examples.

  • Get acquainted • The facilitator sets the task as: In these few minutes, see how many people you can meet! There’s a noisy chaos as people move around trying to meet as many as possible. It’s a fairly comfortable exercise for most participants and warms up the room very quickly. In this version it is fine for both participants to share briefly.
  • Insight sharing • The facilitator sets the task: “In these few minutes, see how many people you can get around to. With each person share a lesson you learned from organising the last action we did.” Use this as an alternative to closing circles, journal-writing, and other ways of capturing insights and assisting participants to “digest” their work. Obviously a physical way, by getting bodies in motion!
  • Team-building • The facilitator offers a task to support the group to appreciate each other. The facilitator may set up the task as: “One way I’ve appreciated your contribution to the group is…” For a deeper challenge you could use a more challenging and revealing task, like: “One part of myself that I brought to this group is…”
  • Skills practice • Have everyone practice an opening one-on-one question, or a fundraising pitch to the person in front of them, or practise asking them to join the next protest;
  • Inner reflection about the impact of climate change • 350 Pacific has used the mingle to guide people through a reflection about their relationship to climate change. The series they use is:
    • Walk around and notice people;
    • Without talking, connect with other people and appreciate their role in being in this group with you and know that they also have knowledge of climate change;
    • Keep mingling without talking; now connect with someone. Focus on them and how they are in the struggle with you and chose to be here. You are people together in the struggle;
    • Keep mingling without talking. Now physically connect with someone or face them while feeling the enormity of this issue: an issue that has so many lives in the balance and the possibility of enormous death, as well as the reality of us facing it together and the bond that creates.

This creates a powerful experience and a powerful debrief.

  • Role-playing • As a longer mingle, people meet someone and you ask someone to be an “A” and someone to be a “B”. Then set-up A’s with a role (such as being an activist at an action) and B’s with another role (such as being an annoyed by-stander). They get several minutes to play out the scenario, with A’s getting a chance to practice different options. Then you can debrief, mingle, and try again! (For another approach to two-person roleplaying, see Parallel Lines roleplay.)
  • Taking risks • After a discussion where the group decides risk-taking is a good idea (for example, because it promotes growth), create a mingle in which people can take a risk, such as: ”Something I like about myself is…” OR “A fear I experience in this workshop is…”
  • Self-assertion • you get the idea!

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