Framing Questions


A selection of framing questions to get participants warmed up, to connect them together, to build shared understanding, and to prompt reflection.

Group Size

Any size. You will break people into rotating pairs or small groups (no more than 4 per group).

Time Required

10-15 minutes. This includes 2m for framing and setup, 1m per question with 30 seconds of buffer time as people switch groups, and 5-7m for sharing in the full group.


To begin the exercise, have participants pair or group up with others they don’t know well – in total silence (each pair or group should have the same number of people). Participants should raise their hands until they find a partner. Once everybody is in a pair/group, ask them the first question – give them one minute in total, and ring a chime to start and stop each question. After the first question is done, have participants find a new partner, and continue with the next question. Then, once all questions are done, go back through the questions, one by one, and ask a few people to share what they said with the full group.


The best questions get to the heart of the matter. They invite people to bring their own meaning forward, based on their own experiences. They have an edge that creates palpable energy when people offer their response. Often the most important piece of the design is to get the questions right, put them in the right sequence, and then to pair each question with a group size and amount of time to do it justice. One of our favorite techniques is to rotate people through a series of quick pairs or small groups with a set of framing questions. 

Opening Conversations

At the beginning of a session we usually ask 3-5 questions, rotating people through a new pair or small group with each question. 

First question: Why are you here today?

Middle questions to choose from:

  • Why does the work matter to you? 
  • What’s a challenge you’re currently facing in your work?
  • What’s something that’s going great in your work?
  • What’s a social or environmental problem that keeps you up at night?
  • What’s someone you’d love to have a deep, meaningful conversation with, living or dead?
  • What’s a book that had a big influence on you?
  • What art is inspiring you right now (could be visual art, music, film, poetry, etc.)?
  • What’s the best piece of advice you ever received from a family member, guardian, or friend?
  • What’s something wacky, nutty, curious, or interesting we wouldn’t know about you?

Last question: What are your hopes for today?

Closing Conversations

At the end of a session, we will often ask 2-3 questions, rotating people through small groups. We’ll then stand in a large circle with the full group, and go question by question, asking people to share what they said with the full group (not everyone has to share). 

Initial questions to choose from: 

  • What’s something important you learned today?
  • What’s a meaningful conversation you’ve had with someone over the course of our time together?
  • One thing we absolutely must keep in mind moving forward?
  • Imagine that ten years from now this effort has succeeded beyond your wildest imagination. How is the world different? Paint us a picture of that world. 

Last question options: 

  • What’s a hope you have for this group moving forward?
  • What is your commitment moving forward?
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