Town-hall Brainstorm


The Town-hall Brainstorm event is a place for small or large groups of people of diverse backgrounds to come together to create a community-specific document on what kinds of actions allies can take to best support them, with special regard given to queer women and women of color. These large forums break up into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas for inclusion, which are then shared with the larger group. Men do the work of documenting what the women say, putting it into a sharable document, getting feedback on their draft, revising the draft, and then distributing it to the community. Below, we have included all the resources you'll need to plan the event.


  • Gather experiences, priorities, and requests around gender and race dynamics in order create shareable information with community
  • Highlight women's experiences, especially women of color and queer women
  • Make gender and race workplace dynamics more real and personal for the given community
  • Theory of Change

    Though lists of "10 important allyship actions" exist in abundance, creating one that's specifically from the women within a given community (especially women of color and queer women) about their experiences, priorities, and requests makes the problem and solutions more real and personal. This enhances the likelihood of men listening, understanding, and taking action.


    Costs and food

  • Food for participants – nice to provide food, especially since it's likely the event will happen around lunch or dinner time
  • Supplies - sticky notes, pens, flip chart
  • Target / likely audience

    For town-hall process

    • Female participants - leadership of Partner group and anyone who's interested in coming and having their voices heard
    • Male helpers - men who are very committed to inclusion and are seen as trustworthy

    For resulting guide

    • All men interested. Probably most men will be curious about a document like this, whether they're already committed advocates or hostile to "PC Culture

    Location / Participation Size

    • Though the main component is in small groups, ideally there should be one large room that can hold everyone for the event segments that are geared towards the whole group. Plan on a room with capacity for all participants, that can also double to accommodate small groups / breakout rooms.
    • During ideation, participants should be broken up into smaller groups - 5 or so participants with a facilitator
    • Event needs enough facilitators to guide participants. Facilitators can be male or female, but part of the ALLYSHIP component of this is for men to do the supportive, administrative, logistical, and unglamorous work that makes the event possible.

    A/V Needs

    Very helpful to have projection, both finstructions and to show summarized brainstorms

    Other resources needed

    Special recruitment considerations

    Getting female participants to come involves explaining the goals and process in a way that shows their time spent will be valuable. It also depends on their trust of the facilitators and program lead to guide the process with encouragement and understanding. The final document can contain the names of women who were a part of the process, but some won't want to put their name out there and that's fine.

    Roles and responsibilities

    • Program Lead
      • Ideal attributes: safe and trusted, knowledgeable of topics likely to come up so as not to disrupt process. Can support process without hijacking it.
      • Understand entire process to guide and answer question. 
      • Recruit and support other volunteer roles
      • Publish guide to broader community
    • Small group facilitators –Understand entire process and lead group through different stages and provide context to help focus energy most valuably. 
    • Editors – Take the ideation/brainstorming results and turn into a readable guide. Bring this back to the women to get feedback and update accordingly.

    Agenda / Program

  • Welcome and thank participants and facilitators
  • Explain process for today:
    • Participants have received document to get their minds going on types of challenges/requests
    • Brainstorm experiences, challenges, requests today with aid of PRINTED documents, sticky notes
    • Each group categorizes their notes and names categorizations with each segment on Flip-chart paper
    • Participants take 20 min break while small group of participants and facilitators categorize the flip-chart categories into meta-categories
    • Meta categories are announced, reviewed and feedback given/recorded
  • Explain process for next steps:
    • Meta-categories, categories, and notes are documented and small group goes over in greater detail to combine and create best categories. This will be emailed out in a week for feedback
    • Feedback is received and next two weeks dedicated to turning product into shareable, digestible product
    • Final product shared with all students
  • Explain goals and theory of change
  • Do process
  • Thank you and evaluations
  • Facilitation best practices

  • No "wrong" sticky notes, put everything up without judgement
  • For categorization, if it's not naturally happening after brainstorm, ask an individual to get the process started
  • Encourage people to write down all thought both big in scope and very detailed
  • Use different colored sticky notes for
  • experiences
  • challenges
  • requests: understanding and action
  • Tips and pitfalls

  • You don't need more than one small group to start this process. If recruiting is difficult, do the process with a small group and share the output of the brainstorm with likely participants and do another session with more people
  • Record everything and include in supplementary material, but make main document digestible with more detail if desired
  • These conversations most often take more time than we initially think. Have a thorough agenda in the event that folks are quiet/having a hard time getting rolling, but also have a willingness to abandon that agenda and stay present with the current issues raised by the group too. It’s important to be flexible, especially when the people raising concerns are women and or POC and other marginalized groups
  • Don't be a perfectionist - use 80/20 rule. Something timely and succinct is better than nothing or something so long that it's not looked at.
  • Timeline

    The main limiting factor is the schedules of female participants. The preparatory materials to do this event are all included – so don't let that be an excuse to not do this.

    2 months prior

    • Run idea past Partner group leadership and other affinity group leadership to explain process, answer questions, and explore their interest in this.
    • Book large room

    1 month prior

    • Contact list of possible facilitators
    • Invite female participant through word of mouth, social media, and WIB/ERG/affinity email lists
    • Open RSVPs

    2 weeks prior

    • Finalize facilitators and ensure they understand full process and their role
    • Another communications push for event to get female participants. Begin finalizing guest/RSVP list

    1 week

    • Work out food logistics
    • Finalize guest/RSVP list
    • Send out document with common challenges/requests to guest and facilitator list

    1 day

    Remind guest facilitator/facilitator list, print materials/evals

    Event day prep

    • Check AV
    • Make sure supplies are in order
    • Location/room logistics are set and people know where to go
    • Facilitators and volunteers know their roles and agenda for entire process

    1 day after

    • Thank participants and remind them of current stage in process and next steps coming
    • Begin working on draft guide

    1 week after

    • Complete and send draft document for feedback
    • Facilitators receive feedback and update document accordingly

    2 weeks after​

    Shareable document completed and made available to community


    Recruiting facilitators and editors

    Subject: Directly support the women in our community

    A few men from the allyship initiative will be assisting the women in our community (with special attention to women of color and queer women) to create an allyship guide specifically for the men in our community. We need folks to help facilitate ideation and brainstorming on [day] [date] at [time] [location]. And we also need guys willing to take what was collected and transform it into a readable guide.

    Please RSVP here: [Link] if you'd be able to help out with either of these essential roles! Please let me know if you have any questions!

    Recruiting female participants

    Subject: Make your voice heard – tell men your thoughts on gender, race, sexual orientation, and more

    Women in our community are getting together to create a specific allyship guide for the men in our community. We especially want to highlight the voices of women of color and queer women. Much of the labor to put this together will be done by guys: organizing logistics, facilitating ideation, collecting our ideas, drafting a guide, receiving our feedback, updating it, and distributing to their fellow male colleagues. 

    ​Details for the brainstorming session:

    [day] [date] ​

    Please RSVP here: [Link] if you'd be able to come! And please let me know if you have any questions!