Three basic rules

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Basic rules or principles are the ground for a democratic and respectful collaboration, even if they are not announced explicitly. For a better and comfortable collaboration there are three rules a helpful ground for achieving a constructive and respectful working atmosphere: discretion, stopping, and disagreement. Let the group discuss their relevance for them and in a next step establish their own the seminar rules, reflecting their personal needs and goals.

Time 20-40 minutes

Material room, paper and pens

Group Size 5-25 people

Keywords rules, agreement, trustbuilding




Handbook #1
Steps toward action

E. Heublein, N. Zimmermann

Second Handbooks for Facilitators: Read more


The basic rules lay the foundation for trustbuilding and for a democratic collaboration.


1. Explain: The ground for collaboration within the seminar is trust. On an individual level, trust is the certainty that things will happen according to my expectations and wishes. On a group level, it is a generally supportive, well-intentioned attitude toward each other. Rules help to facilitate a working culture which enables me to be trustful.

2. Present the rules below and ask your participants to discuss them. Furthermore, ask them, what kind of other rules they'd like to add.

3. Let the group discuss or divide the group into smaller groups.

4. Let the groups or individuals present their results and proposals to the plenum

Discretion rule

“What we say here stays in the seminar room.”

This also includes pictures, stories, or videos, which are not allowed to be shared in social networks without explicit permission.

Stopping rule

“Whenever a participant feels uncomfortable with something that happened or is about to happen, they are allowed to say: STOP.”

In this event, they do not have to participate and do notneed to explain why.

Disagreement rule

"Everybody has the right to agree and to disagree."

Minority perspectives must be heard and respected, which also means that no one’s experience is marginalized or put in relative terms by the majority. The group does not have to agree– but everyone should at least try to increase empathy.


  • What was easy, what was difficult to agree?
  • What was the most consensual aspect?
  • How do you feel with such rules?
  • In what form do you prefer rules?
  • When thinking of our group as a part of the society - are these the basic rules or are there as well others similar important for a peaceful and trustful living together?

Depending on your interest this program point might be finished quite fast by presenting the results and deciding on them. Or it takes longer and you take the opportunity to exchange deeper on the attitude of the group members toward democratic procedures and rules.



Most important is that participants feel comfortable within a collaboration. But how can they, when they don't know how to address their needs? How can facilitators shape the ground for a comfortable collaborative process when they don't know about the diverse needs within a group?

I am not advocating for regulating everything but for making transparent what people wish. Furthermore, when you make their basic rights explicit, people may make demands on them which is the condition for participation."

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann, MitOst


From basic rules too other more specific agreements within a seminar groups or a class, add a further step. In example another method like Code of Conduct.