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Protocol Toolkit Item: 9f


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This protocol demonstrates how a group is building a shared leadership network to conduct its work. It is an example of how shared leadership and connections to each other contribute to the group’s success.


  • A ball of yarn long enough for all participants to hold on to it, multiple balls can be used if tied together.


15-30 Minutes


Very little preparation is needed for this protocol. A ball of yarn and space to form a circle are all that is necessary. 


Step 1:

Introduce Protocol (2-5 min) Share the following information with participants:
  • This protocol will represent the collaboration and shared leadership of our group, initiative, or project.
  • The group will create a network or web using the ball of yarn.
  • The ball of yarn will be passed across the circle from one participant to another. Participants will hold onto the string of yarn so that as the ball is passed and the yarn unrolls, it creates a web. 
  • As each participant catches the ball of yarn, they share a word or phrase with the group before passing it to another participant.
    • Participants should not pass the ball of yarn to others standing to their immediate left or right, but rather try to pass across the circle as much as possible.
  • Instruct participants to stand and form a circle.

Step 2:

Yarn Toss and Web Building (10-15 min)
  • Share the prompt below or another one that fits the context of the group. 
    • “In a word, what keeps you connected to our work and the partnerships in this group, initiative, or project?”
  • Give participants 2 minutes to think about their response to the prompt and to distill it down to one word or a short phrase they can share with others.
  • Give the ball of yarn to the person who will share first. 
    • Remind participants that after they share, they should hold on to the string of the yarn and toss the ball to someone who will share next. They should only let go of the yarn string at the end of the protocol.
    • Walk participants through the protocol slowly in the beginning. The protocol will proceed quicker after one or two participants have shared and tossed.
  • After the last participant shares, ask the group to look at the web that was created. It is a network of all participants. This web represents the efforts and shared leadership in the group, initiative, or project.  
  • Finally, carefully untangle the yarn by reversing the tossing pattern. Start with the last person who received the yarn and toss it backward until the first participant ends up with the ball. 
    • The string should be rolled back into the ball as the yarn travels backward.
Note: If a group has a large number of participants, smaller teams can be used rather than individuals. Teams meet to develop their one-word or short phrase contribution to the web before a circle is created. Teams will stand together to create the circle, and the yarn ball will be passed to a team’s representative rather than to each individual.

Resources & Further Reading

Examples of Use

This protocol can be used for Conocimiento or an Ultima Palabra or as a stand-alone protocol during a meeting, session, or workshop.
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