Icebreakers & games for team and community building

in Asset-Based Community Development, Resources

Some free icebreaking, team-building, community-making resources and selections, mainly from nonprofits, schools, and government agencies.

Some notes on when to use icebreakers, and what makes them good – from the Resource Center of the Corporation for National & Community Service (@nationalservice). “Icebreakers are often used to encourage people to open up or feel comfortable, invite participation in a group activity, and stimulate inclusion. However, an ineffective icebreaker can create discomfort or tension, straining rather than energizing a group dynamic.”

From Teambuilding & Icebreakers (pdf): “The primary goal for an icebreaker or a getting acquainted exercise is the development of an environment which is anxiety-reducing and which allows individuals to “break the ice” or get acquainted by having fun.” – from Associated Students, Western Washington University

Teambuilding, Icebreakers & Energizers from the Association of Washington School Principals. Includes Teambuilding, icebreakers & energizers, Inclusion, School Observances, General leadership concepts & activities, Inspirational stories.

Teamwork Exercise: Icebreakers, from Collaborative Justice. Icebreakers offer an easy initial opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to the larger team and to share a bit about our lives in an effort to promote openness and sharing among team members, and to set the tone for our future work together.

Icebreakers, Energizers & Team-building Activities (pdf) from the Youth Power Curriculum of Contra Costa Health Services. “The Guide is a resource for teaching youth about activism, leadership and community organizing. Use the easy-to-follow lessons in this practical training manual to partner with high-school aged youth to create real changes in their lives and communities.”

The Programming and Technical Assistance Unit of the Florida DJJ provides several free guides (in pdf form) for both trainers and participants. Icebreaker categories include Breaking into Groups, Change, Communication, Following Instructions, Introductions, Reviewing Difficult Material, Values, and Waking Up / Relieving Tension.

Great Group Games, cited by the American Library Association, includes group game instructions, how-to videos, downloadable worksheets, and editor’s picks. Founded by Stacy Chan (@greatgroupgames) “to share group game ideas between youth leaders, teachers, parents, camp counselors and community leaders”.

Icebreakers from From their About page: “This site is run by two self-proclaimed game-lovers, Joe and John. We pride ourselves in bringing you instructions for the best, most fun group games and activities. This website is completely free.” See also: Index of all group games; Teambuilding. – “This site features instructions to several playtested, high quality free icebreakers, fun games, and team building activities.”

From Icebreakers, Team Building Activities, and Energizers (pdf) by the Lions Club International: “activities to facilitate introductions, to introduce a topic, to review concepts recently learned, to encourage team building, and to energize. There are also some miscellaneous activities at the end that you might find interesting or useful.”

From Games and Icebreakers by the Intervarsity Ministry Exchange: “Creative methods to spur discussion or introduce people or an idea.” MX is a “participatory website, accessible to anyone, for easily sharing ministry resources.”

50+ Icebreakers and Cultural Games from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. What are Icebreakers? What can Icebreakers Do? Considerations in Planning Icebreakers. Things to Be Careful about in Using Icebreakers.

Team Building Activities (pdf) by the National Community Development Institute. A 26-page document with details on icebreakers and community building activities. Developed by NCDI and other organizations (, Categories include Constituency Building Icebreakers, Community Building Activities, Learning Styles, Inspirational Stories, Team Building Articles.

From the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program: “Ice breakers can effectively break tension and encourage interaction between people, whether they know each other or not. While we often encounter some who are resistant to doing ice breaker activities, more often than not, these activities generate laughs and set a more positive tone for the meeting.” See also their index of tools for various phases of community building.

The wiki Teampedia is a “collaborative encyclopedia of free team building activities, free icebreakers, teamwork resources, and tools for teams that anyone can edit”. Founded by Seth Marbin (@smarbin) before he joined Google as a trainer, then as GoogleServe Global Director. See also the Resources page, with links to sites, blogs, books, and more.

Team-building activities from Training for Change. A small selection of team-building exercises, but provides useful details such as setup, variations, and debrief.

The Useful Games site was developed by David Wilcox (@davidwilcox) and Drew Mackie, who have worked together since the early 1980s on regeneration projects, partnerships and community participation. During that time they developed a range of workshop games, some of which are available here. Content appears as blog items, and are indexed under our games.

From Wilderdom: Icebreakers, Warmups, Energizers, & Deinhibitizers. Wilderdom is a website run by researcher and psychologist James Neill (@jtneill). Related resources in this site: Game Index, Trust Building Activities, Team Building Activities.

From Volunteer Power: Ice-Breakers, Event Openers, and Team Building Activities for Committees, Boards, and Volunteer Staff Meetings.

Mapping the Assets of Your Community: A Key Component for Building Local Capacity

in Asset-Based Community Development, Resources

From the abstract to Mapping the Assets of Your Community: A Key Component for Building Local Capacity , by Lionel J. Beaulieu, Southern Rural Development Center:

Asset mapping is an effective tool for understanding the wealth of talent and resources that exists in each community–even those with small populations or suffering from poverty and economic distress. The long-term development of a community rests on its ability to uncover and build on the strengths and assets of its people, institutions, and informal organizations.

View Oakland Resource Map in a larger map

[This is an example of an asset map using Google Maps. I found a user-generated map, put together in 2009 by someone identified only as Meghan, then added more resources, mainly in West Oakland. Took me about 30 minutes. - Leo]

Five steps are presented for applying the asset mapping model. The beginning point involves an effort to map the community’s assets, including the talents of local residents and emerging leaders (pdf), local institutions (pdf), informal community and neighborhood organizations (pdf), and existing community leaders (pdf) who are committed to building a more vibrant community.

Next, relationships should be built between residents, institutions, and informal groups. This involves providing opportunities for emerging leaders to have an active voice in long-term economic development strategies for the community.

Step 3 involves mobilizing these identified resources for economic development.

Step 4 is convening the community to develop a shared vision for the future. This requires active discussions, debates, and disagreements that identify which priority issues need to be dealt with first.

Finally, outside resources that can support local priority activities should be located. Communities that have local partnerships firmly established can ensure that outside resources are used to support the community’s priorities.

[A 36-slide PowerPoint presentation that accompanies this workbook is available for download here]

Survey of Interests, Needs, and Skills (INs)

in Asset-Based Community Development, Resources

Here’s a tool you might be able to use to get a better appreciation of the interests, skills, and needs of your constituents, and to help them connect with one another, and with other local resources. You can download the pdf by clicking on the image below. You can also edit and download the form, in spreadsheet format, here (some formatting was lost in the file translation).

The form was designed for residents of multi-family subsidized housing communities. We didn’t use some of items from the original Capacity Inventory (Kretzmann & McKnight 1993), but kept them in a separate tab (Skills, column J), so you can just copy & paste as needed.

Most respondents completed the form in under eight minutes, with some, who answered the open-ended questions at the end of the survey, taking up to 15 minutes.

Matt Singh (a fellow founder of the Idealist Silicon Valley group) and I developed the form, which we derived (with thanks) from several sources:

We’d appreciate your feedback. And as we roll this out to more residents, we’ll need online/offline tools to make it easier for them to match their interests, needs, and skills with those of their neighbors. Any ideas?