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Session Formats

Breakout sessions must be engaging and participatory. To support this,  below are example session formats that have been used in the past.  Applicants are asked to review the session types below and propose a new, innovative formats. 


Group Problem Solving

Real-time group problem solving and discussion around a specific problem faced by a program (e.g., going to scale, sustainability, barriers to implementation and/or reach). Presenters will have 20 – 30 minutes to 1) describe the problem and 2) describe what solutions have been tried to address the problem. The audience will be invited to generate real-time recommendations for a way forward. These sessions are designed to enable collaborative, creative group problem solving. Outcomes of the session may be shared with participants. 

Oxford-Style Debate
An Oxford Style Debate session requires all audience members to select a particular section of the room in which to sit before the debate begins based on agreeing or disagreeing with the starting statement and/or hypothesis. Audience members are encouraged to demonstrate their agreement or disagreement as the debate progresses by moving from their seat in one section to another. Audience movement will give important feedback both to the speakers and to other audience members. This session will have two “kick-off speakers.” They get the debate going, set the parameters of main argumentation, and contest each other’s ideas.


There should be a time period for the audience to participate and ask questions. Audience speakers are to make arguments, agree or disagree with particular points, raise new concerns, explain why they are sitting on a particular side, etc. At the end of the sessions there is an announcement of house results based on where the audience is seated.


This session type requires an experienced facilitator to moderate the debate and ensure the conversation progresses.


TEDx Style Session

Each session should have no more than three presenters, and each TED Talk should last between 10-15 minutes. This requires the speaker to get very focused on the underlying message they want to convey and to deliver that message in a compelling manner. 


A moderator should briefly introduce an over-arching theme that will tie in the stories of all speakers. The presentation is followed by an interactive discussion, where audience members are given the opportunity to comment and ask questions. This will ensure a connection between the ideas being presented and actually learning and applying them.

Also remember these general principles: speak of failures and successes, communicate your vision, do not sell from the stage, and do not read your speech. 

Roundtable Session
Session presenters will have the opportunity to highlight a tool, approach, methodology or new piece of research participants. Presenters are encouraged to showcase their tool/research for no more than 5-10 minutes before facilitating a 35-40 minute roundtable discussion on creative ways to implement each tool and/or research finding. Participants are especially looking for open-source material.

Open Seat

This session begins with 2-3 panelists on stage and one empty seat. The empty seat is for an audience member who has a strong point of view to add to the conversation. One by one, attendees can come up, sit in the open seat, and add their perspective to the discussion. Afterwards, they return to their seat in the audience and let someone else take their place in the open seat. This allows for a greater diversity of perspectives and allows the audience to be more invested in the conversation. This format requires an experienced moderator.

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