What's Timeout about?

Timeout is a new way to generate and have constructive discussions. On these pages, you can find practical tools for planning and generating public discussion, conversation on the need for dialogue and peer support in the shape of other people’s learning experiences.

Timeout is a dialogue method for people from different backgrounds. It is as its best with a group of six to twenty five. Timeout is always a facilitated discussion. The facilitator will take care of the constructiveness of the discussion. Great support for the facilitator and the participants are the Ground rules for a constructive dialogue, made by Timeout.

You can use Timeout-dialogue whenever a deeper understanding of the topic or an equal encounter is required – for instance, as a part of preparations, decision-making or bringing different people together.

However, dialogue does not fit in all situations, and it should not be confused with negotiations or decision-making. Instead, use dialogue as part of the above when there is a need to better understand the topic or the field of operation.

Timeout offers an opportunity to pause and consider things in peace. The tools help you invite the ones who do not usually take part in conversations.

With the tools you can practice how to facilitate a dialogue with small steps. As your experience grows, you can become a dialogue expert! You do not have to understand everything at once. Get the hang of a few guiding measures first, and expand your knowledge one dialogue at a time. There is no reason to have cold feet, as anybody can learn.

A Timeout discussion has been successful when an equal encounter and mutual trust have been created, and the participants’ understanding of the topic has grown.

Timeout breeds a feeling of inclusion between the participants and in societal inclusion in general. Moreover, it provides a deeper understanding of the topic in question and of different perspectives. At best, it generates unpredictable insights and new thinking. The goal is not unanimity.

Being on the same level is crucial. Instead of aiming at a consensus, it is important to highlight the different starting points, so that diversity can be considered and accepted.

Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Director General for Finnish National Agency for Education

Before a Timeout dialogue

A clear objective helps to define why the discussion is being held. Here are some questions which can help you forward with planning your own Timeout!

  • What need does the dialogue meet?
  • What would be a good topic?
  • Where would the Timeout discussion happen? What would be a good place for the participants?
  • Who should you invite to discuss?
  • Who are usually left out? Invite them, too!
  • Who facilitates the discussion? Should someone write things down?
  • What are the right questions to help the discussion forward?
  • What is expected to happen after the discussion?
  • How do you ask for feedback?

When you have considered these questions, it’s easier to start! You can find more help in the Tools section.

Timeout can be used by cities, organisations, NGO’s, enterprises, schools and universities, the media, politicians, parties or local and regional governments as well as religious and denominational communities.

Timeout enthusiasts

Ground rules for a constructive discussion by Timeout

  1. Listen to the others, do not interrupt or start additional discussions. “Everyone must have the opportunity to explain their views in peace. It is important that we do not interrupt each other or whisper with the person next to us.
  2. Relate what you say to what the others have said and use everyday language. “The objective of the dialogue is to relate what we say to what the others have brought up in the discussion. Let’s try to use everyday language and avoid specialist terms.
  3. Tell about your own experience. “To be able to better understand the issue discussed and each other, it is a good idea to tell about our own experiences. This means that we tell the others what issues, events and situations have affected our views.
  4. Talk to the others directly and ask about their views.
  5. Be present and respect the others and the confidentiality of the discussion. “In a dialogue, it is important to concentrate entirely on each other and on understanding the issue we are discussiong. We will respect the different views people have. Let’s keep the conversation confidential so that everyone can talk as freely as possible.
  6. Find the hidden and bring together. Boldly deal with emerging conflicts and find issues that have gone unnoticed. “The dialogue is intended to be a safe situation, in which also conflicts can be prosessed. In addition, it is important to look for things that have gone unnoticed for one reason or another. In the end, we can examine the links between the points of view that have come up in this discussion.”

Already more than 150 organisations have adopted Timeout, and more than 50,000 people around Finland and abroad have taken part in Timeout by the end of spring 2020!

Timeout Foundation