Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about Ketso

We have divided questions we are often asked into the following groups: About Ketso; Using Ketso; Caring for your Ketso; Planning a workshop; Running a workshop and Recording the results of a Ketso session.

You can click on each question below. If you find that your question is not answered, please get in touch! We are adding new resources and FAQs all the time and would like to know what is missing.

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About Ketso

Using Ketso

Caring for your Ketso

Planning a workshop

Running a workshop

Recording the results of a Ketso session

Ketso in research

About Ketso

Can I try Ketso out before I buy it?

Our rental option allows you to try before you buy. It is also great if you need to run a workshop for lots of people but can’t purchase several kits outright. There are no extra costs or consumables – the kit comes with everything you need in it and all parts are reusable. If you decide that you want to buy a kit after renting it, we will take the rental price off the purchase price.

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Can I see Ketso in use before I buy it?

Check our upcoming events to see if there is a workshop or event near you.

If not, contact us to ask about arranging a specific demonstration or workshop to meet your needs – we might be able to do so with a bit of notice. You can also get a good idea of how Ketso works from watching our videos:

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Who is using Ketso already?

As of 2015, just under half of our several hundred customers are Universities (covering more than half of the Universities in the UK). There are also a huge range of customers in the public, voluntary and private sectors. These range from the NHS, to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, to small NGOs working with bereaved children and NGOs looking at ecological development in Africa. 

Ketso is in use in 48 countries. It has proved beneficial in a wide range of contexts including: health and wellbeing, community and environmental planning, enterprise development and teaching at all levels. There are large companies using Ketso to create training action plans and forward strategies, and that there are independent facilitators using Ketso for skills training and project planning with their clients.

To get a feel for the range of customers and what they are doing with Ketso, browse our Examples and Case Studies.

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Is there evidence that Ketso works?

In an independent survey carried out by a PhD Student at Lancaster University, 88% of Ketso customers agreed that they had experienced substantive benefits from using Ketso. Read more about the results of this survey here.

During Joanne Tippett’s PhD research at the University of Manchester, the hands-on approach she used to engage with community members really helped people to communicate with each other and to be confident in creating a vision for themselves. She then found herself being asked by more and more people to run workshops with her colourful (and hand-made) tool. It was this demand that brought her to the realisation that Ketso could be used to enliven any workshop. This led to us starting the company, because she had come up with a product that worked.

Since then, hundreds of Ketso customers have used Ketso to great effect – you can see our Examples and Case Studies section and the quotes throughout this website to learn more about how they are using the kit.

As of early 2014, at least 18,000 participants have attend workshops with Ketso in 38 countries, and the feedback has been tremendous. You can see some of the feedback here (we will shortly be adding further analysis). Of course, all of these workshops and interactions with our customers have led to improvements. We are continuing to improve the product and develop new ways it can be used all the time.

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How much does a Ketso cost?

A Ketso 24, which has enough materials to run a workshop for up to 24 people costs £70 to rent for a month, and £499 to buy (plus VAT and P&P).

You can rent a kit to try it out, and we will deduct net rental paid from the purchase price if you do subsequently decide to buy the kit. This option to buy at a discounted price has proved very popular with our rental customers.

A Ketso8, with enough material to run a team session or workshop with up to eight people, costs £65 to rent for a month and £249 to buy  (plus VAT and P&P).

Download an order form here.

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Isn’t Ketso expensive?

Using Ketso to facilitate a workshop is a lot cheaper than getting in a professional facilitator! As a health care professional commented: “Ketso was brilliant, we saved lots of money by not using an outside facilitator. At our last away day, the facilitator plus the venue cost £3,000!”.

Whilst Ketso does cost more than using flip chart paper and stick-on notes in a workshop, Ketso is re-usable. People’s time in meetings is precious. A key value that Ketso brings is making the most of people’s time and input. You only have to use a Ketso24 five times and this added value costs £4 per person. Of course you can use Ketso many more times after that!

It costs money to make and pull together all of the different elements of a Ketso kit. Over twenty suppliers in five countries are involved, with several of the components needing high technical specifications. 

An important part of our social mission is also making sure that where possible we add social value in the supply chain. For instance, the mini Ketso wallets are made by socially excluded people in Motif,  a fair trade workshop in Bangladesh. Ketso kits are assembled in Paperworks, a sheltered workplace in Leeds. 


The cost covers a plethora of re-usable resources to use in a workshop – 1200 leaves, 90 icons, 4 big felts, etc. (in a Ketso24). To learn more about what you get in a Ketso, look at our ‘Products’ page.

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Where did the idea for Ketso come from?

Joanne was inspired to develop the first hands-on kit that eventually developed into Ketso when she was working in rural regeneration in Lesotho and South Africa, in the mid 1990s. She was engaging with community members in thinking about sustainable futures for their villages, and found that women did not tend to speak in mixed gender groups. She wanted to find a way to make sure that everyone could have a say. About this time, she read Tony Buzan’s 'The Mind Map Book', and the inspiration for moveable pieces in the shape of a tree and branches was born.

Later, during her PhD working with community members and stakeholders in urban regeneration in North Manchester, she worked with Bill to create a prototype toolkit that incorporated different colours and leaf shapes. The aim was to encourage creative thinking about improving the local neighbourhood in one of the most deprived areas in the UK.

Click here for more about the story of Ketso and how it came to be as a company, or watch this video.

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Where is Ketso made?

We work with a range of suppliers, from an ethical trading initiative factory in Kolkata, to Motif, a fair trade workshop in Bangladesh, who make our mini-Ketso wallets out of recycled and natural materials, to small manufacturers in the North of England. As part of our social mission we aim to create jobs for disadvantaged people in the supply chain where possible. For instance, our kits and several of the components are assembled in Paperworks, a sheltered workshop in the North of England.

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What are the key influences on Ketso?

Ketso was inspired in part by mind mapping, as Joanne had read the ‘Mind Map Book’ by Tony Buzan whilst she was working in Southern Africa when she came up with the idea of moveable pieces to build up a structured group picture back in the mid 1990s. The idea of the moveable pieces was inspired by Participatory Rapid Appraisal, and the work of Robert Chambers. The methodology developed to make sure that everyone had an input was inspired by the work of Ivan Illich (Tools for Conviviality) and Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed). 

The initial prototype was then developed to include the current thinking on the use of different shapes and colours to differentiate ideas (inspired in part by Edward de Bono’s work on creative thinking). The toolkit has gone through many iterations and developments, incorporating other thinking on creativity and effective group work, such as Multiple Intelligences (developed by Howard Gardner), Appreciative Inquiry and Asset-based community development, to eventually  become Ketso.

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How is Ketso different to mind mapping?

A key difference between mind mapping and Ketso is that the pieces of a Ketso are moveable; participants can move their ideas around to create different clusters and themes. The fact that everyone has some leaves and a pen means that everyone's voice is heard on an equal basis, which is not always the case with developing a mindmap in a group.

We have also had comments from customers that participants need less training to be able to jump in and use a Ketso straight away, and that they often generate more information using a Ketso than with paper-based mind maps in a workshop.

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Why should I use Ketso instead of stick-on notes (e.g. Post-its®)?

To some extent stick-on notes can be moved around and clustered like the leaves on a Ketso. What makes Ketso so different is that it is more colourful and tactile, and it is also reusable. People respond well to sharing their thoughts using the interactive and hands-on tools in a Ketso, as opposed to bits of paper. This makes them feel their ideas are being valued.

The different colours and shapes of a Ketso make it easier to build a group picture with lots of layers of information. They also help structure the information in a way that makes for easy recognition of key ideas and links between them, for example the fact that you can give out the different coloured leaves for different stages of the workshop helps you to clearly see the different types of answers in relationship to each other.

The shape of the leaves has been designed so that they fit together easily, allowing you to put a lot of ideas together in a small space, and show the links between them - e.g. they can point at the branches and at each other to create clusters, so you can see patterns more easily than with square post-it notes. The fact that all of the individual ideas come together on the felt also helps build a picture of the group’s thinking, often revealing insights and new ideas from the patterns of leaves and icons.

Ketso is also easier to transport than paper based tools – the ideas don’t fall off or crinkle in the same way and the felts that they are displayed on are designed to fit in a bag with the ideas still on there, leading to a much easier report write up afterwards. Also, Ketso is reusable, the ink can be washed in water and the parts used over and over again.

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How much does a Ketso kit weigh, and can I take it as carry-on luggage?

One Ketso 24 weighs under 5 kg. It fits easily into a carry-on compartment. Dimensions are 36x44x11cm.

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Using Ketso

What resources are available to me to help me use Ketso?

We have provided a guide to the free, open source and growing range of resources available to help you 'make the most of your Ketso' here. These include short 'how-to videos', which go through how to plan and run a workshop. In less than thirty minutes you can go through the basic videos and get a good idea of how Ketso works, as well as learning top hints for planning and facilitating effective workshops. 

We recommend that you look at these resources whether or not your are an experienced facilitator. If you are already experienced in running workshops, they will offer a quick overview of how Ketso has been designed to expand your capacity. If you are new to facilitation, there is a wealth of information on running and planning workshops, so you can go into more depth.

There are also a variety of free workshop plans that you can adapt to suit your own specific needs. If you have any questions on these, or would like to discuss your workshop plans ahead of time, get in touch.

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Can I use Ketso without formal training?

You don’t need formal training to use Ketso. We do however recommend that you prepare well for your workshop, and ideally that you do a practice session using Ketso with friends or colleagues before you use it in a pressurised situation. 

Whilst Ketso is easy to pick up and use, we strongly recommend that you go to the free resources outlined on the ‘Make the Most of your Ketso’ page, to learn a bit about how it works.

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Do you offer training?

We offer occasional training sessions – see ‘Upcoming Events’ to see if any are planned near you. We are also happy to come to your organisation to train a group of people in how to make the most of your Ketso and facilitating skills. Click here to read more about our services. 

Contact us to discuss how we can meet your needs.

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Can you come and facilitate a workshop for us?

We offer facilitation services, and have run sessions for small groups (such as future strategy sessions where all the participants wish to focus on the actual content of the workshop) to large interactive events (see for example the workshop we ran for over 100 participants at the International Enterprise Educators’ Conference in 2011).

We would need to work with you ahead of time to make sure that we deliver what you need, and you would most likely need to provide any necessary ‘topic expertise’ (depending on the subject). Click here to read more about our services, and contact us to discuss how we can meet your needs.

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Do I need a licence to use Ketso?

No, Ketso is a product that you can use any way you like. What we have done, however, is create a set of resources to help make the most of your Ketso. We strongly recommend that you have a look at these to see how the lessons we have learned over the last years, and through running several hundred workshops, can help you.

There are a few key ideas that we have learned really make Ketso work well – and we recommend that you follow these unless there is a good reason not to! The resources available to you include sample workshop plans, which are like ‘apps’ to run on your Ketso. These have been tried and tested through many uses.

These plans can be adapted to suit your needs, but we suggest that you read a bit about the thinking behind them (included in the plans and based on these principles) so that the changes you make are still likely to work well.

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Can I lend my kit to another organisation or person?

If you buy a kit you are free to lend it out. Several of our customers lend out their kits to smaller organisations. Some of those organisations have gone on to buy or rent a kit when they find they want to use it more. Some find that just being able to access it occasionally is enough.

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Do you have any advice about lending out a Ketso kit?

The main thing is making sure you have the kit when you need it! If you find more people want the kit than you can manage, you can remind them that they can rent Ketsos from us.

We recommend that you point people to our website for the free how-to videos on how to plan and run a workshop, the sample workshop plans, and (for your own peace of mind so you are likely to get the kit back ready to use again) the video on how to clean and repack a Ketso.

We know of one client in a University training department who lends their kits to PhD students to use in their research and teaching. They ask for a £50 deposit (in the form of a cheque which is then destroyed when the kit is returned).

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Can I have some leaflets to introduce people to Ketso?

We would be delighted for you to have our leaflets at any event or conference. Please contact us to arrange this.
If you need something straight away, you can download and print this one page (A4) leaflet.

In addition, we are now offering Action Cards free to our customers. These are small cards that you can give to participants to write their key take-away idea or action on, that they can then take with them. This is a great way to encourage participants to take away ideas from the workshop (and also has the Ketso website on it, so participants can find out more). If you have used up your action cards (or bought a Ketso before we started to include them - contact us to get some for free).

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Caring for your Ketso

How long does a Ketso kit last?

To be honest, we don’t know yet – but that is only because customers have been using the kits since 2009 and we have not yet had any reports of them wearing out. We guarantee the kits against wear and tear (and of course any defects) for a year. You can use Ketso many many times, and you are more likely to lose bits before they wear out. We sell replacement parts in case you lose the odd leaf or pen as people pop them in their pockets as a souvenir.

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I end up getting ink all over my hands when I wipe the leaves clean. Is there a better way to clean the kit?

All the plastic parts of a Ketso are designed to be rinsed in water; you don’t need to wipe them clean. It is much quicker to dunk them under water and swish them around. You may want to watch our video on capturing the results and cleaning the kit to see how easy it is to clean them.

If you need the leaves straight away (e.g. when traveling for a workshop), or don't have any space to dry them in, you can use a damp cloth, or whiteboard cleaner and a rag to clean them. (We have also had reports of people using baby wipes to good effect, though of course these aren’t re-usable). Spray the whiteboard cleaner on the leaves and wipe clean.

The quickest way to clean them in this way is to wipe them clean them on the felt, then to remove the leaves after they are clean, taking all the leaves of one colour at a time. Note that if you are re-using the felts, and have the same centre-piece and branches, remember not to wipe those clean, just wipe clean the blank branch, if participants had written something on that. This saves you time not having to re-write the branches each time.

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How do I get the washable parts dry?

We find that spinning them in a salad spinner gets rid of a lot of the moisture. We then lay them out on towels, which can be stacked up or rolled until they dry (usually overnight if the excess water has been shaken off). You can see a demonstration of this in action in this video.

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The washable parts haven’t come clean in water. How should I wash them?

First – are you using the right pens? The pens we provide with the kits work the best for both staying on the parts in use and washing off afterwards. You need to make sure when you introduce Ketso to participants that you ask them only to use these ‘magic’ pens.

Luckily, if the wrong pens have been used, it is possible to clean the kits using a solvent – rubbing alcohol or methylated spirits work fine, and we have had good reports from our customers using nail varnish remover and baby wipes. So if a participant does end up using the wrong pen in a workshop all is not lost – there is no need to throw those leaves away.

We find it helpful to demonstrate at the front dunking a leaf that has been written on into a glass of water, to show why we are asking people to use the ‘magic pens’.

Secondly, if the parts are left a long time without being cleaned, the ink may shadow. First try using a dash of washing up liquid in the water and a bit of elbow grease. If that doesn’t work, you can clean them with a solvent and rag.

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Can I buy new parts for the kit if they go missing or get damaged?

Yes, we sell packs of replacements, including pens. Contact us to arrange.

Also, if leaves get folded in a felt and are curled, you can bend them back the opposite way, bending them about twice as far as the original bend. A bit of physical manipulation will often get them straight again.

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Can I buy extra components to customise my Ketso?

We sell extra leaves, icon packs and extra felts (including the small Ketso planners and the large Ketso grids), so you can customise your Ketso to suit you. Contact us to let us know what you would like.

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Is there anything in particular I need to know about packing my Ketso to make it last longer?

It is important to make sure you move the centrepiece to the side so you can fold the felt. It is also important to make sure that the branch ovals are not on the fold lines of the felt, so when you fold the felt they don't get creased.

See the next FAQ for more resources. 

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How do I pack a Ketso after a workshop and clean if for reuse?

The key points to remember in packing a Ketso after a workshop are:

  • Move the centrepiece to the side so you can fold the felt
  • The slits are there to help you move the felt, move any leaves that are crossing over the slits or overhanging the felts, keeping the clusters of leaves (e.g. making sure that if leaves are pointing at each other, you keep them together)
  • Check that all of the leaves and icons are stuck firmly to the felt and that none of them are on top of the coloured branches or ovals, where they won't stick
  • Fold the kit twice along the slits
  • Stack all your felts together then gently fold them one more time so they fit in the bag, without creasing the leaves

You can watch a very brief video about how to clean and pack a Ketso kit here.

You can downlaod this word document to see more detail about how to clean and pack a kit, with a full series of pictures to demonstrate.

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Planning a workshop

How do I know how many Ketso kits I need?

A Ketso24 is designed for workshops with up to 24 people (3 tables of maximum eight people). A Ketso8 is designed for one table of a maximum  of 8 people (hence the names). Ideally you would take the number of people who you think will attend coming and divide by 6 to allow for a bit extra and to allow around 6 people per table if possible (see below).

If you are doing a long workshop with lots of exercises, you may need more kits than this, but you can also use the Ketso planners that come with the kit (three in a Ketso24 and one in a Ketso8). You can also convert the large Ketso grid that comes in each kit into a spare felt, using the spare branches and the extra centrepiece and legend that we provide with each kit. We are happy to discuss your needs with you.

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How many people is ideal around one Ketso felt workspace?

The ideal number is 5 – 6 participants. This gives a good variety of ideas, though Ketso can be used with fewer people or even just one person. One felt workspace can accommodate up to 8 participants, but it does take a bit longer to get all the ideas on the felt with this number.

We find that at more than 8, people start to form sub-groups and the discussion is not as focussed. It also takes longer for the ideas to be shared and collated on a felt!  
In terms of the minimum numbers, a Ketso can be used with just one person – but the ideal minimum does depend on what it is you are trying to get out of the session. If the aim is to build links and share ideas across a group, it is preferable to have at least 5 people per table. If you have 7 people in the room you need to decide if speed is more important than sharing ideas across the group and coming to a shared view to decide if to use 1 or 2 felts.

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What is the ideal length of a session?

The ideal length of a Ketso workshop is indeed an interesting question. You can certainly get something useful out of a short session (15 - 20 minutes), but it needs to be framed and managed as such, and even then some people are likely to say that there wasn't enough time to discuss the ideas. One example of such a speed Ketso session can be seen here. It has to be noted that there will usually be some people who say there wasn't enough time for discussion, no matter what length of workshop you run, it is often too short for one or two participants (and sometimes too long for one or two).

It is helpful to limit the number of leaves if you have a short session, so that people don’t feel that their ideas are being disregarded. Generally, if someone has written something down, they will want to place it on the workspace and discuss it!

The general rule of thumb to allow for decent discussion of each stage is to allow 10 - 15 minutes per stage (e.g. green leaves - creative thinking). If you want the whole stage to just take 5 minutes, you will need to limit the number of leaves (1 – 3, depending on how big the group is - bigger groups take longer to read all the ideas out).

We find that an ideal length of time to go through a process is often two hours. This allows you to go through a full ‘Ketso Seed’ plus a warm up, a table swap, a break and feedback at the end. If you also want to create an action plan, you need an additional hour, possibly more if it is a complex project and it is to be a detailed plan with costings, and tasks assigned to people.

In an hour workshop, it is certainly possible to go through a whole ‘Ketso Seed’ e.g. a complete process. It needs to be reasonably tightly managed in terms of time, not leaving people too long to write their ideas and making sure that everyone just reads their leaf out before placing it on the felt, without getting bogged down in discussion before all the ideas are on the table (this is a good hint in general). Participants need to be warned in advance that there will not be much time for each stage. In general it is a good idea at the beginning of a workshop to give an indication of how long people will have for each stage. See more about hints for managing timing in a workshop here.

Do you have any examples of workshop plans available, so I can get an idea of what to do?

We have a library of sample workshop plans, which you can download here: These workshop plans have been developed through years of hands-on testing, and incorporate our thinking about key ideas on how to run a good workshop using Ketso.

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Can I use the workshop plans on your website, or do I need to pay to use them?

The workshop plans are free to download and use. We are providing a freely available set of learning resources as part of our social mission  (to transform the way we collaborate, communicate and learn, worldwide). We would also like to encourage as many people as possible to share their workshop plans and improvements with us, so that we can build a living resource of different ways to use Ketso.

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Can I change the workshop plans on your website to suit my needs?

The workshop plans come with information about the thinking behind it, so that you can adapt it to suit your needs. The workshop plans have been designed using our Ketso Workshop BASICS framework. You can download a word document about the Ketso Workshop BASICS here.

If you learn new ways to run these workshops or come up with improvements, please do let us know!

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I have used Ketso in a way that is not shown on your website – do you want to know about it? How do I share this with others?

We would love to hear how you are using Ketso. We are going to be setting up a dedicated user group in the near future where you can share your experiences. In the meantime, please do contact us to let us know how you are using Ketso.

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I need a bit of help planning a workshop, what can I do?

First we suggest you go through the resources provided under ‘Make the most of your Ketso’, especially looking at the video on planning a workshop.

Go to this page to browse our sample workshop plans, which you can adapt to your own needs. Here, you can also download our Workshop Planning Guide, which goes through how to plan a workshop in detail.

If you still need help, we are happy to talk over your plan with you. We will soon be inviting customers and Ketso users to join a forum for such discussions.

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Do you have any slides I can use to introduce Ketso?

We have free sets of slides that can be used for introducing Ketso to download from here. These include slides for introducing the toolkit, and the key messages that we find help orientate participants when using Ketso.

If you have any improvements to suggest, or requests for different aspects of Ketso to be covered by slides, please do get in touch.

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Is there any special significance to the colours of the leaves?

You can use the Ketso leaves in many different ways, and can assign whatever meaning you like to them. We have a ‘classic’ way of using the colours of the leaves that we find very helpful:

What works / What are our existing assets?

What are the future possibilities?

What are the challenges?

How can we overcome the challenges?

What are our goals?


You can see this classic way of using Ketso in more detial in several of the workshop plans available on this page.

The idea behind the colours of the leaves was to have a basic language that encouraged a positive and in-depth way of thinking about issues. The colours have been inspired in part by Edward de Bono’s six hat thinking, with the idea of green for shoots of new ideas and grey (representing black) for critical thinking.

The choice of colours also includes a metaphor for growth:

  • Brown for the soil that new ideas can grow in, what works, what do we have already? (This was inspired by the importance of thinking of existing assets from asset-based community planning).
  • Green representing the green shoots of new ideas growing in the soil
  • Grey representing rain clouds that come in (challenges and problems). Rain encourages new growth – and we suggest that it is always a good idea to develop creative solutions to challenges and problems, rather than just leaving problems (greening the grey leaves).
  • Yellow representing the sun  - the goals or measures of success that drive the whole process.

As mentioned, you can adapt the colours to suit different workshop plans, we just suggest that you consider how this metaphor may be of use in doing so. This image for the metaphor is included on the legend as a reminder.

For instance, Ketso can be used to review learning from a course, with the themes of the course on the branches (in large classes, we get the students to write the themes on the branches themselves, to save preparation time).
Students are then asked:

What did you already know about the subject before the class (the soil you based your learning on)

What did you learn? (the sun - the outcomes of the course).

What might you do with this knowledge (the green shoots of new ideas).

What challenges did you encounter? (grey clouds)

How might you overcome these in the future? (more green shoots of new ideas)

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Do colour-blind people find the brown and green leaves hard to tell apart?

Unfortunately this is an issue for some users of Ketso. It is really hard to produce something that suits all kinds of colour blindness. To help people tell the leaves apart, we have a bold letter in each corner of the leaves to mark the difference:
G for Green
B for Brown
Y for Yellow

Recently we have added a darker border on the brown leaves, so that they can be more easily picked out from a distance.  We are still experimenting with other options for visually impaired users and welcome any feedback.

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I am struggling to think of themes for the branches. How do you develop themes?

You can think of the branches as providing a framework for the workshop – so what you are looking for are themes that will cover the full range of ideas that you wish to people to consider. For example, if you are asking people to plan for an enterprise, we know that you need to consider cash flow and the nitty gritty of keeping a business going, as well as the exciting things like the actual invention!

What you are trying to do is think of the full range of ideas and try to make sure that they would all be covered in the themes you chose. Then you need to think if they way you have worded the themes is likely to be understood by the participants.

The first place to look for possible branches is to see if Ketso already has a similar workshop plan and you can use or adapt the themes we have developed!

The second place to look is to see if there are any commonly used themes in the topic area – a bit of creative recycling of well used frameworks is often a useful way to frame a workshop. You can always adapt them to suit. Examples of such re-use in workshops we have run is the use of nef’s five ways to well-being in health and wellbeing workshops.

You can look and see if there are any recent reports or major pieces of work in the area you are looking at to see if these suggest themes. An example of this was the use of the key themes from the executive summary of a recent report for the Scottish Government on the future delivery of public services.

We find it helpful to simply ask – friends, colleagues – if you were running a workshop on x, what sorts of things would you be thinking of?

Alternatively, you can simply start brainstorming ideas around the topic, with no branches (writing on leaves (ideally using the Ketso seed that you are thinking of using for the workshop) – then start clustering them around blank branches and see what themes emerge. You can then ask – do these seem to cover all the ideas we would like participants to consider (using the branches to stretch them and make sure that all aspects are covered?). Could these be simplified and phrased differently to make them easier to understand?

The best way to test the value and clarity of your branches is to either run a mini-practice workshop with people like the participants you are aiming for, or your team, or just yourself, writing some ideas on leaves and seeing if they fit on the branches. Do they seem to work? Do they make sense?  Did you come up with ideas that just don’t fit? What themes do these seem to suggest?

We also highly recommend looking at the types of ideas that come up after the workshop, to review your branches. Are there any that seem to generate very few ideas? Is this because they were unclear and the wording could be improved? Is it just not an important theme for the topic (It could be that the theme is important for people to think about and just difficult or new, so not necessarily one that should be dropped).You can also see which branches generated the most ideas across different groups - if you run that workshop again, you may want to make sure those are on a quadrant on their own to allow for plenty of space. Note that the graphs generated in our excel spreadsheet for capturing results can help you to get a quick overview of the types and number of ideas that come up against different themes. For example, in this chart which shows results from a workshop on health and wellbeing, can see that the themes 'Community engagement' and 'Joining-up and the bigger picture' had the most ideas (closely followed by 'Resources and cost effectiveness'). This suggests putting the first two themes in a quadrant on their own, with the third in a quadrant perhaps with a blank branch (if using 6 branches on a felt).

This is more of an art than a science, and is a constant learning process. If you come up with good sets of themes for branches, or improvements to what we have, please do let us know. We are constantly improving our library of workshop plans and suggested branches.

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How do I know if I should fill in themes on the branches or just have blank branches?

You can either fill in the branches with key themes in advance, or leave the branches blank and let the themes emerge from the ideas developed by participants. Either way has advantages and disadvantages. Note that it is always a good idea to leave at least one blank branch for emergent themes, even if you are providing the themes in advance. If you need to use all of the branches for themes, this can be a blank oval in the corner of the felt for ideas that don't fit.

Advantages of using themes pre-written on branches
  • Greater likelihood of covering all of the key themes - the branches can 'stretch' people's thinking
  • Easier and quicker for groups to compare the emerging ideas between tables and learn from each other
  • Easier to syntheise ideas from several groups (especially important if running a series of workshops)
  • It can take less time, as people can start to place ideas against themes instead of spending a lot of time developing themes
  • Providing a degree of structure and a framework can spark more creativity and ideas, as the branches themselves suggest new avenues of thought

Note that we recommend leaving the felt covered or folded whilst people start to develop their ideas, then to ask them to see where the ideas fit once you unfold the felt. Read this FAQ for more info.

With blank branches, you ask participants to start by brainstorming ideas on leaves, then cluster them around the branches, to see what themes emerge. The themes can then be written on the branches. If you are leaving the branches blank, you may wish to develop a checklist to make sure that key themes are covered – if a theme is missing, you can suggest that it be added.

Advantages of using blank branches
  • Allows you to explore an idea with no preconceived framework
  • More possibility for surprising emergent themes
  • Participants can feel more ‘ownership’ of the themes (but these may not be shared amongst the group if there is more than one table)
  • Quicker to prepare for a workshop (as you don't need to think of themes or write them up in advance)

However, the process takes longer and the discussion may lack focus. It is more difficult for groups to quickly compare ideas and to synthesise key points.

How many branches is ideal on a workspace?

The felts come set up with six branches, as we find that around 5 themes and one blank is ideal. There are spare branches on the back of the felt, so you can always add more – either before the workshop if you find that you really need more themes, or during a workshop if participants come up with extra themes.

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Why should I always leave at least one branch empty?

A blank branch allows participants to develop an emergent theme. This gives them the freedom to do so, without feeling constrained, which gives a greater sense of flexibility and openness. The new themes that are developed can be revealing and add useful information for you as well – if a similar theme comes up again and again, we will change the initial structure and add that branch for future workshops.

We find it can be quite handy to pop a blank branch oval in the top left corner, as well as a blank oval on one of the branches leading into the centrepiece, for ideas that just don’t fit, or where participants are unsure where they fit. They can put the leaf by the 'holding pen', and then move it as it becomes clearer where it fits.

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There are only four branches on a mini Ketso, how can I have more than four?

A Mini Ketso comes with just four of the felt branches otherwise there is not enough space on the smaller felt for leaves.

You can have between four to eight themes for the branches, using the white comments cards as labels. Option one is to use just one white comments card for a label, in the middle of the branch.

Option two is to use two white comments, one on either side of the felt branch, as shown in the bottom image to the right.

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Does Ketso work for discussing detailed, established issues or plans?

The answer to the question is yes, it needs a bit of thought as to how to do it sensitively. Ketso can be a great way to review and assess detailed plans, with the main themes of the existing plans or strategies on the branches (and possibly with comments cards used to make sub-branches for more detail). You can then either do a Look forward / Plan type session - What does success look like (yellow - ideally onto the back of a Ketso Planner to start with) what have we got to achieve this? (brown), What are the future possibilities / what else can we do? (green), What are the barriers (grey), Ways to overcome them (green), Goals (yellow). OR you can do a Share / Discuss session - Positive (yellow), Negative (grey), Interesting (or Factors to consider) (brown), then if appropriate - What might we do about this? (green), The latter option is where the aim is more to get feedback on the plan, rather than develop ideas on how to take it forward.

You may be interested in this report for Manchester City Council, from a workshop with stakeholders about the existing Biodiversity Strategy.

Can you suggest a quick way to get feedback from a workshop that helps lead to an action plan?

We have found that asking participants to feed back ideas at the front of the room and categorising them as actions for ‘Now’, ‘|Soon’, or ‘Later’ is an effective approach to shifting people towards action.

Ask each table to write up their top ideas for action (3 – 5 depending on the time you have available for the feedback session). They can use yellow leaves, or branch ovals, so they are written big.

One person comes to the front, and briefly reads out each idea, then places it on an Action planning grid which is attached to the wall at the front (using blue tack, or tacks, or attached to a flip chart easel). The action planning grid should have ovals at the top written with Now’, (on the left hand side) ‘|Soon’ (near the middle), &  ‘Later’ (right hand side).

You can either ask the table to agree before they give the feedback if these ideas should be are now, soon or later (the quicker way to do this) OR you can get the room to decide during the feedback session. (This can be great for discussion and ownership of ideas, but it takes longer).  

This Action planning grid can then form the basis of a more detailed action plan, which can be fed back to the group. This can be done on the Action planning grid, moving leaves around to show relationships and links between the ideas – see this workshop plan for more ideas. There is a spreadsheet for recording the ideas from the action plan for sharing with participants available to down load for free here. Alternatively, you can take a photo of the felt with the ideas for a quick and simple feedback to the group.

Running a workshop

How should I introduce Ketso to participants?

It is important to give a clear introduction at the beginning of the workshop, not only of the aims of the workshop, but also of the process that will be used. We find it is helpful to give participants an overview of the key stages so they can see the whole picture of the workshop and know what is coming.

It is also important to introduce the kit itself and its components, so that participants get a clear idea of what to do with each piece. Remember that Ketso is easy to use, but is likely to be unfamiliar to people. A few simple key messages will help to orientate them to the kit. It helps to demonstrate, and to show each bit as you introduce it.
There are a few key points that you need to make:

  • Everybody take some leaves and a pen
  • Write or draw one idea per leaf
  • There are different colours for different ideas - write on coloured side of the leaf
  • Only use the special pens so the leaves can be re-used
  • At each stage, we will 'think then share then discuss' - You will have a few moments to develop your ideas on your own, then you will be sharing the ideas with the group
  • Each time we go to the next stage of the workshop, you will have some time on your own to develop ideas before sharing them

For each new stage, you need to introduce each colour of leaf, and what the colour stands for (i.e. what question is being asked). You can see an example of how to do this in this video on running a workshop.

You can use these introductory slides  (PowerPoint sides that you can download) in your workshop. They not only have these key messages, they also have pictures to illustrate them.

There are also sample scripts for introducing the kit and the different stages in the detailed workshop plans available to download here.

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Should I mix different kinds of participants up at the tables? If so, how?

If you don’t make an effort to mix people up, they will natural default to sitting with someone they know (and hence probably who are from a similar background). We generally recommend that people from different backgrounds / organisations / type of groups (e.g. service users and providers, community members and project officers / different locations) be mixed up,  so that people with different perspectives are sitting around the same table to share ideas and learn from each other. This is especially important if you want to foster inter-agency working and partnership development – you need to get the different agencies and partners together to actually explore their differencing ideas and ways of working. It is also important in terms of co-production, making sure that community members and service users are seen as important contributors to the discussion, not as a separate category of people who don’t need to share ideas with the decision makers.
Following are three ways to mix people up and to try to get a good mix of people at the tables.  

1.  Assign people in advance to different tables, and give them name tags with table numbers on them, so that they know which table to go to (you may have to point this out at registration and make sure the tables are labelled / there is a number on the centrepiece on the Ketso).
Note it is a good idea to number the Ketsos anyway, so it is easy to keep track of which felts came from which tables, especially if there is more than one exercise and felts may need to be kept together later.
Advantages of this approach, it should be quick and easy on the day, you can think in advance to make sure you get a good mx of people. Disadvantages – people can feel a bit like you are socially engineering the gathering and may be a bit annoyed, and you never know who will turn up, so the tables may be uneven and then you have to rearrange on the day anyway.

2. Once people arrive, ask them to go to different parts of the room depending on some aspect of difference that is of relevance to the group – e.g.  One corner can be community members, one corner people from the city, one corner, environmental organisations, and another corner for other stakeholders (e.g. health organisations). Work out how many tables you will have (roughly 6 people per table).
Then, you get at least two helpers to assign numbers for the table numbers to people (quickly counting out the numbers for each table and pointing at the person) so that there is a roughly even mix of people from each section of the room at each table.
You can also ask people to line up on an axis – e.g. how far away have you come to get to this workshop – then you will get a mix of people from different locations at each table, and hopefully by mixing people up in some way, a rather random mix of different types of organisations at the tables. This can be a quick and fun way to get people talking and break the ice as well.
Advantages – everyone gets a sense of who is in the room, what types of organisations etc. It can be fun; it means you should get a good mix of people at the table. It is clear how you are making the decisions of who to sit where. Distances, it can take a bit of time – think through the logistics to make it as quick as possible. Once people have sat down, they may be reluctant to move again. It is a good idea to warn people as they are coming in not to get too settled as they will be moved to mix people up.

3. You can just ask people to shuffle themselves around with people they don’t know – asking them on the way in, asking again before you start – maybe a quick show of hands to show the different types of organisations, and if you see a table with a very uneven mix, you can ask people to move.
Advantages – this is the lightest touch approach. Disadvantages - It can be very hard to get people to move once they have sat down unless you ask everyone to move, as in option 2. You are likely to get clusters of similar people no matter what you do!


How do I stop people from thinking Ketso is 'beneath' them and childish?

Ketso is colourful and introduces an element of play into workshops. For some participants, this can seem a bit childish, and you may find that people react negatively, feeling this is beneath them. We have found this to be a fairly rare occurrence, but it does happen. It seems especially pronounced with young adults (e.g. first year undergraduate students) who may feel that it is a bit patronising to use a fun-looking tool, as they are trying to separate themselves from their school-children past.

The key way to overcome this problem is to make sure when you introduce Ketso to say that it is used in a  wide range of contexts, e.g. from major corporations, to strategic planning for district authorities, to NHS Trusts, to Local Authorities, to the Scottish Government, to over half of the Universities  in the UK. You can use these slides to introduce Ketso to help you with this, they includeand images of people using the kit in a range of contexts, including people using Ketso in major corporations. There is nothing as powerful as seeing other people use Ketso (especially people wearing suits and looking serious) to help lend it an air of credibility. You can adapt the slides (e.g. delete some, or re-order, or add some from the case studies on our website) to suit your audience.

We also find that it is a fairly common occurrence for people to be a bit sceptical at first, but as soon as they start using the kit, to find that it is so helpful in the conversation that they become quite keen on it. This was echoed in a comment from a customer in a national government agency: “We have had participants who have hated the idea of using it Ketso and then were hooked when they did and one such person now wants to borrow our kit”.

The lesson here is to persevere, keep smiling, and use precedent to help you get through the first step so that people actually engage.

I used Ketso but the conversation was still dominated by a few people. How do I stop this from happening?

Firstly, make sure that everyone has a pen and some leaves. Sometimes just one person will take on the role of being a scribe, keeping the leaves to themselves. This means that the other participants are not able to record their ideas.

Secondly, remember that you need to introduce clearly the idea that people will be taking some time on their own to develop ideas before sharing them (think then share then discuss), both at the beginning of the workshop and again at each stage. This is especially important if you find that some people are dominating the conversation. You need to state clearly that people should take it in turns to go around the table and read out their ideas, reading one idea at a time. Sometimes you will have to go around the tables after saying this to the whole room, and remind people at the tables.

We have written a few of these key ideas on the legends that come with the kit, as basic ‘ground rules’. You can refer to these during the workshop as you go around the tables to remind participants of the process. They are also included in the introductory slides you can use.

If all else fails, you may need to go to the dominant person and remind them that unless the ideas get written down, they will be lost. Make a special case that it is really important that their ideas are captured and ask that they take the time to write them down.

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Sometimes people spend so long discussing a leaf that not everyone gets to take a turn, or the workshop takes too long. How do I stop this from happening?

We find it helpful to suggest that people don’t discuss the ideas until all the ideas are down on the table, as then people can see the whole picture and then start discussing them, without getting caught up on any one idea and not hearing all the ideas first. This is encapsulated in the basic principle (think then share then discuss), which is included in the introductory slides you can use and adapt to introduce Ketso. It helps to set this as a ground rule when you are introducing the process. 

Often one group will move through the leaves more quickly than others. You may need to go around the tables and remind a group that is taking a long time to get their ideas down that you will soon be moving on to the next stage, and you want to make sure that everyone’s ideas are on the table. You can remind them that they can come back to discussing the ideas at a later stage once everything is down and you can see all the key ideas. There will also be a stage of filtering out what is important later. If you are having a table swap, this is a great way to get people to speed up – tell them that in a few minutes there will be a table swap for another group to come and look at their work, so they want to make sure all the ideas are down. 

If you find that you are running over time on a stage, there are two ways to ‘squash’ subsequent stages and make them go faster – you can limit the time you give people to write their ideas on leaves, or you can limit the number of leaves – e.g. by saying ‘now take 2 – 3 leaves and write the key challenges’. 

Conversely, for a table that has raced through their leaves, or didn’t have many ideas to start with, you may need to go and prompt them to add some leaves, or to add detail. For instance, you can look to see if there is a branch with no, or few, leaves, and ask – is there anything you can think of to add here? 

You can prompt people to give more detail – especially when there are leaves with just one or two words – can they add some leave to give more information? If there is a rather general statement, can they give more detail about how it could be done, or ideas to flesh it out? These leaves would then be pointed at the original leaf (it can help to demonstrate making a cluster). You may also think of some ‘supplements’ e.g. an extra question you want to ask around a particular branch, to prompt deeper thinking – or write up a few leaves with ideas / prompts and place them on the branch and ask people to comment on them / develop them with further leaves. This is a particularly good way of introducing ideas from early workshops, or other groups to stimulate new thinking. For more on planning a workshop, and the role of ‘Squashables, Skippables and Supplements, see this guide to the resources for planning a workshop with Ketso (including a how-to video). 

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I have read that you say to start with the positive, asking people what works, before going on to the problems. What happens when a participant insists on talking about a problem or problems towards the beginning?

It can happen that a participant is stuck on a particular issue or problem, and won’t be able to move on to the rest of the workshop before this is aired. What we do in this circumstance is pulling out what we call the ‘back pocket grey leaf’, saying to the participant that this is a very important point, and needs to be captured. Can they make sure that they write it on a grey leaf to make sure it is not lost, then they can carry on with the exercise. You can then hand them just one or two leaves.
Reassure them and the other participants at the table that you will come to grey leaves to capture more challenges and problems later, but that  it is helpful  to start with positives as a general rule as it helps us to think of the issues more creatively.

Participants may come up with an idea that does not fit on the particular colour of leaf you are using at any time. It is fine to provide them with a leaf of the appropriate colour to make sure that the idea is captured, but then encourage them to carry on with the current stage of the workshop to make sure that they consider the issues from all the different angles.

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What if I want to discuss really sensitive issues – won’t people feel awkward having to read out their leaves and place them on the felt?

If you want to discuss a particular sensitive topic, or one where a problem has occurred and you need to find out why, it can be helpful to give people an opportunity to write their ideas on leaves and not have to read them out, but instead have someone else read them out – to dissociate the person who wrote the idea from the idea so no one can tell who wrote them. You can do this in several ways.
1. You can ask people to write down issues (these are usually grey leaves – problems / challenges / things that are going wrong in a group / causes of a problem) on leaves, then to put these into a hat / box. You then mix up the leaves, and hand them back out to different people around the table, so that everyone reads out some leaves and shares them, but it clear that they are not their own leaves.

2. You can ask people to write down their ideas on grey leaves, then turn them upside down and put them on the centrepiece, then go to a different table to read the ideas at the other table out – so that they are placing the challenges developed by a different group down at another table, then they can come back to their own table after this process to see all of the challenges developed by the group.

3. You can ask people to write down challenges to share, but to keep back just one or two seriously difficult challenges, that they will get someone else to share – and then follow either process above to have these (fewer) challenges shared anonymously.
In each case, make sure people know the process in advance, giving clear instructions, especially if this stage will follow a different format to earlier stages. Make it clear that they will not have to read their own ideas out – so they can feel more free to write down issues that are really troubling them.

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Why do you suggest to start with the branches hidden so that people can’t see them until they have already developed some ideas? How do I do this?

We find that it is really helpful in the first exercise to have people start writing leaves before they see the themes (as set out on the branches) for several reasons. People feel less constrained to ‘get it right’ and make sure that their ideas fit into what you have already developed, and this can help them get started more easily.

It also means that the first exercise allows ideas to surface from the mind-set and thinking that the participants start with when they hear of the topic, and surprising new themes and connections may emerge that you had not considered, so you can often learn more than if people started with your framework. This is one reason why it is always a good idea to have a blank branch for emerging themes, as themes will and should emerge! We also like leaving a blank oval up in a top corner, not attached to a branch, for ideas that just don’t seem to fit, or that people are unsure of – this can be a ‘park’ for ideas until people feel they know where they go. Alternatively, it can become a ‘cross-cutting’ or ‘big picture’ theme for ideas that cut across the other branches. 

What you do need to do, however, is introduce the themes by asking people to see where their ideas fit, so they don’t feel that they have ‘got it wrong’ if they don’t seem to fit all that well. Reassure them that that is fine, to see what the ideas they have developed are saying and what themes they represents, then can they use the themes that are on the branches to think of any more ideas? Branches with few ideas by them can be as telling as those with lots. It is interesting to note the patterns of where the different colours cluster – do some branches have many more problems associated with them than ideas of what works? What might this suggest? As a facilitator you can go around the room and look for patterns, then you can mention any patterns you see in the clusters of types of ideas by branch when you introduce the next stage. You may also ask groups to look at the patterns of diffidently colours by branch when they do a table swap, and see how these compare to their own felts. 

You don’t want to leave too long for participants to develop the leaves in the initial exercise, in case they really have got the wrong end of the stick on the question or aim of the workshop, and feel they have been wasting their time. Seeing the fit (or lack of fit) between ideas participants come up with and the themes on the branches can either show that the themes are not as clear or well suited as they could be (they can always be changed then and there if need be! A wet paper towel will do the trick) or that participants have not understood the question. They can then be gently redirected.

A third reason this is helpful is that it enables you to introduce one bit of the kit at a time, so people get used to using the different bits and get an  idea of what they are being used for, one by one. This helps them to take in the instructions, and aids in clarity. Once they get going, people have no problem working out what to do, but a few minutes spent getting familiar with the different bits of the kit in sequence at the beginning helps people build confidence. This is especially important if you have participants with learning disabilities or different levels of literacy and education.

There are three ways to hide the branches before you start. If you have mini Ketso felts (the smaller felts), they fit perfectly over the written ovals of the branches, and can be used for a warm-up exercise, then removed. Mini Ketso felts come as part of the Corporate Ketso range, and can also be purchased separately as an add–on pack to extend the range and uses of your Ketso. 

You can cover the felt with a piece of flip chart paper. You can place a Ketso planner on top of the paper if you are using one for a warm-up exercise.

Alternatively, you can fold the felt over, and unfold it at the appropriate time. This has the disadvantage of meaning you have to move leaves. You need to remember to move the centrepiece to the centre (as the felt won’t fold if it is left in the centre in the first place). This does give an opportunity to reminded people of the focus of the workshop. Top of page

How can you be sure that all the relevant information has been considered?

This is a challenge in any workshop situation, and one where hopefully Ketso helps by at least making sure that everyone has a voice. Other things that help are having a broad range of themes on the branches, to make sure that all angles are considered. A further thing that you can do is pre-prepare some leaves (or a checklist of key points) that you want to make sure are considered, then after people have been going for a while with developing their ideas on the felts, go around the tables and ask - have you considered this / put a few of the pre-prepared leaves in the centre. You can then ask people to make comments about them, if they have not already covered these issues.

It is helpful to mark these pre-prepared leaves in some way so they can easily be spotted - e.g. with a dot in the corner (this is especially useful for writing up the results later). It may help to demonstrate actually brainstorming some ideas / responses to the pre-prepared leaves, on new leaves, so that participants get the idea that they can comment and build on them. It is important to only add pre-prepared leaves after people have been working for a bit, so that they have had a chance to develop their thinking first. They can see where these ideas fit in relation to their own thinking, which means they will have a chance to think of ideas before being influenced by your inputs, and they are likely to  be more receptive to thinking how the ideas fit within the ideas they have been developing. This can open up new perspectives that you had not thought of.

This is also a very useful technique for introducing ideas from earlier consultations or workshops, which means that you can learn what participants think of these ideas now, and see if anything has changed in the meantime. Doing this has the added benefit of building a great deal of trust and willingness to engage in your consultation, as it shows that you have taken the time to find out what has happened in the past, and what these groups have already said in earlier consultations. This is especially important in communities where there has been a lot of consultation in the past, often without much apparent action or feeling of having been listened to.

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What if we have decisions that have already been made, should we still start with letting people brainstorm their own ideas?

Even if you know that certain decisions have already been made, it is worth letting people have a free-flow exploration of ideas around the topic before you introduce these ideas. You can then introduce them into the flow of conversation, and ask people to explore how to make the most of these changes (e.g. green leaf thinking). If you start a meeting by telling people what has already been decided, there is a high probability that they will switch off and not feel that there is any point in them being there.

Of course, you still need to find a way to introduce these decisions sensitively. It is not a good idea to let people brainstorm what they would like to see, then say, "Well that is very nice, but we can’t do that as we have already decided this". Instead, you can say something like: “These are important elements to take into account for this and future plans. We wanted to give you a chance to develop your thinking before we talked about some of the decisions that have been made, so we can see how they fit in. What we would like to do is use the ideas you have on the table, along with some creative thinking, to see how we can make the most of these changes”.

One advantage of having all of the leaves on the table also means that people’s ideas are captured, and can be taken forward for future thinking about possibilities. It is important to introduce ideas that have already been decided after some initial brainstorming, but before people have gone too far into thinking of future visions and plans. If you are using the Ketso Seed:  Look forward / Plan to structure the workshop, generally a good time to do this would be a few minutes into the exploration of green leaves (future possibilities) on the felts, just as groups are coming to the end of sharing those leaves. Make sure you leave some time to explore the decisions that you have introduced, with a stage of further ‘green leaf’ thinking around the ideas. You can also let people know that they can write about the problems they see with them, and develop solutions to these problems, in the coming stages.

See the FAQ above for more ideas on how to do this, and some hints how to use leaves to introduce ideas into the conversation.

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What do I do if I want people to discuss problems that they may not want to read out themselves, or want others to know that they have raised as issues?

A useful variation on the stage of brainstorming challenges and barriers is asking people to write down (1 or 2) really difficult challenges or problems they face / think they will face (grey leaves), letting them know that they themselves will NOT be reading these out. Ask participants to leave them upside down on the centrepiece, WITHOUT sharing them, then go to another table. At the other table, they will read out the other group's major challenges and place them on the felt. If you have already done some grey leaf thinking, as people to mark these new, difficult challenges, with a warning triangle icon, so they can easily be found later. Ideally you would also get the group to develop some solutions to these difficult challenges at the table where they have read them out, pointing the green leaves for new ideas right at the grey leaves and writing an S in the corner of the leaf (so it can be easily spotted as a solution).

Participants can then go back to their own tables and see their difficult challenges, without having to read them out individually, and also see solutions developed to them. It is often easier to develop solutions to someone else's challenges, and it is very heartening to see some solutions developed to your own challenges!

An alternative to this is to ask people to put these difficult challenges in a hat, and then share them out amongst the group, so that no one can identify who wrote them. We heard of this happening in one instance where there had been a major breach of security, and no one was going to feel comfortable saying what really went wrong. By putting the grey leaves in a hat, and with everyone knowing that that would be the case so they would not be associated with the leaves they wrote, a frank discussion about the problems that had led to that breach of security was possible.

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Some of my participants are illiterate. How can they use Ketso?

Participants can draw their ideas or use simple symbols instead of words. If you are working with a mixed group of literate and illiterate people, it may be an idea to ask participants to write the word on a leaf and point it at the leaf with the picture (and vice versa – so that you get both the visual and written representation of ideas. It can be a useful educational process as well as quite empowering for people to see their ideas represented in different ways.

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I have participants with different languages, how can we get people to best communicate?

Ketso was used initially in Southern Africa with people speaking Tswana, Sesotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans and English (as well as with mixed levels of education and literacy!).

You can ask people to write ideas in the language they are most comfortable in (or draw symbols). Then when it comes to sharing, ask other participants to add a leaf pointing at that leaf with the language in most common use – so that more people can read it. This can be a great way to discuss ideas and the meanings of words, as often the translations reveal quite different senses of what the person meant. It is also useful to ask participants to discuss where the ideas fit, as the way that the ideas are clustered and are grouped around the branches can be quite revealing of meaning (and sometimes even misunderstandings of translations!). In this case, remind participants that they can move the leaves around!

You need to allow a bit more time for participants to translate between languages and to discuss the meanings of different words.

Using images for labeling the branches is a great idea in any workshop if you have suitabel images, and can be really helpful in workshops with people of mixed literacy levels. You can use bluetac or masking tape to attach the pictures to the branch ovals. Over time, we would like to offer images that can be downloaded and printed for such use, and as prompts for discussion.

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How do I encourage people to write so I can read it later?

Unreadable handwriting is sometimes an issue. It is worth reiterating a  few times - please write so others can read your ideas, and we are able to write up the ideas later. It is also worth looking at leaves as you go around the tables, and if you can't read something, asking if it could be rewritten so it can be understood and recorded later.

You may also want to take a few notes of some of the conversations you hear to help put leaves into context. Generally, it is a good idea to try to have a look at what is going on the felts, as you are going around the tables checking on how people are doing, and if you don't understand something that is on the felt or is being said, ask for it to be clarified, maybe with some more leaves.

Can the facilitator propose to move leaves around?

Yes, you can suggest moving leaves. It is a good idea to demonstrate moving leaves early on in the process, so that people get the idea that leaves can and should be moved around and clustered. You do need to do this sensitively, not just diving in and moving leaves, but instead asking questions and giving prompts for thought - e.g.:

  • If these ideas are related to each other, then they can point at each other in a cluster to show that they are related.
  • What if this leaf was on this branch? What else would that tell us?
  • Would this make more sense here, can I move this here?

You want to give the idea that everyone can take charge of moving leaves around, but this needs to be done in conversation with the person who put the leaf down.

A good metaphor for the role of the facilitator is like being the wind rustling in the leaves, you can help move leaves around to show new patterns.
You also want to demonstrate that where the leaf has been placed has meaning, perhaps by asking: "What does it mean to have this leaf on this branch, as opposed to this one? Where does it best fit, or are there possibly two different ideas suggested by the fact that this leaf might be on more than one branch, which should be on different leaves, to give more detail?" Asking what the placement means can help tease out deeper understanding (or sometimes misunderstandings, especially about language and what people meant by particular ideas). You can then demonstrate using the white dots to make connections between the ideas on different branches, using different letters to show the connections.

Recording the results of a Ketso session

Can I take a picture of the Ketso workspace as a record?

Yes, you can photo a Ketso as a record of the ideas. It is best to take a picture of the workspaces a quarter of the felt workspace at a time and to check that the writing has come out clear enough to read from the photo. It is a good idea to take a shot of the whole workspace as well, so that you can see the overall layout, even if all the words cannot be read on this shot.

You need to use a camera with a high resolution – at least 8  mega pixels.

Glare from overhead lights can be a problem. Try taking pictures from different angles to get the best results.

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How can I record the ideas from a Ketso, and do you have any tools to help me do this?

We have developed an Excel spreadsheet for entering data from a Ketso workshop, which allows you to analyse the patterns of ideas to emerge (e.g. to see how many leaves of different colours were clustered around the different branches). This works especially well when you wish to collate several Ketsos and to do some work analysing the data afterwards.

This PowerPoint presentation about  the spreadsheet leads you through process of entering and analysing data.

We have devloped an Excel spreadsheet for rercoding the results of an Action Plan grid.

We also have a simple Word Template, that can be used to record key ideas, or which may be sufficient for recoding the ideas from just one or two Ketsos.

You can download these templates from this page.

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Are you going to produce an electronic version of Ketso?

We are developing eKetso (slowly). The first prototype will offer a front-end that looks like a Ketso for data entry. We are also working on a bid to develop an on-line platform for collecting and analysing the date from Ketso workshops. We will post updates on this page.   

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Do I need to type up all the leaves after a workshop?

How much you type up depends on what you want to get from the results. For some purposes, it is important to have all the ideas, so you can see patterns in the data and make sure that everything is captured.

For many purposes, however, just having the key ideas is more than enough. You may wish to only type up the ideas that were highlighted by participants as important (e.g. that have icons by the leaves). You may wish to photograph the Ketsos before you dismantle them, so you have a record of all the ideas, not just the ones you recorded.

We will often type up the whole cluster of ideas if there is more than one leaf in a cluster and one of them has an icon by it.

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I am typing up leaves and I can't read something on the leaf. What do I do?

If you are typing up results and you just can’t read what is on a leaf, you can write up what you can read, and insert xxx for what you can’t read. If you think you know what the word is, but aren’t sure – write it, and add afterwards [?] to make it plain  you have had to guess. It is a good idea to take a picture of the leaf, and keep that with the spreadsheet – it could be that the facilitator of the workshop or other participants may be able to help you decipher it, and at least the original leaf is not lost. 

Remember it is always a good idea to take a picture of the whole felt, and each quadrant, before you clear away the leaves, so you have a record of the original felt as developed by participants.

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Do you have any examples of what to do with the results of  Ketso session?

We have developed a slideshow that leads through the process of entering and analysing Ketso results into our bespoke spreadsheet. To download the spreadsheet slides, click here. To download the software and the slideshow, go here

The following two sections of our website show very simple summaries using the icons that participants placed by ideas to highlight key points:

Examples of more detailed reports written from Ketso workshops follow. These have been developed after the results were entered into the excel spreadsheet we have created for analysing results.

This shows analysis of results from a speed exercise with 100 delegates. The themes used on the branches were the themes of the conference.


This shows analysis from a more in-depth workshop, which used the New Economics Foundation’s framework for wellbeing as the themes.

This shows results from a workshop with 65 people from a wide range of organisations involved in environmental issues across the North West of England. It shows analysis using coding of the results, which lead to some suprising emergent themes.

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I can see graphs showing the types of ideas developed in the workshop in these reports. How do you get these graphs?

We have an Excel spreadsheet for recording the ideas from Ketsos (you can put more than one Ketso into the same spreadsheet). This automatically makes graphs that you can use in a report showing the distribution of different types of ideas overall and also by branch theme.

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Can you type up my Ketsos for me?

We offer a 'Results type-up service' where you can send back your kits once used and we will type up the results and return them to you in a spreadsheet. Click here for more details of our support services.

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Ketso in research

How do I reference Ketso if I am writing a paper?

You can use this academic paper as a reference:

Furlong, C., Tippett, J. (2013) “Returning knowledge to the community: an innovative approach to sharing knowledge about drinking water practices in a peri-urban community” Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, Vol 3 No 4 pp 629–637 doi:10.2166/washdev.2013.071

The paper is free to download - click here.

This is useful for talking about Ketso in general, as well as as a research method.


The following article discusses Ketso as a method in 'Mapping information landscapes in the workplace' and acts as a useful example of Ketso as a reserach method. 

Whitworth, A., Torras I Calvo, M., Moss, B., Kifle, N. A. & Blåsternes, T. (2014) ‘Changing Libraries: Facilitating Self-Reflection and Action Research on Organizational Change in Academic Libraries’ New Review of Academic Librarianship 20 pp.251–274 (open access)

Other articles using & discussing Ketso as a research method include:

ALABBASI, Dalal; STELMA, Juup. (2018) Using Ketso in Qualitative Research With Female Saudi Teachers. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [S.l.], v. 19, n. 2, apr. 2018. ISSN 1438-5627. You can also see a video of Dalal talking about using Ketso in her research here.

Ivashinenko, Nina (2014) Searching for a New Approach to Face Poverty on the Local Level, a Case Study in a Small Russian Town, Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe, 22:3, 403-419, DOI: 10.1080/0965156X.2014.988493

McIntosh, A. J., Cockburn-Wootten, C. (2016) ‘Using Ketso for engaged tourism scholarship’, Annals of Tourism Research, Volume 56, January 2016, pages 148-151

If you are using Ketso in community planning or other stakeholder engagement, these articles may be a useful reference:

Tippett, J. (2013) “Creativity and learning – participatory planning and the co-production of local knowledge” Town and Country Planning, TCPA, October, 2013: Special Issue: Urban and Regional Ecology and Resilience, pp 439-442

Contact us if you would like a copy.

Bates, J. (2016) Ketso: A New Tool for Extension Professionals, The Journal of Extension, 54:1  

Free to download here.

If you are talking about environmental management, Catchment Based Approach or stakeholder engagement in general, this report may be a useful reference:

Cascade, Collingwood Environmental Planning, EFTEC, YJ Rees Consulting (2013) Guide to Collaborative Catchment Management, Aug. 2013, 54 pgs.

Donwload here.


If you are using Ketso in teaching, you can reference this article:

Tippett, J., Connelly, A., How, F. (2011) "You Want Me to Do What? Teach a Studio Class to Seventy Students?, Journal for Education in the Built Environment, Vol. 6, Issue 2, December  pp. 26-53 (28)
ISSN: 1747-4205 (Free to download)


The background research at the University of Manchester, and funded by the ESRC and Mersey Basin Campaign, that led to Ketso is developed in detail in this peer-reviewed article:

Tippett, J.,  Handley, J. F., Ravetz, J. (2007) "Meeting the challenges of sustainable development—A conceptual appraisal of a new methodology for participatory ecological planning", Progress in Planning, Volume 67, Issue 1, Pages 9-98

This can be accessed here.

Conctact us for a free copy of the pre-print version if you cannot access this directly.


You can also reference the Ketso User Guide:

Tippett, J. and How, F. (2011) "Ketso User Guide", Ketso, Manchester, Aug. 25, 2011, Ketso, Manchester, 26 pages.


Have any PhDs used Ketso as a data gathering method?

Several PhDs have used Ketso to gather data at various stages of the research. We are always keen to hear of more examples and add to the list below, please let us know if we have missed any!

Hall, Justine Michelle, 2010, ‘Trees in Towns: Factors Affecting the Distribution of Trees in High Density Residential Areas of Greater Manchester’, A thesis submitted to the University of Manchester for the degree of Ph.D. in the Faculty of Humanities, School of Environment and Development, Planning and Landscape Department

Kolodziejski , Ann Louise, 2014, ‘Connecting People and Place: Sense of Place and Local Action’ A thesis submitted to the University of Manchester for the degree of PhD in the Faculty of Humanities

le Roux, Ebenhaezer, 2010, ‘Action Research into a Learning Initiative with Environmental Managers in a Transitional Local Government, South Africa’, A thesis submitted to the University of Manchester for the degree of Ph.D. in the Faculty of Humanities, School of Environment and Development, Planning and Landscape Department

Njiraini, Nancy Nyambura Karanja (2015) ‘Exploring the importance of critical thinking in creating capabilities for self-reliance in international community development: A Kenyan context’. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow. 

O’Shea, Susan Mary, 2014 ‘The Art Worlds of Punk-Inspired Feminist Networks - A social network analysis of the Ladyfest feminist music and cultural movement in the UK’ A thesis submitted to the University of Manchester for the degree of Ph.D. in the Faculty of Humanities

Sarky, Sarook , 2016. ‘An Evaluation of Participatory Ecotourism Planning Approaches in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’, Thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON, FACULTY  OF SOCIAL AND HUMAN SCIENCES, Geography and Environment

You can watch a video of Dr. Dalal AL-Abbasi talk about her use of Ketso in her PhD (dissertation link to follow as this is a freshly minted PhD!):

How would you characterise Ketso as a research method – e.g. is it a focus group?

Ketso is a tool that can be used in a variety of research methods – instead of being a method per se, it is a data gathering tool that can be used to stimulate discussion, ensure that everyone has a say, help participants to visualise and order their thinking and responses to questions, and capture data (in the form of what people have written on leaves, as well as from researcher notes, and where appropriate, recordings of the discussions). Ketso has been used in interviews with just one or two participants, where it is used to elicit and order ideas around the key themes of the interview. It has been used in focus groups, with a small group of people discussing key issues at a table with a researcher, and in larger workshops, with several groups at once, which can allow for the gathering of data from a much larger group of people.

The key thing in terms of thinking of research methods is to decide what your questions are, and how best to elicit data to answer the questions. For many research projects, is likely that there will be a way to adapt Ketso to help you ask the questions in a way that helps you, and participants, to uncover deeper meanings and have a more engaging discussion with everyone.. We have put decades of thinking into how to use Ketso in workshops, what we call ThinkingWare – which you can use as is, or adapt to you purposes. Click here to browse our library of workshop plans. Do get in touch with questions and to let us know how you are using Ketso, as we are keen to learn more and build our library of workshop plans and knowledge.

We have developed a tool for analysing the results of Ketso workshops, which is especially useful for looking for patterns in the data, coding and for collating the results of multiple workshops / sessions with participants. This is free to use. See here for more info and the download the spreadsheet.

For more on using Ketso in research, you can watch a brief video see case studies here.

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