‘A’ – Advocate for Alternate Viewpoints

‘A’ sessions are important to help participants see and understand viewpoints that are different than their own. The objective is to ensure that participants are not just aware of different viewpoints, but that they are also actively thinking about them and understanding them. 

Therefore, the ‘A’ sessions would require facilitators to provide participants with viewpoints that are opposite to the initial positions submitted, and organise sessions where participants are only speaking on the alternate viewpoint, one that is different than their own. 

Therefore, the ‘A’ the sessions that you would conduct are as follows:

  1. Introduction to ‘A’: This would include explaining the aims and objectives of ‘A’ to the participants. 
  2. Sessions on individual themes: This would include participants advocating for the alternate view.

Individual sessions should be conducted for each theme. Therefore, if there are 8 themes then there would be 9 sessions for ‘A’ (1 introduction session + 8 theme-based sessions).

Session Structure:

The ‘A’ session is one where participants should actively advocate for a view that is contrary to their own to understand different perspectives. The initial positions submitted by the participants would be useful for this. 

To ensure adequate discussion on all themes, participants should be divided in groups wherein each group is given one theme to run both ‘A’ and ‘I’ on. 

For example, if there are 8 themes and 32 participants, then there will be 8 groups (1 per theme) and 4 participants per group (32/8 = 4). 

The group presentations can be structured in the following manner:

PartTime AllocatedObjective
Part 1: Panel discussion40 minutesGroup members should conduct a panel discussion amongst them where they are advocating for the alternate view. 
Part 2: Q&A is breakout rooms30 minutesEach panel member will host a separate breakout room where they will be questioned by other participants and the facilitators. Even here, participants must defend the alternate view. 
For example, if there are 4 members per group, then there will be 4 breakout rooms. 
Part 3: Individual summaries by panellists30 minutesEach panel member should summarise the discussion in their group.

Steps to help facilitate this are provided below:

1. Dividing participants in groups:

Participants should be divided in different groups, wherein each group should be allotted one theme. Facilitators should avoid allocating participants the theme that they are interested in, instead allocating them to themes which they haven’t shown much interest towards. This is to help show the participant that F.A.I.R. as a thought process can be used and applied to all subjects. 

2. Examining initial positions:

Once the groups have been made, you should review each group member’s initial position for the theme they have been allocated.  For example, if A, B and C are in the group for Well-being, then their initial positions for Well-being should be collated together in a Word document or Excel. 

3. Preparing alternate positions:

Based on the initial positions, alternate positions should be formulated to ensure that participants are examining viewpoints that are opposite to their own. For group presentations, the alternate viewpoint is the view that participants should advocate for.

For example, if the:

Theme is: Well-being – Mental health assistance walks a tight rope between timely intervention and becoming a trigger. Do we need to underplay our public communication of mental health while privately engaging with individuals aggressively?

Initial position 1 is: I believe public communication is important to make people aware of mental health so we all can be more conscious when dealing with each other; then

Alternate position 1 should be: Active public discourse on mental health will become unmanageable and lead to dangerous repercussions.

Initial position 2 is: Since mental health is personal to each individual and is therefore subjective, we should underplay public communication and instead increase private engagement on it; then

Alternate position 2 should be: Private engagement on mental health without sensitising the public will result in suppressing individuals rather than supporting them.

4. Communicating group allocations:

All participants should be given their groups during the Introduction to ‘A’ Session by adding them to the relevant WhatsApp/Skype group. This group should only consist of the relevant group members, plus the relevant facilitator.  For example, if there are 4 members in the group for Well-being, then the WhatsApp/Skype group should consist of the 4 group members + 1 facilitator i.e., 5 members in total. 

5. Setting up the initial group call:

On the theme-based WhatsApp/Skype group, you should send an initial message which asks the group to set up a time for an initial call with, gives them the date and time for the group presentation, and gives them the date and time for their group presentation for the ‘I’ session. Here is a template for the communication.

6. Conducting the initial group call:

The group call is where you should provide the alternate position to each participant and ensure that they understand it. Even here, the facilitator should avoid giving their personal opinion on the premise and the positions, and should simply clarify doubts if a question is asked. As was with ‘F’, this is to ensure that your personal opinions don’t impact the participants’ thought process. 

Introduction to ‘A’ Session

Introduction to ‘A’ would include highlighting the aims and objectives of this step. It would also involve explaining the format of the ‘A’ sessions. 

1. Talking points for introduction ‘A’:

A few points that could be highlighted to explain ‘A’ are:

1. Continuing ‘F’:

While Step 2 of the Methodology has started, you should not stop gathering information. ‘F’ as a process is continuous and is relevant through all steps of the Methodology. Therefore, it is not that we have expected you to find all of the relevant facts for the theme already. 

2. Challenge yourself:

To truly benefit from this step, you must argue for a viewpoint opposite to yours to understand the perspective of another stakeholder who is affected by an issue or topic. The idea is to question your pre-determined positions and see how it holds up against contrary viewpoints.

3. Stakeholder mapping:

Identifying the relevant stakeholders of an issue or topic is crucial for this step.It helps you understand whose perspective you have and have not considered. Therefore, it is important to list out the relevant stakeholders and map out their thought process. 

4. Don’t be neutral:

Since this is a step where you are trying to understand another perspective, it is important to not be neutral and try your best to do justice to the other viewpoint.It is important to advocate to the complete opposite end of your view to understand the reason behind someone else’s contrary view.  Once you have explained the objectives of ‘A’ it is important to also explain the format of how the ‘A’ session will be conducted. Talking points for this are provided below. 

2. Talking points for format of ‘A’:

1. Group divisions:

All of you will be divided in theme-based groups where in each group will focus on one theme.

2. Alternate positions:

Based on your initial position, we have articulated alternate positions which are opposite to your initial position. This is the viewpoint you will have to advocate for in your group presentation for ‘A’.

3. Structure of group presentation:

The group presentation time will be divided as follows:

  1. Panel discussion (40 minutes): The entire group will get 40 minutes to conduct a panel discussion where each group member will advocate for the alternate position.
  2. Q&As (30 minutes): Post this, each panel member will conduct their own breakout room, so if there are 4 members to a group, there will be 4 breakout rooms. The rest of the listeners will join these rooms to question the panel member on the alternate viewpoint that has been advocated for. 
  3. Individual summary: Post the discussions, we will all come back to the main session, where the panel members will summarise their discussions in the breakout rooms. 

4. Theme-based WhatsApp/Skype group:

You should have been added to a WhatsApp group where you can see who your other group members are. This group also includes the date and time for the ‘A’ sessions. Please first confirm if these dates and times work for you since it is important that all the group members are present for the panel discussion.

5. Individual group calls:

Please do let us know when you would like to have your group call with the team and we will explain you the alternate positions you will be defending. 

3. Preparatory group call:

Once the group calls have been set up, facilitators should conduct each group call separately i.e., if there are 8 groups, then there will be 8 group calls. 

In the group call, you should summarise the objectives and the format of ‘A’ and thereafter provide the participants the alternate view by pasting it on the chat of the call. Participants should be asked to take time to read and understand the alternate position given to them. Any questions on this should be thereafter clarified. 

You should also re-confirm the time of their group presentation and ask them to do their own internal coordination to prepare for the group presentation. 

Individual Theme-Based Group Presentation Session

PartTime AllocatedObjective
Part 1: Panel discussion40 minutesGroup members should conduct a panel discussion amongst them where they are advocating for the alternate view. 
Part 2: Q&A is breakout rooms30 minutesEach panel member will host a separate breakout room where they will be questioned by other participants and the facilitators. Even here, participants must defend the alternate view. 
For example, if there are 4 members per group, then there will be 4 breakout rooms. 
Part 3: Individual summaries by panellists30 minutesEach panel member should summarise the discussion in their group.

On the day of the group presentation, the role of the facilitator will go back to listening and moderating. In terms of the logistics, it is important to ensure that all group members are present and that there are at least 2 people for each breakout room. These 2 people can include members of the organising team. 

A few points of note are:

  1. At the beginning of each theme-based session, the facilitator must repeat the theme, introduce the group members, explain the format of the session and then leave it to the participants to start. 
  2. While the participants are doing their panel discussion, the organising team should prepare the breakout rooms. 
  3. Apart from the panel member, there should be at least 2 participants in each breakout room.
  4. Everyone on call should be notified before they are being sent to their breakout rooms. 
  5. Once the breakout rooms are done, panel members should be asked to summarise the conversation of their breakout room in the main session. 

Takeaways from ‘A’

1. For the participants

For the participants the biggest takeaway from ‘A’ would in all likelihood be how challenging it would have been for them to advocate for a viewpoint that they don’t believe in. 

To aid the participants in doing this, the facilitators should continue to reiterate that everyone will be advocating for a view that is contrary to their own. Therefore, participants should not be conscious how they are coming across, since this exercise is to serve a particular objective. 

These sessions should also be closed sessions i.e., only the participants and organisers should be present for the session. No external individual should be present. 

2. For the facilitator

You must also actively listen to ensure that the relevant group members are indeed advocating for the alternate position and not a neutral view. 

As with ‘F’, you should continue making notes on the participants’ thought process. These notes will be useful when you will provide them feedback on their ‘A’ during the ‘I’ session group calls. 


Logistics for organising ‘A’ includes the following:

  1. Calendar invite
  2. Message on WhatsApp Group

Each of these communications should be sent at regular time intervals in the days preceding the ‘A’ sessions. Here are the templates for the communications.