Liberating Structures



Stage 4

Agile IQ® Level



Liberating Structures



Liberating Structures are easy-to-learn microstructures that enhance relational coordination and trust. They quickly foster lively participation in groups of any size, making it possible to truly include and unleash everyone. Liberating Structures are a disruptive innovation that can replace more controlling or constraining approaches.

Getting started

1-2-4-All is a facilitation pattern that provides the foundation for many other Liberating Structures. It is a very good place to get started.

  1. One moment alone to reflect (1): Present a question to the team and ask them to brainstorm ideas. One post-it note per idea. The moment is timeboxed to 1 minute.
  2. Form pairs (2): Share, compare, improve or expand on the individual ideas. The timebox is 2 minutes.
  3. Form pairs of pairs (4): Share and further develop the pairs’ ideas. Use affinity mapping to put similar ideas together and identify gaps. Timebox of 4 minutes.
  4. Share with the group (all): Any foursome shares one important idea or question that the whole group should hear. There is no need for each foursome to report. Conclusions, decisions, or actions are then made based on what emerges.

Why 1-2-4-All works so well

The first fundamental difference from the usual group discussion is that 1-2-4-All gives everyone present an equal opportunity to contribute. All the silent thoughts that otherwise would stay in people’s head can be spoken out loud, starting with the individual reflection time, a rare opportunity to collect one’s thoughts without disturbance.

Moving on to a pair formation provides as safe a space as possible for each to articulate these thoughts for the first time, get feedback and hear one other person’s point of view. Creating safe spaces for expression (versus asking people to take the risk of speaking up in front of a whole group that almost always includes someone with more positional power) transforms both the amount and, most important, the diversity of ideas expressed.

After the second step, ideas, especially those controversial ones, can be more safely presented as emanating from a group rather than a single individual, thus liberating many views that otherwise would never come to the surface.


Improve equal voice

The progressive nature of 1-2-4-All removes the physicality from the room where all too often a few vocal individuals can take over a whole conversation or where no one feels safe to speak.


Browse and download the entire library of Liberating Structures facilitation patterns from the website.


1. Adapted from: Half, R. (2021) What Is Succession Planning? 7 Steps to Success. Online at:

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