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Home » Methods » River of Life

River of Life

Declining cooperative engagement
Min. 3 project managers or partners or citizens
30 minutes – 1 hour
  • Digital whiteboard: Miro or Mural OR shared document (e.g., MS Teams)
  • Video conferencing: Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc.

Explanation of the method

  1. As a team, consider how the project or team emerged. Who has participated in it so far? What major events took place? What milestones were reached? What setbacks have there been?
  2. Once you have thought about these aspects, begin to visualize them on the digital whiteboard. Draw a large river in the center of the board. This reflects the journey/evolution of your team. The boat in the middle of the river represents the status quo. The river can include boats, boulders, fishes, logs, etc. to illustrate the passage of time and events. Use different colors, various symbols, and/or images to do this.
  3. Plan a time frame at the end for group reflection. Allow for discussion and different points of view as well. Reflecting on successes and failures will increase cooperative engagement. On one hand, you will be reminded of your successes, and on the other, reflection can help you to develop strategies for avoiding future failures and promoting successes. The river can serve as a guide or compass for the future.


  • The River of Life method promotes a creative and interactive way of working together.
  • The tool helps to demonstrate to participants the diversity of perspectives and experiences within a community.
  • The tool can be conducted on an ongoing basis to track development/process over time.
  • By using the boat as a reference point (status quo), the tool can be used for reflection for retrospective experiences as well as prospective visions/goals.


  • Sufficient time should be allowed for reminiscence, discussion, and reaching group consensus about what happened in the past.
  • When using the tool in groups, facilitators should be prepared to deal with potential problems of group dynamics, such as the dominance of certain participants or conflicts during the discussion.

Advice from practice

  • You can use the method as an ice-breaker, as a participatory exercise for collaboration or as an evaluation tool.
  • It is important to explain the metaphor well to the participants according to the topic of interest.
  • If the workshop is conducted in groups, be sure to give participants enough time and space to discuss and resolve disagreements on their own.
  • Although the metaphor is "River of Life," you can adapt this method to other contexts (e.g., the metaphor "hiking route" or "bicycle tour") with which participants are familiar.
Please note that the tools and methods were created as of August 2024 and all Miro Boards are editable.
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