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Negative Brainstorming with Invisible Stakeholders

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The method surfaces underlying tensions, fears, and concerns of participants and imaginatively engages stakeholders who may not have a voice in the room.


This method uses a counter-intuitive approach to problem solving by trying to make the problem worse both for participants and for “forgotten” or invisible stakeholders. Towards the end of a meeting or planning session, participants will first re-summarize the core issue that they are addressing. Next, they list stakeholders who might not be in the room (could be non-human stakeholders, future generations, or people who aren’t there). Then instead of a list of positive “next steps”, participants identify the solutions that would actually make the problem worse for themselves and for the identified missing stakeholders. After people are done, ideas can be summarized, grouped into categories, and discussed. As an option, the facilitator can offer a prize for the best “worst” ideas and ask participants to vote. Finally, there is another round in small groups to discuss how these bad ideas could be transformed into good solutions. This can provide data about what people fear, who they think are important “invisible” stakeholders, and, in the end, what positive solutions they envision.


  1. In the plenary, summarize the key issue or problem that is being addressed. Describe it and write it down on a visible flip chart paper.
  2. In smaller groups, ask people to identify “invisible” stakeholders - people or non humans who do not have a voice in the room. These can be summarized on large post-it notes and put somewhere visible.
  3. Within each group, participants can choose one invisible stakeholder to represent. Make sure to emphasize that they now should share their opinion and ideas from their own perspective, but also from the perspective of their chosen stakeholder.
  4. Next, return to the original issue or problem and ask how people could make the problem worse, for themselves, for their group, and for their chosen stakeholder. Ask them to take five minutes to work individually to come up with specific ideas and actions that will make the problem worse (suggest that half the time is used for their perspective and half for the chosen stakeholder)
  5. Now ideas are collected and elaborated. One person in the group will be in charge of collecting and summarizing ideas. All ideas are welcome and participants are asked to withhold criticism.
  6. Each group picks three ideas to share with the plenary and as an option, the group can vote on the worst solution.
  7. Back in small groups, all the ideas are discussed and reversed to be transformed into real solutions to the actual problem.

Place on U
15 minutes to 1 hour
Materials Needed

flip chart and pens

Disruptive Practices
Ideation & Brainstorming
Online Engagement
Tip and Experiences
  • Use this method in conjunction with the “Inclusivity Train” to identify “invisible” or "more-than-human" stakeholders
  • Include a competition in which people vote for the best worst solution in plenary

Relevant References & Resources

Mulder, P. (2018). Reverse Brainstorming from ToolsHero

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