From: Choconancy's Flickr Gallery
From: Choconancy's Flickr Gallery
Topsy Turvy

Brief Description

Topsy-Turvy is a method that mobilizes untapped energies and thoughts in order to come up with unique solutions to a problem.
It involves generating negative ideas and then reversing them to create positive solutions.


Topsy Turvy is described by Neill McKee (former Chief, PCIS, UNICEF Bangladesh) with Dr. Hermann Tillman and Dr. Maria Salas in their Visualization in Participatory Programs Manual (1993) used during planning processes for social mobilization and communication in UNICEF-supported programmes in Bangladesh. Using a combination of facilitation tools, VIPP has its roots from Latin America and Germany. These are derived from key works by Paulo Freire, Orlando Fals Borda and Eberhard Schnelle (Metaplan) among others.

When to use

  • As a unique method for idea generation and working outside-the-box.
  • When you want to break the monotony of a group idea generating process.
  • When you have people with judging and convergent preferences.

How to use

  1. Clearly identify the problem, activity or challenge, and write it down.
  2. Consider the activity you’re planning and give it a negative twist. Ask a question like: How can we mess up this 2-day seminar? If it is an issue or problem, you can formulate the question as: How can we aggravate this situation further? How could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?
  3. Ask the group to share their destructive ideas for the question you ask. This may be disturbing to them but it is exactly what you need to do to get the best of this method. Remember: It is just a creative process!
  4. Write down these ideas on a flipchart.
  5. Now turn this negative list topsy-turvy by taking each idea and rewriting it in a positive way (mirror opposite). Use a new flipchart paper. (The question now is: How can we ensure a successful seminar? or How can we improve the situation?)
  6. Prioritize by asking the group to vote on 2 -3 feasible ideas

Tips and Lessons Learnt

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Examples & Stories

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Who can tell me more?

  • Meena Arivananthan (meena.arivananthan [at]

Related Methods / Tools / Practices


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Photo or image credits

If you included any photos or images, please put the source or photo credit here
Photo Credit: Nancy White - Notes from a topsy-turvy session on "If you had to design a system for perfect failure of a community of researchers, what would it look like?"

Page Authors

Meena Arivananthan (meena.arivananthan [at]